Illustration by István Szugyiczky

The 2020 Billboard Power List Revealed

As the music business continues to grow and change, we’ve decided that it’s time for our annual Power List to do the same. This year, instead of attempting to compare the relative influence of the top label executives with that of the biggest managers and concert promoters, we’ve decided to organize the industry’s most powerful figures by sector, then listed them alphabetically. (That sound you hear is the business’ publicists breathing a collective sigh of relief.)

As the music business enters a new decade — and continues its remarkable turnaround — we want to inspire a new generation of music executives with awards that honor leadership instead of power. In that spirit, we’re recognizing individuals who are not only excelling at their jobs, but going beyond them to elevate the entire music business. Our Executive of the Year, Universal Music Publishing Group chairman/CEO Jody Gerson, was chosen not only for her power in the business but for how she has used it — to foster inclusion in an industry that needs much more. (She’s no slouch in the power department, either: She has grown revenue of the world’s second-biggest publishing company by over 40% since taking the helm in 2015.)   

Our Executive of the Decade, Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Sir Lucian Grainge, may well be the most powerful person in the music business, but we’re honoring him for the role he played in helping the entire recorded-music sector rebound to over $19 billion in sales in 2018. Just a few weeks ago, corporate parent Vivendi finalized its sale of 10% of UMG to Tencent in a deal that values the music company at $33 billion — and could spark higher valuations across the industry. 

We’re also saluting three other leaders driving the business to ambitious new heights. After less than two years in his first job running a major label, Columbia Records chairman/CEO Ron Perry earns our inaugural Breakthrough Award for his label’s work with Lil Nas X, who went from a little-known meme-maker to a bona fide superstar with a record-breaking run atop the Billboard Hot 100 and six Grammy nominations, including for best new artist, record of the year and album of the year. The Clive Davis Visionary Award goes to Atlantic Records chairman/CEO Craig Kallman and chairman/COO Julie Greenwald, whose label dominated the Billboard 200 last year for a third year running.

Like the industry itself, our annual Power List will continue to evolve, and we want to hear your thoughts — even if you’re too powerful to care about such things. Stay tuned for details on how to weigh in (no frantic publicists’ calls necessary) as we begin to plot the future of this list. For now, though, congratulations to everyone who made this one and played a role in the industry’s hard-fought comeback.

— HANNAH KARP, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

 

Lucian Grainge
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Group

As the final hours of the 2010s ticked away, one piece of unfinished business was left on Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Sir Lucian Grainge’s plate: finalizing the deal that would give the Chinese technology firm Tencent 10% of the world’s largest record company and pin its value at over $33 billion.

By New Year’s Eve, Grainge had more reason than most to pop champagne, as UMG’s French parent, Vivendi, closed the sale. The agreement represents a dramatic step in the music industry’s incredible turnaround over the last decade (global revenue from recorded music had bottomed out at around $15 billion in 2014, but rose to $19.1 billion by 2018, according to the global trade organization IFPI). For Grainge, who had made a series of big bets at UMG — buying EMI Recorded Music for about $1.9 billion in 2012, for example — it’s also personal validation.

“The company that we’ve built is what attracted them to us,” Grainge tells Billboard from UMG’s offices in Santa Monica, Calif., a few days into the new decade. “It’s going to be great for the company, it’s going to be great for us, our artists, our staff, Vivendi, Tencent.”

Grainge, 59, rode into the decade as the heir apparent of industry legend and then-UMG chairman/CEO Doug Morris. A fan of punk bands like The Clash and Sex Pistols, he got his start in the music publishing business toward the end of the 1970s, signing The Psychedelic Furs. He joined Universal Music in 1986, launching PolyGram Music Publishing in his native United Kingdom, then rose through the ranks to chairman/CEO of UMG’s international division by 2005. By January 2011, when he took the top job at UMG, the music business was in its 12th year of a decline spurred by digitalization and piracy that threatened the industry’s existence.

Grainge had a plan, though. During his first two years in charge, he bucked conventional wisdom and led UMG through the ambitious acquisition of EMI Recorded Music and announced that the company would be investing in A&R and developing new artists. His strategy quickly began to pay off: Vivendi turned down an $8.5 billion offer from Softbank for UMG in May 2013 as the company’s valuation began to rise. “When Lucian believes in something, he goes for it,” says Morris. 

Read the full profile on Billboard's Power Executive of the Decade, Lucian Grainge, here.

 

Jody Gerson
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group

The wallpaper behind Jody Gerson’s desk shows a pastoral landscape filled with a menagerie of wildlife — lions, elephants and the creatures Gerson immediately focuses in on, birds. “I see soaring,” she says. “I want to soar.”

Gerson has been doing just that ever since she became chairman/CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group in January 2015, making her the first woman chairman of a major global music company, as well as the first woman to be named CEO of a major music publisher.

Since she took over, UMPG’s revenue has grown by 40%, with annual revenue surpassing $1 billion for the first time at the end of 2018. The year since has been even brighter: Through the first three quarters of 2019, UMPG enjoyed a 12.6% increase to $910 million, ensuring another record-setting year.  

In a year of musical chairs in publishing, with new heads installed at Sony/ATV and Warner Chappell, Gerson applied steady, strategic force in a challenging market. As independent publishers backed by deep-pocketed private equity firms continue to raise catalog prices by paying stratospheric multiples, Gerson, 58, made a series of savvy deals — particularly investing in top female songwriters such as Rosalía, Alicia Keys, Maren Morris, Tierra Whack and City Girls. She also continued to bolster UMPG’s bottom line by signing administration deals with MGM and Paramount, and renewing pacts with HBO and Amazon to lock in dependable revenue. 

Gerson has also wielded her power to effect change beyond her own company: She joined the board of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative; co-founded the nonprofit She Is the Music to promote women songwriters and engineers; called on the Recording Academy to increase its efforts toward greater inclusivity, diversity and transparency; and vowed not to sign songwriters who she knows have committed violent crimes against others.

Read the full profile on Billboard's Power Executive of the Year, Jody Gerson, here.

 

Rob Stringer
Chairman, Sony Music Group
Dennis Kooker
President, global digital business, Sony Music ­Entertainment
Kevin Kelleher
COO, Sony Music Entertainment
Julie Swidler
Executive vp business affairs/general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
Tom Mackay
President, premium content, Sony Music Entertainment

On Aug. 1, 2019, Stringer rose to the role of chairman of the newly created Sony Music Group, which comprises the recorded-music operations of Sony Music Entertainment as well as Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which is run by newly appointed chairman/CEO Jon Platt. “The ‘one Sony’ concept is becoming a reality,” says Stringer, who detailed the company’s successes in a year-end letter to his staff. “Our creative and business strategy this year was as wide, dynamic and complex as any year in our history,” he wrote. As the past year ended, “Old Town Road” by Columbia Records artist Lil Nas X, featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, ranked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Songs recap for 2019. Spotify identified Sony/ATV songwriter Ed Sheeran as its fourth-most-streamed artist of the past year, while “Señorita” by Epic/SYCO artist Camila Cabello and Island Records’ Shawn Mendes was Spotify’s top-streamed song. And Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” finally hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, 25 years after its release. Sony’s global artist roster grew by 30% in 2019, according to the company; notable signings include Latin superstar Ozuna and, in South Korea, Daniel Kang. (Platt drew Rihanna to Sony/ATV’s roster of superstar writers.) Stringer oversaw business moves that included the relaunch of Arista Records in 2018; further investment in artist services through The Orchard, Sony’s independent distribution division; the launch of a podcasting initiative as a new source of revenue; and the creation of a more transparent artist-royalty system. For artists and for the industry, says Stringer, “we always will try to do the right thing — first.”

Steve Cooper
CEO, Warner Music Group
Max Lousada
CEO recorded music, Warner Music Group
Stu Bergen
CEO international and global commercial services, Warner Music Group
Eric Levin
Executive vp/CFO, Warner Music Group
Paul Robinson
Executive vp/general counsel, Warner Music Group
Oana Ruxandra
Executive vp new business channels/chief acquisition ­officer, Warner Music Group

“Our success,” says Cooper, “comes from our belief in our artists, our ­songwriters and each other.” Warner Music Group, under the business ­guidance of Cooper and creative ­leadership of Lousada, had an 11.7% year-on-year increase in revenue to $4.475 billion for its fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2019, according to the company. Driving that growth? “The quality and diversity of our music,” says Lousada, who oversees all of the company’s global recorded-music operations, including Atlantic ­Records, Warner ­Records, Warner Music Nashville, ­Elektra Music Group, Warner Music Latina and WMG’s respective artist- and label-services divisions, WEA and Alternative Distribution Alliance. Rising star Lizzo, who was signed as a songwriter to Warner Chappell Music under co-chairs Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall, is the most-nominated artist at this year’s Grammy Awards, and her Atlantic ­Records album, Cuz I Love You, has raked in 1.1 billion on-demand audio streams. Atlantic’s global superstar Ed Sheeran ranked at No. 2 among Spotify’s most-streamed artists of the past decade, the rebranded Warner Records increased its A&R staff significantly, while Elektra scored a top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 at year’s end with “Dance Monkey” from Tones and I. Lousada, who previously was chairman/CEO of Warner Music U.K., and former head of Atlantic Records U.K., brought a global perspective when he was named to his current WMG role two years ago. The company partnered with Nigerian independent label Chocolate City in March, opened a Peruvian affiliate in April and launched Japanese urban label +809 in October. Brazilian singer Anitta was among WMG’s other border-crossing breakouts of the past year. “To ignite passion from fans and then sustain that heat around the world requires local love and global collaboration,” says Lousada. “Our biggest successes, in any genre, come down to teamwork.”

 

Henry Cárdenas
Founder/CEO, Cárdenas Marketing Network

Cárdenas’ CMN invested in the touring infrastructure of his native Colombia with the July 2019 purchase of the 24,000-capacity Arena Bogotá. The deal, valued at over $30 million, is a “lifelong dream,” says the promoter who was named Executive of the Year in Billboard’s Latin Power Players list in October. As Latin music’s biggest concert production company, CMN’s client list includes Marc Anthony, Maluma, Pepe Aguilar and Bad Bunny, whose debut album, X100PRE, has ruled Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart for 42 weeks and secured a “99% sold-out” arena tour for the star, says Cárdenas. He also signed rising Latin urban acts Sech and Darkiel. “Looking for new talent to see if I can discover the world’s next Bad Bunny, that makes me get up every day,” he says.

Paul Gongaware
Co-CEO, Concerts West/AEG Presents
John Meglen
Co-CEO, Concerts West/AEG Presents

Despite the rescheduling of 17 North American shows due to Mick Jagger’s heart surgery, The Rolling Stones’ three-year, three-leg No Filter Tour (promoted by Concerts West’s Gongaware and Meglen) wrapped in August 2019 after grossing $415.6 million and selling 2,290,871 tickets to become one of the top 10 highest-grossing tours in Billboard Boxscore history. Meglen also calls Céline Dion’s Courage World Tour “as good as it gets,” with the Canadian superstar hitting the road after her historic Las Vegas residencies. “She’s selling tickets, her shows are amazing [and] the reviews are just staggering,” says Meglen. “She’s hotter than she has ever been.”

