Women in Music 2018: The Most Powerful Executives in the Industry
Billboard’s annual celebration of more than 120 female industry leaders, veterans and next-gen talents.
Aguirre recently led the Copyright Royalty Board proceedings on behalf of music publishers and songwriters, achieving an unprecedented 43.8 percent raise for them in early 2018. Since joining the NMPA in 2011, she has negotiated industrywide deals with digital behemoths like YouTube and Spotify, netting music creators hundreds of millions of dollars.
MMA Role: Served as general counsel for the NMPA.
Of counsel, Covington & Burling
Before joining Covington, Charlesworth served as general counsel/associate register of copyrights for the U.S. Copyright Office. She has also held roles as general counsel of the National Music Publishers’ Association and The Harry Fox Agency.
MMA Role: Retained by the NMPA to draft language of the consensus bill.
SUSAN GENCO, 52
Co-president, Azoff MSG Entertainment
Works alongside co-president Elizabeth Collins, Irving Azoff and his son Jeffrey as they continue to develop their multifaceted entertainment and media company.
MMA Role: Negotiated a key last-minute compromise between the major labels and SiriusXM regarding royalty payments for pre-1972 recordings.
DINA LAPOLT, 52
Founder/owner, LaPolt Law
Her boutique nine-lawyer firm represents Steven Tyler and Britney Spears. A staunch advocate for music creators, LaPolt co-founded Songwriters of North America.
MMA Role: Counsel to SONA.
On Oct. 13, 2017, Danielle Aguirre, executive vp/general counsel for the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), and Dina LaPolt, who was working alongside her as legal counsel to Songwriters of North America (SONA), attended a fraught “come-to-Jesus” meeting, as the latter put it, in the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.
At issue was the survival of the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act -- the MMA, as it’s commonly called -- legislation the two lawyers agreed was a much-needed game-changer for how artists and songwriters working in music’s digital era were compensated.
Not everyone in the room felt the same way, however. In the run-up to the Capitol Hill meeting, LaPolt says that a number of the participants were “feeling incredibly beat up by all the lawyers, lobbyists and big personalities” involved in the process and whose competing agendas threatened to crush the bill. If the MMA was to be spared, the six stakeholders who had come together in Collins’ office with under 24 hours’ notice -- including representatives from the two major performing rights organizations (PRO), ASCAP and BMI, the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and the Digital Media Association (DiMA), which represents online retailers -- would all have to accept the bill’s material deal points.
Three hours and a host of tense moments later, Aguirre, who was running point on the legislation, had brokered a final compromise that enabled the bill to be introduced to the House of Representatives. “She’s small, but mighty,” declared LaPolt about the 5-foot-1 Aguirre, prompting laughter in the room.
During the next year, the quip would become a rallying cry as Aguirre, LaPolt and two other attorneys enlisted to help -- Jacqueline Charlesworth, of counsel to Covington & Burling, and Susan Genco, co-president of Azoff MSG Entertainment -- played critical roles in getting the MMA over hurdle after daunting hurdle and before the pen of President Donald Trump, who signed the bill into law on Oct. 11, marking a watershed moment for the music industry and the songwriters that help to feed it.
Ultimately, a small army of congressional staffers, lobbyists and executives -- including NMPA president David Israelite, NSAI executive director Bart Herbison, RIAA president Mitch Glazier and general counsel Steve Marks, DiMA CEO Chris Harrison, ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews, BMI president/CEO Mike O’Neill and Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP) managing director Alisa Coleman -- all played integral roles in making the law a reality. But as Collins, a champion of songwriters and music publishers, says, “Danielle, Dina, Jacqueline and Susan each helped propel the MMA forward at key junctures.
“Without these leaders’ talent and tenacity, the modernizing of music copyright would still seem like a fool’s errand,” he adds. “Instead, we have made it the most meaningful copyright update of the digital age.”
In recognition of their mighty achievement, the four have been named Billboard’s Women in Music Executives of the Year. Read the full story here.
Bringing a new vibe to the Island: Burnette joined the label in September after a successful run as senior vp marketing at Epic. Alongside new Island president Darcus Beese and COO Eric Wong, the Billboard 2017 40 Under 40 honoree says her chief goal at the primarily pop label will be “developing its R&B/hip-hop space.” Island, which turns 60 in 2019, will close out this year with a number of wins, including Shawn Mendes’ No. 1 Adult Top 40 hit, “In My Blood,” which has generated 236 million streams.
