Design by Quinton McMillan

Revealed: Billboard's 2019 Branding Power Players

by Thom Duffy
May 13, 2019, 12:11pm EDT

Everyone has gotten into the music business: beverage companies, financial firms, clothing retailers, hoteliers, cellphone providers, car manufacturers and more have recognized that nothing creates an emotional connection with consumers like music and artists.  

Artists, in turn, realize that the right brand partnerships can amplify their creativity, their profile and opportunities to connect with their fans.  

Some $2.6 billion in revenue annually reaches the music industry from the branding business, Billboard estimates, with sponsorship spending on music tours, venues and festivals making up more than 60% of that amount. The consultancy IEG estimates that brand spending in the live sector totaled $1.61 billion in 2018, a 4.8% increase over the previous year. The balance of revenue comes from fees paid for the use of music in ads, films, games and TV shows (up 5.2% in 2018 over the previous year, according to IFPI), along with endorsement payments.   

Our Branding Power Players report describes the achievements of 83 executives from the live sector, consumer companies, branding agencies, talent agencies, management companies, the media, digital firms, publishers and record labels.   

In addition, Billboard has recognized four Masters of Branding: Marcie Allen, founder/president of MAC Presents; Jennifer Breithaupt, global consumer chief marketing officer, Citi; Deborah Curtis, vp/global brand partnerships and experiences, American Express; and Maureen Ford, president of national and festival sales, Live Nation.  

Holli Branam, 45
Vp sponsorship sales, AEG Presents
Chris Thomas, 48
Vp global partnerships, AEG Presents

After a decade focused on hard rock, Monster Energy worked with Thomas to widen its scope to encompass country music through activations at the Stagecoach Festival in Indio, Calif., and the Off the Rails festival in Dallas. “It’s all about liquid to lips,” he says of Monster’s strategy of passing out beverages during hot daylong events. Revenue from Thomas’ 70 brand clients is up 11% this year. Three years after AEG took over the Bumbershoot festival, Branam helped Verizon launch its rewards platform at the downtown Seattle event. More than 2,500 fans downloaded the VerizonUp app to gain access to meet-and-greets with Illenium, Tinashe and AJR, plus a premium lounge with free food and drinks. “It’s an experience that fans can’t buy,” says Branam, who adds that the record-setting user enrollment led to Verizon’s commitment to re-up for 2019.

Russell Wallach, 53
Global president of media and sponsorship, Live Nation
Darin Wolf, 48
Executive vp media and sponsorship, Live Nation

Eight consecutive years of double-digit growth, with 2018 revenue exceeding $350 million, is Wallach’s impressive sponsorship achievement at Live Nation -- bolstered by the festival deals of colleague Maureen Ford and Wolf’s ongoing work on the Citi Sound Vault series, Rémy Martin’s Producers Series and the Pepsi Generations summer music campaign. Selling sponsorships may not be rocket science, but it helps to tap into neuroscience. For brands seeking to make an emotional connection with consumers, Live Nation scientifically demonstrated the emotional power of music: The company’s global study, “The Power of Live,” linked volunteers to biometric equipment -- including EEG headsets that tracked brain-wave activity and skin sensors that monitored sweat production -- to measure how “fans’ minds and bodies react to a live-music setting,” says Wallach. Based on those surveyed, the study suggests 90% of global concert audiences welcome brands in the live space, provided they’re enhancing the experience. Adds Wallach: “Live music creates the ultimate human connection.”

Shana Barry*
Director of experiential, Bud Light, Anheuser-Busch InBev
Monica Rustgi, 36
Vp marketing, Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch InBev

Barry is behind the Bud Light Dive Bar, which has given music fans the opportunity to see their favorite artists (Lady Gaga, John Mayer) in an intimate setting. The program has produced more than 75 shows over the past four years. “It’s one of the longest-running campaigns for the Bud Light brand,” says Barry. “Its staying power is an accomplishment.” Rustgi (a songwriter who has collaborated with Jennifer Lopez) spearheads Budweiser’s 2-year-old emerging-artist program. She worked with Americana singer Kassi Ashton to launch the Budweiser Reserve Copper Lager brand and Australian singer-songwriter Cloves to cut a version of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” for Bud’s Super Bowl commercial. “Success for us is growing long-term relationships with artists,” she says.

Michelle Engel, 46
Head of music marketing and partnerships, Samsung Electronics America

Because the Galaxy Note9 was one of only two flagship devices that Samsung launched in 2018, Engel saw the importance of pairing the phone’s colorful interface with a complementary music track for its ad campaign. Working with Sony Music’s Jennifer Frommer, Engel discovered Columbia Records act LSD -- the trio of Labrinth, Sia and Diplo -- and its song “Thunderclouds.” “It was incredibly vibe-y with what the phone was going to be,” says Engel. The Galaxy Note9 TV commercial ended up being the most Shazamed ad of the year.

Olivier François, 57 
Chief marketing officer, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

François has driven FCA’s Apple Experience: the offer of a free six-month trial subscription to Apple Music for all vehicles outfitted with CarPlay. (CarPlay is now in 82% of new FCA cars.) The auto company also has partnered with the three major music groups to create more than 100 music videos with product placements of FCA vehicles. The videos have generated over 21 billion views in the past four years (including 106 million-plus views of OneRepublic’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”). Says François: “We are all trying to grow brand equity, and music is the most effective way to get there.”

