With streaming driving an unprecedented 80% of U.S. music revenue, these executives from every sector of the music industry are tapping points of data to propel business upward.
Digital data today drives every aspect of the $19.1 billion global music business, in the torrent of information produced by music streaming, the insights offered by online ticket sales, the royalties earned by songwriters and publishers and more.
Billboard’s annual Digital Power Players report highlights the work of those responsible for driving the success of the music business through the use of digital data. We’ve chosen executives from streaming services, music groups and record labels; distributors and music publishers; radio chains and social media platforms; promoters and booking agents; performing rights organizations and trade groups; and more.
Whatever their industry sector, everyone involved in the music business is living through an era in which the speed of change is unprecedented. It was less than five years ago that IFPI, the recording industry’s global trade group, reported that digital music sales had surpassed physical sales for the first time.
IFPI reported in April that total global music sales for 2018 had reached $19.1 billion, a 9.7% rise over the previous year and the highest rate of growth since it started tracking the market in 1997. Driving that growth: a 33% rise in paid streaming through subscription services like Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Amazon Music.
In the United States, the recorded-music business grew 18% to $5.4 billion at retail for the first six months of 2019, according to the midyear report of the RIAA. Remarkably, streaming now accounts for 80% of recorded-music revenue in the United States, reports the RIAA.
Against that backdrop, this year’s Digital Power Players report reflects new forces shaping the music business worldwide. Included for the first time are executives from China’s Tencent Music Entertainment, which was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in December 2018, and JioSaavn, the largest music streaming service in India.
Asked what is the most pressing issue facing the music industry in this digital age, many executives continue to cite concerns about the compensation of songwriters.
The Mechanical Licensing Collective is represented by board chair Alisa Coleman as the MLC takes on the task of the U.S. copyright reforms approved under the Music Modernization Act that was signed into law in October 2018.
Along with talking about their achievements, this year’s roster of digital experts weighed in on songs they’ve been streaming lately, the favorite apps on their phones and -- perhaps most important of all -- how and where they unplug. After all, it takes strength and perspective to spend every workday managing the flood of digital music data.
-- THOM DUFFY
Founded in 2007, JioSaavn is now the largest music streaming service in India, despite stiff competition from local and international companies like Apple and Spotify. But the digital distributor also acts as a music label, which has been successful in its own right as the engine behind releases for Marshmello, Tiesto and Nas. The company has also been the local partner for albums and EPs like Lauv and The Chainsmokers. “We’ve had multiple No. 1s in India in the past 18 months,” says Malhotra, 43. “There are no limits to creativity and the intent to build something lasting.”
Most Pressing Issues: "Compensation, distribution and cultural relevance. Artist ownership [of their work] and compensation are really important. We think shared ownership and shared [rewards] are the way to go. Direct-to-consumer distribution has impacted everything. And the art of true songwriting and storytelling -- that transcends fashion -- is rare now."
Global head of business development and music partnerships, Apple
Expanding “the availability of Apple Music across a whole host of new environments” has been Marks’ goal during the past year, she says, and after securing partnerships with major companies including American Airlines, Amazon and Porsche, it’s clear she’s achieved that goal. Aiming for ongoing revenue increases, Marks -- a former senior digital executive at Universal Music Group -- plans to “continue to drive the growth of paid music subscriptions when so much is available for free,” she says.
Most Streamed Song: " 'Don’t Leave Me Lonely' by Mark Ronson, which features Yebba."
Chief content officer, Spotify
Leading all aspects of Spotify’s content partnerships across music, audio and video, Ostroff in the past has helped lock up exclusive podcasting deals with Higher Ground, Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, and acquired podcasting startups like Anchor. Spotify’s insights are key to making these deals work. “At the core of our whole business is data,” says Ostroff, who joined the company in August 2018 after leading Condé Nast Entertainment for seven years. “It’s in everything we do and it allows us to really connect with our listeners on platform and off.”
How She Unplugs: “The answer would have to be tennis. I don’t play it often enough, but it is the one thing I do where I don’t actually have earbuds hanging out of my ears.”
Cussion Kar Shun Pang
CEO, Tencent Music
Chief strategy officer, Tencent Music Entertainment
Under the leadership of Pang and Yip, Tencent Music (majority-controlled by China’s Tencent Holdings) now boasts over 650 million monthly active users across its apps worldwide. While it has had a lower profile in the United States than competing digital music companies, that has begun to change after its debut on the New York Stock Exchange in December 2018. In 2017, Universal Music Group struck a deal to distribute its repertoire on Tencent Music platforms including QQ Music, KuGou and Kuwo, while both Sony Music and Warner Music are investors in the company. In August, UMG’s parent company, Vivendi, announced it had entered into preliminary talks with Tencent Holdings to sell an initial 10% stake in UMG to the tech giant.
Chris “CP” Phillips
Chief product officer/Head of technology, Pandora/SiriusXM
“Every aspect of our product is powered by data,” says Phillips, 44. The digital veteran took Pandora’s personalization aspect up a notch this past year, unveiling its Voice Mode smart assistant. The feature responds to open-ended music or podcast requests with content based on the recorded preferences of each of the service’s 60 million monthly users. “We have such deep knowledge based on close to 100 billion thumbs up [that] when a listener says ‘play something new,’ we can deliver each individual a different result,” he says. “That’s an important breakthrough.”
How He Unplugs: “Exercising outside in beautiful California and reading physical books.”
Amazon Music Unlimited has grown rapidly in the past year. “We have seen our global hours streamed through Alexa-enabled devices double” through the service, says Redington. Recently the company launched a version of the service that offers high-resolution audio at a lower price than its competition. “We’ve worked really hard to build a seamless integration with Alexa, and seeing that translated to growth has been extremely exciting,” he adds. “I’m really proud.”
Favorite App: “Dark Sky. It’s amazing the fidelity and the detail it has compared to other weather apps I’ve used, to see what’s going to happen [here] in Seattle. Fingers crossed for sun.”
Senior vp consumer engagement and analytics, TIDAL
In a highly competitive streaming market, Sasso, 33, is charged with analyzing TIDAL’s user base and finding ways to better serve those listeners. During the past year, that has meant bringing high-quality audio to TIDAL’s mobile app and allowing users to share tracks and videos on social media, as well as segmenting its concert and festival livestreams into individual videos for users to replay afterward. “Music is supposed to be a personal outlet for fans,” he says. “A deep dive into TIDAL’s user profiles has allowed us to shift the way TIDAL presents its content to users.”
Most Pressing Issue: “Algorithms are changing how music is consumed; similar-sounding songs are likely to become popular and make it on a playlist, regardless of how much artistic merit the song actually has.”
The streaming service that launched the careers of Post Malone, Billie Eilish and, more recently, Lil Tecca upped its game by partnering with Pandora for advertising and by acquiring the rights management and distribution company Repost Network. The latter deal gives SoundCloud, home to over 20 million content creators with more than 200 million unique tracks, a “full-fledged feature set to promote and distribute an artist’s work, to help with their data and earnings -- essentially, a suite of tools to allow that artist to flourish,” says Weissman. “We’re the first place tastemaking audiences come to find new music and artists go to upload their music.”