NICKI FARAG, 39
Executive vp/head of promotion, Def Jam Recordings
JENNIFER HIRSCH-DAVIS, 44
Vp finance, Def Jam Recordings/Island Records
G.O.O.D. music and new stars: Farag, a 15-year Def Jam vet, was promoted in March, becoming the label’s first female head of promotion, and she’s already predicting tomorrow’s superstars. Singer-songwriter Arlissa, whom Farag calls “the next Whitney Houston,” signed with the label in 2018 and had her first hit with “Hearts Ain’t Gonna Lie,” a collaboration with Jonas Blue that peaked at No. 26 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart. Another big moment was the Def Jam/G.O.O.D. Music release of five Kanye West-produced albums in five consecutive weeks, with one -- West’s Ye -- hitting No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Hirsch-Davis calls the planning, coordination and execution of those releases “a real accomplishment for me.”
Mantra: (Farag) “Be patient.”
Executive vp strategic marketing, Warner Bros. Records
Executive vp/CFO, Warner Bros. Records
Renaissance women: Feldman linked Dua Lipa with Mastercard and Hilton; expanded Jason Derulo’s Coca-Cola relationship to 100 new world markets, according to the company; and placed Bryce Vine in The Sound Drop by Pepsi, which led to over 9.6 million views. “There are an infinite number of places to go,” she says of the branding opportunities she has brokered for WBR acts. Snodgrass credits the streaming boom for a number of the label’s successes, including, she says, a third-quarter revenue boost of 4.5 percent and a digital revenue bump of 16 percent. She also managed the 2018 business plans for Lipa, Bebe Rexha and Lil Pump, among others, and credits them for ushering in a new era of creative growth at the label.
Good cause: (Snodgrass) “I’m a member of the XX Fund, a women’s giving circle that gives annual grants to nonprofit L.A. organizations that promote women’s well-being. It gives special consideration to women-led groups and groups in which $15,000 will make an impactful difference.”
MARIA FERNANDEZ, 45
Executive vp/COO, Sony Music Latin Iberia
Latin music leader: The Venezuelan native was promoted to her current position this year, giving her oversight of joint ventures, human resources and information standards and technology. “We have significantly developed our analytical capabilities, which is critical for success,” says Fernandez, who cites the renegotiation of Colombian reggaetón star Maluma’s recording deal as one of her top achievements of the year. The other: strategically positioning the division for sustained growth -- year to date, Sony Music’s current share of the Latin market rose to 53 percent, up from 39.7 percent.
Canceled: “[Venezuelan President] Nicolás Maduro.”
Executive vp, Atlantic Records
Executive vp brand partnerships and commercial licensing, Atlantic Records
Executive vp urban radio promotion, Atlantic Records
Cardi hearty: The week of Nov. 17 exemplified Jones’ successful 2018. Atlantic had three tracks in the top 10 of the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart: “Ring” by Cardi B featuring Kehlani; “Dangerous” by Meek Mill featuring Jeremih and PnB Rock; and “Wake Up in the Sky” by Gucci Mane, Bruno Mars and Kodak Black. “Cardi has been a runaway train for us since last summer,” says Jones of the artist who has achieved three No. 1 songs on the Hot 100. Ganis hails the “double-punch carryover of [Mars] and Ed Sheeran, continual pop/adult growth for Charlie Puth and Bazzi, and now we’ve added Brynn Elliott, Ava Max and Why Don’t We, among others, to our stable of hitmakers.” Meanwhile, Janelle Monáe landed a Belvedere partnership, a Samsung Galaxy Note9 launch event and Old Navy and Chanel synch deals thanks to Hackney, who predicts that “all the groundwork we’ve laid with Lizzo’s brand partners” -- J.Crew, Cadillac and AT&T -- “really sets her up for 2019.”
Advice for women executives: (Hackney) “Be mindful of your social media footprint. People will prejudge you based on what you post. Make it private or be hypervigilant.”