Pablo Henderson, 45
Senior director, brand marketing, W Hotels Worldwide 

In the past year, Henderson has helped take W Hotels’ Wake Up Call festival experience to Bali, Indonesia and Barcelona, Spain -- moves that generated 13.5 million livestream views and 2.1 billion social media viewing opportunities. “Yes, there’s something to be said for going to a Lollapalooza or Coachella,” says Henderson, “but there’s also something incredibly special about taking the elevator back to your room and showering and ordering food [before] going back down to hear another one of your favorite artists.” In addition to getting deeper into the festival-organization game, the hotel chain launched its own label, W Records, to complement the recording studio suites already available at many locations. In October, R&B artist, songwriter and producer Amber Mark became the first act signed to the imprint.

Nikki Neuburger* 
Global head of marketing, Uber Eats

To boost the brand of Uber’s food delivery platform at South by Southwest, Neuburger opened the doors of the Uber Eats House to celebrity chefs Roy Choi and David Chang and performers Khalid, Virgil Abloh and Billie Eilish, and created Uber Eats Windows, walk-up locations around town that surprised conferencegoers with free snacks. The enterprise reached an estimated 25,000 attendees and drove a 13% increase in first-time deliveries in the Austin metro area. “This is our first foray into that cultural mashup,” says Neuburger of SXSW. “We’re just trying to bring more emotion [to] a digital product and a digital platform. We see music as a really important tool to do that.”

Emma Quigley*
Head of music and entertainment, PepsiCo

In 2018, Quigley oversaw a groundbreaking Fire and Ice campaign for Super Bowl LII. The spots pitted Busta Rhymes and Game of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage (together representing Doritos Blaze) against Missy Elliott and Morgan Freeman (Mtn Dew Ice) in an epic lip-sync battle. The result? More than 10 billion media impressions (64 million of them via Snapchat), four gold Clio Music Awards and one of the most successful launches in PepsiCo history. “Having the hip-hop community seal of approval meant that we got it right,” says Quigley. 

Raja Rajamannar, 57 
Chief marketing and communications officer, Mastercard

Rajamannar this past year launched a 30-second “audio brand” for Mastercard -- a sonic representation of the global payment platform -- that has been rolled out in over 200 countries worldwide. To ensure local relevance, Rajamannar tapped artists (including Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park) to create adaptations of the distinctive melody across genres and cultures. “There are infinite number of times people around the world will collectively experience the Mastercard sound,” he says. “It’s cutting-edge, comprehensive and global.”

Bette Ann Schlossberg, 34
Director of influencer marketing, Lyft
Jessica Zhang, 30 
Culture and entertainment manager, Lyft

Schlossberg’s job title says it all. Lyft was not a sponsor of Coachella in 2018, but the company “provided transportation for over 105 influencers attending,” she notes. Activations to raise Lyft’s brand awareness at six events surrounding the festival “resulted in over 158 million estimated impressions, driving media attention in publications such as E! Online, People and many more.” Adds Zhang: “Lyft is not a brand that just wants to borrow the fame of your artists -- we really support them.” Zhang nailed down an elusive partnership with Top Dawg Entertainment and Kendrick Lamar for the artist’s Championship Tour last year. “Fans are extremely savvy today and can see right through a pay-to-play partnership,” she says. “The best partnerships are those that leverage the brand’s platform to showcase the artist’s creativity.”

Aaron Simon, 43
Global vp talent and entertainment relations, Harman International

In the past decade, Simon has consistently one-upped himself on music partnerships that have involved Foo Fighters, Lenny Kravitz, Sheryl Crow, Maroon 5, Jennifer Lopez and Paul McCartney. In the last year alone, audio equipment manufacturer and Harman subsidiary JBL teamed with Priyanka Chopra, Gary Clark Jr., Ellie Goulding and Pitbull -- the last of whom performed at JBL Fest, generating over 2.5 billion media impressions in the process. In early April, Simon revealed Khalid as the new JBL ambassador, which will see the chart-topping singer participating in digital campaigns, retail promotions and more. “When a partnership is working, keep it going,” says Simon of his approach. “Know what it takes to keep it going, day one. And build in [extension rights] from the get-go.”

Toni Stoeckl, 42
Global brand leader/vp distinctive select brands, Marriott International

Under Stoeckl’s guidance, Marriott’s Aloft Hotels have become a powerful brand ally for emerging artists with the launch of Project: Aloft Star, an artist discovery competition set up in partnership with Universal Music Group. “Of course, we could be a concert venue,” says Stoeckl of the brand’s relationship with music, “but we thought, ‘How can we take it to a whole other level?’ ” With support for groups like X Ambassadors, recording time for artist partners in the iconic Capitol Records studio and a chance to tour North and Central America, Stoeckl has delivered for both bands and his brand, earning more than 1.8 billion media impressions along the way. 

Mark Weinstein, 36
Senior vp/global head of customer engagement, loyalty and partnerships, Hilton

Weinstein broadened Hilton’s music-driven partnerships with the Lawn Days summer concert series, which launched in June 2018. Thanks to a partnership with Live Nation, Hilton Honors members can score a pair of concert tickets to catch artists like Rod Stewart and Charlie Puth for as little as 10,000 rewards points. “A one- or two-night stay at one of our hotels could [get you access to] hundreds of shows across the U.S.,” says Weinstein. “Making music more accessible was really exciting for [us].” It also led to a 200% year-over-year increase in redeemed experiences by customers (a sign of their connection to the Hilton brand), with 95% of those people redeeming for the first time. “It’s nice when you can actually quantify the impact” of a campaign, says Weinstein. 

