Billboard's 2016 Digital Power Players List: The Industry Leaders Shaping the Game
THE MUSIC BUSINESS SAW IT COMING. For the first time, global revenue from digital music sales significantly surpassed physical sales, according to 2015 figures that worldwide record-industry trade group IFPI reported in April.
With music industry revenue at $15 billion, digital sales now account for 45 percent of that figure and physical sales 39 percent. (Performing rights revenue accounts for most of the balance.) Just a year earlier, digital and physical were almost even. What's more, the stream is becoming a flood. Streaming music now accounts for 43 percent of global digital music sales, and streaming consumption of music in the United States in 2015 rose 93 percent, reports IFPI. And that was before the album streaming triumphs in 2016 by Drake, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kanye West and Chance the Rapper.
Behind these numbers are Billboard's Digital Power Players, who were chosen for their roles and influence at companies and organizations that are, collectively, determining how the music biz moves into the future. These are the leaders at streaming services, record labels, music publishers, promoters, booking agencies, rights organizations and more.
STEFAN BLOM, 43
Chief strategy officer/chief content officer, Spotify
"Everyone is experiencing the transition to the a la carte streaming music world, and we're one of the leaders in that space," says Blom. The soft-spoken Swede is one of the leaders at Spotify, where he oversees its global strategy. In March, the company announced that it had 30 million paying subscribers, which implies that growth didn't stall when Apple Music entered the streaming market in June 2015. Blom, who previously ran EMI Music's Nordic operations from Stockholm and now lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, says Spotify needs to spread the word on how streaming will continue to benefit labels and artists. Star manager Troy Carter's June move to Spotify as global head of creative services will help achieve that goal. And the reluctant Radiohead, led by longtime Spotify critic Thom Yorke, recently added its new album A Moon Shaped Pool to the service.
STEVE BOOM, 48
Vp digital music, Amazon
Other streaming services concentrate on what Boom calls "top-tier music fanatics," but Amazon's Prime Music (which doesn't report user figures) believes it can woo a wider audience. "Our strategy has been to focus on the mainstream music listener, and at the same time get all the premium features you would expect in a stand-alone subscription service," says the New Jersey native and father of three. After a streaming deal with Universal Music Group in fall 2015, Amazon added The Beatles to its offerings, which have become a popular draw for users. Prime Music currently is bundled with Amazon's delivery service for a $99 annual fee. But the company reportedly is planning a stand-alone music streaming service to compete directly with Apple Music and Spotify -- with a discount for owners of its Echo speaker and web-connection system.
LARRY JACKSON, 35
Head of content, Apple Music
BROOKE KAIN, 35
Head of digital marketing, Apple Music, iTunes
Jackson has a description for his role at Apple Music: the conduit. As the streaming service's main broker with the music industry, he has been responsible for some of its most high-profile moves in the year since its launch on June 30, 2015 -- from Taylor Swift's three-part ad series to exclusive album releases from Drake, Future and Blake Shelton, among others. "It's not about pleasing this person or greasing this wheel," says the San Francisco native. "We just think about what's great." In her role, Kain, who was raised in Nashville, amplifies the Apple Music message online; a Snapchat partnership for Ariana Grande's album release in May reached 21 countries and more than 100 million views. Together, their efforts have yielded impressive numbers. Apple Music, with a redesign announced June 13, grew to 15 million subscribers in its first year, and Drake's Views shattered the one-week streaming record with 245.1 million U.S. streams in its first week as an exclusive.
JEFF TOIG, 43
When Jeff Toig signed on as Tidal's third CEO in eight months in December 2015, it looked like he was at the helm of a ship in distress. But the former SoundCloud and Muve Music executive's arrival coincided with Tidal finally finding its direction, leveraging its 20 artist-owners to roll out a string of exclusive albums from Rihanna, Kanye West and Beyoncé, all of which landed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It hasn't been simple -- both Rihanna's Anti and West's The Life of Pablo were criticized for their respective rollouts -- but it helped triple Tidal's subscribers from 1 million to 3 million in just six months and positioned the company as a significant force in the crowded streaming wars.