Executive vp, Republic Records
Senior vp promotion, Republic Records
Senior vp marketing, Young Money/Cash Money/Republic Records
KERRI MACKAR, 33
Senior vp brand partnerships, Republic Records
Giving Ari space: When Ariana Grande called in the wake of her ex Mac Miller’s death and breakup with Saturday Night Live castmember Pete Davidson to say, “Cancel everything, except I need to be creative,” A&R specialist Goldstein responded: “OK, Ari.” Giving Grande the breathing room she needed led to a recording binge that produced “Thank U, Next,” her first Hot 100 No. 1, which has generated 122 million streams and climbing. “The most rewarding thing is seeing artists grow,” says Goldstein. Meanwhile, Dastur, who joined Republic from iHeartMedia, helped her team land 21 top 10s on the Hot 100 in 2018, including five No. 1s. Bynum’s top star is Lil Wayne, whose Tha Carter V earned 480,000 equivalent album units in its first week. And Billboard alum Mackar helped connect Post Malone with Crocs, whose collaboration with the clogs maker sold out in minutes.
Nonmusical female icon: (Goldstein) “Jane Fonda. She’s beautiful, an activist and always speaks her mind.”
ETHIOPIA HABTEMARIAM, 39
President, Motown Records
On a roll with Quality Control: The alliance that Habtemariam struck with Atlanta’s Quality Control Music continues to fuel a next-gen renaissance starring Migos and newcomer Lil Baby, whose collaboration with Drake, “Yes Indeed,” topped the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop airplay chart. New signings include joint ventures with producer Zaytoven and management firm SinceThe80s, which reps Mac Miller protégée Njomza. And underground rapper Icewear Vezzo became Motown’s first Detroit-based signing in years -- the first part of what Habtemariam calls “a big plan to go back” to Motown’s city of origin. With the label’s 60th-anniversary celebration taking place in 2019, “we’re bringing Motown back in a big way,” says the executive.
Industry change she'd like to see: “People stop defining R&B [and] hip-hop as a trend.”
ALLISON JONES, 49
Senior vp A&R, Big Machine Label Group
Pearce-d the boys club: Jones says she sees “more female artists breaking through in all [music] formats in 2019 -- especially in country,” and she and her Big Machine team got the ball rolling in 2017 with newcomer Carly Pearce, who topped the Country Airplay chart with her emotional single “Every Little Thing” and hit the top 20 this year with follow-up “Hide the Wine.” Big Machine also had big success in 2018 with Midland and Thomas Rhett. The latter’s catalog has logged 3 billion streams.
Canceled: ”Political TV commercials.”
GM, commercial content and artist strategy; Universal Music Group
JENNIFER BALTIMORE, 51
Senior vp business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
Building for the future: Baltimore has facilitated UMG’s expansion into other media by tailoring “bespoke” deals, as she calls them, for an upcoming Luciano Pavarotti documentary and an animated Bob Marley film. Her team also brokered the signing of Kris Wu, the Chinese hip-hop artist whose Interscope debut, Antares, has generated over 42 million streams. These deals, says Baltimore, are the building blocks of an updated UMG business model “that can be used going forward.” Joshua jumped to Universal from Sony in May to start her own imprint, 10:22 p.m. -- named, she says, for the moment she decided to “start my own thing.” She already has a hit: According to 10:22 p.m., Lele Pons’ debut single, “Celoso,” has scored over 200 million global streams since its release.
Best gift from an artist: (Joshua) “My ISSA chain from 21 Savage. I was there very early on in his career, and one of the ultimate stamps of approval is when you’re part of the crew and you get the chain.”
MICHELLE JUBELIRER, 44
COO, Capitol Music Group
Macca’s back! Jubelirer’s long-standing relationship with Paul McCartney’s manager, Scott Rodger -- which played a crucial role in wooing the former Beatle back to Capitol in 2016 -- paid off handsomely in September, when McCartney reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for the first time in 36 years with Egypt Station, which has sold 218,000 copies. “No artist has meant more to the legacy of Capitol than Paul,” says Jubelirer. The Pittsburgh native also continued to build for the future by working closely with Halsey -- whose “Without Me” became her third Hot 100 top 10 in November -- and revamping Astralwerks, which just scored a top five Hot 100 hit with Marshmello and Bastille’s “Happier.”
Strength in numbers: “We have 13 women holding senior vp positions or higher, which [is] 40 percent of our senior leadership team.”
Senior vp marketing, KIDZ BOP
Over 130,000 rugrats rocked: After graduating from the University of North Carolina, Junk moved to New York to work in PR and marketing at a time when women were often assigned to family-centric projects. Her experience eventually led her to KIDZ BOP’s 5-year-old touring division, which sold 130,709 tickets and grossed $3.6 million across 26 shows this past summer. “There’s not much for 5- to 9-year-olds in live [music],” says Junk. “We’re filling a gap.” She also partnered with the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, to create the KIDZ BOP Experience, where kids live like “mini pop stars for the day.”