Senior vp digital strategy and business development, Universal Music Group
Executive vp digital business development and strategy, Universal Music Group
Senior vp strategic technology, Universal Music Group
Executive vp digital strategy; member, excutive management board, Universal Music Group
Senior vp new digital business and innovation, Universal Music Group
Senior vp digital strategy and business development, Universal Music Group
Nash, who is one of UMG’s most senior executives, oversees the company’s digital team and says UMG’s recently reported 26.4% rise in subscription and streaming revenue (for the first nine months of 2019) can be credited to several factors: partnerships with Apple, Amazon, Google and Spotify; the rise of smart speakers and the connected car; and expanding subscriptions worldwide. Just one result? Billie Eilish hit No. 1 on Apple Music in 96 markets when her album debuted in March. “Interscope was able to manage its portfolio across all those partners,” says Nash. “Our company is a digitally transformed business.” For Dworkin, 44, the focus is on international growth. “We’re having serious conversations with all our partners in places like Indonesia, the Philippines -- China is in every conversation about market development; India is on everybody’s lips.” Bender has seen “incredible successes around streaming and catalog growth,” citing the data from “numerous partners and platforms” to set up this year’s 60th-anniversary campaign for Motown Records. A team under Horton, 47, is licensing music for interactive apps using “stems,” or fragments of songs, which previously weren’t “viewed as a commercializable asset,” he says. Roy, 51, helped launch UMG’s “accelerator network” to find the best new music-tech startups worldwide. “The idea was we needed to create capacity in key entrepreneurial centers all over the world,” he says. “That has been a really powerful contribution Universal has made to the ecosystem.” Stone, 48, says that the thing that gets him up in the morning is licensing music to nontraditional products -- like Peloton, the fitness-manufacturing giant, for a spin-bicycle subscription service that includes music. “Technologists continually think of new ways to ensure that music is a part of everyday life.”
Senior vp streaming and digital marketing, Concord
How can digital data help a country superstar who had her first hit in the 1970s? Berman, 39, recruited the support of Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon and more when Tanya Tucker released While I’m Livin’, her first album on the Billboard 200 since 2002, reviving a career that first took off with her hit “Delta Dawn” in 1972. He coordinated a similar campaign, including outdoor billboards, playlist covers and video content creation, for Common’s August release of Let Love. “His streaming numbers aren’t like Drake, Travis Scott or Future,” says Berman, “but the [reaction] from the [digital service providers] made it feel like one of those records, which was fantastic.” Concord recently invested in the digital marketing platform Found.ee to bolster its data-driven campaigns.
Favorite App: “ChefsFeed, a Yelp but only for other chefs. It’s crowdsourced. It’s the most efficient way of looking for a restaurant or a dish locally.”
Executive vp global digital partnerships, Kobalt
Avid Larizadeh Duggan
Chief technology officer, Kobalt
VP digital sales and account management, Kobalt AWAL
VP growth marketing, Kobalt AWAL
In early 2018, Kobalt hired Larizadeh Duggan away from Google Ventures (where her portfolio included managing the firm’s investment in Kobalt) to help manage its rapid growth. “Last quarter we had a 143% year-on-year increase in the volume of payments we made to our publishing clients,” says Larizadeh Duggan. “This is equivalent to over 560 million payments in one quarter.” As chief technology officer, Liebenberg, 46, brings technical expertise that benefits both Kobalt publishing clients and AWAL artists. Amid an ever-increasing volume of transactions, Liebenberg says that “our goal is to maximize the number of outlets while minimizing the time for [royalty] collections and payments.” In the past year, Sigismondo, 33, developed an algorithm that detects rising early-stage artists across AWAL’s roster. “During the past year, we’ve surfaced more than 300 artists this way, scanning over a billion data points each week,” he says. Shamel, 32, has overseen a 200% increase in monthly AWAL streams in the two years she has been with the company. “Every day we work so hard together to deliver the most competitive results for our artists and label partners. And we have a lot of fun doing it,” she says. Bruderman, who has been appointed to the Music Licensing Collective formed under the Music Modernization Act, is focused on positioning AWAL artists globally. “I’ve been working very closely with our marketing teams on that, and the numbers speak for themselves: AWAL revenue is expected to be up about 80% this past year [for the fiscal year that ended June 30], to more than $100 million. Ensuring internal teams from A&R, product, tech, marketing, operations and business development are all in a tight communication loop has helped us move and grow incredibly quickly, while still improving execution in the market.”
President of global digital business and U.S. sales, Sony Music Entertainment
“Some of us have been around back when there wasn’t anyone who thought the music industry would ever be a growth industry again,” says Kooker, 52. “We set out with a clear strategy to move it in the direction of returning to growth.” By building the tools and systems infrastructure and hiring data scientists to deal with the massive data flowing through the business, Sony’s streaming revenue this year grew 24% over the previous year. At that rate, Sony streaming revenue should hit in the range of $2.5 billion to $3 billion for the year. “Our mantra was to first build the tools to allow the artist to focus solely on the creative,” says Kooker. “I take great pride in having a team that is doing groundbreaking things to give our artists the freedom to chase their creative visions.”
Most Streamed Song: “We hosted a 2-year-old’s birthday party with a petting zoo and a pony and all the kids did the pony ride with [Lil Nas X’s] ‘Old Town Road’ on repeat.”
VP marketing, BMG Recorded Music
At BMG, Reid oversaw multifaceted marketing campaigns for several projects in partnership with Commission Music, including hits such as Lil Dicky’s “Freaky Friday” and “Earth” (which surpassed 1.6 billion and 641 million global streams, respectively, says BMG) and MadeinTYO’s “Chucky Cheese” viral TikTok hit used in over 1 million videos. Reid notes the growth of R&B/hip-hop in the digital space at BMG’s frontline label operations increased streaming numbers exponentially -- largely contributing to a 100% increase year over year in streaming-equivalent albums from 2017 to 2018 in the United States, according to BMG.
Most Streamed Song: “ ‘King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown’ from King Tubby with Augustus Pablo. That’s a key track at the top of my personal classic dub reggae playlist, which is my ultimate chill-out soundtrack.”
Executive vp new business channels/Chief acquisition officer, Warner Music Group
Executive vp global digital account management, Warner Music Group
“My goal is always to protect the long-term value of music so that our artists can keep creating amazing music for their fans,” says Ruxandra, whose company had a double-digit jump in streaming revenue since she joined WMG late last year (from UMG) to lead digital strategy and negotiations. “We’re consistently getting deals done toward that goal.” Vivero, 49, has been instrumental in building engagement around WMG’s releases on digital platforms. “Fans are increasingly engaging with our streaming campaigns, in particular prereleases, running across multiple services,” she says. “We’re applying best practices on a global basis.”