Jay Marciano
COO, AEG; chairman/CEO, AEG Presents
Rick Mueller
President of North America, AEG Presents
Gary Gersh
President of global touring and talent, AEG Presents

Under Marciano’s leadership, AEG Presents achieved record grosses with tours from Elton John, Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes and The Rolling Stones (through its Concerts West division). The company’s club and theater portfolio expanded to over 100 venues, with openings including the Mission Ballroom in Denver, the Eventim Apollo in London and the renovated Webster Hall in New York. AEG now has over 40 festivals, a part of the business with “continued growth,” says Marciano, who singles out the success of Stagecoach, overseen by Stacy Vee, Goldenvoice vp festival talent and Messina Touring Group vp artist relations. “We have built the single biggest country music festival in Southern California.”

Louis Messina
CEO, Messina Touring Group

Shawn Mendes, Eric Church and George Strait grossed a combined $188 million with only eight stadium shows in 2019, punctuating a stellar year for Messina, 72. Next up, the veteran promoter says he is hitting the road hard in 2020 with a stadium tour “that will be Kenny Chesney’s biggest ever.” Messina will soon be traveling in style with a new tour bus. His favorite moments of 2019? Staging the first hometown shows for Mendes (at Toronto’s Rogers Centre) and Church (at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium).

Bob Newman
President/CEO, ASM Global

The former president of AEG Facilities completed a merger in October with SMG to form ASM Global, a sprawling network of arenas, theaters, convention centers and stadiums that includes 310 venues on five continents. “It was a merger of entities that had unique resources and strengths that, when combined, created something completely different,” says Newman, 56. Now with an expanded team of over 60,000 employees across the globe, Newman says he’s motivated to help them “deliver amazing experiences every moment of every day to our clients, our guests and to each other.”

Darren Pfeffer
Executive vp, Madison Square Garden Co.

As the executive who oversees MSG’s venues, Pfeffer closed out 2019 on top. Madison Square Garden itself in New York led Billboard’s year-end rankings of arenas in its class with a total gross of $221 million, marking the first time a North American arena passed the $200 million threshold. The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., took the No. 2 North American spot on the same chart with a $93 million gross, while Radio City Music Hall in New York was the year’s No. 1 large theater (5,001 to 10,000 capacity), grossing $120 million. In total, the six venues under Pfeffer’s command grossed a collective $533 million in ticket sales, with a new live property — chairman James Dolan’s ambitious Sphere project in Las Vegas — under construction. “The sheer volume and diversity of what [our] team does is pretty staggering,” says Pfeffer.

Michael Rapino
President/CEO, Live Nation Entertainment
Denis Desmond
Chairman of U.K. and Ireland, Live Nation
Arthur Fogel
Chairman of global music/president of global touring, Live Nation
Bob Roux
President of U.S. concerts, Live Nation
Brian O’Connell
President of country touring, Live Nation
Omar Al-Joulani
Senior vp touring, U.S. concerts, Live Nation
Lesley Olenik
VP touring, U.S. concerts, Live Nation

In 2019, Rapino led the world’s top promotion company, Live Nation, to its ninth year of sales records across its core businesses of concerts, sponsorships and ticketing, with total revenue up 6% to $8.7 billion as of the third quarter of 2019, according to the company, with nearly 100 million fans attending 38,000 events last year. Those results speak “to the incredible dedication of our 40,000 staff in 44 countries around the world,” says Rapino, 53, the company’s chief executive since 2005. “Concerts fulfill people in a really unique way. The love of live music is universal.”

Pasquale Rotella
Founder/CEO, Insomniac Events

Celebrating 25 years of Insomniac Events in 2018, EDM pioneer Rotella, 45, continues to expand one of the world’s preeminent dance music production entities into multiple global markets, hosting six Electric Daisy Carnivals across the United States, Japan, Mexico, China and Korea. In July, Insomniac acquired Florida’s legendary Club Space, giving the company its first venue in Miami. While Rotella cites “selling out the majority of festivals this year” and “taking EDC and Escape to Korea for the first time” as highlights, he’s most proud of how Insomniac has continued to grow and “bring our events to more audiences around the world.”

Jared Smith
President, Ticketmaster

Helping Ticketmaster navigate one of its busiest — and most scrutinized — years, Smith, 41, led the shift toward digital tickets with SafeTix, which is used by the NFL and now being tested by touring acts such as Madonna, Mumford & Sons and The Strokes. The technology is part of “our ongoing commitment and investment in new tools that are helping artists connect more directly with their fans and maximize returns on their art,” says Smith. Deployed on mobile devices with an encrypted bar code that refreshes every few seconds, SafeTix has resulted in a 54% increase in sales of premium “platinum” seats, shifting income from scalpers to artists, the company states. According to Live Nation’s third-quarter investor report, Ticketmaster achieved a 30% growth in operating income. But it also came under increasing scrutiny for its growing market share. As 2019 ended, Live Nation reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division, agreeing to extend the 2010 consent decree governing the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation to 2025.

Alejandro Soberón Kuri
President/CEO, Corporación Interamericana de Entretenimiento (CIE)

In July, recognizing the potential of the live-music market in Mexico, Live Nation entered an agreement to acquire a controlling interest in OCESA, the concert promotion arm of CIE, run by Soberón Kuri, 59. OCESA-CIE ranked third on Billboard’s year-end Top 10 Promoters chart, just behind global giants AEG Presents and Live Nation. In a statement issued at the time of the Live Nation announcement, Soberón Kuri said the new partnership “will foster CIE’s commitment to the promotion of Mexican artistic talent abroad.”

Paul Tollett
President, Goldenvoice

Apart from promoting the influential Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which marked its 20th anniversary last year, Tollett teamed up with Goldenvoice original content director Raymond Roker and longtime Coachella producer-director Michael Abbott to create Coachella Curated, a video series that tells the stories behind some of the event’s international talent. Nearly 50 episodes debuted on YouTube during Coachella’s second weekend, highlighting superstars like Billie Eilish and Blackpink as well as artists like Russia’s Nina Kraviz and architect Francis Kéré from Burkina Faso. “Most people just see a name on the poster and don’t know [to] what incredible lengths people will go for music,” Tollett told Billboard in 2019. He plans to continue the Coachella Curated series in 2020. Goldenvoice will also unveil a documentary commemorating Coachella’s 20-year anniversary that, says Tollett, “shows our progression of the show.”

 

Steve Boom
VP, Amazon Music
Ryan Redington
Director, Amazon Music

In 2019, Amazon Music introduced a streaming service tier offering high-definition music and paired it with the launch of the high-end Echo Studio speaker, which supports 3D audio. “The response by both customers and artists has been overwhelming,” says Boom, 51. “Amazon put audio quality at the top of our agenda with the launch of Amazon Music HD and the Echo Studio.” For Redington, 39, the highlight of the past year was Amazon Music’s Prime Day Concert with Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, SZA and Becky G, which “streamed live to over 200 countries,” he says.

Lyor Cohen
Global head of music, YouTube

In the past 18 months, Cohen, 60, has been closely involved with the launch of YouTube Music in over 70 countries, including the promising Indian market with 1.3 billion people. The platform’s improving relationship with the music industry is evident from such initiatives as its plans with Universal Music Group to remaster 1,000 iconic videos — like Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’ ” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” — in high definition. With artist development programs like the Foundry, Spotlight Stories, Artist on the Rise and the artist tool YouTube Premieres, Cohen says he’s driven by the desire to “find, nurture and bring to market someone that musically changes pop and culture.”

Daniel Ek
Founder/CEO, Spotify
Dawn Ostroff
Chief content officer, Spotify
Horacio Gutierrez
Head of global affairs/chief legal officer, Spotify

Spotify, with nearly 250 million users and 113 million paid subscribers, made a big push into podcasting in 2019 with a reported $400 million investment, including the acquisition of Gimlet Media and technology provider Anchor in February. Those moves are about “expanding our mission from just being about music to being about all of audio and being the world’s leading audio platform,” Ek told CNBC at the time of the deal. Spotify has reported monthly active user growth of 30% year over year as of the third quarter in 2019 and, with a presence in 79 markets, Ostroff says the company is “enabling a borderless music ecosystem that’s allowing artists to connect with fans regardless of geography. We’ve found that more than 60% of Spotify users discovered an artist from a country outside of their own within the last month.”

Cussion Kar Shun Pang
CEO, Tencent Music Entertainment Group
Tony Yip
Chief strategy officer, Tencent Music Entertainment Group

Tencent Music’s paid user base has grown 42% over the last year, according to the company, despite strong challenges from services like ByteDance’s TikTok. In December, a year after it went public on the New York Stock Exchange, Tencent Music announced plans to repurchase up to $400 million in shares, a move that Pang, 45, said in a statement “reflects the board’s confidence in the fundamental and long-term potential of the company’s business.” Tencent Holdings, which owns a majority stake in Tencent Music, confirmed on Dec. 31 that the company, as part of a consortium of investors, is purchasing 10% of Vivendi’s Universal Music Group. In a related deal, Tencent Music will acquire a minority share of UMG’s subsidiary in Greater China.

Oliver Schusser
VP Apple Music and international content, Apple
Amanda Marks
Global head of business development and music partnerships, Apple IS&S/Apple Music
Rachel Newman
Global head of editorial, Apple Music
Zane Lowe
Global creative director/artist relations/host, Apple Music
Larry Jackson
Global creative director, Apple Music

Following a period of rapid growth, Apple Music passed 60 million subscribers, making 2019 the streaming giant’s most successful year since its mid-2015 launch, according to the company. Now led by Schusser, a veteran of iTunes’ international operations who succeeded Jimmy Iovine in 2018, Apple Music is guided by a more diverse executive team. The service rolled out a slew of new features (including lyrics updated in real time) and launched the inaugural Apple Music Awards, all while continuing to tout the values of editorial curation over algorithmic selection, as well as paying for music. “Artists, songwriters — everyone — should get fairly compensated for their art,” says Schusser, “and we continue to stand for that.”

Kerry Trainor
CEO, SoundCloud

Trainor, who has been SoundCloud’s CEO since 2017, has grown “subscribers, platform usage, global app ranking and revenue” at the streaming service to all-time highs in the past year, he says. The gains were driven by integrations with top DJ software companies (Serato, Native Instruments and Pioneer) and a recent expansion of SoundCloud Premier. That platform now gives “tens of thousands” of creators the ability to distribute via all major music services,” says Trainor, citing SoundCloud’s focus on “our core mission to empower audio creators to share and connect.” The decision to make Pandora an exclusive U.S. advertising partner for 2019 “tripled the number of brands” on the service, says Trainor.

 

Willard Ahdritz
Founder/CEO, Kobalt

Kobalt, under Ahdritz, 55, has grown in market share and industry influence. Named the 2019 independent publisher of the year by ASCAP, Kobalt ended the year at No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Publishers tally. From its thriving neighboring-rights division to rising revenue at its recorded-music arm AWAL. “However, [what] I am most proud of is seeing the music industry transform,” says Ahdritz. “When we started out, words like ‘transparency,’ ‘artist-first,’ ‘technology,’ ‘app’ and ‘portal’ were all foreign to the music business. Now they are commonplace.”

Irving Azoff
Chairman/CEO, The Azoff Company
Susan Genco
Co-president, The Azoff Company
Elizabeth Collins
Co-president, The Azoff Company
Tim Leiweke
CEO, Oak View Group

Azoff’s portfolio scored multiple wins in 2019: The performing rights organization Global Music Rights continued to grow its roster, adding Childish Gambino and Nicki Minaj; Oak View Group, under Leiweke, expanded its venue business with several arenas in development, as well as a financing deal from private equity firm Silver Lake; while Genco and Collins played a key role in the creation of the Music Artists Coalition, an independent creators-advocacy group. Azoff highlights the growth of his Full Stop Management firm, which he runs with son and co-CEO Jeffrey and has kept him “young, vibrant and going” in a business that’s “never been better or more exciting,” he says. His client the Eagles have achieved recent record grosses in concert, adds Azoff. The band will play ­Hotel California on tour in the United States this winter and spring and will next play a destination concert in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on Memorial Day.