Chris Clark, 37
Director of music, Leo Burnett Worldwide

Clark served as the lead for Hear Her Music, a gender diversity initiative that Procter & Gamble launched in September 2018 to boost synch licensing opportunities for women. He worked with nearly 50 original-music companies and independent composers to compile a list that, after being published by the nonprofit Free the Bid last fall, has grown to include more than 120 women directors, composers and more. “There are really no more excuses,” says Clark.

Rick Faigin, 45 
Executive vp, Acceleration Community of Companies

Faigin closed the fastest deal of his career this year, matching longtime client T-Mobile with Ariana Grande (who is repped by Jules Ferree of SB Projects) for an extensive tour sponsorship. The deal was sealed one week before the release of Grande's Thank U, Next album and announced within a Grammy Awards spot featuring Grande that was produced just days before the ceremony. Grande's Sweetener World Tour opened March 18 in Albany, N.Y.  A similar T-Mobile tour sponsorship last year for Kesha and Macklemore drove ticket sales via national TV ads. 

Matt Ferrigno, 35
Co-founder, More Than Words

“The Latin side of the [music] business is exploding, and there’s not that much focus on brand partnerships,” says Ferrigno, whose first move at his startup, MTW, was placing Colombian artist Maluma in Michelob Ultra’s Super Bowl commercial. Ferrigno was previously vp partnerships at Maverick, where he landed endorsement deals for Nicki Minaj. He continues to handle brand placements for such hip-hop acts as Lil Wayne and G-Eazy, and arranged for Lil Wayne’s participation in a new campaign for Uggs, “which is one of his favorite shoes,” says Ferrigno.

Bruce Flohr, 51 
Founding partner, GreenLight/Live Nation Studios; chief strategy officer/executive vp creative, Red Light Management
Dominic Sandifer, 49 
President/founding partner, GreenLight/Live Nation Studios

The combined clout of Red Light Management and Live Nation (which acquired a majority interest in GreenLight in 2016) gave Sandifer and Flohr the edge in delivering for Google Pixel, Rémy Martin and Hilton, among other brands. The Google Pixel 3 launch (at three different festivals last year and involving such artists as St. Vincent, Tyga, Tiësto and Aloe Blacc) garnered 41 million media impressions, reports Sandifer. “I’m very proud to have GreenLight be the creative force behind one of the best new small music venues in the country,” adds Flohr. “Analog at the Hutton Hotel has become the must-play room in Nashville,” helping to drive the hotel to an occupancy rate of 98%. 

Casey Gartland, 40  
Vp music and entertainment partnerships, GMR Marketing

Gartland collaborated with Paradigm Talent Agency’s Stephanie Miles on the initiative that paired Imagine Dragons with Corning’s Gorilla Glass -- a strong, lightweight glass used for many of the world’s mobile-phone screens -- to launch the company’s first “splashy consumer marketing campaign,” he says. As part of a scavenger hunt promoted on the Dragons’ social media channels, fans around the world were given a chance to win tickets to a private concert -- which was also livestreamed -- in the band’s native Las Vegas. 

Nathan Hanks, 45 
Co-founder/CEO, Music Audience Exchange

Hanks uses technology to pair artists and brands. Music Audience Exchange employed its proprietary artist-matching platform to drive over 1 billion impressions across 50 music campaigns in the last year, he says. His new clients include Honda, U.S. Cellular, Canon and Snapple. But there’s still one major untapped opportunity: “Brands being part of new releases by emerging artists,” he says. “I think the top 100 artists are super-served by sponsorship teams, but the next 5% are totally undervalued.” 

Jeremy Holley, 41 
Co-founder, FlyteVu 
Laura Hutfless, 37
Co-founder, FlyteVu

Hutfless says that FlyteVu’s wins over the past year include placing Rita Ora’s song “Soul Survivor” (with the help of Warner Bros.’ Liz Lewis) in a Serena Williams-starring Super Bowl LIII ad for dating/social app Bumble, while Holley is most proud that in December the company distributed 10% of its net profits to its employees “to give to their charity of choice. It’s not only [about] bringing more revenue into the music business through brands,” he says, but “being able to let our campaign speak to something that’s greater than ourselves.” 

Rene Mclean* 
Founder/CEO, SLANG

McLean paired Janelle Monáe with Belvedere Vodka for a multiyear partnership that launched at just the right cultural moment. In partnership with Monáe’s Fem the Future initiative to support women in the music and entertainment industry, the artist and Belvedere collaborated on A Beautiful Future, a series of brand-funded short films from three female filmmakers that have led to more than 4 million views for the brand’s YouTube channel. “Both [Monáe and Belvedere] are driven by their shared beliefs in philanthropy, optimism, community and the desire to uplift and empower others,” says McLean. 

Carlene Rowe, 40 
Director, sports and entertainment, Conill 

Conill paired Toyota with reggaetón star Wisin, who in 2018 curated the Toyota Music Den at Ruido Fest and the Los Dells Festival. More than 19 artists were featured, resulting in a 41% increase in consumer consideration of the brand, reports Rowe. The Toyota Music Den also featured Jarina De Marco, Periko y Jessi, Gadiel, Farina “and many more, in support of music discovery,” she says.

Elena Sotomayor, 48 
Executive vp marketing, CMN/Henry

For Henry, a division of CMN (the Latin-focused marketing company founded by Henry Cárdenas), Sotomayor has partnered with such clients as Nissan, Spectrum, HBO and Sprint. Her team in the past year saw a 40% increase in revenue in agency, brand marketing and sponsorship dollars. “Our biggest challenge is the daily digital evolution,” says Sotomayor, who works with Marc Anthony, Bad Bunny and Chayanne. “Investing in audiences and the way they consume content is something we spend a lot of time and resources on.” 