How She Unplugs: “I am solely jacked into the matrix and ready to go. It’s not my goal to unplug, and I definitely wouldn’t be doing this job if it was.” -- Ruxandra
Executive vp business and legal affairs, Sony/ATV
Ask Brodsky, 56, what the most significant number for his business was in the past year and he’ll answer “zero” -- the number of Senate votes opposing the Music Modernization Act. For Sony/ATV, Brodsky worked to achieve passage of the landmark legislation, which was signed into law in October 2018. He’s now focused, he says, on working “with the digital companies to get them to deliver meaningful data to us that we use in virtually all aspects of our business.”
Most Pressing Issue: “The potential changes and/or termination of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. Depending on what the Department of Justice decides to do, you could have major changes in how ASCAP and BMI conduct business.”
Joe Conyers III
Chief strategy officer, Downtown Music Holdings
Conyers, 33, has led Songtrust, Downtown Music Publishing’s digital-rights management platform, to tremendous growth, with a 180% increase in its client base and a 70% increase in royalty collections, according to the company. But that’s not enough. Conyers strongly supports the 44% mechanical royalty rate increase over a five-year period endorsed by the Copyright Royalty Board (and currently facing a challenge from tech companies). “Songwriters are dramatically underpaid in the digital era,” he says. “If their rates don’t start going up, I think we’ll see a real backlash.”
Most Pressing Issue: “Very slowly the giants are waking up and realizing that user-generated-content platforms are an important medium. In time TikTok creators will become some of the best cover artists and they’ll make their own content.”
Stephen J. Dallas
Senior vp business and legal affairs and digital business development, Universal Music Publishing Group
Dallas relishes leveraging the skill and knowledge of his team to get the “best and most innovative digital deals across the globe” for UMPG songwriters, he says. With revenue up 40% (to over $1 billion) since chairman/CEO Jody Gerson arrived at UMPG in 2015, the importance of tapping data to find opportunities is more important than ever. “It comes down to continuing that fight for [the] value of our songwriters’ contributions,” says Dallas, “and being laser-focused on the long-term growth of the business.”
Favorite App: “Ultimate Guitar, because I used it to learn the pop songs my kids listen to -- [by] Billie Eilish, Shawn Mendes and Ariana Grande. It helps if I want to cheat and get [guitar] tabs, so I can be a cool dad.”
Partner/president of digital strategy, Primary Wave
Primary Wave, one of the largest independent music publishers in the United States, has had “exponential growth of streaming numbers and social media engagement” for its artists, who include Dave Navarro and Culture Club, says Dippold, 48. The company’s roster had a 350% increase in online followers and over half a billion more music streams in the past year. The late Whitney Houston, whose estate signed with Primary Wave in May, reached 77 million on-demand U.S. streams with her Kygo-produced remix of “Higher Love.”
Favorite App: “Radio Garden allows me to explore world music, news, culture and instantly brings me back to my favorite global cities.”
Executive vp global digital strategy, Warner Chappell Music
In the past 18 months, Mackay, 38, has rebuilt his digital team “from the ground up,” he says, just in time to handle digital services renegotiations for the biggest deals driving Warner Chappell’s digital revenue. The company’s data management systems inform all decisions and provide an “amount of analysis that allows us to put together better deals,” says Mackay. While the growth of digital revenue in music publishing has lagged behind that of the recorded-music side of the business, in the first nine months of its fiscal year, Warner Chappell Music’s digital revenue grew 15.4% compared with the same period last year, from $160 million to $195 million, which means it now constitutes 41.5% of total revenue.
Most Pressing Issue: “Diversity and inclusion. Warner is making huge strides for inclusivity on gender, ethnicity, sexual identification -- fixing a lot of the huge issues that have been in the industry for a long time.”
VP content development, Spanish Broadcasting System
Alarcón, 30, is the force behind LaMusica, the digital platform for all the content created by Spanish Broadcasting System, including its 250 affiliate stations. Marking its 35th anniversary in 2019, SBS is a Hispanic multimedia owner-operator with radio and TV properties in the largest U.S. markets. Alarcón, who says she likes to make “data-driven decisions,” launched the livestreaming of SBS’ Puerto Rican stations last year, doubling active users on the LaMusica app. “Now that we have proof of concept,” says Alarcón, “we want to go everywhere.”
Most Streamed Song: “ ‘Dulcito e Coco’ by Vicente García. It gives me a connection to these African Cuban roots. I love reggaetón, but I’ve been wanting and craving another type of song. I need a new sound.”
Executive vp/chief innovation officer, SiriusXM
“We’ve significantly expanded the content we offer exclusively online,” says Cady, 59, who oversaw the February rollout of SiriusXM’s 100 Xtra channels and the merging of its technology with Pandora. That acquisition gave 34 million subscribers the ability to create personalized stations using the streaming service’s algorithm-generated content. “We’ve done a good job of exposing content to people who haven’t engaged with it before,” he says. “We’re beginning to exercise our muscles.”
Favorite Place to Unplug: “A walk on Cannon Beach [in Oregon] with my wife, Cindy, and our dog Bella.”
President, iHeartMedia Networks Group/iHeartRadio
IHeart’s rapid growth in producing podcasts and extensions of its daily radio shows, which reach 275 million listeners, has put the audio provider neck-and-neck with longtime podcast leader NPR. “Podcasting is a natural extension of the companionship broadcast radio provides,” says Davis, 46, who also oversaw the continuing expansion of the iHeartRadio app, now with 132 million users, integrated with 250 different platforms and available in over 2,000 different devices. “If you ask, ‘Why has iHeart grown so much?’ ” he says, “it’s because we have this megaphone of broadcast radio and a huge social footprint to throw gasoline on the fire.”
Most Streamed Song: “Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin,’ ’ because our iHeart80s radio station featured the ‘Top 80 Hits of the 80s’ countdown [recently] and that song was at the top of the chart.”
President, Univision Radio
Uforia, Univision Radio’s new cross-platform digital strategy, is “converting a traditional portfolio of radio assets into the largest Spanish-language music media platform in the country,” says Lara, 47. While data fuels Uforia’s programming decisions, Napster powers the digital platform with a catalog of over 40 million songs, a vast library of playlists and “a very immersive design,” he says. “We are working with Napster to build new features into Uforia. It’s not a destination, it’s a journey.”
Favorite App: “Vivino, to ensure that I don’t ever have to spend a fortune to buy a great bottle of wine.”
Manager, music product strategy and editorial; Snapchat
Global head of music partnerships, Snapchat
Adler, 27, boosted the availability and use of augmented-reality features at Snapchat. He worked with the teams behind the development of the popular app’s Lens Studio, used by clients like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, The Beatles, Ed Sheeran and Post Malone to create “miniature music videos that Snapchatters can share,” says Adler. “There have been more than 400,000 Lenses submitted since its launch in December 2017, which have been played with 15 billion times.” Through key partnerships, Suh, 44, boosted the music industry’s access to Snapchat’s 200 million-plus global daily active users, including the hard-to-reach Generation Z demographic (under 25). “Every day Snapchat reaches 90% of all 13- to 24-year-olds,” says Suh. “That’s more than Facebook, Instagram and Messenger combined. This is a core user segment and why key stakeholders in the music industry have been leveraging Snapchat to drive significant promotional value.”
