Business

The 2020 Billboard Impact List Revealed

Plenty of accomplished executives beyond the scope of Billboard’s Power List are shaping the industry’s future. This tally of talent honors 22 of those individuals who are making exceptional strides.   

Melissa Ormond
COO of festivals, AEG Presents

Yuri Hasegawa
Melissa Ormond photographed on Jan. 6, 2020 at AEG Presents in Los Angeles.

In 2019, AEG Presents’ festival division had its biggest year yet, growing its portfolio into over 40 properties. Ormond, among the top women executives in the live-music business, helped drive that growth. Each of the AEG Presents festivals on sale for this year is already outperforming last year’s results, including Electric Forest in Michigan, the Hangout Music Festival in Alabama, the Buku Music + Art Project in Louisiana, the Buckeye Country Superfest in Ohio and the Stagecoach Festival in California, says Ormond. (Stagecoach in 2019 had its most successful year to date, drawing 80,000 fans, according to AEG Presents.) “We worked hard to refine each festival individually through talent, experience, branding, partnerships, etc.,” says Ormond. “The effort is paying off.”

Alana Balden
Manager, Full Stop Management

As part of the Full Stop Management team, Balden, 31, worked with one of 2019’s most commanding young stars, Lizzo, who leads the field of nominees at the 62nd Grammy Awards. “There have been so many proud moments this year,” says Balden, “from the seven weeks Lizzo’s ‘Truth Hurts’ spent at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, to having two songs [“Truth Hurts,” “Good as Hell”] in the top 10, to her North American and European tours [which have sold out, according to Full Stop]. However, seeing it all come together with eight Grammy nominations was the ultimate highlight, and such a reward for Lizzo and her team’s hard work.”

Sara Bollwinkel
Agent, Paradigm Talent Agency

Four years ago, Bollwinkel, 35, signed Billie Eilish, then just 14, to Paradigm, with an assist from senior partner Tom Windish. In 2019, the alt-pop phenomenon scored No. 1s on both the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 (with debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and single “Bad Guy,” respectively) and achieved a near-immediate sellout for her first arena tour, according to Paradigm. Bollwinkel’s approach to her work mirrors that of her successful young client. “I’m constantly pushing to exceed my own expectations,” she says. “I won’t be satisfied until I can look in the mirror and say, ‘Yo. Not bad, sis.’ ”

Courtesy of Sara Bollwinkel
From left: Reece, O’Connell, Bollwinkel and Eilish in 2019.

Bernie Cahill
Co-founding partner, Activist Artists Management

Activist Artists Management client Dead & Company had another blockbuster year, grossing $60.6 million over 24 dates. The band’s four-day stand last January in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, was the No. 5 Boxscore of 2019, grossing $17 million. But rather than focus on ticket sales, Cahill prefers to credit his longtime co-workers, who are “dedicated to our mission to amplify our clients’ social impact work alongside their musical careers,” he says. “When you are lucky enough to represent artists like Michael Franti, Bob Weir, Dead & Company [co-managed by Azoff/Moir] and The Lumineers, you see firsthand every day the positive impact they have on the world.”

“Brooklyn Johnny” Descartes
Founder/CEO, District 18 Entertainment

Descartes, better known by his nickname, Brooklyn Johnny, began 2019 cheering on Cardi B as she became the first solo female artist to win a Grammy Award for best rap album, with her full-length debut, Invasion of Privacy, on which Johnny was executive producer. As an A&R consultant for Atlantic Records, he brought Cardi B to the label, where she was signed in 2017. “It’s like a brother-sister relationship,” he says of their dynamic. In late 2018, Johnny struck a joint-venture deal with RCA Records to develop his District 18 Entertainment label. As a manager and label executive, Johnny hopes to nurture future Grammy winners. “When you’re in a certain moment, you just have to go hard in order to get to the next thing,” he says.

Lucy Dickins
Head of U.K. music, WME

In June, Dickins joined WME from International Talent Booking, where she had worked for two decades, to run the agency’s U.K. music division. In her new role, she brought along her stellar client roster, which includes Adele, Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling and James Blake. “I’m currently just really proud to say I work for WME,” says Dickins, explaining that the Endeavor-owned company offers her clients many additional opportunities. “We have such a broad network beyond music, so the possibilities for clients are infinite.”

Alex Gallardo
President, Sony Music Latin

In his first year as president of Sony Music Latin, Gallardo, 44, signed Puerto Rican star Ozuna to a multimillion-dollar contract that is reported to be one of the largest global deals for a Latin artist. The agreement includes multiple future albums and rights to the reggaetonero’s two previous albums. But, most notably, the transaction signaled a shift from the long-standing practice of Spanish-speaking artists signing separate, concurrent deals with a regional Latin imprint and a major label that caters to the English-speaking market. Instead, Sony brokered one all-encompassing global deal for Ozuna. Notes Gallardo: “We also have renewed deals with Nicky Jam, Farruko and Gerardo Ortiz.”