Scooter Braun
Chairman/CEO, Ithaca Holdings
Allison Kaye
President/partner, SB Projects

SB Projects began 2019 with Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — a statement of female empowerment arriving by way of a management company whose staff is 70% women, notes Kaye — and closed the year with Grande wrapping her Sweetener world tour, which grossed $146.4 million from 97 dates. (The tour also tallied a record 33,000-plus fan voter registrations and actions, according to advocacy group HeadCount.) SB Projects saw Justin Bieber in January hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Yummy,” Karlie Kloss host another season of Project Runway, while Demi Lovato and J Balvin joined the company’s roster. But the topmost accomplishment was Braun’s Ithaca Holdings’ $300 million purchase of Big Machine Label Group, with minority backing from The Carlyle Group, in the biggest industry deal of the year. Of her work with Braun, says Kaye, “I don’t think there is any other major management company that has a female and male partnership, so I’m very proud of what we have created together.”

Mike Caren
Founder/CEO, Artist Partner Group

Caren’s APG is a publishing and A&R powerhouse that broke acts including Bazzi, Ava Max, Lil Skies and Alec Benjamin the past two years and boasts star clients including Charlie Puth. “It’s an honor to see people flourish, and it’s equally fulfilling [whether] it happens quickly or takes years,” says Caren, whose future goal is to be “fully vertical from incubation to execution” across all sectors of the business. “Incremental progress adds up.”

Ghazi
Founder/CEO, EMPIRE

In a step toward EMPIRE’s broader international expansion — “a work in progress,” says Ghazi — the San Francisco-based independent label, distributor and publisher opened a London office in 2019 while also establishing footholds in Southeast Asia and China. Back in the United States, Ghazi (who uses only his first name professionally) notes that EMPIRE also created a Nashville division, hiring Black River Entertainment’s Eric Hurt as vp A&R, and formed a partnership with New York’s +1 Records. “I want to wake up every day and kill it,” says Ghazi, who also signed Afrowave singer Afro B in June to a roster that already included Robin Thicke and Young Dolph. “When somebody trusts me with their art, that [demands] a high standard from me.” 

Daniel Glass
Founder/president, Glassnote Music

Glass, 63, credits the “hustle infused in [my] DNA” from growing up in Brooklyn for his drive to make Glassnote — a recording, publishing and artist management firm — “the best independent music company in the world.” During 2019, Mumford & Sons followed up 2018’s Delta, which topped the Billboard 200, with two top five hits on the Triple A chart. The Teskey Brothers received a 2020 Grammy nomination for best engineered album, non-classical, for their sophomore set, Run Home Slow. New signee Jade Bird’s self-titled debut reached No. 1 on the Heatseekers Albums list, and up-and-coming artist Aurora was featured in Frozen II, singing a duet with Idina Menzel, “Into the Unknown.” Recognized for his work with the UJA-Federation of New York and with LIFEbeat, the industry organization promoting safe sex, Glass also subscribes to the carbon-offset platform Climeworks, “to send a signal to our employees and the industry that Glassnote is working to become carbon negative, so you should too.”

JAY-Z
Founder/chairman, Roc Nation
Jay Brown
Vice chairman, Roc Nation
Desiree Perez
CEO, Roc Nation

In December, Perez was honored as Executive of the Year at Billboard’s annual Women in Music event. Roc founder JAY-Z, 50, shuffled his C-suite: Former chief Brown, 46, was upped to vice chairman, and Perez rose to CEO. Other 2019 highlights include the Roc’s inaugural S. Carter Foundation gala in November, which raised $6 million in scholarship funds for low-income college hopefuls, as well as a new long-term partnership with the NFL, inked in August, for the league’s live entertainment and social justice activism. “They have 125 million viewers during the Super Bowl,” says Perez. “I want to talk to those 125 million people.”

Justin Kalifowitz
CEO, Downtown Music Holdings

Kalifowitz, 38, runs the parent company of Downtown Music Publishing, which secured the catalogs of George Gershwin and Miles Davis this past year, as well as the global royalty-collection platform Songtrust, which is now used by over 300,000 songwriters. In April 2019, Downtown acquired AVL Digital Group and its subsidiaries AdRev, CD Baby, DashGo and Soundrop, which collectively distribute and monetize over 10 million tracks. Kalifowitz says the company’s pool of 1 million creators is now supported by a global network of nearly 400 people in 16 cities worldwide. “Everything we do is in service of creating a more equitable and innovative music ecosystem,” he says.

Hartwig Masuch
CEO, BMG

Masuch, 65, has guided Berlin-based BMG since the company was created (as BMG Rights Management) in October 2008. The company began with a small number of master recordings retained by parent company Bertelsmann after the dissolution of the Sony-BMG partnership earlier that summer. It has grown significantly since. The past year, notes Masuch, has brought achievements including an increased presence in Brazil and Mexico, the creation of a team to boost the activity of U.K. repertoire in the United States and an expansion into artist management. BMG’s focus has been on “putting artist needs at the center of what we do,” says Masuch. “I am more and more convinced that companies who fail to do that are, like the dinosaurs, doomed to extinction.”

Scott Pascucci
CEO, Concord
Tom Whalley
Chief label executive, Concord
Jake Wisely
Chief publishing executive, Concord

Pascucci, 61, oversees the teams that drive the success of Concord’s three divisions: recorded music, publishing and theatricals. On the label side, Concord has celebrated Tanya Tucker’s long-awaited comeback after 17 years with While I’m Livin’, co-produced by Brandi Carlile. (Tucker is the most nominated country artist at this year’s Grammy Awards; see page 144.) The work of publishing client Glen Ballard is on Broadway; he’s the co-writer of the songs in Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill musical, which debuted in December. Concord Theatricals controls the rights to works by Rodgers & Hammerstein, Tennessee Williams and Neil Simon, as well as musicals Chicago, Grease and The Wiz. The company in January closed a deal to acquire two-thirds of Pulse Music Group as an A&R joint venture. “We have shown the industry that the proper goal of an acquisitions strategy is to build a vibrant company,” says Pascucci. “It’s a foundation, not an end in and of itself.”

 

Jason Aron
Manager, Anti-Pop
Anthony Li
Manager, Anti-Pop

Halsey, who is booked as the musical guest for the first Saturday Night Live of 2020 on Jan. 25, closed 2019 with her song “Without Me” ranking as the No. 3 Hot 100 hit of the past year. “But nothing compares to the excitement we all felt for that first milestone” when the track reached No. 1 on the chart in January, says Aron, 32, who co-manages the singer with Li, 31. The track’s success is “a testament to the support we saw from our partners across the board.” In April, Halsey was the honoree at the annual gala of My Friends Place, which does “incredible work” to help homeless young people in Los Angeles, says Aron.

Jeffrey Azoff
Co-CEO, Full Stop Management
Brandon Creed
Co-CEO, Full Stop Management
Kevin Beisler
Manager, Full Stop Management
Tommy Bruce
Manager, Full Stop Management

Under Azoff and Creed, Full Stop managed artists with a nonstop run of achievements in 2019. Lizzo earned eight Grammy nominations in November. Harry Styles doubled as host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live and scored his second Billboard 200 No. 1 with sophomore solo album Fine Line. And Nicki Minaj signed with Full Stop. “Our clients never have a problem getting answers quickly,” says Azoff, crediting the synchronicity of the company’s marketing, radio and touring divisions as a key to its success. “That has been a big difference.”

Bang Si-Hyuk
CEO/executive producer, Big Hit Entertainment

BTS continued to rise globally in 2019, with the K-pop boy band becoming the first group since The Beatles to score three Billboard 200 No. 1s in under a year. Meanwhile, Bang, 47, diversified his South Korean company’s exploding business: Big Hit premiered its first new group since BTS with Tomorrow X Together (which topped Billboard’s World Albums chart), acquired Source Music (a subsidiary label that’s home to high-charting girl group GFriend) and launched the mobile game BTS World — all while reporting, in August, record revenue of $172 million for the first half of 2019.

Stuart Camp
Manager, Ed Sheeran

Camp’s superstar client Sheeran broke even more records in 2019 when the singer’s 255-date ÷ (Divide) tour — which wrapped Aug. 26 with the last of four shows in his hometown of Ipswich, England — became the highest-earning trek of all time, with a global gross of $776 million and 8.9 million tickets sold. The year closed with Spotify naming Sheeran’s “Shape of You” its most-streamed song of the decade: 2.3 billion streams, according to the service.

Coran Capshaw
Founder, Red Light Management

Red Light’s roster of road-tested acts racked up big box-office numbers in 2019 — Dave Matthews Band, Chris Stapleton and Phish grossed a combined $128 million. Capshaw’s longtime partnership with Matthews, his first client, also continues to flourish: Their label, ATO Records — which celebrates its 20th year in 2020 — scored with Brittany Howard, who ruled Billboard’s Triple A airplay chart with her single “Stay High” in October, and neo-soul band Black Pumas, which garnered a best new artist Grammy nod that same month, while DMB received an October nomination for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2020. In December, Tom Petty’s widow and two daughters announced that Capshaw’s independent artist-management company, which remains the industry’s largest, will handle the late rocker’s estate. Meanwhile, Red Light remains manager of Garcia Family LLC, part of the estate of the late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. His heirs plan to introduce a cannabis brand. Says Capshaw, 61: “We’ve had success launching multiple artist-affiliated brands, and the announcement of the Garcia cannabis line is our latest.”

Andrew Gertler
Founder/CEO, AG Artists

In 2019, Gertler, 31, helped core client Shawn Mendes succeed on the charts, the concert stage and as a philanthropist. The singer had his highest-charting Billboard Hot 100 hits to date with the No. 1 “Señorita” (with Camila Cabello) and the No. 2 “If I Can’t Have You.” He played his first sold-out stadium shows during Shawn Mendes: The Tour, which earned over $96.7 million. And in August, Gertler launched the Shawn Mendes Foundation with $1 million in funding to “support youth change-makers and causes important to Shawn’s audience, like the environment and mental health,” says Gertler.

Aubrey “Drake” Graham
Co-founder, OVO/OVO Sound
Adel “Future the Prince” Nur
Manager, Drake
Noah “40” Shebib
Co-founder, OVO/OVO Sound; producer
Oliver El-Khatib
Co-founder, OVO/OVO Sound
Mr. Morgan
President, OVO Sound

Drake, 33, followed up the global success of his 2018 album, Scorpion (which logged all 25 of its tracks on the Hot 100), with the August release of Care Package, on which El-Khatib and Shebib, both 36, worked as executive producers and Mr. Morgan offered an assist. The set became Drake’s ninth No. 1 on the Billboard 200. One of the dominant streaming artists of the past decade, Drake has also shaped the landscape for experimental hip-hop. With his new single “Life Is Good” with Future, Drake gained his 207th hit on the Hot 100 in January — tying the record that the cast of Glee had set for the most career entries.