Favorite Way to Unplug: “Go on a run in Santa Monica or Venice [Calif.].” -- Suh
Head of music partnerships, Instagram
Head of music publishing, North America; Facebook
VP music business development, Facebook
Head of music partnerships, Facebook
Head of label business development, Facebook
Head of international music publishing, Facebook
Long gone are the days when a song posted to Facebook would be blocked with a copyright warning. The world’s largest social media network, with 2.45 billion monthly average users worldwide, is now an integral part of the music industry due to the work of this team, led by Hrivnak, 43. In the past 18 months, “we’ve launched music [products] in every continent, including 100% of Latin America,” she says. As head of artist relations for Facebook, Quemerais, 34, worked with the company’s Oculus subsidiary to develop an immersive digital campaign promoting Avicii’s posthumous album, Tim. “What makes us unique as a platform is our ability to bring innovation and storytelling to the forefront of the artist-fan experience,” she says. As head of label partnerships, Bashkoff, 40, helps Facebook extract the most value from its relationships with music companies to grow the social media giant’s global reach. “It’s fascinating to start seeing how some of our products can help open up new audiences for artists or bring new life to songs based on what people are looking for when seeking the perfect song to match their moment or mood,” he says. Grenier, 39, has worked to license and integrate lyrics into Facebook or its sister platforms to increase engagement. “There’s something really fun about sharing a music sticker on Instagram and highlighting your favorite lyric for all your friends to see,” says Grenier. “It adds another layer of personalization.” Sellwood, 49, has licensed global and local catalogs to enable the use of music in user-generated videos in over 55 countries, with more on tap this year. “Our product teams constantly apply data learnings to refine music sticker features and bring our users the song they are looking for, no matter where in the world they are,” says Sellwood. Southward, 38, is focused on closing deals with publishers. Last year Facebook inked deals with Kobalt, Global Music Rights, Rumblefish and Sony/ATV Music Publishing. “Music is incredibly personal,” says Southward, “and it’s rewarding to be working on new ways people can integrate music into their lives.”
Most Pressing Issue: “Ghettoization of music experiences. People have lots of places to listen, to watch, to discover and to connect. We need to challenge ourselves to bring it all together for people and make the magic of music easy [and] awesome." -- Hrivnak
Senior manager, music partnerships and artist relations, North America; TikTok
Director of music content and artist relations, North America; TikTok
Head of music content operations, North America; TikTok
At the platform that launched Lil Nas X, Quinteros, 39, guided TikTok’s estimated 1 billion monthly active users to artists like Alicia Keys, Swae Lee, Snoop Dogg, Sebastián Yatra, Ashanti, Blueface and Will.i.am, accumulating over 4 million new followers for the app and securing the No. 1 spot in Apple’s App Store. Sheridan, 40, helped artists discover new fans and notes that during a recent five-month span, “93% of the music that has gone viral on TikTok was not within a traditional promotional cycle.” Rahmani, 39, focused on empowering artists to form intimate connections with fans. “When an artist is open, engaged and consistent, they will see massive increases in streams, views and followers,” she says. “The accomplishment is helping them connect their music globally.”
Most Streamed Song: “ ‘Liar’ by BigKlit is just a mood. Also the song is so short, I hear it on repeat.” -- Quinteros
Global head of music, YouTube
Chief business officer, YouTube
Following the May 2018 launch of YouTube Music, Cohen, 60, continues in his role as a liaison between the video-first tech giant and a music industry that has a love-hate relationship with the biggest streaming service in the world. “We’ve helped organize a collaborative working environment with the music industry, where many of our industry friends have worked directly with our engineers to advise on building even better products and partnerships,” says Cohen, now focused on growth. The service reportedly passed 15 million subscribers in May and has rolled out to over 70 countries. As of September, the YouTube Music app is preinstalled on all new devices launching with Android 10 (and Android 9), including the Google Pixel series. Kyncl, 49, oversaw the “crazy global expansion” of YouTube Music, launching YouTube Charts in India. He also tightened the service’s copyright protections and expanded its creator tools, looking to both protect its licensees from illegal use of their content and help its homegrown stars grow their revenue. “YouTube Music Charts have become an indispensable source for the industry,” says Kyncl, “and the most accurate place for measuring the popularity of music listening behavior.”
Most Pressing Issue: “The lack of artist development. The industry is data-obsessed and putting many artists out without real artist development.” -- Cohen
Senior vp content programming and marketing, Vevo
Evangelista, 34, oversaw a complete rebranding of Vevo, focusing on short-form performance videos from emerging artists. The result? A 131% average view increase for original content and a 43% overall increase in retention rate, racking up 400 million views in the past year. Original content was boosted by the opening of three studios in New York and London. “As we took a step back and tried to assess how we could add the most value to our partners,” says Evangelista, “focusing on emerging artists seemed like a clear area of need for everyone.”
Most Streamed Song: “Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy.’ We’ve worked in an incredibly close capacity with Billie over the past 18 to 24 months before she saw this level of success. We were early adopters.”
Executive vp/gm, Ingrooves Music Group
CEO, Ingrooves Music Group
Universal Music Group’s acquisition of Ingrooves in February is providing a “strong gust of wind at our back,” says Roback, 52. The independent distributor uses data insights to help artists and independent labels target “smart audiences,” or those likely to become long-term fans, says Dietz, adding that its methods garner two to three times the active engagement of traditional marketing strategies: “We see fans coming back eight to 10 weeks later, which is exciting.” Now the company, which recently inked distribution deals with Pitbull’s Mr. 305 label and Calle Fresa Records, is focused on international expansion into markets like Japan, Singapore, India, Brazil and Mexico. “We’re accelerating our capacity to serve local artists and labels around the world,” says Roback.
Most Streamed Song: “By an artist called beabadoobee. She has a song called ‘She Plays Bass.’ It has a little bit of a ’90s, nostalgic feel, but it doesn’t feel dated.” -- Dietz
Executive vp commercial and marketing, Alternative Distribution Alliance Worldwide, Warner Music Group
Franck, who was named executive vp of WMG’s Alternative Distribution Alliance in July, has seen data drive the crossover success of ADA-distributed artists like Blanco Brown, Stephanie Poetri and Lauren Daigle. “Brown’s record ‘The Git Up’ is exploding internationally,” says Franck, who credits label partners BMG and Nashville indie BBR Music Group with using statistics to inform the marketing plan that led “The Git Up” to top Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for 12 weeks in July to September. “Even though it’s a very American-sounding record, it ricocheted around the world,” he says. “Data definitely played into it.”
