Welcome to the Power 100, or as I like to call it, the issue that will make one person love us and everyone else stop taking our calls. In a certain relief, that might be a good thing: Here at Billboard, the phones haven't stopped ringing, as weary publicists and assistants on a thankless mission seemingly dial any extension they can find to ask that most searching of existential questions: "Is my boss on the list?"
All we could tell you was to wait for the issue and now, finally, here it is. Some of you on the list may choose to see it as a boost--or a blow. I see it as a referendum on the music business. You may see 100 names. I see the faces and dynamics that create the state of today's erratic and explosive music union. If you don't agree with the ranking, well, fostering a debate about what and who is important in music is part of our mission.
No one else could put a list together that meets the standards of this one. Start with unmatched access to exclusive data--Billboard Boxscore, chart histories, market share, social interactions and much more. (It's important to note that we focused on U.S. companies and executives.) Then put together a team of 15 journalists who in aggregate have been reporting on and analyzing the music business for more than 250 years. We first ranked more than a dozen sectors (including touring, digital, Latin and labels) on apples-to-apples data. And then we debated at length the relative value and metrics of those sectors, passionately and painstakingly--one meeting alone lasted almost 16 hours--stitching together the Power 100.
The criteria is admittedly a moving target. There is no apples-to-apples data that lets you compare the clout of a top radio programmer, say, to the power of a super-agent. We considered many factors, everything from the broad business trends affecting an executive to intangibles. What is a phone call from Jay-Z worth? How does a negotiation change when John Frankenheimer gets involved? We learned a few things about power along the way.
Power is often seized, not granted. Some of the top powers in touring might prefer that StubHub's Chris Tsakalakis not be on the list, but in addition to selling millions of tickets, he demonstrated the power to force an entire industry to think differently about its business. Similarly, the machers in the publishing sector told me for years that Willard Ahdritz's transparent-service-instead-of-ownership approach to the publishing industry could never work, even as artists like Gwen Stefani re-upped. The company's market share grew and other majors started creating online accounting systems to compete with Kobalt's. Daniel Ek helped a whole world think differently about streaming music. If Richard Busch has his way, the profit margin of every major label may collapse.
Power can be found behind the scenes. The traditional business may be less familiar with such names as Larry Marcus, whose venture capital dollars helped launch SoundCloud, RootMusic and a little app called Pandora; or Rich Lehrfeld, whose decisions about how to spend American Express' entertainment marketing budget send ripples throughout the artist community-and wallets. (And for the record, power is not demanding that you'll only be photographed if you're on the cover of this issue.)
Perhaps, most importantly, power is always shifting. Just a few years ago, at least seven or eight of the top spots on this list would have gone to label executives. Today that number stands at four, and some would argue that's generous. Lucian Grainge and Doug Morris are titans in this business. But Irving Azoff and Coran Capshaw clearly have the juice, because ultimately, it's the artists who have the real power, and Azoff and Capshaw speak on their behalf. If you're on this list today, forget this dynamic at your peril. As Azoff notes in his Power 100 Q&A, "The worst thing one can do is think the power is yours, and not the artist's."
Seems like he would know.