Chris Kappy
Founder, Make Wake Artists
Lynn Oliver-Cline
Founder, River House Artists

Luke Combs, jointly managed by Kappy, 47, and Oliver-Cline, 46, had his biggest year yet in 2019: He earned his seventh career No. 1 single on Country Airplay; took home the new male artist and male vocalist of the year honors at, respectively, the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Awards; and notched a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 with sophomore album What You See Is What You Get, which bowed with 74 million on-demand audio streams. “Luke paved the way for artists to be themselves and to take risks with their music,” says Oliver-Cline.

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter
Chairman/CEO, Parkwood Entertainment
Steve Pamon
President/COO, Parkwood Entertainment

During the past year, Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment has partnered on projects with Sony Music, Disney, Netflix, Tidal, Apple, Spotify and Adidas. The chairman/CEO, 38, charted three albums in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 in 2019 (Lemonade, The Lion King: The Gift and Homecoming: The Live Album) while her Netflix documentary Homecoming reached 1.1 million U.S. viewers the day it premiered (April 17). “We have produced a high volume of work that is still regarded as commercially successful, artistically excellent and has societal impact,” says Pamon, 49. “All of them defied expectations.”

Walter Kolm
Founder, Walter Kolm Entertainment

Kolm’s roster of Latin music stars had a great year in 2019. Carlos Vives played a five-night engagement at the Movistar Arena in Colombia. Maluma took the stage at the Billboard Music Awards with Madonna. Reggaetón pioneers Wisin & Yandel made a triumphant comeback, ranking at No. 3 on Billboard’s top Latin duo/group year-end recap, and Latin pop boy band CNCO performed at the MTV Video Music Awards and on Good Morning America. “Our artists have helped grow the popularity of different genres and promote a diverse variety of music in the industry,” says Kolm. “Knowing that my work is spreading awareness and love for Latin music makes every day worthwhile.”

Adam Leber
Partner, Maverick
Gee Roberson
Co-CEO, The Blueprint Group; partner, ­Maverick

The 19-week streak of “Old Town Road” atop the Hot 100 in 2019 was a record-shattering coup for Lil Nas X’s co-managers. But the Maverick partners are even more thrilled by the artist’s six Grammy nominations, especially for a genre-bending, Gen Z hip-hop cowboy. “Lil Nas X has really shone a spotlight on how we categorize artists and their sounds moving forward,” says Leber, 42, who also manages Miley Cyrus and helped supervise music for HBO’s Euphoria, scored by client Labrinth. “The cherry on top” is the album of the year Grammy nomination for Lil Nas X, adds Roberson, who has also been prepping for a new album from client G-Eazy, out in early 2020. Lil Nas X “walked in with his artistry, and to be accepted so greatly by the public?” says Roberson. “That’s the holy grail.”

Rebeca León
Founder/CEO, Lionfish Entertainment

León steered the meteoric rise of Rosalía, one of 2019’s breakthrough acts and a Grammy nominee for best new artist. She signed Rosalía before the urban-flamenco singer had a record deal and helped her land slots on high-profile festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza. “She’s so amazing,” says León. “She works so hard and people love her.” León’s previous clients include J Balvin and Juanes; the Latin Recording Academy named the latter the 2019 Person of the Year. “Artist development motivates me,” she says. “It’s an honor and a privilege to work with creators.”

Dre London
Founder, London Entertainment

London’s management client Post Malone closed 2019 as Billboard’s top artist of the year on the strength of Hollywood’s Bleeding, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in September; the continuing success of 2018’s beerbongs & bentleys; a string of hit singles on multiple charts, including the Hot 100; and one of the year’s top-grossing tours. “My goal since we signed him in 2014 was to crack every chart, and we’ve [nearly] done that” with Hollywood’s Bleeding, says London. “That says a lot about his talent and how big of a genreless artist he is.”

Phil McIntyre
Founder/CEO, Philymack

The Jonas Brothers’ 2019 return was a crowning achievement for McIntyre, 37, their longtime manager. The group’s first single in nearly six years, “Sucker,” hit No. 1 on the Hot 100, a chart-topping feat the siblings had never before achieved. “After 14 years, it was a very proud moment for all of us,” says McIntyre. The triumph of “Sucker” helped propel the first new Jonas Brothers album in a decade, Happiness Begins, to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and secured Nick Jonas a primetime judge slot on the forthcoming season of NBC’s The Voice.

Guy Oseary
Co-founder/principal, Maverick Management

Oseary’s client U2 closed out the past year with a stadium show on the Joshua Tree tour in Mumbai, India, marking a milestone in the nation’s development as a global concert destination. Fellow marquee client Madonna toured for her Madame X album, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Oseary, 47, is also behind Community.com, a text message-based opt-in platform that allows direct communication between performers and fans. “I’m very focused on how we as [an artist] community have no platform to reach our audience directly,” says Oseary. He’s quick to praise the success of fellow Maverick managers like Adam Leber and Gee Roberson, who represent pop phenomenon Lil Nas X, and Wassim “Sal” Slaiby, whose client The Weeknd returned to No. 1 on the Hot 100 in December with “Heartless.” Says Oseary: “All of us at Maverick are part of a great collective. We’re really privileged.”

Jason Owen
President/CEO, Sandbox Entertainment; co-president, Monument Records

Owen’s clients Kacey Musgraves and Dan + Shay gained superstar status in 2019, beginning at the 61st annual Grammys in February. Musgraves’ four honors included album of the year for Golden Hour, while Dan + Shay (whom Owen co-manages with Scooter Braun) won best country duo/group performance for their crossover hit “Tequila.” Owen, 43, also helped both acts advance on the road. Musgraves’ 63-show Oh, What a World Tour grossed $12 million, and Dan + Shay plotted their first arena-headlining tour for 2020. “Nothing on my roster would be considered an overnight success,” says Owen, who also manages Little Big Town, Kelsea Ballerini and Midland, among others. “Longevity comes with artists who take the time to build careers.”

Courtney Stewart
CEO, Right Hand Music Group; co-founder, Keep Cool

Barely five years into Khalid’s career, Stewart’s client is a six-time Grammy nominee with 6 billion streams for his sophomore album, Free Spirit. Khalid’s 2019 tour, which wrapped in Australia in December, included double sellouts at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, New York’s Madison Square Garden, London’s O2 Arena and Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena, says Stewart. Through his secondary company, Keep Cool, Stewart is working with breakout R&B artist Lucky Daye, who has been nominated for four 2020 Grammys.

Pierre “P” Thomas
CEO, Quality Control Music
Kevin “Coach K” Lee
COO, Quality Control Music

The Quality Control duo of Lee and Thomas cheered in the past year as Migos returned to the Hot 100 with “Pure Water,” Lil Baby debuted at No. 1 on Streaming Songs with “Woah” and, after City Girls topped Rhythmic Songs with “Act Up,” the rap duo’s JT was released from a prison stint in October. She and City Girls partner Yung Miami dropped “First Day Out” to mark her return home. The latest move by Thomas and Lee: Quality Control’s first R&B signing, Layton Greene. “We are breaking into a new genre of music with her,” says Thomas, 39.

 

Dennis Arfa
Chairman, Artist Group International
Marsha Vlasic
President, Artist Group International
Adam Kornfeld
President of touring for North America, Artist Group International

AGI’s achievements in the past year include the continuing success of Billy Joel’s Madison Square Garden residency, supplemented by shows at Boston’s Fenway Park and London’s Wembley Stadium, among others. Metallica’s WorldWired Tour grossed over $177.4 million last year. AGI clients including The Strokes, Cage the Elephant, Norah Jones, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop, Regina Spektor, PJ Harvey and Cyndi Lauper were all active in the past year. On tap for summer 2020: a Def Leppard/Mötley Crüe/Poison/Joan Jett package. “We’re touring experts,” says Arfa, “no matter if it’s pop, rock or urban. The bottom line is you have to sell tickets, but we thrive on being able to develop acts to the highest level.”

Marty Diamond
Head of global music, Paradigm Talent Agency
Matt Galle
Music executive leadership group, Paradigm Talent Agency
Lee Anderson
Music executive leadership group, Paradigm Talent Agency
Mike Betterton
Agent, Paradigm Talent Agency

Under Diamond, 61, Paradigm’s music division celebrated a hat trick of client wins this year: Janet Jackson launched her first Las Vegas residency, Metamorphosis, at MGM’s Park Theater; Shawn Mendes grossed $96.7 million from the final lap of his tour, which included a sold-out stadium show at Rogers Centre in his native Toronto; and Ed Sheeran (whom Paradigm represents in the United States and Canada) took honors in August for the highest-grossing tour in history, crossing six continents in 30 months. “Ed has set a bench mark on global touring that no one has come near,” says Diamond.

Marc Geiger
Partner/head of music, WME
Sara Newkirk Simon
Partner/co-head of music, WME
Kirk Sommer
Partner/co-head of music, WME
Scott Clayton
Partner/co-head of the Nashville office, WME

Geiger, 57, reports that WME, named the top agency of 2019 at the Billboard Live Music Summit in November, set a new company best in booking over 37,000 dates for its eclectic roster that ranges from veterans like Justin Timberlake, John Mayer, Eric Church, Dead & Company and Drake to rising stars led by Lizzo, Lauren Daigle, Rosalía and King Princess (who will join singer Harry Styles on the European leg of his Love on Tour trek in April). “The entire team is energized by the dynamic state of our industry,” says Geiger, “whether it’s artist discovery, the festival marketplace or the crossover opportunities we have been able to help our clients create.”

Cara Lewis
Founder/owner, Cara Lewis Group

Running the industry’s only female-owned top-line agency, Lewis last year booked “two of the most successful sellout arena tours,” she says of the Astroworld: Wish You Were Here Tour headlined by Travis Scott and the Free Spirit tour from Khalid, whom she represents in North America. She repped Eminem for his sweep through Australia, where he played five shows to 300,000 fans. Lewis has also established a CLG Branding division, which struck new deals for 2020 with Levi’s and Milani Cosmetics, among others. “Developing artists and delivering the best opportunities for the entire roster is first and foremost,” she says.

Rob Light
Managing partner/head of worldwide music, Creative Artists Agency
Mitch Rose
Music agent/co-head of contemporary music, Creative Artists Agency
Darryl Eaton
Music agent/co-head of contemporary music, Creative Artists Agency
Rick Roskin
Music agent/co-head of contemporary music, Creative Artists Agency

The year-end Billboard Boxscore tally of top tours included CAA clients Ed Sheeran (whom the agency books outside the United States and Canada) at No. 1 for the second consecutive year, Ariana Grande at No. 7, KISS (repped in North America) at No. 10 and the Eagles at No. 19. CAA’s roster of rising talent includes Maggie Rogers, Megan Thee Stallion, H.E.R., Lil Nas X, Clairo, Judah & The Lion and Jorja Smith. For Light, who marked his 35th year at CAA in 2019, the strength of the agency is clear from “the continued breakout success of so many incredible new artists that are developing real careers.”

Rob Prinz
Partner/co-head of worldwide concerts, ICM Partners
Steve Levine
Board member/partner/co-head of worldwide concerts, ICM Partners
Mark Siegel
Partner/head of music, ICM Partners
Robert Gibbs
Partner/concerts agent, ICM Partners

In addition to booking “so many varied genres” — including successful tours for Khalid (whom ICM represents outside North America), Jon Bellion, Alice in Chains, Kamasi Washington, Teyana Taylor and Tayla Parx — Prinz, 61, says 2019 also marked the success of his agency’s collaborations with two leading hip-hop label/management organizations: Quality Control Music (Migos, Lil Yachty) and J. Cole’s Dreamville Records (Ari Lennox, EarthGang, J.I.D). In December, Cole announced that the second Dreamville Festival will take place in Raleigh, N.C., on April 4. ICM also struck a deal with Good Charlotte co-founder Joel Madden “as a representative of ICM and an ambassador in the [artist] community,” says Prinz. “He’s having a huge impact for us.”