Favorite App: “Photomath allows you to scan a math problem or an equation and the app actually solves it for you. As a parent, this app has been transformative for our household.”
Ghazi (who professionally goes solely by his first name) has expanded Empire from distribution to recording and publishing, working with a roster that includes Fat Joe, Remy Ma, Young Dolph and the late rapper XXXTentacion. Empire maintains an edge over competitors with its proprietary distribution software, which has helped Tyga’s “Taste” (featuring Offset) -- on track to become Empire’s first diamond record -- snare over 975 million on-demand U.S. streams. “It takes a lot of moving parts to launch a record internationally,” says Ghazi, 43. “It’s a testament to what we’ve been able to build over the last 10 years.”
Most Pressing Issue: “Everything’s moving at a breakneck pace, so being able to be fluid and scale up -- at the pace that the industry is growing -- is a daunting task for most companies.”
VP artist and label relations, Stem
This year, the artist services platform Stem launched Stem Direct, enabling its account managers to more effectively deliver data analyzed by both humans and algorithms to a selective list of clients. “So they’re able to work with them in a more hands-on basis, to surface stuff in real time as it relates to the releases,” says Graziani, 28. “In the last 12 to 18 months, we were able to systematize that, and then give account managers dashboards where they can then drill down into data with artists and their teams. Kind of like data consultants.”
How She Unplugs: “I don’t have any notifications on my phone. I’m really good about not touching it in the mornings until I’m at my desk. I do a few important things and then I’m like, ‘OK, now I can open up my email or check the Slacks.’ ”
CEO, The Orchard
COO, The Orchard
Mining data minute by minute has been key to the success of The Orchard, one of the largest distributors of independent repertoire in the world, now doing business in 40 markets. Its data-driven business model has helped drive the international success of now-superstar artists like reggaetón singer Ozuna and K-pop wonder BTS. “There’s a new root to market every single day,” says Theis, 50, “and you need to do your homework.” Navin, 48, offers an example of his company’s ability to market worldwide: “There’s this track blowing up right now by Latin artist Anuel AA called ‘China.’ It takes the Shaggy ‘It Wasn’t Me’ track and reworks it with international artists. That track is in Spanish, but it’s being played on terrestrial radio in German markets, in French markets, in Italian markets, in the Nordics, in the U.S.” He adds: “I’ve gotten to enjoy nothing but growth working around the digital space with The Orchard, and it’s been an amazing ride.”
Favorite App “Pigeon -- it’s sort of Waze, but for New York City public transit. You can crowdsource [transit] information to manage your day and it’s super intuitive and intelligent.” -- Navin
Pieter van Rijn
FUGA -- an Amsterdam-based business-to-business platform that connects labels, distributors and artist services companies to digital service providers -- nearly doubled its staff in the past year as it became a go-to player, handling some 4 million track deliveries to 500 partners in 50 countries. “That says something about our global reach and relevance,” says van Rijn, 43. “We’ve been able to help a variety of clients in the independent space. People know us in markets that, in some cases, we never thought we were known.”
Most Streamed Song: “Probably ‘Counting Stars’ by OneRepublic. When I’m traveling or when I’m on the road, it’s kind of a high-energy song, which I like.”
Since joining UnitedMasters in March, Seawood has overseen the launch of the distribution startup’s new iOS app, which allows artists to manage their music on the go. “It has really been able to change the nature of how young people, in particular, are thinking about distributing their music to a larger audience in an easy, seamless fashion,” says Seawood, who previously held key digital music roles at Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment and Instagram.
Most Pressing Issue: “Artists and their records have shorter life spans because there’s so much more product available for consumers. There’s so much content all the time, the industry has to figure out how to become more flexible so that they’re helping artists break through some of that clutter.”
Senior vp strategy and business development, The Harry Fox Agency
Senior vp business and legal affairs, The Harry Fox Agency
Senior vp client services, The Harry Fox Agency
Apolito and her team continue to identify new licensing avenues for music publishers to the tune of a 45% increase in revenue from the previous year. “We have seen new opportunities in apps -- educational apps, messaging apps, gamer apps -- as they’re all integrating music,” she says, “as well as niche streaming companies that focus on particular genres.” Since the Music Modernization Act became law in October 2018, Block, 55, has been focused on revising digital license service agreements and closing or renewing dozens of administration service agreements. “We’re [also] expanding our international digital footprint,” he says, “by collaborating with Mint SESAC Digital Licensing, and we have entered into about 20 agreements with international societies on behalf of our affiliated publishers.” Raso, 55, notes that HFA has been “closing the gap” on unclaimed royalty payments, resulting in “nearly $300 million in royalty distribution over the past year. The number of what goes undistributed is getting smaller and smaller each year.”
Favorite App: “I’m passionate about empowering women and activating capital for women-founded businesses. So I use Mogul, a software platform and community that is trying to bridge the leadership gap.” -- Apolito
AdRev, which helps creators and companies monetize their YouTube content, has had a banner year under Becker, 41. The company represents a growing roster of artists and publishers with copyrighted music in over 320 million videos. “The rights holders for popular works we serve have seen an increase in annual revenue that ranges from 25% to 300%,” says Becker. Through AdRev’s approach to identifying and claiming previously unclaimed works, it has successfully paid $150 million in royalties to content creators and rights holders.
Favorite Apps: “Surfline for [ocean] swell and wind forecasting and AllTrails for good hikes or adventures in whatever part of the world I find myself in.”
The music business in 2019 is a “business of microtransactions,” says Bender, who oversaw the creation of the Music Data Exchange portal in the last year. “We launched MDX in the summer of 2018 as a central site for labels to request publishing data and publishers to respond in a centralized, accurate and transparent fashion, using the latest in data-exchange tools,” he says. “There’s a central site where all the requests come [in] and publishers can search and find.” MDX has 500 publishers and 300 labels registered and is growing daily.
“Collectively, my startups have empowered thousands of rights holders to unlock royalties and administer music copyrights with no commission deductions or assignment of rights,” says Bogan, 34, who sold his RoyaltyClaim to HAAWK in 2017 and TuneRegistry to Jammber in 2019. Both companies have helped established and rising indie songwriters and artists claim unpaid music publishing and neighboring rights royalties from copyright collection societies in 40 territories around the globe. “We have helped unlock millions of dollars in unclaimed or unmatched royalties that would have otherwise been trapped in the global ‘black box’ ” -- unclaimed earnings that collecting societies can’t match -- “only to be distributed by market share to the major labels and publishers.”
Most Streamed Song: “No one song, but a playlist called Swag House on Spotify. It’s just good and keeps me upbeat.”
VP/general counsel, Music Reports Inc.
With his company issuing well over 300 million licenses for 20 digital music service providers during the last 10 years, and with over 30,000 tracks uploaded to services daily, Colitre, 48, has been focused on automating that ever-growing process. Last December, he was part of a team as a named inventor of a patent that matches sound recordings to underlying compositions and evaluates the songs on a share-by-share basis. That allows MRI to obtain and administer statutory and direct licenses. “It’s designed for the scale of the music business as it exists today,” says Colitre.