Mantra: “One Christmas, my dad gave everyone in our family a plaque with Yoda’s quote: ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ I still have that plaque in my office.”
CRIS LACY, 45
Senior vp A&R, Warner Music Nashville
Helped catch Kenny: Lacy started 2018 by playing a key role in the signing of Kenny Chesney, which she describes as a longtime “pipe dream” because the two have been friends since the A&R executive started out in the music publishing sector. “It is the ultimate endorsement when you have someone who doesn't need you but still wants to work with you,” says Lacy of landing the superstar, who already delivered a Country Airplay No. 1 to his new label, “Get Along.” Lacy also celebrated the successes of Cole Swindell, who landed his first Top Country Albums No. 1, All of It, and Dan + Shay, whose eponymous 2018 album became their second chart-topper due in part to hit single “Tequila.”
First female musical influence: “When all the music-biz books were written by men about men, Dolly Parton wrote My Life and Other Unfinished Business, the first account I’d read of a savvy woman in charge.”
TAYLOR LINDSEY, 32
VP A&R, Sony Music Nashville
Old Dominion dominated: Old Dominion had a big year, with both “Hotel Key” and “Written in the Sand” hitting No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart, but Lindsey, who has worked with the band for years, says the bigger accomplishment was its vocal group of the year wins from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association. “It was evidence that our efforts to do right by this band were successful and that the industry had taken notice,” says Lindsey, who also helped guide Maren Morris’ crossover success. The singer-songwriter’s collab with Zedd and Grey, “The Middle,” was a No. 5 Hot 100 hit, while “I Could Use a Love Song” reached No. 7 on Hot Country Songs -- proof, says Lindsey, “that an artist can be successful in two genres.”
First female musical influence: “Carole King. I remember vividly seeing my parents dance to ‘Beautiful.’”
CINDY MABE, 45
President, Universal Music Group Nashville
Championed Carrie and Kacey: UMG Nashville is poised to once again finish 2018 as the top country music label, thanks in part to Carrie Underwood, whose work Mabe has guided. With the release of Cry Pretty in September, Underwood became the first woman to land four country albums atop the all-genre Billboard 200, and in November, she took home the Country Music Association Award for best female vocalist. “She is one of the bravest, boldest artists I know, and we are only at the surface of what she has to show,” says Mabe, who also expresses her pride over CMA album of the year winner Kacey Musgraves. “This is an artist who is cutting her own path and throwing out any rules that don’t fit her.”
Advice for women executives: “Know who you are, and don’t compromise your beliefs. Your perspective is your power.”
JENIFER MALLORY, 41
GM, Columbia Records
Planning Columbia's next chapter: Mallory was promoted twice in 2018, first to executive vp international marketing for Sony Music Entertainment at the beginning of the year after breaking Khalid overseas. (His catalog has generated over 3.6 billion streams.) Then, in September, she replaced the departing Joel Klaiman as GM. Upon returning from maternity leave, Mallory -- who oversees Columbia’s marketing, promotion, licensing and brand partnerships department -- will work with chairman/CEO Ron Perry to usher in a new era at the label. “I’m passionate about ramping up our understanding of data so that we can understand our fans and make sure we’re delivering the right message to the right person at the right time,” she says. “Every time someone listens to an album or watches a video, we potentially have money coming in.”
Nonmusical female icon: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Not only has she devoted herself to her career, which has literally changed the path for women in the United States, she has also balanced a family life along the way.”
GABRIELA MARTINEZ, 51
Senior vp marketing, Warner Music Latin America; GM, Warner Music Latina
Minting new artists: In her dual roles, Martinez grew Warner’s repertoire by bringing in an A&R director for the U.S. Latin division, upping new-artist signings and focusing on long-term talent development with up-and-comers Vice Menta and Alaya. In the past year, Warner has landed tracks by Sofia Reyes, Zion & Lennox and Anitta on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart and Spotify’s Global Top 50. The Mexican native is a fan of Pat Benatar and Stevie Nicks -- “They were rock stars!” says Martinez. So it’s no wonder that she’s particularly proud of the larger-than-life Anitta. “We’ve taken her from being a Brazilian goddess to a female force in the rest of Latin America and Spain.”