JONATHAN DWORKIN, 41
Senior vp digital strategy and business development, Universal Music Group
MICHAEL NASH, 59
Executive vp digital strategy, Universal Music Group
TY ROBERTS, 53
Chief technology officer, Universal Music Group
When Nash joined Universal in November 2015, the company reported that streaming royalties accounted for 51 percent of its digital recorded-music revenue in third-quarter 2015. As the Venice, Calif., resident closes in on his first anniversary, UMG is coming off a first quarter in which streaming and subscriptions claimed 59.7 percent of overall digital revenue -- thanks to such best sellers as Justin Bieber, Rihanna and The Weeknd. Among Nash's latest restructuring moves: the hiring of Gracenote co-founder Ty Roberts in April and former MixRadio chief marketing officer Jonathan Dworkin in May. Roberts, a native of San Francisco, describes his focus as "fueling data to power music discovery." Dworkin, a father of two, brings artist management experience to his new role. Notes Nash of the industry's shifting landscape: "Working to keep the business model innovation moving in parallel with technology innovation is the biggest challenge."
DENNIS KOOKER, 49
President of global digital business and U.S. sales, Sony Music Entertainment
"In the last 12 months we've closed over 100 deals covering virtually every market in the world," says Kooker, a Rolling Stones fan and avid skier who notes that Sony always is negotiating for digital use of its music with new partners, from upstart apps to Chinese market leaders to SoundCloud. "It took a long time to get that deal done," he says of the licensing pact with SoundCloud, the final one struck by a major label. "It's really important strategically to get right." The biggest challenge ahead? Returning "this business that clearly has high consumer demand into a growth business -- that's a critical area of focus for my team."
PAUL SINCLAIR, 40
Executive vp digital strategy and innovation, Warner Music Group, Atlantic Records
RON WILCOX, 62
Executive counsel for business affairs, strategic and digital initiatives, Warner Music Group
Wilcox estimates he negotiates some 200 deals a year, and their benefits add up. WMG grew digital revenue by 25 percent last quarter, with streaming revenue up 59 percent. Wilcox, a father of two, takes an interest not just in the subscription giants but "the edge cases, too -- startups looking to have a music component," like messaging apps musical.ly and Snapchat. At Atlantic, currently WMG's leading label, Sinclair manages a 30-person digital-agency-within-a-label. For the Maplewood, N.J., resident, the focus has brought measurable success. Atlantic recently became the first label to earn more than 50 percent of its revenue from non-physical sources.
PETER BRODSKY, 52
Executive vp business and legal affairs, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
In the past 18 months, Brodsky has led Sony/ATV's pursuit of higher fees from digital music services, making the case before the U.S. Department of Justice and in the BMI and ASCAP rate courts. Rulings in the courts require Pandora to pay 2.5 percent of its revenue to BMI and 1.85 percent to ASCAP. (The performing rights organizations collect those fees for publishers and songwriters.) Brodsky, in the BMI case, negotiated an additional one-off payment of $2.25 million from Pandora. The service since has negotiated direct deals with the PROs and major publishers under which it will pay an effective rate of 8 percent of its annual revenue, sources say.
MARC CIMINO, 44
COO, Universal Music Publishing Group
DAVID KOKAKIS, 43
Executive vp/head of business and legal affairs, business development and digital, Universal Music Publishing Group
"Everything we do here is to maximize revenue for our songwriters," says Cimino, who, along with Kokakis, focuses on UMPG's business side to benefit the publisher's creative goals. For example, UMPG's financial and reporting systems are "second to none," says Cimino, a father of three, citing the importance of those systems in tracking microtransactions for digital music. Kokakis, a resident of Marina Del Rey, Calif., has led UMPG's legal efforts to get fair fees for writers from digital services. "There is a fundamental lack of respect for creators by the tech sector," he says. "It is a cultural cancer."
JOE CONYERS, 29
Vp technology, Downtown Music Publishing
For Downtown songwriters seeking to check their royalty payments or contact the company's client services team, there's now an app for that. The launch of the tool in January in the iOS App Store is an example of how Conyers, an avowed David Byrne fan, is shaping the future at the independent music publisher. New online channels for music hold both potential and peril, he notes. "Video content is very quickly becoming my number one focus," he says, adding that big players like Facebook and Vine "are still reluctant to figure out this side of their business in scalable ways."