David Zedeck
Partner/head of worldwide music, UTA
Natalia Nastaskin
GM of global music group, UTA
Ken Fermaglich
Partner/agent, music leadership, UTA
Cheryl Paglierani
Agent, music, UTA

Just over two years into his tenure, Zedeck, formerly of Live Nation, has significantly expanded UTA’s music division, led by the Spice Girls in 2019 and ongoing dates for Jonas Brothers and the ascendant Post Malone (booked by Paglierani). The second Posty Fest in Arlington, Texas, in November featured sets by Meek Mill, Pharrell Williams and others, and doubled in size to over 40,000 attendees. Zedeck’s team is equally proud of its “diverse roster of emerging talent,” he says, including Tierra Whack, Burna Boy and others. “Within the past year, they have played major festivals, grown their touring business and partnered with high-profile brands while raising their profiles substantially within the music landscape,” says Zedeck.

 

Steve Barnett
Chairman/CEO, Capitol Music Group
Michelle Jubelirer
COO, Capitol Music Group
Ashley Newton
President, Capitol Music Group; executive vp creative/special projects, Universal Music  Group
Ethiopia Habtemariam
President, Motown Records; executive vp, Capitol Music Group
Jacqueline Saturn
President, Caroline; president, Harvest

Capitol Music Group’s wins under Barnett, 67, came from across the board in 2019. At the flagship label, Halsey’s “Without Me” ruled the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks, while U.K. newcomer Lewis Capaldi spent three weeks at No. 1 on that chart with surprise crossover hit “Someone You Loved.” (At year’s end, Barnett confirmed Jeff Vaughn as the new president of Capitol Records.) Motown’s partnership with Quality Control sent Lil Baby’s “Woah” to No. 16 on the Hot 100, while Miami duo City Girls crowned the Rhythmic airplay chart in July with “Act Up.” Astralwerks scored a massive victory with “Happier” from Marshmello and Bastille, which finished at No. 1 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs year-end chart, after a record 69 weeks in the top slot. Meanwhile, distribution company Caroline doubled its market share over the past two years. Says Barnett: “I’m very proud that we are achieving such consistent success by welcoming and embracing diversity.”

Darcus Beese
President, Island Records
Eric Wong
COO, Island Records

In Beese’s first full year leading Island Records in the United States (after previously running its U.K. operation), he and Wong oversaw Shawn Mendes’ two biggest Hot 100 hits (“Señorita” with Camila Cabello at No. 1 and “If I Can’t Have You” at No. 2) and the first Grammy nomination for fast-rising R&B artist Jessie Reyez (best urban contemporary album for her late-2018 release Being Human in Public). Beese and his team celebrated Island’s 60th anniversary in 2019. He also signed Jac Ross, pop-R&B duo Emotional Oranges, Vietnamese-American singer-producer keshi and artist Baby Rose, among others. “We’ve got to revel in our history while driving toward the future,” says Beese.

Scott Borchetta
Founder/president/CEO, Big Machine Label Group

In June, Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings acquired Big Machine Label Group for more than $300 million and named Borchetta, 56, a board member with a “significant, but minority” share in the company, which is home to Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Reba McEntire, Lady Antebellum, Sheryl Crow and others — as well as the pre-Lover catalog of Taylor Swift. “The heart and soul of the Big Machine Label Group is beating stronger than ever,” says Borchetta. “The staff and artists are even more unified; the new music being made is blowing my mind.”

Aaron Bay-Schuck
Co-chairman/CEO, Warner Records

Tom Corson
Co-chairman/COO, Warner Records

In their first full year running Warner Records together, Bay-Schuck, 38, and Corson, 59, oversaw a name change for the six-decade-old label (no more “Bros.”) and an office move to Los Angeles’ downtown Arts District while also pruning the label’s roster and beefing up its A&R team. The duo has tallied some notable talent successes, like launching No Love Entertainment with rapper NLE Choppa, scoring a No. 1 hit on the Rhythmic airplay tally with Saweetie’s “My Type” and securing its rock/alternative stature with Gary Clark Jr., Green Day and The Black Keys. “To have done all that in our first 12 months — Tom and I are really proud of that,” says Bay-Schuck. “It’s setting us up for a pretty remarkable 2020.”

Mike Dungan
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Group Nashville
Cindy Mabe
President, Universal Music Group Nashville

In a year that has brought success for the 35-plus artists on the UMG Nashville roster — from Kacey Musgraves to Keith Urban to Carrie Underwood — Dungan singles out the ongoing development of Jon Pardi as 2019’s biggest win. The neotraditionalist’s third album on Capitol Records Nashville, Heartache Medication, bowed at No. 2 on Top Country Albums, spawning Pardi’s fifth Country Airplay top 10 and a headlining theater tour. “When we launched Jon Pardi, the entire industry raised a collective eyebrow: ‘What do you expect to do with this? It’s far too “country”!’ ” says Dungan. “He is now a legitimate ‘automatic’ at country radio, a platinum artist and a commanding headliner in the touring world.”

Mike Easterlin
Co-president, Elektra Music Group
Gregg Nadel
Co-president, Elektra Music Group

The December rise of Australian singer-songwriter Tones and I to No. 7 on the Hot 100 with “Dance Monkey” capped a successful first full year of operation for the relaunched Elektra Music Group and confirmed Easterlin and Nadel’s A&R-driven strategy. The year began with Panic! at the Disco in January reaching No. 4 on the Hot 100 with “High Hopes,” from 2018’s Pray for the Wicked, and, a month later, Brandi Carlile’s triumphant performance of “The Joke” at the 61st Grammy Awards, where she was the most nominated woman (and took home three honors). “We want to find the right artists that fit what we do, that we really believe in, and then put all of our muscle behind them,” says Nadel.

Peter Edge
Chairman/CEO, RCA Records
John Fleckenstein
Co-president, RCA Records
Joe Riccitelli
Co-president, RCA Records

“We really take the artistry seriously,” says Edge, citing the 2019 achievements of Khalid, P!nk and Chris Brown. Alt-rock act Tool returned to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with Fear Inoculum, the group’s first studio album in 13 years. H.E.R. and Brockhampton “represent the new world for younger people in different ways,” says Edge. “People say to me, ‘You have one of the best artist rosters in the business.’ We work hard making sure we keep that intact.”

John Esposito
Chairman/CEO, Warner Music Nashville

Esposito, 64, celebrated his 10th anniversary as chairman/CEO of Warner Music Nashville in 2019 with multiple victories, exemplified by Dan + Shay’s global streaming success (via the duo’s recent collaboration with Justin Bieber on “10,000 Hours”), Blake Shelton’s musical renewal with the CMA Award-winning “God’s Country” and “the undeniable talent of our new female artists, Ashley McBryde, Ingrid Andress and Gabby Barrett,” he says. “I’m motivated by the immense satisfaction of finding unknown artists and doing my part to make sure they become household names.”

Denzyl Feigelson
Founder/CEO, Platoon

Since Apple’s 2018 acquisition of Platoon, the London-based artist services company — responsible for helping develop such artists as Billie Eilish, Stefflon Don and Jorja Smith — has continued to grow its global roster, signing artists in Japan, Australia, Southeast Asia and over 60 in Africa. “To have Africa be almost 40% of the overall Platoon business has been an amazing achievement for us as a team,” says Feigelson, 63, who previously founded AWAL before its acquisition by Kobalt and worked with Steve Jobs during the development of iTunes. “Apple has given us all the tools and services to be a better version of what we are.”

Randy Goodman
Chairman/CEO, Sony Music Nashville

“Our goal has been to be the No. 1 country label group in current market share, and we achieved that” in 2019, says Goodman, 63, who took the helm of Sony Music Nashville in 2015. Sony’s current country market share is an industry-leading 21.46%. Bolstered by the achievement of Billboard’s 2019 top country artist Luke Combs, as well as hits by Kane Brown and Maren Morris, among others, Sony Music Nashville was also Billboard’s top country label of the past year.

John Janick
Chairman/CEO, Interscope Geffen A&M
Steve Berman
Vice chairman, Interscope Geffen A&M
Joie Manda
Executive vp, Interscope Geffen A&M

IGA laid the groundwork for 2019’s biggest wins “years ago,” says Janick, 41, about a success streak that has included Selena Gomez’s career-first Hot 100 No. 1, “Lose You to Love Me,” in November and first-time Billboard 200 chart-toppers from J. Cole’s Dreamville collective and the late Juice WRLD. Likewise, Grammy-nominated best new artist Billie Eilish actually joined IGA in 2015 through label group partner The Darkroom — only to become one of this year’s biggest breakthrough acts, along with rapper DaBaby and R&B singer Summer Walker. “Any year where you can break an artist is a great one, but we did it three times in three different genres,” says Janick. Adds Manda, 45, “We’re motivated by discovering groundbreaking, disruptive artists and being hyper-focused on creating opportunities for them to push culture forward in meaningful ways.”

Craig Kallman
Chairman/CEO, Atlantic Records
Julie Greenwald
Chairman/COO, Atlantic Records
Michael Kyser
President of black music, Atlantic Records
Kevin Weaver
President, West Coast, Atlantic Records

Atlantic Records ranked as the No. 1 label on the Billboard 200 in 2019 and, for the third year in a row, the leader in current market share (at 12.12%). Under the leadership of Kallman and Greenwald, Atlantic achieved that success thanks to breakouts from A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (whose Hoodie SZN achieved 1.2 million album equivalent units) and Lizzo (whose Cuz I Love You tallied 1.1 billion on-demand streams). Weaver achieved dozens of placements for Lizzo (including the Netflix rom-com Someone Great), but the triumph of the genre-spanning artist — including eight Grammy Award nominations — was a true team effort. “She’s everyone’s artist,” says Greenwald.

Kevin Liles
Co-founder/CEO, 300 Entertainment

300 Entertainment, led by Liles, 51, enjoyed success across its roster in the past year. Young Thug scored his first Billboard 200 No. 1 with So Much Fun in August. Rising rap rookies Megan Thee Stallion and Gunna also showcased their mainstream appeal by nabbing Hot 100 hits, with Megan’s earworm “Hot Girl Summer” (with Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign) peaking at No. 11 and spawning an eponymous meme. “Finding artists who people want to be like, talk and walk like is our sweet spot,” says Liles.

Monte Lipman
Founder/CEO, Republic Records
Avery Lipman
Founder/president, Republic Records
Jim Roppo
Executive vp/GM, Republic Records
Wendy Goldstein
President of West Coast creative, Republic Records

Driven by five of the biggest albums of the year — Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next, Taylor Swift’s Lover, Post Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleeding, Jonas Brothers’ Happiness Begins and Drake’s Scorpion (released in 2018) — Republic was named top label for the fourth year (of the past five) on Billboard’s 2019 year-end chart. Getting to that pinnacle was a “balanced attack” and “tremendous responsibility,” says Monte Lipman. “Our company is experimental and embraces change. The one thing we do know in this business is that change is nearly constant.”