How He Unplugs: “My taekwondo class at Will Rogers State Beach [on the Pacific Ocean] every Saturday morning. Sand plus water equals digital-free bliss.”
VP new media licensing, SESAC
While the previous year ended in a rush to close a number of midsize deals, more recently, Connell, 43, has focused on a few larger transactions. “Much of my time was devoted to a large broadcast TV network deal and a deal with a major digital music subscription service,” he says. A key industry challenge, he says, is “to take these developing business models and ensure that the value received by the creators is equitable.”
Favorite App: “Gimme Country. I appreciate that it will often focus on underserved artists.”
When Kobalt acquired local American society royalty collection firm AMRA in 2015, Ericsson, 52, was directed to fix a broken system for collecting streaming revenue. With a mission of speeding up the process and eliminating middlemen, he has since made significant strides. “We’re paying our writers and publishers faster, despite dealing with streaming volume that has substantially increased,” says Ericsson, who also expanded coverage this past year to include China. In 2018, he notes, AMRA crunched data “in excess of 8 trillion usage lines” through 24 digital service providers in over 180 territories. “To handle this volume, we must rely on capable and scalable technology, which we have under a license from Kobalt Music Group,” he says. “The usage data levels are double, if not triple, the size compared with what our competitors are dealing with.”
Most Streamed Song: “I recently created a ’90s rock/grunge playlist rediscovering a lot of that music. So I would say ‘Closing Time’ by Semisonic, among other great songs from that era.”
Chief strategy and digital officer, ASCAP
Lehman, 48, is spearheading ASCAP’s groundbreaking joint database with BMI, which they two organizations are calling Songview. The upcoming launch will feature aggregated data from both performing rights organizations and over 20 million works. “Licensees will finally be able to access reconciled data across PROs,” he says. “It shows how well we can collaborate in this industry when we set our minds to it.”
Most Pressing Issue: “The need to reconcile data and [work with] the best possible, most transparent, most reliable data across the industry. That only comes when we all collaborate.”
Senior vp licensing, BMI
BMI’s digital revenue winning streak continued in its 2019 fiscal year with a $262 million windfall, representing 22% year-over-year growth. Digital revenue now represents 28% of BMI’s domestic revenue, “which is right behind our broadcast revenue,” says Levin, 48. He notes that BMI achieved a first-of-its-kind, claims-based license with YouTube. “It enables royalties for our songwriters to grow with our market share where we are leading the industry,” he says, “rather than agreements based on assumed market share. This is a historic change for BMI.”
Most Pressing Issue: “Transparency. It has been a big word in the performing rights space for a number of years. The YouTube agreement is something we’re proud of in this space, as well as the joint ASCAP database [where rights holders can be identified].”
Head of music product, Exactuals
For Exactuals, which processes high-volume payments for entertainment industry clients, McMurtry is on the innovative edge. He launched the firm’s new artificial intelligence tool RAI, which works alongside its flagship product, PaymentHub, to “clean” and fix any disparate data sets for its global music-creator clients. “It could be something as simple as Paul McCartney vs. Paul James McCartney vs. Paul J. McCartney vs. Lennon/McCartney,” says McMurtry of the widespread “data pollution” he has encountered in the streaming age. “Literally, they just don’t know whom to pay.”
Most Streamed Song: “A guilty pleasure, but I have an excuse. I have two daughters, ages 13 and 10, so I did check my history and it’s most definitely ‘Lover’ by Taylor Swift.”
Price, 52, is a disrupter who challenges (and perturbs) the industry status quo. First he did it by starting TuneCore, then he moved on to founding Audiam, doing the same for indie songwriters and publishers what he did for DIY recording artists. During the debate over the Music Modernization Act, he helped focus the industry on black-box royalties. Since its founding, Audiam has collected over $120 million for songwriters and publishers, of which 15% was for past royalties that were earned but previously unpaid. “We don’t have to worry about [our songwriters’ royalties] going into the black box and [being] handed to others that did not earn it” through market-share distributions as the Music Modernization Act calls for, he says. “The music industry is no longer one company representing 3 million copyrights but 3 million people representing 3 million copyrights.”
Favorite App: “8Stem. On-the-fly derivative work remixes done in the cloud. Makes the entire world into a DJ or remix producer.”
Co-founder/CEO, Create Music Group
Co-founder/COO, Create Music Group
Create Music Group serves the “middle class” of the music business, says Strauss, 33, referring to the tier of artists, writers and labels below superstar status. Nonetheless, those clients have benefited from over $100 million in collected revenue and 10 billion monthly monetized streams tracked by CMG. New ventures for the company include a proprietary advertising platform to help connect brands to stars like Jennifer Lopez and Dillon Francis. A publishing arm is representing writers who have logged 35 billion streams, according to the company, including Tekashi 6ix9ine, whose single “Fefe” (featuring Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz) was a top five hit on the Hot 100. Williams, 31, helped introduce CMG’s free Splits app in July, which has been downloaded over 10,000 times. The technology, which creates split sheets in seconds to assign ownership percentages of tracks to collaborators, has caused “a lot of waves,” says Williams. “Artist education is incredibly important and very underserved in the creative community,” he adds. “Anything we can do to put the power back in the hands of those who create will mean a more prosperous future.”
Most Pressing Issue: “There are a lot of changes [in copyright law] occurring that overall will help the industry, but it’s important that artists understand the changes and what they mean.”
Executive vp global partnerships and content distribution, Live Nation
For Live Nation, Chernett, 50, oversaw the launch of a suite of new augmented-reality marketing features at Atlanta’s Music Midtown Festival in September, sponsored by Hyundai. The AR Fest Lens provided fans with updated and interactive stage lineups with the point of a mobile device, while the AR Livestream used 360-degree camera technology to transport both on-site and at-home participants “backstage” during sets for artists like Billie Eilish. “It allows you to create an imaginary AR door in your living room, walk through it and find yourself standing side-stage at a festival,” says Chernett. “It’s really fun.”
Most Streamed Songs: “We were working with Billie Eilish [on a] livestream, and I have been newly obsessed with her music.”
Chief marketing officer, Ticketmaster
Frederick, 41, who was elevated to her position in July, oversees marketing efforts for Live Nation’s data-driven ticketing platform, which serves fans in 29 countries and reports a 16% rise in global ticket revenue for concerts in the first half of 2019. To fight counterfeiting, Ticketmaster recently launched SafeTix, which creates an encrypted bar code that refreshes every few seconds. But Frederick’s role encompasses far more than the turnstile. “Every day, we come in with a focus on connecting our fans to artists around the world,” she says, “and thinking about how we can make sure that fans have that incredible experience when they see the events that they love.”
How She Unplugs: “[I have] two little girls, ages 6 and 5. [With] those two and my husband, the way we unplug is interactions with each other or going to see live events. They’re my escape and constant reminder that personal connection and live moments, they really shape who I am.”