SIMON DENNETT, 37
Chief commercial officer, Kobalt Music Group
Among Dennett's multiple tasks at Kobalt, right now he's most proud of his work on the global digital royalty collection society AMRA, which Kobalt relaunched in June 2015. "The numbers speak for themselves," says the Brooklyn resident, citing a May announcement that AMRA had collected 28 percent more money from Spotify and YouTube for Kobalt writers in Europe during its first three months of administering Kobalt's catalog. Growth at Spotify also may have driven that increase. But Dennett notes that AMRA fits Kobalt's mission of increasing transparency and payments for songwriters. "Consumer adoption of streaming is exciting," he says, "but there are challenges in making sure creators are paid correctly. We're focused on solving these problems."
Executive vp North America/head of digital, Warner/Chappell Music
In first-quarter 2016, Warner/Chappell had its largest share in a decade of the top 100 radio songs -- 22.6 percent -- as tracked by Billboard. For Miller, as head of digital, the publisher's latest financial report brought equally good news: Digital revenue is up 44 percent at the home of songwriters including Beyoncé, Jay Z, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry and Kendrick Lamar. Yet Miller, a native of Toronto, also acknowledges publishing's core concern: the devaluation of music in the digital age. "You can't diminish what our songwriters do," he says, "to make it fit this week's business model."
MATT PINCUS, 43
CEO, SONGS Music Publishing
If data is currency in the new music business, forward-thinking Pincus is flush. SONGS' robust data-set for its copyrights has made the company a sought-after partner for licensing deals with digital services. The 12-year-old SONGS simply wants to be easy to work with. "We're a really good bang for your buck," says Pincus, who has been a Clash fan since London Calling. The numbers back up Pincus' pride. SONGS had 14 top 40 songs in 2015, including the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 "Lean On" by Major Lazer, and a 2.4 percent share of the top 100 U.S. radio songs in the first quarter.
MARK ROBINSON, 50
Senior vp/general counsel, North America, BMG
When a federal jury in Virginia in December 2015 issued a $25 million verdict against Cox Communications in favor of rights management company BMG in a copyright infringement suit, the decision was a major win for Robinson, a key player in the legal fight. "The verdict shows an Internet service provider cannot merely use the words 'safe harbor' [under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act] and expect blanket immunity" from infringement, says Robinson, a New Jersey native and father of two. If the verdict is upheld on appeal, he says, it "has the potential to change the very face of the digital music industry."
JIM CADY, 56
Executive vp products, operations and connected vehicle, SiriusXM
The words "connected vehicle" in Cady's title signal the future for SiriusXM. "Blending satellite and wireless coverage will change how music is consumed in the car," says the married father of two. "We've built a platform providing the best of both, curating content and personalizing the audio experience." Response so far shows the company is on its way: SiriusXM's app won PC Magazine's Editor's Choice Award, while consumer ratings tripled in the iTunes and Android mobile stores. Since the days when he focused on organizing his own CD collection, Cady's goal remains constant: "Doing a better job of connecting people with the content that's of interest to them."
SARA CLEMENS, 44
Pandora, a longtime leader in online radio, spent 2015 becoming an integrated music company with Clemens, a New Zealander who became COO in March, guiding acquisitions of analytics startup Next Big Sound and ticketing company Ticketfly. "It's all an effort to help artists connect with fans," she says. So is the Music Maker Group that Clemens runs, which in 2015 introduced Artist Audio Messaging and already has delivered 200 million shout-outs to listeners. Before the end of 2016, Pandora expects to enter the on-demand streaming business. Says Clemens, "We've spent 10 years focused on personalized playlisting."
DARREN DAVIS, 43
President, iHeartRadio Worldwide
In May, iHeartRadio reached a milestone of 85 million registered users for its mobile app. "We hit that mark faster than Facebook, Pandora or any app in Internet history," says Davis, who started his radio career as an intern at the company's WASH-FM in Washington, D.C., one of the local stations that still drives iHeartRadio's business. "We've used the app to strengthen our 850 broadcast brands," says the native of Nevada City, Calif., who used to deliver doughnuts from his dad's bakery to a local AM station. "People crave that local connection they only get from radio, which makes our product stand out when you compare it to the sea of algorithmically driven music services."
