My first memory of Lucian Grainge is him leaning over his desk, yelling at me.
This was in his London office in early 2009, when he was running the international business for Doug Morris, then-CEO of Universal Music Group. Grainge isn’t a small man, and I remember my heartbeat stepping up a notch as I tried to sit impassively in the chair that I wished had been positioned a few feet further back.
I had asked Lucian about a particular decision Universal had made regarding a wireless music service. “You have no idea what it’s like,” he thundered. “Every decision we make sets a precedent. It’s not easy to know the difference between those who want to help us and those who want to kill us!”
It was a moment, I felt, of raw honesty, and I respected Grainge all the more for his passion. This was a person—like so many on the Power 100 list—who simply burned to succeed. His desire to win was as palpable as his volume.
Power can be the ability to influence people with or without resistance. To cause or prevent an action. To act or to not act. In physics, power is the work/time ratio. But the most applicable definition of power that I found for this music industry at this moment—and the one that made me recall my first proper meeting with this year’s No. 1 power broker, Lucian Grainge—was from Henry Kissinger. He defined it as “a vision of the future coupled with a capacity to bring it about.” Kissinger, who wrote this for Forbes in 2009, knows a bit about power. He served as Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, and his actions were central to improving Soviet relations during the Cold War, as well as initiating contact with China. Remember that next time you think things between publishers and digital services look hopeless.
A vision for the future. While some of their visions compete, and undoubtedly history will prove some of them to be wildly off base, there’s not an executive anywhere near the top of this list who doesn’t know the world they are working feverishly to create. You don’t think major labels have a future? Lucian Grainge is doubling down. You think the rates you pay are onerous? Sorry Pandora, but Marty Bandier is on line one. The profit margins of the live business are too thin? Michael Rapino wants to build ancillaries and content and technology products and essentially own the fan experience in a way that changes the game. There are people on all sides of each of these leaders shouting why they are wrong, but they are making their visions become reality.
Rapino, Bandier, Grainge and others on this list have ended up in positions of incredible power and influence based on sterling track records that show that time and time again they weren’t just able to make the right call, but they were willing to make it when others were not. These are paralyzing times, when information overload can lead quickly to inactivity. The men and women on this list act, and they act decisively.
This notion inspires, and that’s why the Power 100 issue was created. Yes, the Billboard team and our combined centuries of experience endlessly debated the relative value of market share and revenue projections, cold streaks versus hit-filled histories to produce this ranking. But our chief goal is to encourage more of you readers to think about your vision of the future, and the leverage you have to bring it about. We’re all blessed to have been given this life in music. This is not the time for conservatism or self-preservation. Let us one day look back on our time in the game and know that we chased the biggest and the boldest of ideas with everything we had. Love him or hate him, believe in his vision or don’t, Lucian Grainge grabbed for his golden ring with Universal’s acquisition of EMI. I’m proud to have a hand in this list that recognizes his accomplishments, the accomplishments of so many others, and may yet one day recognize yours.
What’s stopping you?
Bill Werde, Editorial Director