Jesús López
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Latin America and Iberian Peninsula

Under López, Universal reported a rising market share in international Latin markets and in the United States (through Universal Music Latin Entertainment), driven by global crossover stars like J Balvin, the most listened-to Latin artist on Spotify, with over 58.7 million monthly listeners, according to the streaming service; and Karol G, who was named Billboard’s year-end top Latin female artist, as well as the strong showing of new acts like Sebastián Yatra. But López says the growth of his management and live division, GTS, which booked, produced or promoted over 1,600 shows in the region, stood out most. “We opened the door to the global Latin boom with ‘Despacito,’ and we’ve kept it up,” he says.

David Massey
President/CEO, Arista Records

Massey is leading a revival at Arista Records, thanks to artists like Israel’s Dennis Lloyd, whom he reports has achieved some 300 million global on-demand streams in 2019; Ant Saunders, whose TikTok-exposed “Yellow Hearts” reached No. 81 on the Hot 100; and singer-songwriter JP Saxe, whose single “If the World Was Ending” features co-writer Julia Michaels. Saxe is signed to the Work of Art publishing company, which Massey oversees, along with Work of Art management. And in September, Massey launched Arista’s dance-music imprint Last Nite, featuring acts Sigala, Dom Dolla and Dynoro. “Like Clive Davis, I want to be here at 87,” says Massey. “I’m never going to stop.”

Martin Mills
Chairman, Beggars Group

In a career that stretches back to 1968 (and a mobile disco named after the Rolling Stones album Beggars Banquet), Mills, 70, works very much in the moment. He heralds “the music we released this [past] year, which I believe will be moving fans and influencing other musicians in 20 years’ time: Big Thief, black midi, FKA twigs, Lankum, Aldous Harding.” Leading Beggars Group, Mills takes pride in being “a prominent part of the success and growth of the indie sector, and of the importance of Merlin and the American Association of Independent Music, at a time when market consolidation would normally make life harder for small companies. We are committed to working with independent partners globally.”

Doug Morris
Founder, 12 Tone Music Group

Morris, 81, the only executive to hold top roles at all three major music groups during his career (most recently Sony Music from 2011 to 2017), is entering his second year at the helm of 12 Tone. The indie label is home to Anderson .Paak, Lauren Daigle and Joji, whose “Slow Dancing in the Dark” reached No. 7 on Hot R&B Songs and has logged over 509 million streams. “It’s the smallest company, but we’ve done very well,” says Morris, crediting his second-in-command, Steve Bartels, former CEO of Def Jam. “We’re the smallest midget,” says Morris of 12 Tone. “We have a terrific group of people here. It has been a lot of fun.”

Brad Navin
CEO, The Orchard
Colleen Theis
COO, The Orchard

The Orchard, guided by Navin, 49, and Theis, 50, attained new global chart peaks in the past year. “We achieved No. 1 records all over the world,” says Navin. He cites gaining a hit in Europe with “China” from Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA and continued success with K-pop — The Orchard helped break BTS through a global partnership with Big Hit Entertainment. Already one of the largest independent distributors in the world, The Orchard, owned by Sony Music, will “reach even greater heights” in 2020, says Navin, thanks to offices launched in the past year in Madrid; Seoul; Taipei, Taiwan; and Warsaw, Poland, among other cities.

Lonny Olinick
CEO, AWAL

Artist streams at AWAL, the recorded-music division of Kobalt, have more than doubled in the past year, says Olinick, 38, who has run it since 2018. And revenue is up some 80% in the most recent fiscal year, according to the company. (AWAL does not report the dollar volume of its results.) “The roster continues to grow with some of the most exciting artists and labels, including Lauv, Kim Petras, Steve Lacy, Omar Apollo, girl in red, Finneas, Gerry Cinnamon, Little Simz, Glassnote, SideOne­Dummy, B-Unique, 30th Century Records, XIX Entertainment and many others,” says Olinick. Under Kobalt’s business model of not owning copyrights, “artists are just starting to understand they have the power to own their creative processes.”

Ron Perry
Chairman/CEO, Columbia Records
Jenifer Mallory
Executive vp/GM, Columbia Records

If there is one song that defined pop music in 2019, it came on Columbia Records: Lil Nas X’s rap-country smash “Old Town Road,” which spent 19 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and became the chart’s longest-running No. 1 of all time last summer. Perry, 40, not only had the foresight (and smart timing) to sign Lil Nas X in March when the young rapper’s track first bubbled up online, but he also recruited country icon Billy Ray Cyrus for the single’s remix — a move that helped secure the song’s place in pop history. Lil Nas X has since picked up six Grammy nominations, including a best new artist nod, an honor he shares with a fellow Columbia breakthrough artist: Latin music singer Rosalía. Says Perry, who marked two years as the label’s head in January: “It truly feels like the new chapter of Columbia Records has just begun.”

Bruce Resnikoff
President/CEO, Universal Music Enterprises

As chief of UMG’s catalog division, Resnikoff has helped guide two major rereleases for The Beatles: 2018’s expanded White Album and a super-deluxe version of Abbey Road newly mixed by producer Giles Martin that pushed the title back to No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in September. The projects brought “bigger sales than any time in the last decade” for the Fab Four, says Resnikoff. Further 2019 highlights include building the YouTube business of veterans Frank Sinatra and Marvin Gaye with new videos for classics “Jingle Bells” and “What’s Going On,” respectively, in the fall. “It’s about reaching younger audiences we never could have reached in the traditional world,” says Resnikoff. “This is the most exciting time in the music business, particularly for catalog.”

Sylvia Rhone
Chairman/CEO, Epic Records

Epic Records artists “now occupy some very influential seats at the hip-hop table,” says Rhone, whose team scored a Hot 100 chart-topper for Travis Scott (“Highest in the Room”) and five top three debuts on the Billboard 200 with projects by Scott, Future, 21 Savage and others, while also developing such acts as Flipp Dinero and Tyla Yaweh. For Rhone, who was newly promoted to the role of chairman/CEO in April, the past year concluded on a high note. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” hit No. 1 on the Hot 100, 25 years after its release, and Camila Cabello debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with Romance (featuring “Señorita” with Shawn Mendes). “We’ve empowered visionaries,” says Rhone, “who continue to break new ground.”

Paul Rosenberg
Chairman/CEO, Def Jam Recordings; co-founder/president, Shady Records; CEO, Goliath Artists

Under Rosenberg, 48, Def Jam celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2019 with chart success from its new artists and veteran stars alike. And after its Undisputed compilation — featuring fresh signees YK Osiris, Fetty Luciano, Sneakk and others — dropped in February, Kanye West landed his ninth consecutive No. 1 album with Jesus Is King (tying a record held by Rosenberg’s management client Eminem). Rosenberg notes that he’s most proud of “Def Jam’s ability to design and execute scalable 360-degree ideas and deliver expansive yet nuanced game plans at the highest level.”

Afo Verde
Chairman/CEO, Latin Iberia; Sony Music Entertainment

Sony Music Latin took the 2019 top spot on Billboard’s year-end Top Latin Labels chart, but Verde says the real success was his division’s ability to achieve international success with deals crafted for each artist in every genre. “Latin is part of the big Sony family and not relegated; [Sony Music Group CEO] Rob Stringer is involved in everything we do, and that is incredibly motivating,” says Verde, who won a Latin Grammy as the producer for Kany García’s acclaimed Contra el Viento. Highlights of Verde’s year include the success of Rosalía, renewed agreements with Maluma and Nicky Jam, renegotiated deals for the likes of Anuel AA and the expanded reach of artists like Pedro Capó to genres beyond urban Latin.

Bryan “Birdman” Williams
Co-founder/co-CEO, Cash Money Records
Ronald “Slim” Williams
Co-founder/co-CEO, Cash Money Records

It has been a period of change for the Williams brothers as the Southern rap moguls look to move beyond their separation from Lil Wayne and the career hiatus of Nicki Minaj, who said in September she wants to focus on starting a family. But the label’s future remains bright as young talents like Blueface, whose “Thotiana” cracked the Hot 100 top 10 in March, and R&B singer Jacquees step in to become the next stars of Cash Money’s hit-making machine. There’s also plenty of value in the back catalog: The label commercially released Drake’s breakout mixtape, 2009’s So Far Gone, in February; it debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. “Being able to break some new talent is important,” says Birdman, 50. “Being consistent for over 25 years is the best part.”

Iñigo Zabala
President, Warner Music Latin America & Iberia

Zabala points to the international diversity of artists breaking on the Warner Music Latin roster in the past year, from Venezuelan singer-songwriter Danny Ocean to Puerto Rican reggaetón duo Zion & Lennox to Brazilian pop star Anitta, who scored her third top 20 hit on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart in March with “R.I.P.” alongside Sofia Reyes and Rita Ora. On Spotify’s end-of-the-decade charts, a Warner artist took the top spot in each of seven markets in which the company operates (including Latin and mainstream acts). “It’s a testament to the originality of our artists,” says Zabala, “and the strength of our global and local teams.”

 

Josh Abraham
Co-CEO, Pulse Music Group
Scott Cutler
Co-CEO, Pulse Music Group

Pulse Music Group — co-founded by Cutler, a songwriter, and Abraham, a producer — last year reported a 46% increase in its net publisher’s share (typically after paying writer royalties and co-publishing and administrative fees for subpublishers). Those results helped draw the attention of Concord Music Publishing, which in January did an A&R-driven joint venture with Pulse and bought out the firm’s longtime financial partner FujiPacific Music. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. (FujiPacific will still act as the subpublisher for the Pulse catalog in most of Asia.) Pulse had songwriting stakes in Billboard 200 No. 1s from Madonna (Starrah), Juice WRLD (Brent Faiyaz) and J. Cole’s Dreamville collective, plus Hot 100 hits like the Travis Scott No. 1 “Highest in the Room.” Says Cutler: “We know what works for writers, and we bring that firsthand knowledge to everything we do.”

Jody Gerson
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group
Marc Cimino
COO, Universal Music Publishing Group

For UMPG, Gerson has guided deals with Billie Eilish, Alicia Keys, Rosalía, Maren Morris, Post Malone, Halsey, Logic, H.E.R., Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, Bruce Springsteen and the Bee Gees. Gerson, the only woman leading a global music company, has turned the music publisher into a billion-dollar-plus company with revenue up 40% since her 2015 arrival, according to UMPG. “We are constantly pushing the envelope in ways that benefit our songwriters,” says Cimino, who leads global business strategy and oversees public policy and business development for the publisher.

Golnar Khosrowshahi
Founder/CEO, Reservoir

In October, led by its publisher’s share in Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s “Señorita,” Reservoir jumped to No. 5 on Billboard’s most recent Publishers Quarterly Hot 100 ranking, with a market share of 3.96%. “There is and always will be room for the indie among the giants — creatively, competitively and by market share,” says Khosrowshahi, 48. After becoming a force among indie music publishers, Reservoir is transitioning into a full-service music company with the acquisition of Chrysalis Records, whose catalog includes works from Sinéad O’Connor, Generation X and The Waterboys. Reservoir now represents over 110,000 copyrights and 26,000 master recordings.

Merck Mercuriadis
Founder/CEO, Hipgnosis Songs Fund

In mid-2018, Mercuriadis, 55 — who has worked as a manager of Guns N’ Roses, Beyoncé and Elton John — steered Hipgnosis onto the London Stock Exchange, raising £625 million ($833 million) from the world’s top institutional investors from July 2018 to October 2019. The company’s 2018 initial public offering was one of the biggest on the exchange. Today, the catalog-only business includes recent acquisitions of copyrights from songwriter-producers Jack Antonoff (Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey) and Jeff Bhasker (Bruno Mars, Kanye West). Hipgnosis now represents some “11,000 songs, more than 6,000 of which are No. 1s or top 10s,” says Mercuriadis.