JONATHAN HULL, 36
Head of music partnerships, Facebook
In 2015, 800 million Facebook users, almost half the social network's audience, connected to at least one musician -- and 39 million people interacted with Prince-related content in the 24 hours following the artist's death. Hull helps labels and artists understand how they can work with Facebook and vice versa. In 2016, musicians began using Facebook's Oculus Rift technology to showcase 360-degree video, including a walkthrough of Coldplay's studio. "We're going to see artists bring fans into their world a bit more," says Hull, who lives in Palo Alto, Calif. "It's a huge opportunity to express yourself."
LUYU "LOUIS" YANG, 36
ALEX ZHU, 37
"We created musical.ly to be at the intersection between entertainment and social networks," says Zhu, whose year-old, Shanghai-based startup, co-founded with Yang, has gained more than 90 million users who utilize the app to create and share 15-second videos. Adds Yang: "They share movies, fashion and comedy as well as music. This is really great, because we wanted to reduce the barrier to content creation." For Zhu, father of a 3-year-old boy, and Yang, who has a 2-year-old girl, could musical.ly be the next Snapchat? Some are placing that bet. TechCrunch reports musical.ly has drawn $100 million in venture capital and has topped the iOS App Store tally for free apps in 19 countries.
ERIK HUGGERS, 42
Under Huggers' leadership, Vevo had its monthly viewership in the past year double to 17 billion worldwide. That growth has been driven by the launch of new Vevo apps for mobile devices (iOS, Android, Windows), game consoles (PlayStation, Xbox One) and connected TV systems (Apple, Fire, Roku). Huggers, a Dutch native and father of two, notes that "fair and equitable monetization continues to be a major challenge for our industry."
ROBERT KYNCL, 45
Chief business officer, YouTube
"There are two things we wake up every day thinking about," says Kyncl of his YouTube team. "How do we get more user engagement and drive more revenue, so that the people who are providing us with content make more money." YouTube's critics question whether the video service is doing right by content providers, especially musicians. But the growth of subscription-based YouTube Red bodes well, with its higher payment rates to content creators. Balancing user engagement and value for creators remains a challenge. "But that is our job," says the married father of two. "I think we're all on the right path."
AMY DIETZ, 46
Executive vp, INgrooves
At INgrooves, Dietz witnessed the full marketing power of the independent distribution company as it helped Janet Jackson debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with Unbreakable in October 2015. Growing up in Minneapolis, Dietz experienced how indie labels can fuel a music scene. Now, she's focused on two areas at INgrooves -- partnerships with "any platform where a fan comes in contact with music and engages with it" and strengthening analytics. "Instead of just delivering a mass of data for a label to decipher, we help them digest it," she says. "Our analytics allow us to create market insights for our labels."
STEVE FUND, 53
Senior vp/marketing officer, Intel
Fund brought marketing know-how from PepsiCo, Gillette and Staples to Intel, where, since arriving in 2014, he has moved the technology company into the forefront of music and sports partnerships. Intel software has helped drive such high-profile events as Lady Gaga's tribute to David Bowie at the Grammy Awards, TV show America's Greatest Makers and a TV replay deal with the NBA. "We want to become more relevant to a younger audience," says the resident of Los Gatos, Calif., "and digital is how to get to them."
BRAD NAVIN, 45
CEO, The Orchard
COLLEEN THEIS, 47
COO, The Orchard
For the partners whose content it markets and distributes, The Orchard processed more data in 2015 than in any 12-month period in the company's 18-year existence. Now, Navin, a father of three, is leading The Orchard's expansion into film and TV. "Just like in music," he says, "we've shown that independent art has a place and value." In her role, Theis, a native of Texas, has expanded The Orchard's global reach, with new offices in Mexico, Colombia and Chile, bringing its worldwide presence to 25 markets. "The shift to digital has changed the paradigm," she says. "Consumers can now find exactly what they want, and that means we can sell directly to them." Sony fully acquired the company in March 2015.