Brandon Goodman
Co-founder, Best Friends Music
Danny Rukasin
Co-founder, Best Friends Music

Rukasin, 41, and Goodman, 35, are the management team behind Billie Eilish (as well as her brother and collaborator, Finneas O’Connell) and they’re anticipating the night of the Grammy Awards, where their young superstar client has been nominated in six categories, including best new artist. “Billie’s impact on culture has been incredible to see,” says Goodman. “She is redefining pop music by showing that [an artist’s] approach to their music, visuals and overall brand can be unique and different and still appeal to the masses.” Rukasin and Goodman have also worked with Eilish to meet her goal “of having a more eco-friendly business, including working to offset carbon emissions while touring and making a more green space on both her photo and video shoots.”

Zeina Grenier
Head of North America music publishing, Facebook
Anjali Malhotra
Director of international music publishing, Facebook

“Everything we do around music at Facebook is rooted in community building and connections for artists, writers and fans,” says Malhotra, 38, who works with Grenier, 40, on the company’s relationships with publishers and related deals. Their efforts have helped make it possible for users to add music to Facebook and Instagram Stories, share live singalongs with Lip Synch Live and (through an agreement with Musixmatch) add lyrics to these features. “I’m really inspired by the opportunity we have in adding new avenues for fans to connect with the music that they love,” says Grenier.

David Klein
Agent, music leadership; UTA

In his second full year at UTA, Klein, 38, signed Jason Derulo and, with colleague Jbeau Lewis, Chance the Rapper, who enlisted the agency to handle his touring outside North America, as well as other projects. Klein also orchestrated a “totally sold-out” tour for electronic-music duo Empire of the Sun, he says, and launched a live career for Scarypoolparty, the recording name of recent American Idol runner-up Alejandro Aranda, who staged a 28-city tour during 2019, according to Klein.

Soo-Man Lee
Executive producer, SM Entertainment

SuperM, the “supergroup” recruited from members of other Korean boy bands and described by Lee as his “new vision for K-pop,” became the first Korean act to debut its first album on the Billboard 200, in October with its self-titled EP. Active in entertainment since the 1970s, Lee says SM’s dedication to “culture first, economy next” shapes his partnerships with Capitol Music Group and Global Citizen. For the latter organization, he will be executive director for the Seoul date of the Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream charity concert in September.

Justin Lubliner
CEO, The Darkroom

“I felt it in my chest,” says Lubliner of the moment he heard Billie Eilish, then just 13 years old, sing “Ocean Eyes.” “I knew she was going to be the biggest star in the world.” Through a joint venture between The Darkroom, led by 29-year-old Lubliner, and Interscope Records, Eilish, now 18, closed 2019 at No. 1 on the year-end Top Billboard 200 Albums chart with When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Lubliner, along with Eilish’s managers Danny Rukasin and Brandon Goodman, says the strategy from the start was to “focus on her body of work, not just individual songs,” an approach that included custom campaigns for Spotify, Apple, YouTube and Amazon. “I truly believe Billie is the first artist to break purely off of streaming,” says Lubliner. “As a company we’ve really made an impact on the way artists are promoted to a new generation of listeners.”

Kenny MacPherson
Co-founder/CEO, Big Deal Music Group

MacPherson rose to his CEO role in June, halfway through a groundbreaking year in which Big Deal Music inked partnerships with Diplo’s Mad Decent Publishing and Ricky Reed’s Nice Life Copyright Co. — the latter bringing writer-producer Tele (co-author of Lizzo’s Hot 100 No. 1 “Truth Hurts”) into the Big Deal fold. Shawn Mendes’ primary collaborator, Teddy Geiger, also renewed her contract with the independent publisher in 2019, while Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) scored placement on Taylor Swift’s latest Billboard 200 No. 1, Lover, with a songwriting credit on “Cruel Summer.” Says MacPherson, who has been in publishing for nearly 40 years, “I still can’t believe I get to do this day in and day out.”

Mark Surridge
Ollier (left) and Sheeran in London in 2018.

Jon Ollier
International booking agent, music; Creative Artists Agency

Ollier, 36, is a rising star at CAA, a company “that puts philanthropy, diversity and opportunity at the center of its business model,” he says. Focused abroad, he brought British singer-songwriter Anne-Marie to the main stage at England’s Glastonbury Festival in 2019 while indie star Lauv toured Europe, Asia and Australia. But he’s also “beyond proud and humbled” to have booked Ed Sheeran — whom CAA represents outside the United States and Canada — on what “was crowned the most-attended and highest-grossing tour of all time.”