Anthony DiStasio, 28 
Brand partnerships agent, Paradigm Talent Agency
Stephanie Miles*
Executive vp brand partnerships, Paradigm Talent Agency

Paradigm’s brand partnerships team experienced a 45% increase in revenue in 2018, reports Miles, who linked Imagine Dragons to Corning’s Gorilla Glass for a campaign last year that involved a “pretty difficult” online scavenger hunt. The hunt revealed news of the release of the band’s album Origins and an opportunity to win a trip to a Corning-sponsored Las Vegas concert on Nov. 7. DiStasio, who joined Paradigm in 2018 from RCA, partnered Gucci Mane with Swisher Sweets and enlisted Playboi Carti for Foot Locker’s Discover Your Air back-to-school campaign, which also featured Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics. “Artists have influence at every level,” says DiStasio. “Some of the most provoking campaigns I’ve come across have been the result of brands investing in emerging talent and servicing niche audiences.” 

Kevin Gelbard, 50 
Music brand partnerships agent, Creative Artists Agency
Nathan Gregory, 35 
Music brand partnerships agent, Creative Artists Agency
Tom Worcester, 57 
Head of music partnerships, Creative Artists Agency

Under Worcester, CAA’s music partnerships department closed 360 deals in 2018, each involving “a lot of work, a lot of moving parts and a lot of people, so to do about one per day is quite an accomplishment,” he says. Adds Gelbard: “It’s a great time in the brand and music partnership business. More artists are willing to work with brands, and more brands are eager to be in music than ever before.” He oversaw Panic! at the Disco’s involvement with the State Farm Insurance Neighborhood of Good campaign to advance social responsibility. (The partnership enabled frontman Brendon Urie to give $1 million to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.) Gregory set up Kelsea Ballerini as a role model for Barbie’s 60th-anniversary campaign and secured Rachel Platten for the body-positive #AerieReal campaign, which included an unretouched image of the singer on a Times Square billboard. “It was a very empowering moment for her,” he says. 

Carol Goll*
Partner/head of global branded entertainment, ICM Partners

A signature hoodie collaboration between Eminem (from Goll’s native Detroit) and fashion label Rag & Bone and a multifaceted partnership between Lil Yachty and Axe were among the 100 deals that Goll and her team struck in the past year. Migos, Busta Rhymes and Cyndi Lauper were among the other ICM clients who found brand opportunities through Goll’s efforts. “There is such a deep emotional connection between musicians and their fans that brands want to tap into,” she says. “So the more authentic the partnership is, the more organic the messaging is for the artist and the stronger the partnership will be.”

Todd Jacobs, 39 
Partner, WME
Shari Lewin, 33 
Partner, WME

Jacobs last year paid homage to queen and country. Ahead of National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 25, he put together a “lucrative” deal for the estate of Aretha Franklin to feature the Queen of Soul’s 1968 hit “Think” in Levi’s Use Your Vote campaign. “To be able to impact [the midterm elections] through a major TV commercial that aired during critical moments was amazing,” says Jacobs, who also engineered a multiyear global partnership between Levi’s and Justin Timberlake that drove more than 1.2 billion media impressions. Lewin represented Brad Paisley for his Nationwide Mutual Insurance commercials with Peyton Manning. She also brought together Maroon 5 and Verizon for sponsorship of their Red Pill Blues tour which included a 360-degree video showing the band's perspective from the stage that was viewed over 11 million times. “Before I worked for WME, I was with Verizon’s music agency, and I spent a few years working on their music strategy,” she says. “It was really full circle for me to be able to do a deal for one of our clients with Verizon.”

Melissa Newhart, 31 
Music brand partnerships executive, New York lead, United Talent Agency
Sara Schoch, 28 
Music brand partnerships executive, Nashville lead, United Talent Agency
Toni Wallace, 38 
Head of music brand partnerships, United Talent Agency

In a year in which Wallace and her team closed 250 new partnerships, she points to Post Malone’s inaugural Posty Fest, staged in October in Dallas, as a high point. Profitable in its first year (“Which isn’t always the case for first-time festivals,” she says), the event’s financial success was fueled by 15 brand sponsorships, including Xbox, Lyft, Hasbro and Beats by Dre. Another sponsor, gaming accessory company HyperX, signed Post Malone to become its brand ambassador. Newhart helped orchestrate Lauryn Hill’s first brand campaign with Woolrich, for which the artist “led the entire creative process,” says Newhart, including the design of limited-edition jackets -- which retailed for upward of $2,300 -- that paid tribute to the 20th anniversary of Hill’s iconic album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. (They quickly sold out.) In Nashville, nine months before Jimmie Allen’s debut single, “Best Shot,” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, Schoch was lining up partnerships for the singer with Starbucks, George Dickel Tennessee Whisky and Bumble, among others. Allen’s cover of Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There” was first released exclusively on Spotify via the Nation of US playlist on the Starbucks app. “Artists don’t want to affiliate with brands that do not align with their values,” says Schoch. “It’s incumbent on us as representatives to think critically about every partnership opportunity.”

Alisann Blood, 38
Senior vp brand partnerships, Maverick

In the past year, Blood and her all-female team have brokered deals connecting Allstate and ad agency UEG with Florida Georgia Line (via Maverick’s partnership with the duo’s Big Loud Management), and Comcast and Sofar Sounds with former Fifth Harmony member Dinah Jane, among others. “Every deal is different, but every deal that gets done starts with building a relationship,” says Blood. “The challenge is helping brands recognize that music should always be a part of their strategy.” 