JOYCE SZUDZIK, 44
Vp digital marketing, AEG Live
Szudzik points to three back-to-back Justin Bieber concerts in November 2015 at Los Angeles' Staples Center as a perfect example of how she has guided digital strategy at AEG Live during the past year. "We put the shows on sale in less than a day's notice, leveraging our digital audiences and Bieber's social networks to get the word out," says the Boston native, who grew up moving around the United States as her father worked with new companies. ("I'm a startup brat," she quips.) At AEG, Szudzik is able to seize opportunities like the Bieber on-sale "by having the right foundation in place, a strong team that is empowered to make decisions."
JORDAN ZACHARY, 33
Chief strategy officer, Live Nation Entertainment
Zachary's task is clear. "Take the concert experience and extend it across the Internet," says the father of one son who joined Live Nation last spring. His tools are strategic partnerships with digital platforms like Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube. He's particularly excited about the expansion of Live Nation's partnership with Snapchat to include more than 20 global festival "stories" (chronological Snapchat narratives) and the growth of the company's YouTube presence to include more than 400 partner channels and 3 billion video views. "We will stream more shows and festivals than ever this year," he says, "and we'll launch a number of virtual-reality experiences."
MARSHALL ESKOWITZ, 32
Executive, CAA Marketing, Creative Artists Agency
Eskowitz leads CAA's initiatives to use digital analytics to identify rising music talent, to the benefit of brand partners. An example? The Houston native points to the 2015 Fender Accelerator Tour, which sponsored performances by 10 emerging acts -- The Bots, Coasts, Deap Vally and others -- and had 2,000-plus social media posts in 90 days, all raising the profile of the Fender brand. Eskowitz says the CAA Marketing department can pick new acts "that are going to be at the center of the culture at the time of the launch of a campaign."
STUART KOZLOWSKI, 36
Agent, digital and business development, Paradigm Talent Agency
Kozlowski, a former soccer athlete at Lynn University in Florida, understands the importance of an assist to score goals. As Paradigm's digital strategist, he has brought that strategy to his agency's big wins, in ticket sales, audience development or licensing revenue. Kozlowski was part of a team led by fellow agent Matt Galle that parlayed Shawn Mendes' social media audience into sales for Mendes' 2016 world tour -- 200,000 tickets sold out in 10 minutes for the Canadian singer-songwriter who broke through on Vine. Kozlowski, the father of a 2-year-old girl, hesitates to take any credit. "It was a team effort," he says. "Our team's digital efforts contributed to his success, but Shawn deserves all the credit."
KENNY LAYTON, 34
Agent, digital and personal appearance, William Morris Endeavor
During the past year, Layton's team has worked with more than 30 digital artists, performers who built their following online. That's double the year before, while guarantees and client compensation have risen 400 percent -- "like a hockey stick" graph, says the Santa Monica resident. The Dolan Twins, Superwoman and Cameron Dallas regularly sell out 1,500-person venues, he says, impressive for acts who started their careers in front of laptop cameras. Meanwhile, Layton pursues opportunities for clients in more traditional sectors like film, working with his fellow WME agents. "We've grown our clients' footprints even larger outside of the digital world."
JONATHAN PERELMAN, 35
Head of digital ventures, ICM Partners
After joining ICM from BuzzFeed in 2015, Perelman is bringing digital savvy to "every department" at the agency, while building a client list of digital media companies looking to access entertainment. And he's increasingly well-positioned to supply digital content. Recently, the Brentwood, Calif., resident and father of two sold Spotify one of its first original scripted shows, an EDM mockumentary called Ultimate/Ultimate. "Being on that front line of new platforms with great creators," he says, "is a highlight for me and something that I'm proud of. I want us to be the most digitally proficient agency in the business."
BRENT WEINSTEIN, 41
Partner/head of digital media, United Talent Agency
In his 15 years with United Talent Agency, Weinstein has shaped UTA's approach to digital media and influenced the broader talent industry. A graduate of the agency's training programming (and veteran of a stint in the mailroom), Weinstein launched UTA's digital practice in 2003 and its online talent division in 2006, a year after YouTube launched. With a robust roster of content creators (Rhett & Link, Hannah Hart, Nash Grier and others), Weinstein also has guided client VidCon, the online video conference now in its seventh year and growing 50 percent annually. "What has remained consistent," he says, "is the agency's aggressive and steadfast commitment to the [digital talent] space."