Lawrence Mestel
Founder/CEO, Primary Wave Music

In the past year, Primary Wave boosted its 15,000-song catalog with strategic acquisitions: 50% of the intellectual-property assets of Whitney Houston’s estate; the publishing for works by multiple acts, including Boston’s multiplatinum self-titled debut album; copyrights to Culture Club’s songs (as well as master-recording income from the band’s hits); “and, most recently, a portion of the Prince estate,” says Mestel. Primary Wave’s entertainment division covers TV/film production, branding, digital marketing and talent management for Melissa Etheridge, Cee Lo Green and Anita Baker, among others. It’s all part of an overarching goal, says Mestel, “to be the best at what we do.”

Guy Moot
Co-chair/CEO, Warner Chappell Music
Carianne Marshall
Co-chair/COO, Warner Chappell Music

Moot and Marshall’s co-leadership of Warner Chappell Music was announced in January 2019. Moot arrived in April to pair with Marshall, who joined the company in 2018. They haven’t wasted a moment since, bolstering the music publisher’s global leadership team, unveiling a new brand identity, creating a song pitching system, launching the music-documentary podcast Final Sessions, striking deals with Round Hill Music and the Gene Autry Music Group, and signing writers like Lizzo, the most-nominated artist at this year’s Grammy Awards. “Our songwriters inspire us to match their creativity with the same level of imagination and ingenuity,” says Marshall. Adds Moot: “Carianne and I are really proud of the momentum we’ve built this year.”

Helen Murphy
CEO, Anthem Entertainment

In her first year as CEO at the company formerly known as ole Media Management, Murphy has overseen a name change and branding strategy, signed José Feliciano for a new album, made a move into podcasting and acquired stakes in songs from Lizzo and The Weeknd through catalog deals with, respectively, songwriters Ricky Reed and Doc McKinney. It’s all part of Murphy’s aim to reposition Anthem in the broader entertainment business. She’s also on a mission to bring more women into the company’s leadership unit, such as Ree Guyer’s Wrensong team and former Hollywood Records vp A&R Allison Hamamura, who was tapped to run Anthem Records.

Ralph Peer II
Chairman/CEO, peermusic
Mary Megan Peer
Deputy CEO, peermusic

Family-owned peermusic may be 92 years old, but it’s still thriving. As one of the world’s largest independent music publishers, it has enjoyed a 25% year-over-year increase in global receipts, according to Mary Megan Peer, buoyed by hits like Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up,” the 2019 Grammy winner for best R&B song co-penned by peermusic writer Larrance Dopson. In 2019, the company also claimed 12 tracks on Jason Aldean’s chart-topping album 9, which senior vp Michael Knox produced. In an ongoing commitment to African music, peermusic created a joint venture with the production duo Sons of Sonix, which has worked with Trey Songz, Ty Dolla $ign, Stormzy, Jennifer Lopez and Ariana Grande. “Our company was founded on the belief of putting the needs of recording artists, songwriters and music producers first,” says Ralph Peer. “Today, that is more important than ever.”

Jon Platt
Chairman/CEO, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Brian Monaco
President/global chief marketing officer, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Elicia Felix-Hughey
Senior vp global human resources, Sony/ATV Music Publishing

Since Platt succeeded Martin Bandier as chairman/CEO in April, Sony/ATV scored its eighth straight quarter as the No. 1 publisher for the top 100 radio songs on Billboard’s Publishers Quarterly chart; in 2019’s third quarter, it overtook Universal Music Publishing Group for the highest publishing share of top Hot 100 hits. Platt’s first priority as incoming chairman/CEO was to help address pay disparities at the company — expanding the bonus pool related to Sony/ATV’s takeover of EMI Music Publishing to include all employees. He tapped Felix-Hughey to recruit more diverse staff. Platt’s arrival also prompted Rihanna to sign with Sony/ATV. In July, the publisher announced its new royalty distribution system, which will let songwriters collect their royalties faster. Says Monaco, 47: “We continue to put songwriters first in everything that we do.”

 

Jennifer Breithaupt
Global consumer chief marketing officer, Citi

Breithaupt’s global team oversees 12,000-plus events through the Citi Entertainment program, but its intimate Citi Sound Vault concert series keeps creating some of pop music’s most coveted tickets. Highlights from 2019 include two underplays from Madonna at Brooklyn’s BAM Howard Gilman Opera House in September and Philadelphia’s Metropolitan Opera House in December as part of the cardmember showcase. Breithaupt also launched Citi’s #SeeHerHearHer, a social impact/mentorship program created in partnership with the Association of National Advertisers to advance gender equality within the music business. The goal, she says, is “equal representation of female talent” within ad campaigns by Citi and other brands.

Deborah Curtis
VP global brand partnerships and ­experiences, American Express

Amplifying AmEx’s brand platform, “Powerful Backing: Don’t Do Business/Live Life Without It,” while working with international partners AEG and Live Nation, Curtis has expanded her company’s global reach to include “rights and assets to tours, venues, festivals and ticketing platforms” across 40 venues in seven countries, along with nine U.S. and U.K. music festivals and presale access in 17 countries, she says. Citing recent tour partnerships with Lizzo, Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Lopez, Curtis says her team’s persistent goal is to provide cardholders with “unparalleled entertainment access and service.”

Fred Davis
Partner, The Raine Group

Davis, a former record executive and talent attorney, occupies one of the music industry’s most quietly powerful positions. Over the last two years, The Raine Group has been involved in $500 million worth of music-sector transactions, including the March sale of CD Baby’s digital operations to Downtown Music Holdings for a reported $230 million. As both an investor and adviser, Davis focuses on companies built for independent artists — like SoundCloud, free-distribution startup Amuse and Troy Carter’s music/tech company Q&A — and on platforms rather than content. “We are helping to create a sustainable music middle class for artists, which did not exist before,” says Davis, who’s still looking to deploy up to $100 million for each additional music-sector investment. “This is an important development.”

Jay Sammons
Managing director/head of global consumer, media and retail, The Carlyle Group

The private equity firm that first invested in Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings as a minority investor in 2017 became a key partner in the most high-profile content deal of 2019 when it backed Braun’s $300 million purchase of Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group, which included Taylor Swift’s pre-Lover catalog. Although Swift has criticized the deal (and the role of private equity in the music industry), Sammons describes it as a continuation of Carlyle’s strategy of backing high-growth, founder-led businesses: “We invest in companies that have the potential for significant growth and in business models or brands that are going to endure over a long period of time. We saw such an opportunity when we invested in Ithaca in 2017, and it is the reason we supported the company again this year. It was a fantastic opportunity to combine innovative entertainment platforms and help them continue to build what we believe is one of the best businesses in music.”

 

Lisa Alter
Founding partner, Alter Kendrick & Baron

As an adviser to music publishers, equity investors, musicians and songwriters alike, Alter oversees every aspect of her clients’ complex music publishing transactions, from the initial exploratory stage to drafting, negotiating, closing and, as she says, going “beyond.” Alter closed out 2019 with a bevy of complex deals, including publisher Primary Wave’s recent acquisition of stakes in catalogs for Paul Anka and the late Bob Marley and Whitney Houston. “From my perspective,” says Alter, “the more complicated the deal, the more interesting.”

John Branca
Partner/music department head, Ziffren Brittenham

It was a “challenging year” for the Michael Jackson estate, says co-executor Branca, who had to spend time in 2019 taking action in response to revived accusations of sexual abuse leveled at the King of Pop following the premiere of HBO’s Leaving Neverland at Sundance last January. Despite many calls for Jackson to be “canceled” in the documentary’s wake, Branca says the late star’s core fan base has remained faithful: His catalog outpaced the U.S. industry in streaming growth year over year, with a 31.9% gain to 2.125 billion streams. “Laws don’t protect dead people from slander,” he says of the estate’s current fight, a $100 million lawsuit against HBO that is in arbitration. Meanwhile, MJ, the previously announced Jackson musical, is on track for a Broadway debut in mid-2020.

Allen Grubman
Founder/senior partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Kenny Meiselas
Senior partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks

Founded in 1974 as a one-man shop, Grubman’s firm has since grown to 45 attorneys working in film, TV, music and gaming. Along with major media and streaming companies, the firm represents marquee clients like Bruce Springsteen, U2, Madonna, Lionel Richie, Barbra Streisand and Sting, as well as the “next generation of superstars,” says the 77-year-old Grubman, like The Weeknd, Lizzo, Lil Nas X, Bebe Rexha and Ella Mai. “What I’m doing personally is looking at creative ways for some of the really major artists [to] deal with their business and how they deal with their assets. It’s not just music. It’s a very interesting time.”

Joel A. Katz
Founding chairman of the global media and entertainment group, founding member of the Atlanta office; Greenberg Traurig

For five decades, Katz has brokered watershed deals for clients including Jimmy Buffett, the Recording Academy, the Country Music Association, Alibaba and the Michael Jackson estate, for which he serves as co-general counsel. During the past 18 months, he guided a trifecta of agreements that are “changing the industry,” he says, citing Jon Platt’s contract to lead Sony/ATV Music Publishing, AEG’s purchase of a 50% stake in Australia’s Frontier Touring and the $300 million sale of Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Music Group to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings.

Dina LaPolt
Founder/owner, LaPolt Law

LaPolt’s years in the trenches of copyright policy and her work for clients including Steven Tyler, Mick Fleetwood, Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears and deadmau5 have made her an industry problem-solver. At the front lines of the fight for the Music Modernization Act in 2018, she helped shepherd the bill into law in October of that year; four months later, she faced off against the Department of Homeland Security to help secure the release of 21 Savage from Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention. “There are a lot of great lawyers in this business, but it’s not just about closing deals,” says LaPolt, 53. “Who can work in public policy, politics and also get every chairman of every record label on the phone? I get shit done.”

Donald Passman
Partner, Gang Tyre Ramer Brown & Passman

Don’t look to Passman to discuss the legal affairs of his superstar clients, said to include P!nk, Adele, Stevie Wonder, Heart, Paul Simon and Taylor Swift. But like Swift, whose music business discussions often are aimed at the next generation of artists, Passman has been a legal mentor to many through his book All You Need to Know About the Music Business, first published in 1991. The 10th and most recent edition had Passman making his most drastic changes to date. “Streaming has so radically changed the music business that the book had to be wholesale slashed, added to and rearranged,” he says. “I would hope the book is continuing to help educate people who want to be in the music business.”

Debbie White
Partner/vice chair, music industry; Loeb & Loeb

Working with what she calls “a diverse group of incredibly talented clients who are breaking ground in their own genres,” White represents BTS, the first K-pop group to become a stadium-filling star act; Melanie Martinez, who made a feature film to accompany her album K-12; Regina Spektor, who wrote and recorded the theme to the film Bombshell; perennial hitmaker Diane Warren; and The Who, fresh off a North America tour that ended in October. Named Billboard’s top music lawyer for 2019, White also has a corporate client list that includes Tencent, Citi and Uber. “My goal is to give my clients the utmost peace of mind,” she says, “[so] that when it comes to their legal and business needs they have someone they can trust that puts their best interests first.”

 

Raúl Alarcón Jr.
Chairman/CEO, Spanish Broadcasting System

SBS, whose assets include radio, TV, live concerts and the music app LaMusica, reported in December that it was in the process of securing $300 million in debt financing as part of a recapitalization plan. The company boasts strong ratings for its key radio stations, including WSKQ (La Mega) New York, the city’s most-listened-to Spanish-language station. “SBS is honored to have served as a springboard in launching the careers of every major Hispanic artist and popular musical genre during the last 37 years,” says Alarcón, 64, of his network, which bets heavily on new music.