Bobby Rosenbloum
Vice chairman of global entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig

Rosenbloum, 50, leads a team of 85 entertainment and media attorneys that “has worked on deals that are worth over $2.5 billion for the music industry this year, across a variety of companies over the past 18 months,” he says, citing clients including the Recording Academy, Dick Clark Productions, iHeartRadio, Facebook, Amazon, Spotify, Twitch, TikTok, Condé Nast and Tesla. While other firms might wrestle over who gets what slice of the pie, “our perspective is a little different,” he says. “We ask, ‘How do we grow the pie?’ ”

Corey Sheridan
Head of music partnerships and operations, North America; TikTok

After arriving at TikTok last April, Sheridan, 40, increased the number of artists who engage with the fast-growing video app from a few to 750 by year’s end. “We’re seeing established artists who use the platform day in and day out, like The Chainsmokers, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Post Malone and Camila Cabello,” says Sheridan. “We also have up-and-coming artists who have had success on TikTok, like Lizzo, Lil Nas X, Luh Kel, Stunna Girl and Blanco Brown. Ultimately, we are helping artists with their careers.”

Ebonie Smith
Senior audio engineer/producer, Atlantic Records; founder/president, Gender Amplified

With the support of Atlantic Records, Smith, 34, an in-house engineer/producer at the label, has launched Gender Amplified, a nonprofit group that aims to celebrate women in music production, raise their visibility and nurture the next generation of female producers. She spearheaded the recording camp Ctrl Room Series in collaboration with New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, with “generous support” from Atlantic, says Smith. “I’m thankful to work for a company that values gender parity in recording studios and empowers me to lead by example each day.”

Ben Vaughn
President/CEO, Warner Chappell Music Nashville

Less than a year after Vaughn, 44, added CEO to his title, Warner Chappell Music earned country music publisher of the year honors from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC during Country Music Week in November. As the company won the Nashville music publishing industry’s unofficial triple crown, Warner Chappell writers collected a landmark 56 honors from the three PROs. Nicolle Galyon, who co-authored Dan + Shay’s “Tequila,” took home BMI’s songwriter of the year award, while the Brothers Osborne received ASCAP’s Vanguard Award. Says Vaughn of his company’s success: “It’s a truly remarkable achievement that took a committed team. There’s no better feeling than jumping in the truck and blasting a song from a Warner Chappell Music writer that they put their heart into.”

Geof Wills
President, Live Nation Comedy

With his team of 13, Wills, 56, booked 1,341 live comedy shows for some 75 performers in 2019, up from 1,066 in 2018, evidence of the growth of the genre on the road. “We always call it the stepchild of the music industry, but comedy is a much more mature business than it was five years ago,” says the veteran agent, who began his career with Bill Graham Presents. During 2019, he booked headliners including Chelsea Handler, Dave Chappelle, Ali Wong and Hasan Minhaj, but he also handles shows for TV, film and digital personalities, including YouTube political satirist Randy Rainbow, and the Up Close & Personal tour, a string of live appearances from the cast of Schitt’s Creek. “Typically during Republican presidencies, we’ve been busier,” says Wills about the recent market boom. “People need some relief, I guess.”

Jaime Zeluck Hindlin
Founder/owner, Nonstop Management

With prior A&R experience at Prescription Songs and Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Zeluck Hindlin, 34, launched Nonstop Management in 2018 and has since lived up to her company’s name on behalf of her songwriter-producer clients. Michael Pollack and JKash co-wrote “Memories” for Maroon 5; the song is the first top five hit on the Hot 100 for both Pollack and Nonstop. Writers Jake Torrey and Sam Farrar (of Maroon 5) co-wrote “Don’t Give Up On Me,” recorded by Andy Grammar and featured in the film Five Feet Apart. “We’ve been involved in quite a few songs that have shed light on important messages to help others this past year,” adds Zeluck Hindlin. Proceeds from Lauv’s “Sad Forever,” co-written by Torrey, will go to mental health fundraising, while James Arthur’s “Quite Miss Home,” co-written by Pollack, benefits City of Hope in memory of producer-songwriter busbee.

Contributors: Jeff Benjamin, Karen Bliss, Dean Budnick, Chris Eggertsen, Suzette Fernandez, Adrienne Gaffney, Sarah Grant, Gil Kaufman, Carl Lamarre, Rob LeDonne, Taylor Mims, Gail Mitchell, Alex Pham, Deborah Wilker, Nick Williams

Methodology: Billboard editors weighed a variety of factors in determining the 2020 Billboard Impact 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, 2020.) Honorees recognized in the 2019 New Power Generation feature (the predecessor to this list) were not eligible. 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.