Recent book rec: “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. It’s a fascinating look at the evolution of humanity.”
GINA MILLER, 46
VP/GM, urban inspirational music; Entertainment One
Spiritual streaming success: Thanks to Miller’s management of eOne’s inspirational division, the company is one of the top 10 players in the gospel/Christian market -- and she’s even more bullish about the future, now that fans of the genre are finally adopting streaming. “We had been struggling to get the gospel consumer to embrace digital, but we are doing a much better job now,” says Miller. Artists Jonathan McReynolds and Todd Dulaney scored top fives on the Hot Gospel Songs chart in 2018 with, respectively, “Not Lucky, I’m Loved” and “Your Great Name,” and their catalogs have generated 42.5 million and 39.6 million streams this year. While eOne doesn’t break out revenue by genre, its music division generated $61 million in its most recent fiscal year.
Advice for women executives: “Be authentic. Be teachable. Be confident. Be honest. Be accessible. Be impactful. Be kind.”
President, Epic Records
Executive vp promotion, Epic Records
Made Astroworld a stellar success: Rhone and Adams spent 2018 helping turn Travis Scott into a global hip-hop star whose album Astroworld has generated a collective 1.9 billion streams. The label also built 23-year-old Brooklyn rapper Flipp Dinero’s breakthrough single, “Leave Me Alone,” into a top 40 Hot 100 hit that has amassed 140 million streams. Adams, who is working on Mariah Carey’s latest single, “With You,” was elevated to executive vp promotion in April after six years at the label, and Rhone says the executive is a prime example of the way “we foster the promotion of women from the moment they enter our workplace.”
Nonmusical female icons: (Adams) “Jada Pinkett-Smith, Angela Bassett, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama -- all beautiful, strong-minded, successful, intelligent women.”
First female musical influence: (Rhone) “Aretha Franklin. A feminist torchbearer and a civil rights leader, she embraced her blackness and became an icon for gender and racial equality.”
President of promotion, Interscope Geffen A&M
ANNIE LEE, 38
CFO, Interscope Geffen A&M
NICOLE WYSKOARKO, 40
Executive vp urban operations, Interscope Geffen A&M
ERIKA SAVAGE, 45
Senior vp strategic development, Interscope Geffen A&M
Where stars are born: Lady Gaga’s elegant transition to Hollywood starlet in A Star Is Born reaped musical returns for Romano’s team: The soundtrack’s lead single, “Shallow,” peaked at No. 5 on the Hot 100, while the album topped the Billboard 200 for three straight weeks. “It’s a blockbuster on every level,” says Romano. “I couldn't be happier for Gaga.” Wyskoarko, who joined Interscope in February, counts the recent breakthrough of Harlem rapper Sheck Wes as a major triumph. His Mudboy lead single, “Mo Bamba,” hit the top 10 of the Hot 100 in November -- a success she credits to “our urban A&R team’s connectedness to the culture, and gut instincts.” Lee, who oversaw the three-year makeover of the label’s Santa Monica, Calif., offices, is now engaged in the design of a new studio space for Universal Music Group artists. And Interscope vet Savage oversaw the A Star Is Born merchandise strategy alongside Warner Bros. and Universal Music Group-owned merch company Bravado, while creating and programming the Interscope Learning Series, which brings in speakers to mentor next-gen colleagues.
Advice for men in the industry: (Lee) “Humility is not weakness.”
President, Caroline/Harvest Records
Doubled market share: In the last 12 months, Saturn has presided over great growth for Caroline. The label has more than doubled its U.S. market share to 4 percent, thanks to 15 platinum and nine gold singles. “We’ve partnered with some incredible labels who have fantastic artists,” says the married mother of two. Chief among them is Michigan rapper NF, whose trifecta of Hot 100 hits in 2018 includes “Let You Down,” which peaked at No. 12. Caroline also notched top five debuts on the Billboard 200 from rappers 6ix9ine, Trippie Redd and the late XXXTentacion, who collectively landed 35 entries on the Hot 100.
First female musical influence: “My parents turned us on to Fleetwood Mac at an early age, so it was Stevie Nicks belting it out in a dude-fest.”