Jules Ferree, 36 
Head of brand partnerships, SB Projects

Ferree, who ran point on Ariana Grande’s partnership with T-Mobile -- which was unveiled in a Grammy Awards spot -- says the best brand communication “should never deviate from how artists speak with their fans.” An example: “If an artist typically uses a certain filter in social media photos, brand partnerships should keep that filter.” T-Mobile is sponsoring the Sweetener World Tour, which included Grande’s attention-grabbing turn at Coachella. In another branding coup, Grande revealed on Instagram May 9 that she will be the new face of Givenchy, the French fashion house.

Aleen Keshishian*
Founder/CEO, Lighthouse Management and Media

Selena Gomez’s huge number of social media followers -- 149 million on Instagram and 57 million on Twitter -- keeps her in rarefied brand territory, and it’s up to her manager Keshishian to help the pop superstar “figure out where she’ll have the most fun and also be heard artistically.” Gomez works hand in hand with executives at Puma and Coach to get behind products with her creative stamp. “We do hundreds of brand deals a year,” says Keshishian of her management roster of Hollywood stars like Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Orlando Bloom. “We always want to amplify what our clients are actually doing in their lives.” 

Matt Ringel, 49
Executive vp, Red Light Management; managing partner, New Era Media and Marketing

Ringel estimates that he and his team guided about 135 projects during the past year -- with a 45% increase in revenue. Part of that growth reflects a trend. “We’re seeing [more] opportunities for artists to create product or businesses together with a brand,” he says. “So it evolves the relationship beyond the content partnership or endorsement or tour sponsorship into a shared interest in [a product’s] performance in the marketplace.” Among such deals was Dierks Bentley’s Desert Sun apparel line with Flag and Anthem, with which the country star has been involved from the design stage. 

Michael Yormark* 
President/chief of branding and strategy, Roc Nation

Meek Mill’s partnership with Puma has pushed beyond marketing clothing and shoes. “It’s much deeper, focusing on criminal justice reform,” says Yormark. In November 2017, a Pennsylvania judge sentenced Mill to two to four years in prison for a parole violation. Gaining his freedom after five months (with a prosecutor’s support), Mill co-founded the REFORM Alliance to advocate for the rights of the incarcerated. In January, inspired by Mill’s activism, Puma launched the Clyde Court #REFORM basketball shoe. All net proceeds from the sale of the shoe are donated to Mill’s organization.

Tim Castelli, 51 
President, national sales, marketing and partnerships, iHeartMedia

“Audio is hot right now,” says Castelli, citing streaming, podcasting and smart speakers as well as the ongoing reach of radio -- all of which are sought by “brands looking for ways to connect with consumers,” he says. With its multiple platforms, iHeartMedia is well positioned to make those connections. For the launch of the film Bohemian Rhapsody in November, 20th Century Fox turned to iHeartMedia, which created pre-release content online and a 600-station simulcast of the title song. Lately, adds Castelli, “the one thing brands keep asking us about is podcasts,” and iHeartMedia leads the sector with 167 million global downloads in January, he reports. 

Morgan Thoryk, 35 
Partner/music supervisor, Good Ear Music Supervision

In the first 12 months since she was named a partner at Good Ear, the leading independent music supervision firm for blue-chip brands, Thoryk has secured music from an eclectic mix of artists (Sun Ra, Big Freedia, Missy Elliott) for an equally diverse client roster (Casper Mattress, Old Navy and Gatorade, respectively) across 100 global music licenses. Good Ear also paired Lil Jon with ad icon the Kool-Aid Man for a new seasonal song, “All I Really Want for Christmas” (accompanied by an outlandish video), that has garnered more than 1 billion media impressions. “Brands are increasingly interested in sharing the stage with the artist and authentically collaborating, which can be a great win for everyone,” says Thoryk. 

Josh Fein, 41 
Head of artist and partner marketing, Amazon Music
Tami Hurwitz, 46 
Vp global marketing, Amazon Music

As Amazon goes all in on Alexa -- the company announced in January that the digital assistant was available on 100 million devices worldwide -- Fein and Hurwitz helped drive the streaming platform’s global campaign A Voice Is All You Need, “pairing iconic artist vocals with a visual interpretation of their songs,” says Hurwitz. The campaign featured music from Queen, Kendrick Lamar and SZA, and Whitney Houston, as well as appearances from Imagine Dragons, Kane Brown and Ariana Grande (who also performed at the company’s Prime Day livestream concert last July). “We look to our artist partners to help educate their fans, via video content on social platforms, about the ease of use and intuitive ways to listen to their new music,” says Fein. Amazon Music also landed Katy Perry’s “Cozy Little Christmas” as an exclusive. “We featured the song in our TV campaign and on billboards across the U.S. and U.K.,” says Hurwitz. “It became a holiday staple.”

Danielle Lee, 43 
Vp/global head of partner solutions, Spotify

The ink is barely dry on Spotify’s February deal to acquire podcast networks Gimlet and Anchor, and already Lee is formulating plans to drive podcast partnerships. Building off the success of its first branded original series, Ebb & Flow, sponsored by New Amsterdam Vodka, Lee is optimistic about launching similar programs to Spotify’s lineup of 170,000 podcasts. It helps that her company plans to invest up to $500 million in the space this year. “It’s an area that’s just exploding right now and has a lot of potential,” she says. 