DANIELLE AGUIRRE, 38
Executive vp/general counsel, National Music Publishers' Association
The past 12 months have been significant for Aguirre and the NMPA. She was promoted to executive vp and spearheaded a $30 million settlement with Spotify over unpaid song royalties (due to missing publisher information). With such services as SoundCloud agreeing to similar deals, the rock-loving mother of three is hammering out deals with five other services. "The amount that songwriters and music publishers are earning from streaming services is already a lot lower than what they were earning when you had CDs or even digital downloads," she says. "So you can't have services that are only paying out on 80 percent" of the songs they're streaming.
STEVEN MARKS, 49
Chief of digital business/general counsel, RIAA
In his role at the trade group that represents the U.S. record business, Marks helped score a $210 million settlement in June 2015 with SiriusXM over unpaid royalties. While that battle is over, the war continues as Marks, a Florida-raised father of three, says the satellite broadcaster continues to pay below-market royalty rates due to an "antiquated" federal law. Meanwhile, the RIAA presses YouTube over its streaming royalty rates and copyright practices. "The two are very related," he says, criticizing "laws that are interfering with the free market." The RIAA, he says, "is focused on the systemic shortcomings in the digital marketplace."
J.D. CONNELL, 39
Vice president/counsel, new media licensing, SESAC
Connell says he always tackled negotiations with the best information available but lately, he notes, "I've learned to seek out more data and analyze it from different angles." The Nashville resident says SESAC is "at a new level of intellectual maturity" in its approach to performing rights deals, thanks to new tools and staff. As a result, the PRO has grown digital revenue by 40 percent in 2016. "It all goes back to making sure you understand the service that you're licensing [to] and how people use the product. When you look at the data, you make sure all those things match up."
MICHAEL HUPPE, 48
SoundExchange isn't a household name like Spotify, but in 2015 the collecting society paid out a record high $803 million to labels and performers for the use of their recordings on satellite radio and noninteractive streaming services like Pandora. It accounted for 16 percent of U.S. wholesale recorded-music revenue. "Our digital radio industry is the envy of the world," says Huppe. In 2015, the nonprofit improved how performers monitor their royalties -- which SoundExchange can pay monthly. "Artists want more efficiency and transparency, and we want to add oil to the machine," says Huppe, a former RIAA executive who lives in McLean, Va. "We pay out a lot of money, but we're also taking steps to make the industry work better."
ALICE KIM, 44
Executive vp/chief strategy and development officer, ASCAP
Since joining ASCAP 14 months ago, Kim has helped reinvent the digital strategy of the PRO through member surveys, new product teams and tech innovations, all focused on improved and more transparent user experiences. "Our members, who are navigating a new world, look to ASCAP to help them achieve their goals in this new environment." Her efforts in 2015 helped ASCAP reach more than $1 billion in revenue -- its highest ever. The New York club veteran and mother of three next takes on a relaunch of ASCAP's website, noting, "It's going to be cleaner, more modern, simpler in terms of design and more experience-oriented."
MICHAEL STEINBERG, 51
Senior vp licensing, BMI
"Digital revenue is our single biggest growth area," says Steinberg, who pegs the revenue rise at BMI at a whopping 50 percent, reaching $100 million for the year ending June 30, 2015. "We've seen dramatic increases in streaming services, which doesn't mean audio/video services like YouTube, Amazon and Netflix haven't also enjoyed a tremendous growth," says the Queens native. Steinberg not only attended the same high school as local legends Simon & Garfunkel but had a native punk-rock icon as his neighbor. "Joey Ramone lived in my building. I walked by his apartment every day, but I was younger -- and we didn't really keep the same hours."
METHODOLOGY: The Digital Power Players were chosen by identifying the top companies across multiple industry sectors, using market share, Nielsen Music and Billboard Boxscore chart performance and other metrics, then determining the executives at those companies with top digital responsibilities.
CONTRIBUTORS: Rich Appel, Ed Christman, Andy Gensler, Gary Graff, Robert Levine, Gail Mitchell, Cathy Applefeld Olson, Glenn Peoples, Mitchell Peters, Alex Pham, Craig Rosen, Dan Rys, Colin Stutz, Chris Willman