No. 6: Irving Azoff | Power 100

BB4

6

IRVING AZOFF, 69

Chairman/chief executive officer, Azoff MSG Entertainment

Last Year's Rank: 6

For Irving Azoff, the longtime manager of the Eagles and former head of MCA Records and Ticketmaster, 2016 was ­"bittersweet." His friend and client, Eagles founder Glenn Frey, died Jan. 18, and the band's future without him is uncertain. "Debilitating," says Azoff. "But on the business side, we had a great year."

As always, Azoff's fingers are in every aspect of the music business. The band Bon Jovi, which he manages, hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for the sixth time, with 129,000 equivalent album units in first-week sales, then sold "basically every ticket known to man" for its 2017 tour; his Azoff MSG Entertainment ­company announced the ­groundbreaking of a 17,500-seat Las Vegas arena; and Azoff MSGE's newly renovated Forum in Los Angeles brought in Drake, Kanye West and Louis C.K.

"I've never seen a healthier live side," says Azoff. "The success of streaming is causing people to go [to concerts]. I never understood the economic issue, which is, ‘I'd like to stream for free, but I'll spend a billion dollars to go buy concert tickets.' "

 

But it's an as-yet-unresolved legal battle that Azoff points to as his top ­accomplishment in 2016. In December, his boutique performing rights ­organization Global Music Rights -- which represents 73 clients -- including ­Drake, John Lennon, Prince and ­songwriters behind hits for Justin Bieber and Adele, countersued a broadcast group called the Radio Music Licensing Committee over royalty ­payments. Azoff's 4-year-old company contends that the rates are too low, the system for ­negotiating them is antiquated and the RMLC is an "illegal cartel." (The ­committee has called Azoff's tactics ­"bullying" and "frivolous.")

It's an Azoff kind of fight: He gets to stand with artists against a ­powerful group while making ­incendiary ­accusations in the media. "I'd rather be a smart-ass than a genius," he says. "If you've got to err between smart-ass and genius, feel free to go smart-ass."

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