Brad Minor, 40 
Vp/head of brand marketing and communications, Pandora
Lauren Nagel, 36 
Vp/executive creative director, Pandora
Jeff Zuchowski, 47
Vp/industry and artist relations, Pandora

“Content rules, but if everyone has the same content, how do you stand out?” Minor answers his own question by pointing to such programming moves as Pandora Stories, which combines music and podcasts, and the streaming platform’s Sound On branding campaign. That initiative drove an increase of 70 million listening hours over the two-month holiday period in late 2018 after it was staged in just five major markets: Atlanta, Miami, Nashville, New York and San Francisco/Oakland, Calif. Nagel’s team of eight in-house designers whipped up more than 1,100 unique promotional assets, from subway signs to billboards, all built around the theme of holiday travel and the ways music and sound can help people escape. Zuchowski, meanwhile, recruited artists, including Cardi B, Carrie Underwood, Lil Wayne and Pitbull, whose music was highlighted in the campaign. “If we excite and motivate listeners to engage more with the music on Pandora,” says Minor, “then artists win, advertisers win, and we win.”

Mike Praw, 41 
Global business development, internet software and services, Apple

As Apple pivots from hardware toward digital services -- which generated $10.9 billion for the company in the fourth quarter of 2018 -- Praw has spearheaded unprecedented integrations for Apple Music, counting SoulCycle, Genius, Disney, TikTok and American Airlines as new brand partners over the past year. “More and more consumers have an expectation that the services they pay for show up wherever they frequent, which is both an opportunity and a challenge for us,” says Praw. 

Keith D’arcy, 49 
Senior vp commercial sync, Kobalt Music
Julie Hurwitz*
Senior vp commercial sync and brand partnerships, East Coast U.S., Scandinavia and GSA, Kobalt Music
Jeannette Perez, 39 
President, global sync and brand partnerships, Kobalt Music/AWAL

Perez led a strong year for Kobalt’s synch and brand partnerships team in 2018, growing synch revenue by 33%. “We have a sizable catalog, but it’s smaller than the majors,” she says. “Yet we show up to the big game year after year with some pretty big wins.” The victories included placements for new artists NVDES (for Apple, Macy’s and Royal Caribbean) and Beginners (New Balance), both bands from Los Angeles. D’Arcy, working with Beginners, says the female-empowerment-themed spot for New Balance chalked up 51 million TV impressions during a two-week period that included the Super Bowl. He also placed neo-soul artist Davie on-screen in a Wild Turkey ad with Matthew McConaughey that logged 1 billion TV impressions in a year, according to iSpot. “Landing an on-camera opportunity for an artist is always amazing,” says D’Arcy. Hurwitz helped partner Childish Gambino with Google for use of the artist’s avatar as a playmoji on Pixel phones. The new technology created a negotiating challenge. But Gambino’s “cultural influence really informed the deal terms,” says Hurwitz. “Google understood and appreciated that.”

Tom Eaton, 49 
Senior vp music for advertising, Universal Music Publishing Group
Tom Foster, 39 
European head of film and TV, Universal Music Publishing Group

Eaton says UMPG’s synch team began 2019 strong, placing eight songs in Super Bowl commercials (including The Charlie Daniels Band’s 1979 hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” in a Dodge ad) and five more songs in the Grammy Awards broadcast (among them: Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings,” in an Apple Memoji commercial). “When done right, songs can completely transform how brands tell their story,” says former session musician Foster, who scored one of the United Kingdom’s biggest synch deals when he paired Elton John with British retailer John Lewis for its 2018 Christmas commercial. Eaton says he’s excited about the new chart-topping debut Interscope album from Billie Eilish: “I would love to be able to pair her with the correct brand,” he says.

Sara Lord, 48 
Senior vp international sync and project development, Concord
Michael Pizzuto*
Senior vp creative, sync licensing, A&R, Concord
Brooke Primont, 44 
Senior vp sync licensing, Concord

“We pride ourselves on being an indie with major reach,” says Pizzuto, who led Concord’s global synch team to land six songs that were placed in ads before and during Super Bowl LIII. For Primont, the success of Ruelle defined the past year. “I signed her to Concord and got her into the ad space, and she took off like a rocket,” says Primont. “At last count, we have 387 confirmed synchs, and there are no signs of it slowing down.” Lord oversaw the repositioning of Concord that followed its 2017 purchase of music publisher Imagem. Now “we have a strong brand,” she says. “If I had to pick a number that represented that [success], I’d pick my phone number, because people are calling more now than ever.” 

Brian Monaco, 47 
President/global chief marketing officer, Sony/ATV Music Publishing

Sony/ATV once again led the synch licensing field at the Super Bowl, placing 10 songs from its catalog in ads during the big game. It’s the seventh year in a row that the company has earned that distinction, says Monaco. Placements included Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” (written by Freddie Mercury) in an Amazon spot and an attention-grabbing license of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” for a Budweiser ad (with its shot of wind-powered turbines on a prairie). Overall, says Monaco, “we are growing revenue for our synch business by a double-digit percentage.” A new priority, he says, is “restricting licensing to specific territories instead of allowing broad worldwide streaming. We are fully in the age where so much is accessible, it’s imperative that our clients realize that worldwide [use] is not a given.”

Marty Silverstone, 42 
Partner/senior vp creative/head of sync, Primary Wave

Silverstone’s education prepared him well for striking synch deals: He has degrees in music production, engineering -- and psychology. His seven-member branding team (expanded by four new staffers in 2018) is behind the use of Confetti’s “Right Now” in a Fortnite trailer and a deal with MillerCoors’ Saint Archer Brewing Co. for Foy Vance, who has toured and collaborated with Ed Sheeran. While clients often ask about licensing well-known hits by superstars, “a lot of the work is about getting developing songwriters in front of people,” says Silverstone. 

