Michele Anthony's title doesn't quite capture her far-reaching role at UMG, or her wide-ranging power. As the No. 2 executive at the world's biggest music group she's not running a label; she's overseeing those who do.
Anthony describes her role as the New York-based lieutenant to UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge as "on the one hand helping the day-to-day management of the labels, but on the other, sitting in a senior corporate strategic manager role, where I'm looking at policies and choices across the company."
"She's almost like an extension of Lucian," says one insider. "She has her hands in everything, from operations or partnerships to getting involved in negotiating deals and dealing with managers."
"Everything" at UMG encompasses the stand-alone labels Capitol, Def Jam, Interscope, Island and 2014 market-share leader Republic. Billboard estimates that UMG's label revenue for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2014 will reach $5.3 billion (with an additional $900 million from Universal Music Publishing Group). In 2014 to date, UMG has had the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 in 27 out of 44 weeks, and as of the end of the third quarter, posted a leading market share of 38.3 percent of the year's album and track sales (including track-equivalent albums), powered by eight of 2014's 10 top-selling albums and five of the year's top 10 tracks.
Anthony celebrates her first year at UMG this month, and has made her presence felt quickly. She took a strong hand in the revitalization of Island and Def Jam when the labels were uncoupled in April. The results? A major breakout artist for Def Jam in Iggy Azalea (who has sold 7.2 million tracks as a lead artist and 410,000 copies of The New Classic as of Nov. 23, according to Nielsen SoundScan), and a flurry of hits from Island, including Kiesza and Shawn Mendes (both of whom had singles that sold 400,000-plus) and Tove Lo, whose top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit "Habits (Stay High)" has moved 1.9 million downloads.
But the corporate strategic manager role that Anthony talks about goes beyond recorded-music sales, to the reshaping of the music industry that's central to Grainge's vision. The recent hire of Mike Tunnicliffe from GroupM -- the world's largest ad-buying firm -- as vp branding and sponsorships across the entire music group, is a major step in that direction, with Tunnicliffe reporting to Anthony. "We're trying to look at ways to scale [sponsorship, branding and advertising] opportunities across the labels, across platforms, to create branded content and look at things that are not necessarily recorded music: live events, experiences, VIP ticketing," she says.
In a career going back more than 25 years, Anthony has built long-standing relationships with many of UMG's artists and executives -- she has known and worked with Grainge since 1987. When she was a leading attorney at Manatt Phelps Rothenberg & Phillips, her clients included Guns N' Roses, Alice in Chains, Ozzy Osbourne, Soundgarden and Rick Rubin. During a 17-year stretch as a senior executive at Sony -- where she recruited David Massey, now president of Island -- that company broke artists ranging from Mariah Carey and Celine Dion to Pearl Jam and Oasis. And in 2006 Anthony founded 7H Entertainment, a consulting and management firm whose clients included Prince, Bjork, Soundgarden and Black Sabbath. By all accounts she's fiercely protective of her artists, her company and her terrain — "a force to be reckoned with," says an insider.
Her first job in the music industry came when she was just 12 -- her father, Dee Anthony, managed artists ranging from Tony Bennett to Peter Frampton, and she worked in his office. "He would take me to recording studios, on the road, even carrying the box-office [money] from the Fillmore in my green and purple suede fringed bag," she says. "It was an education that money can't buy."
Her father's tutelage proved a perfect on-ramp for both her career and her leadership role as a powerful female in the business. "When I grew up there was no gender line," she says. "It never occurred to me that I couldn't do something because I'm a woman."