Mary G. Berner
President/CEO, Cumulus Media

After Berner led Cumulus out of a bankruptcy and through a much-needed debt reduction of over $1 billion, the company achieved its first full year of revenue growth in 2018, “which has continued through the third quarter of 2019,” she says. According to the company, Cumulus reaches over 250 million monthly listeners through its 428 owned and operated stations and Westwood One’s audio network of 8,000 affiliate stations. Berner also committed to investing in Cumulus’ underserved business sectors of digital, streaming and podcasts. “We’ve firmly established Cumulus as one of the country’s top audio-first media and entertainment companies,” she says.

David Field
Chairman/president/CEO, Entercom
Pat Paxton
Chief programming officer, Entercom

Driven by acquisitions of studio/distributor Cadence13 and producer Pineapple Street Studios, radio giant Entercom became the No. 3 podcaster in the United States this year, behind iHeartMedia and NPR. Those podcasts and over 500 radio stations are accessible via Entercom’s Radio.com platform, which Field says is the “fastest-growing digital audio app in the country.” In September, Entercom outlets and Radio.com hosted a two-hour commercial-free special to raise awareness about mental health, with segments from Lizzo, Halsey, Shawn Mendes and others.

Scott Greenstein
President/chief content officer, SiriusXM

Amid multiple achievements at SiriusXM in the past year — the acquisition of Pandora, reaching 34.9 million paid subscribers, opening state-of-the-art studios in Los Angeles, and deals with Drake, Marvel and Netflix — high on Greenstein’s list is how the satellite broadcaster leveraged resources behind Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Most didn’t have [the song] on their radar. With SiriusXM and Pandora working in unison, we can effectively break artists we believe in,” says Greenstein, 60. “Our model is based on our belief in content, and everything else follows that.”

Tamara Hrivnak
VP music business development and partnerships, Facebook
Malika Quemerais
Head of music partnerships, Facebook

Focused on connecting artists with fans across all of its platforms, Facebook has boosted its importance to both groups. In the past year, the company’s music team launched music stickers with lyrics on Facebook and Instagram, “giving people more ways to come together around music,” says Hrivnak. “At a divisive time, these bonds matter.” Quemerais, 34, worked with Kelsea Ballerini and Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman on the first Women of Music in Nashville event at the CMA Festival in June. “Today, music listeners have access to more music than ever before, but they do not always get to know the story or the person behind the song,” says Quemerais, adding that Facebook platforms “are uniquely positioned to turn listeners into fans.”

Jesus Lara
President of radio, Univision Communications

Lara, 47, has guided what he describes as an “audio evolution” at Univision as the Latin broadcaster transitions to Uforia, a multiplatform strategy that includes a relaunched mobile app, a partnership with Napster, live events and a roster of influential on-air talent. Univision has extended the Uforia brand to its TV programming with a special exploring the rise of Latin urban music. Says Lara: “We are laser-focused on our mission of empowering, informing and entertaining the Hispanic community in the U.S.”

Bob Pittman
Chairman/CEO, iHeartMedia
John Sykes
President of entertainment enterprises, iHeartMedia
Tom Poleman
Chief programming officer/president of the national programming group, iHeartMedia

IHeartMedia emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May and went public in July. Over the past decade, the company changed from a single-platform radio broadcast operator to multiple platforms, including digital streaming, podcasting and live events. It is now the top commercial podcaster in the United States (second overall only to NPR) as measured by monthly downloads and unique listeners, according to podcast analytics company Podtrac. “At the same time,” says Pittman, 66, “we continued to grow our digital platform and are now the No. 1 streaming radio service, with over six times the audience of the next largest commercial broadcaster.”

 

Randy Grimmett
CEO, Global Music Rights

The number of creators serviced by the 6-year-old performing rights organization Global Music Rights rose to 82 in 2019, with Childish Gambino and Nicki Minaj joining GMR’s selective roster that includes Drake, Travis Scott and Bruno Mars. In GMR’s antitrust suit against the 10,000-member Radio Music License Committee, the Department of Justice in December weighed in to reject RMLC’s argument that GMR’s complaint should be dismissed. (The RMLC has challenged the validity of the DOJ’s position.) Says Grimmett: “We have one mission: to fight for songwriters and publishers.”

Michael Huppe
President/CEO, SoundExchange

Under Huppe, 51, SoundExchange has projected over $900 million in 2019 royalty payouts to performers and record labels for U.S. digital performances. The rights organization has also been “leading the fight” on behalf of music creators, says Huppe, in supporting the Ask Musicians for Music Act (AM-FM Act). Introduced in Congress in November, the bill would give recording rights holders the ability to decide whether to allow AM/FM radio to use their music for free or to negotiate compensation for their work. It’s seen as a step toward artists and rights holders receiving terrestrial royalties for radio airplay.

John Josephson
Chairman/CEO, SESAC

SESAC, the third-largest performing rights organization in the United States, continues to expand both domestically and internationally. In 2019 it began representing songwriters including David Crosby, Incubus’ Mike Einziger, YG and the late Ric Ocasek. A $560 million refinance of its capital structure in August “was a first for the music industry,” says Josephson, 58. It inked a new deal with BMG to administer licenses in India through Mint, its joint venture with Swiss collection society SUISA. And SESAC’s Harry Fox Agency won a contract to develop a rights administration and interface development contract for the Music Licensing Collective.

Elizabeth Matthews
CEO, ASCAP

Guiding ASCAP on behalf of its 735,000-plus members — including 2019 breakout star Billie Eilish — Matthews in 2019 continued the organization’s push for consent decree reform, oversaw the rebranding of its ASCAP Experience conference and launched a health and wellness initiative which, says Matthews, “will have meaningful positive impact on creators’ lives,” adding: “Every day the work we do at ASCAP helps songwriters to pay their rent, put food on the table, send their kids to school or buy the instruments they need to practice their craft. We are constantly focused on helping our members be their creative best so that they can make a living creating the music we all love.”

Mike O’Neill
President/CEO, BMI

Under O’Neill, 58, BMI in 2019 reached record revenue of $1.283 billion and distributed $1.196 billion to its members — the organization’s highest-ever distribution, up $78 million over the prior year. BMI has a 1 million-strong pool of songwriter-composers — Mark Ronson, Ed Sheeran (in the United States), Taylor Swift and others — who represent 15 million compositions. How to maintain that edge? “Even though we are an 80-year-old company, I want our team to think they are the disrupters and that we are a 2-year-old company struggling to make it,” says O’Neill. “You have to challenge yourself every day not to accept the norm.”

 

Richard James Burgess
President/CEO, American Association of Independent Music

Burgess’ recent advocacy efforts on behalf of A2IM’s 600-plus independent label members included partnering with the Music Artists Coalition and the RIAA to amend California’s “gig economy” law that affects independent creators. In June, A2IM celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Indie Week conference. The event has increased its attendance fivefold since it began, and this year featured keynote speakers such as U.S. Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY9) and register of copyrights Karyn A. Temple, along with panels on streaming ethics, the use of artificial intelligence in A&R and other topics. In December, Burgess oversaw the launch of A2IM Artist, calling it a platform to “fill an educational need for self-releasing artists.”

Alisa Coleman
Board chair, Mechanical Licensing Collective

Coleman, the COO of ABKCO Music & Records, bridges the worlds of music publishing and public policy. She’s recognized on the Billboard Power List in her role as board chair of the Mechanical Licensing Collective, set up as a result of the passage of the Music Modernization Act in 2018. (Coleman is also a member of the RIAA board and president of the New York chapter of the Association of Independent Music Publishers.) She’ll work with MLC CEO Kris Ahrend, named in January. Effective as of Jan. 1, 2021, the MLC will grant blanket mechanical licenses and collect royalties for pub- lishers, songwriters, composers and lyricists. The MLC, says Coleman, “is the future of the music industry.”

Mitch Glazier
Chairman/CEO, RIAA

In his first year as RIAA’s chief executive, Glazier, 53, had to “reboot and realign” the record-label trade organization to better serve today’s “streaming economy,” he says. In February, the RIAA reported that U.S. retail revenue from recorded music in 2018 rose 12% to $9.8 billion, with roughly three-quarters of that sum coming from streaming. Glazier notes that the RIAA board has become more diverse. It includes more women, more representation of indie labels and, for the first time, a Latin label member. And “although it is certain to be appealed,” notes Glazier, RIAA member companies and music publishers closed out 2019 with a landmark $1 billion verdict in their copyright infringement suit against Cox Communications.

David Israelite
President/CEO, National Music Publishers’ Association

During 2019, the NMPA chief, 51, pushed back against appeals from Spotify, Amazon, Google and Pandora of the Copyright Royalty Board ruling, finalized in February, that will “raise interactive streaming royalty rates 44% over the next five years,” he says. Following the passage of the Music Modernization Act in 2018, the NMPA also helped establish the Mechanical Licensing Collective to track, collect and distribute mechanical licenses from streaming services in the United States. Says Israelite, “We’re now on pace to open the MLC on time” — in January 2021 — “and change the global music business forever.”

Frances Moore
Chief executive, IFPI

Moore has been a fierce opponent of the “value gap,” described by IFPI as the mismatch between the value that user-upload services (notably YouTube) gain from music and the revenue returned to rights holders. She led the global recorded-music trade association’s fight to pass the European Union Copyright Directive in March. If fully implemented by individual EU members, the directive would provide the framework for music to be “valued fairly,” says Moore. “We knew if the industry was going to develop in the digital age, this value gap had to be dealt with.” Other IFPI wins in 2019 include successful copyright infringement actions in Spain, Australia, Denmark, Italy and Russia and shutting down stream-ripping site Convert2MP3 as part of a 2017 lawsuit settlement. According to IFPI, last year alone the site had 684 million visitors.

Contributors: Justino Águila, Rich Appel, Steve Baltin, Alexei Barrionuevo, Jeff Benjamin, Karen Bliss, Dave Brooks, Dean Budnick, Judy Cantor-Navas, Britina Cheng, Ed Christman, Tatiana Cirisano, Leila Cobo, Jonathan Cohen, Danica Daniel, Frank DiGiacomo, Camille Dodero, Chris Eggertsen, Suzette Fernandez, Adrienne Gaffney, Bianca Gracie, Gary Graff, Sarah Grant, Hannah Karp, Gil Kaufman, Steve Knopper, Juliana Koranteng, Katy Kroll, Carl Lamarre, Rob LeDonne, Robert Levine, Joe Levy, Geoff Mayfield, David Menconi, Taylor Mims, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Cathy Applefeld Olson, Paula Parisi, Chris Payne, Glenn Peoples, Alex Pham, Brian Reesman, Claudia Rosenbaum, Dan Rys, Micah Singleton, Richard Smirke, Taylor Weatherby, Deborah Wilker, Nick Williams, Xander Zellner.

Methodology: Billboard editors weighed a variety of factors in determining the 2020 Billboard Power List, including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors, and impact on consumer behavior as measured by chart, sales and streaming performance, social media impressions and radio/TV audiences reached, using data available as of Dec. 2, 2019. (Nielsen Music/MRC Data information in profiles is updated as of Jan. 9.) Year-end Billboard charts for 2019, career trajectory and industry impact were also considered, as were financial results when available. 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. 

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 25, 2020 issue of Billboard.


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