Ron Broitman*
Executive vp/head of synchronization, Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, Warner Music Group

By overseeing both publishing compositions and recording masters, Broitman says his team is “uniquely situated to service every area of business -- both for catalog and frontline music -- as it relates to advertising and brands.” While he doesn’t disclose specifics, WMG’s financial filings show that its publishing synch revenue increased by 6.3% to $119 million in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2018. (While WMG doesn’t specifically break out synch for its recorded masters, it’s included in the category of licensing and other revenue.) Among the deals driving those numbers: a reimagined take on “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” for a Land O’Lakes campaign and the use of both composition and master rights in licensing Aretha Franklin’s version of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” in a Nike spot. 

Noah Callahan-Bever, 40
Executive vp, Def Jam Recordings 

“Def Jam is more than a record label. It’s a blue-chip brand,” says Callahan-Bever of the seminal hip-hop label, which marks its 35th anniversary this year. So it makes sense that the home of Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Jhené Aiko, Pusha T and the dozen-plus new signings showcased on the label’s Undisputed compilation would align with other top brands. Callahan-Bever offers two examples. “We’ve created deep, ongoing relationships with both Puma and Courvoisier that are, in my mind, exactly what true partnership is about,” he says. “We are on track to grow brand partnership revenue over 250% year over year.” 

Lori Feldman*
Executive vp strategic marketing, Warner Bros. Records
Liz Lewis*
Vp strategic marketing and commercial licensing, Warner Bros. Records

Feldman and Lewis each scored a win at Super Bowl LIII in February. Lewis placed Rita Ora’s “Soul Survivor” in a spot starring Serena Williams for dating/social app Bumble. It was “the most engaged Super Bowl spot on Facebook,” she says. Feldman brought Michael Bublé to the big game campaign for PepsiCo’s flavored sparkling water brand bubly. “It’s completely on-brand for Michael’s ethos and personality,” says Feldman, and featured “a hilarious and ironic teaser campaign [with] more Michael Bublé GIFs than fans ever thought possible.” Pepsi reports that the campaign yielded 8 billion positive media impressions. 

Mara Frankel, 30 
Senior creative director, brand partnerships, Atlantic Records
Camille Hackney*
Chief partnerships officer, brand partnerships and commercial licensing, Atlantic Records; head of global brand partnerships, Warner Music Group

“In my career, I don’t know that I’ve worked with [this] volume and level of talent of female artists at one time,” says music and branding veteran Hackney, citing deals for Hayley Kiyoko, Lizzo, Cardi B, Janelle Monáe, Ava Max, Rico Nasty, Ally Brooke and Brandi Carlile. Frankel saw Lizzo’s star rise via her presence last year at events like Total Wireless in Los Angeles and Beautycon in New York. For brands that might seek a social media fix, Hackney says she emphasizes that these artists “are multifaceted: [They] can create content, do live shows, events. The constant challenge is just showing the value and worth of music to brand partners.” 

Jennifer Frommer*
Senior vp brand partnerships and licensing, Sony Music

A seven-figure global ad campaign pairing Columbia Records’ international trio LSD -- consisting of British musician Labrinth, Australia’s Sia and U.S. DJ-producer Diplo -- with the Samsung Galaxy Note9 was a highlight of the past year for Frommer and drove 129 million on-demand streams for the song “Thunderclouds,” according to Nielsen Music. “LSD is so fanciful, so colorful and so imaginative,” says Frommer. “And everything about the Samsung Galaxy is about pushing the boundaries of technology and color and tapping into artistry.”

Christine Kauffman, 46
Senior vp brand partnerships, Island Records
Eric Wong*
COO, Island Records

Despite Wong’s promotion to COO last August, he remains hands-on in marketing Island artists. Demi Lovato’s video “Tell Me You Love Me,” showcased via the Google Duo app, has drawn 130 million global YouTube views. Shawn Mendes cruises Tokyo in a black Jaguar in his “Lost in Japan” video (62 million-plus views) and joins Camila Cabello in a VerizonUp summer campaign. “I’m involved with every area of the label,” says Wong, but “first and foremost, I’m a marketer.” Kauffman, who joined Island in February from iHeartMedia, brings a track record that includes offering members of the Marriott rewards program such opportunities as exclusive access to a John Mayer concert in October at the iHeartRadio Theater in Los Angeles.

John Kirkpatrick, 50 
Senior vp, Epic Records

Before joining Epic early this year, Kirkpatrick built a reputation for dealmaking at Paramount Pictures, retailer Hot Topic and most recently with youth-marketing organization PTTOW, where he teamed Janelle Monáe, Michael Bublé and Wiz Khalifa with potential branding partners. He previously worked under Epic chairman/CEO Sylvia Rhone at Elektra Records. Why return now to brand marketing at a label? “My belief in Sylvia Rhone, and the cultural momentum of Epic, really was the perfect opportunity to reconnect music to the world of branded media,” he says.