Brooke Michael Kain
Chief digital officer, AEG Presents
Senior project manager, digital marketing festivals, AEG Presents
Head of digital partnerships, AEG Presents
Head of digital marketing, AEG Global Touring
Kain oversees a 60-person digital team that not only helps market AEG events but seeks to transform the live experience for fans. At the Coachella festival, fans gained access to the Postmates platform to skip the line for ordering food, beverages and merchandise. At Stagecoach, a new personalized program sent push notifications upgrading attendees’ passes to shaded areas of the desert event. “I sincerely think we will change the live business because every experience is personally tied to you,” says Kain. Lyons helped launch this year’s inaugural Day N Vegas festival, tapping TikTok as a marketing platform and offering an online extended payment plan for fans on a budget. Segal led the move to have six hours of Porter Robinson’s debut Second Sky festival in Oakland, Calif., streamed live on Twitch. Torchia helped launch the Luke Combs Mobile Pass Experience for his fall 2019 headlining arena tour, which brings customized in-venue experiences and real-time offers directly to fans. “We’re spending less money to sell more tickets by understanding more about who our consumers are and how they are buying,” says Torchia.
Most Pressing Issue: “Artist development and discovery. How do we find new developing talent if it doesn’t somehow end up on [my] Spotify Release Radar or Daily Mix?” -- Lyons
CEO, Sofar Sounds
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the alternative venue-booking platform Sofar Sounds is on track to host 10,000 concerts this year. Artists use Sofar “for fill-in dates and promoting some of their other shows,” says Lucchese, 47, who notes that of the 30,000 acts that the Sofar team hand-selected, 2,000 use the intimate gigs as part of their touring strategy. “Performing live to an audience that’s really listening, people feel connected and later go on to feel a sense of responsibility for your success. I look at that as the transformative element of Sofar.”
Most Streamed Song: “Jake Wesley Rogers’ ‘Holy Man’ Sofar Sounds video. This just happened in a room with people. There’s magic to it.”
Director of digital marketing, Messina Touring Group
In the past year, Nishimura, 35, has helped market over 100 stadium shows for Messina Touring Group, including performances by Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, George Strait and Taylor Swift, whose reputation stadium tour became the highest-grossing U.S. trek in history, earning $266.1 million. “We are in a unique situation where we have a pretty steady roster of artists we work with,” says Nishimura. “Because we work with these teams year in and year out, we have a wealth of past-purchaser data to pull from.”
Most Pressing Issue: “A lot of data in this industry tends to be siloed to each of the organizations that own it. We’re lucky to work with some amazing partners and labels and share some of this data. There could be more of that.”
Partners, Versus Creative
“If we’re not thinking ‘digital first’ in the music business, we’re not thinking about it right,” says Shah, 36, who founded Versus Creative in 2014. This past year, the digital strategy firm helped client Coachella achieve more “global impressions, engagements, viewers [and] mentions” than ever, while its work with Goldenvoice across a portfolio of festivals, including Stagecoach, Hangout and Tyler, the Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw, topped 1 billion impressions. Auerbach, 37, knows driving fan engagement requires a balance of elements: “You need to be conscious about how people are discovering and how people are talking about what you’re doing.” The company helped Vampire Weekend, Jack White, LCD Soundsystem and Chvrches hit milestone album sales through the smart use of social and digital tools to promote their latest releases.
How He Unplugs: “Every Saturday morning, I keep my phone in the other room and do the New York Times Magazine crossword or just read magazines, and I’ll listen to two full [vinyl] records before I touch technology.” -- Auerbach
“We were first to introduce high-quality beats with [formalized] agreements,” says Batshon, 38, citing 1.5 million songwriters, artists and producers who now collaborate worldwide through BeatStars. “Over the last seven years, we have paid out more than $50 million to producers,” who pay a monthly fee to display their work on BeatStars -- and keep all sales revenue. “I take pride in the licenses being affordable,” he says. “Lil Nas X bought the beat for ‘Old Town Road’ from producer YoungKio for $30.”
Most Pressing Issue: “The lack of tools to help musicians sustain long-term careers as entrepreneurs.”
According to Bedford, over 100,000 musicians worldwide have sold $54 million in music, merchandise, event tickets and subscription services through websites created by Bandzoogle. “What differentiates us is that we don’t take a cut of any artist sales,” she says of Bandzoogle, which powers over 37,000 artist websites with a monthly subscription business model. “We have never taken outside funding, and we never will. We answer only to our artist clients, making decisions in their best interest.”
Most Streamed Song: “Anything by Lizzo. She is a breath of fresh air, and her music is so empowering.”
Co-founders/co-owners, Crowd Surf
With clients who collectively claim 65 million social media followers, Crowd Surf’s digital marketing expertise “all comes from being a fan,” says Driver, who was passionate about Backstreet Boys as a teen, long before working with the group. “It’s about seeing something and instantly knowing, ‘That’s what a fan would want to see.’ ” After helping propel the rise of artists including Camila Cabello, Carly Rae Jepsen and Meghan Trainor, Crowd Surf is now “taking a step farther and getting more skin in the game,” says Petrey, as part of the management team for Loren Gray, Max & Harvey, Jayden Bartels and Oscar Stembridge. “We can help these kinds of artists even more than we did in the past.”
How She Unplugs: “Swimming laps at the Y.” - Driver
Co-founder/Chief commercial officer, Linkfire
Linkfire creates tracking links for songs that let artists gather data to better connect with their fans, and struck a recent partnership with Apple Music. “We have successfully helped over 2 billion fans discover new music products,” says Ettrup. “We’re pretty proud of this.” Faufelt says Linkfire has experienced “a huge rise in artists without record labels wanting to use our platform.” For that reason, in the spring the company transitioned from an invitation-only model to an open platform “for all to use, including emerging artists and independent content creators,” says Faufelt.
Most Streamed Song: “Christian Alexander’s ‘Going Thru.’ I discovered it on Instagram. Very raw, distorted and beautiful.” -- Ettrup
The proprietary software that powers found.ee makes it possible for artists with even the most limited budgets “to run super-targeted ads” in places where their fans are most apt to see them, says Hobbs, 37, who says that some 4,000 music companies globally are using the platform. “We have fired over 1 billion first-party pixels over the last 12 months,” he says. “These pixels fire whenever a fan interacts with content posted by an artist, so that represents 1 billion fan interactions that can be tracked, understood and owned by artists.”
Favorite App: “BrainWaves. It emits sounds at different frequencies so you can try and tune in -- and ultimately tune out.”
Music agent, Creative Artists Agency
Bryan, 41, says “momentum” is behind CAA’s year of big signings -- from Lil Nas X to Maddie & Tae to Ava Max and more -- which he helps support by analyzing over 1,000 different digital data sets, including social engagement and brand affinity. While he works directly with clients like Keith Urban, Luke Combs and Brett Young, he also uses data to steer digital strategies across the agency’s roster. “We have to build a unique strategy around every artist, period,” he says. “We are on a roll.”