Nathan Ledesma, 32 
Senior director, brand partnerships, Capitol Records
Brian Nolan, 38
Senior vp, seventeenfifty, Capitol Records

An expansive partnership for Migos with shoe retailer Finish Line, including commercials and experiential marketing (with such tie-ins as the NBA All-Star Weekend), helped push the trio’s 2018 album Culture II to 2.3 billion on-demand streams. “Brand partnerships keep artists at the forefront of pop culture, which ultimately helps them create more music,” he says. “We’re always trying to help artists professionally as well as with creating revenue.” Nolan did both by teaming Halsey with Beats by Dre, which featured the singer’s “Without Me” in its global holiday ad campaign, helping drive the song to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. “We now live in a world where singles don’t need to be tied to an album cycle,” says Nolan, “which allows brands and executives to be creative and really make an impact. We can change the course of an artist’s career through brand partnerships.” 

Kerri Mackar, 34
Senior vp brand partnerships, Republic Records

Mackar reports her team has doubled its revenue from 2017 to 2018 with deals like a new partnership between YSL Beauty and Republic breakout artist Kiana Ledé, whose “Ex” hit No. 9 on the Hot R&B Songs chart. Working with Post Malone’s management, Mackar also secured the hip-hop superstar’s on-screen role in a Beats by Dre spot featuring his single with Swae Lee, “Sunflower,” from the soundtrack of the global smash animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The 30-second spot launched in December, coinciding with the release of the film (which has grossed $375.1 million worldwide to date, according to Box Office Mojo), and by mid-January, “Sunflower” had hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Post Malone also teamed late last year with Crocs for Posty-designed footwear -- which sold out in minutes. 

Naomi McMahon, 36 
Senior vp/head of strategic marketing and brand partnerships, Universal Music Group and Brands
Olivier Robert-Murphy, 52 
Global head of new business, Universal Music Group 
Mike Tunnicliffe, 57
Executive vp/head, Universal Music Group and Brands

“Where science meets the magic” is how Robert-Murphy describes his team’s approach to brand partnerships, which includes extensive pre- and post-campaign data analytics. A recent example: pairing EDM artist Zedd with National Geographic for its One Strange Rock series, helping the channel achieve global viewership of 81 million. Tunnicliffe, who launched UMG’s branding division in the United States in 2015, closed the past year with 28 brand partners and ongoing four-year-plus relationships with clients that include Marriott, Honda and M&M’s. “We’ve grown the business over fourfold since we started,” he reports. Under McMahon, recent wins include: the first major music partnership of 275-store retailer Cost Plus World Market, which had Jessie J helm its 2018 holiday campaign; a Carly Rae Jepsen concert on a Carnival cruise; and Max Richter’s Clio Award-winning “Sleep,” an eight-hour composition sponsored by Beautyrest and Philips, and presented in Austin and New York. “You could tell people were genuinely moved,” says McMahon of the “Sleep” experiential event. “It’s very rewarding when you can help create that.” 

Ryan Payne, 31
Head of marketing and branding, Glassnote Entertainment Group

For Mumford & Sons’ latest album, Delta, Payne struck a partnership with National Geographic that, he says, “gave us access to their video archive where we were able to select footage [for] an album-length film, synched to the music on Delta.” Shown in theaters worldwide on the eve of the album’s Nov. 16 release, the movie “gave fans a unique experience,” says Payne. Two weeks later, the footage went online -- and Delta became the band’s third straight No. 1 album on the Billboard 200. “That connection, that trust, between the artists and the fans,” says Payne, “that’s the value proposition.”

Daniel Sena*
Head of strategic marketing, Interscope Geffen A&M

For IGA’s breakout artists Rich the Kid and Billie Eilish, Sena and his team put together global campaigns with fashion brand MCM, while last summer’s Volkswagen advertising campaign (created with the automaker’s former ad agency, Deutsch) showcased songs from Louis the Child, Kali Uchis, Yungblud and Gryffin. With Fiat Chrysler CMO Olivier François, Sena paired OneRepublic with Jeep for three campaigns that led to collective media impressions “in the billions,” says Sena. “And everything was done with tremendous mutual respect by both the artist and the brand.”

Ryan Wright, 45 
Chief marketing officer, Kobalt and AWAL

The brand Wright is hyperfocused on right now is in-house: AWAL, Kobalt’s recorded-music division, which offers marketing, promotion, A&R, distribution and licensing for some 25,000 artists -- veterans and newcomers alike. Some $150 million has gone to expanding staff and funding moves like the Educate Everyone outreach and the I Am My Own Label campaign. The result: “Our AWAL business has more than doubled this past year to $100 million in revenue, and AWAL is now seen as one of -- if not the -- leading independent labels in the world,” says Wright. Consumers today, he adds, “are more open to being influenced by what inspires them. There is a huge opportunity out there for independent artists to be micro-influencers for brands.” 

*Declined to reveal age

Contributors: Rich Appel, Megan Armstrong, Steve Baltin, Dave Brooks, Dean Budnick, William Chipps, Ed Christman, Leila Cobo, Camille Dodero, Thom Duffy, Gary Graff, Andrew Hampp, Cortney Harding, Cherie Hu, Steve Knopper, Katy Kroll, Kerri Mason, Brooke Mazurek, Taylor Mims, Gail Mitchell, Paula Parisi, Chris Payne, Alex Pham, Annie Reuter, Richard Smirke, Eric Spitznagel, Andrew Unterberger, Kevin Warwick, Deborah Wilker and Nick Williams.

Methodology: Billboard’s Branding Power Players are chosen by editors based on factors including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors at selected music companies and consumer brands; impact on consumer behavior as measured by such metrics as chart, sales and streaming performance; social media impressions; radio and TV audiences reached; career trajectory; and overall impact in the industry, using data available as of March 5.

This article originally appeared in the May 11 issue of Billboard.