Most Pressing Issue: “Analysis paralysis. There are so many data points that we often miss the storytelling, translating [data] to build a narrative and elevate raw emotion around the music.”
Digital partnerships agent, Paradigm Talent Agency
“The beauty about data,” says Duroncelet, 31, “is it’s a great equalizer.” This past year, she opened doors for “left-of-center, aggressive rap that ostensibly isn’t very partnership-friendly” for clients like $uicideBoy$ and JPEGMafia, showing brands the acts had deeply committed fans by using streaming and merchandising data. Duroncelet also partnered with Linden Labs to create Glitch Mob’s first virtual-reality show as part of a Paradigm-only VR concert series and launched Zedd’s presence on the voice, text and video chat app Discord, tapping into the platform’s 130 million-plus users. “I have been able to really make inroads in ways that I haven’t been able to do before,” she says.
Most Pressing Issue: “It’s a boring answer, but metadata is really messed up. I can’t imagine how much money is being left on the table for artists.”
Digital strategy agent, UTA IQ, UTA
Leeming, 28, leads music and esports efforts in the UTA IQ data analytics department, which has provided support for “more than 700 of our high-profile deals across the entire agency,” he says, for clients including Guns N’ Roses, Pitbull and the Jonas Brothers. That support translates to international touring opportunities and better festival slots, like LANY’s first South American shows and Post Malone’s headlining appearance at Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival. “There have been instances where we have managed to increase an artist’s fee significantly from an initial offer by heavily working data into those negotiations,” he says.
Favorite App: “Goodreads, a book-cataloging app. My New Year’s resolution was [to read] one book a month, and I use Goodreads to help me keep track of that.”
Chief digital officer, Endeavor
As the first chief digital officer at WME parent company Endeavor, Schory, 35, who took on his role in August, has been focused on building direct-to-consumer offerings like podcasts, VIP experiences and sports video streaming used by the NFL, NBA and the company’s own Ultimate Fighting Championship division. Although Endeavor delayed its expected initial public offering in September, “direct feedback” from consumers is still essential for the company looking ahead, says Schory. “At the core of all of these businesses is having a deep understanding of our consumer and what they are passionate about to create the best possible user experience.”
Most Streamed Song: “I’m re-hooked on the album Boxer by The National. My wedding song was by The National, so they always hold a special place in my heart.”
Executive vp/general counsel, National Music Publishers’ Association
In her role at the NMPA, Aguirre, 42, played a vital part in the passage of the Music Modernization Act. The bill brought “a mix of excitement and nervousness,” she says. The once-in-a-career event led to her next challenge: helping create an MMA-mandated blanket licensing organization to improve songwriters’ royalties from streaming services.
Most Pressing Issue: “We are [creating] a new licensing administration entity. The work will be going on until the day we open our doors on Jan. 1, 2021.”
Board chair, Mechanical Licensing Collective; New York chapter president, Association of Independent Music Publishers; COO, ABKCO Music & Records
“I’m excited about the future,” says Coleman, a music publishing industry leader who was deeply involved in the creation and passage of the Music Modernization Act. Now, as the Mechanical Licensing Collective board chair, she will oversee the MLC’s work in issuing blanket mechanical licenses and seeking fairer pay for songwriters: “It’s something we have got to get right. It will improve the livelihood of songwriters and publishers.”
Most Pressing Issue: “The database. Metadata [is] still the thing. On the publishing side, it’s a bigger problem than at a record label. If you have a song titled ‘I Love You,’ how many songs are titled ‘I Love You’?”
Chief digital officer, The Recording Academy
After joining The Recording Academy in January, Farris, whose previous experience includes working at Universal Music’s eLabs, was named chief digital officer in March and has since managed the array of digital initiatives surrounding the Grammy Awards. “We have 10 data sources that collect over half a million data points,” she says. Her projects include Behind the Record, the academy’s new social media campaign that draws upon metadata to highlight the role of figures such as producers, engineers and mixers behind the hits. “Not everyone will win a Grammy, but everyone should be recognized for the work they do ... It takes a village sometimes to make great work.”
How She Unplugs: “Watching my kids record TikTok videos, which is highly entertaining -- although while I’m unplugged, they’re not.”
Secretariat, Digital Data Exchange
In leading the international nonprofit organization that sets standards for digital music data, Isherwood, 61, says the mission of the London-based DDEX has become more high-profile than ever. “Data around the music business is considered mainstream rather than an IT department problem,” he says, given “the sheer volume of data the industry has to deal with. Now data issues are on C-level desks, where three years ago it wasn’t.”
Favorite App: “Dark Sky, which is a weather app, the weather forecast being a particular British obsession -- other than Brexit.”
Chief commercial officer/general counsel, Merlin
Global digital rights agency Merlin has evolved during the past 18 months by helping its member labels gain better insights and benchmarks from the massive amount of digital music data it collects -- “analysis that any one of our members’ data couldn’t determine on their own,” says Lexton, 51. What’s more, the systems Merlin has built to capture and analyze the data help inform new deals. “In the early days, we were in darkness when it came to understanding the values,” he says. “Now when we go into negotiations, we have precise details [so we can] price our deals.”
Most Pressing Issue: “Pure music subscription [services] will be facing competition from [multicontent] steaming servicing. Competing content offerings could impact pricing.”
Methodology: Billboard editors and reporters weighed a variety of factors in determining the 2019 Digital Power Players list, including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors; impact on consumer behavior as measured by chart, sales and streaming performance; social media impressions; and radio/TV audiences reached using the latest data available as of Sept. 4. Data in the profiles was updated as of Nov. 7. Career trajectory and industry impact are also considered. When available, financial results are considered. Where required, U.S. record-label market share was consulted using Nielsen Music’s current market share for albums plus track-equivalent and streaming-equivalent album-consumption units and Billboard’s quarterly top 10 publisher rankings. Unless otherwise noted, Billboard Boxscore and Nielsen Music are the sources for tour grosses and sales/streaming data, respectively. Nielsen is also the source for radio audience metrics. Unless otherwise noted, album streaming figures cited represent collective U.S. on-demand audio totals for an album’s tracks, and song/artist streaming figures represent U.S. on-demand audio and video totals.
Contributors: Rich Appel, Steve Baltin, Dave Brooks, Harley Brown, Dean Budnick, Judy Cantor-Navas, Ed Christman, Tatiana Cirisano, Leila Cobo, Jonathan Cohen, Chris Eggertsen, Adrienne Gaffney, Gil Kaufman, Steve Knopper, Juliana Koranteng, Taylor Mims, Cathy Applefeld Olson, Paula Parisi, Glenn Peoples, Alex Pham, Dan Rys, Micah Singleton, Eric Spitznagel, Colin Stutz, Kevin Warwick, Deborah Wilker, Nick Williams