JULIE SWIDLER, 60
Executive vp business affairs/general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
DEIRDRE MCDONALD, 54
Executive vp global public policy and government relations, SME
JENNIFER FOWLER, 44
Senior vp marketing and U.S. sales, SME
Running the building every day: Swidler counts the relaunch of Arista Records in July as a personal full-circle moment, after previously serving as head of business affairs at the label under Clive Davis. She also took part in the payout of SME’s $750 million Spotify windfall to artists and distributed labels after the label group sold 50 percent of its shares in the wake of the streaming service’s initial public offering. “It was like bonus day,” she says. On the legislative front, McDonald played a role in both the passage of the U.S. Music Modernization Act and the drafting of the European Union Copyright Directive. “Those campaigns have recalibrated the balance of power between platforms and the creative community,” she says. Fowler’s commercial team drives some of SME’s most strategic U.S. streaming subscription growth and acquisition initiatives to date. She also manages Sony Music U -- the industry’s oldest college marketing platform.
Best gift from an artist: (Swidler) “Zara Larsson gave me a shout-out in her song ‘Make That Money Girl’: ‘Julie Swidler run the building every day.’”
Nonmusic story of the year: (Fowler) "[Judge Brett Kavanaugh accuser] Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. She did what most of us may not have had the guts to do. Utterly inspiring."
COLLEEN THEIS, 49
COO, The Orchard
Spurring global growth: Sony Music Entertainment grew The Orchard into a global powerhouse by merging it with indie distribution arm RED and 2017 acquisitions Essential (United Kingdom), Finetunes (Germany) and Phonofile (Norway). Over the past 12 months, Theis has successfully streamlined the five different companies into one global distribution machine, expanding The Orchard’s presence, she says, to 43 markets worldwide, up from 30 a year ago. “We have expanded our footprint and we have signed some great music,” says Theis, adding: “Our labels saw some great chart positions in the last year.” The “Te Boté” remix with Nicky Jam, Bad Bunny and Ozuna had over 365 million streams, and two albums from K-pop boy band BTS -- Love Yourself: Tear and Love Yourself: Answer -- topped the Billboard 200.
Good cause: “#BuiltByGirls mentors young women to be leaders in tech. The Orchard hosts meetups and provides mentors. Empowering women to excel in this field is an awesome equalizer.”
Executive vp marketing, RCA Records
Executive vp creative content, RCA Records
R&B resurgence: RCA had another big year in hip-hop. New signee Childish Gambino scored his first Hot 100 No. 1 with “This Is America,” thanks in large part to the song’s powerful video, which Yorrick spearheaded. The clip accounted for 68 percent of the song’s 65.3 million streams in its first week of release. But the label really found its sweet spot with a Williams-led strategy of pushing R&B acts into the mainstream -- including SZA, H.E.R. and Khalid, who scored his first No. 1 on the Mainstream Top 40 chart with the Normani collaboration “Love Lies.” Says Williams: “I was so happy to see him have such a hugely impactful record at pop/top 40 radio, where, quite frankly, you don’t always see that happening with black artists -- and with such a great song.”
Canceled: (Yorrick) “Excessive hashtags on social posts. Some folks take it too far.”
CFO/senior vp operations, Latin America and Iberian Peninsula; Universal Music Group
Supporting future Latin stars: Still basking in the afterglow of global phenomenon “Despacito” and J Balvin’s emergence as one of the most popular artists on Spotify and YouTube, Yep is now focused on transforming UMG into, she says, “a full-service entertainment company in the region.” Her agenda includes growing its GTS artist-services division, which manages acts and books concerts. Up-and-comers include Sebastián Yatra, reggaetón star Karol G -- who already has landed 10 hits on Hot Latin Songs and won the Latin Grammy for best new artist — and Chilean performer Mon Laferte, all of whom GTS co-manages.
ELIZABETH COLLINS, 51
Co-president, Azoff MSG Entertainment
Managing brand Azoff: In October, Collins brokered what she calls the “win-win” $125 million buyout of Madison Square Garden’s 50 percent stake in Azoff MSG Entertainment. “It really sets [chairman/CEO] Irving [Azoff] up for the future,” says the Penn and Duke Law School graduate who manages the company’s investment portfolio. Holdings include Global Music Rights, Oak View Group, Lane One and Full Stop Management. Marquee Azoff act the Eagles -- in the midst of their first arena tour without Glenn Frey -- reclaimed the title for all-time highest-certified U.S. album from Michael Jackson in August, when Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) was certified 38-times platinum by the RIAA.
DESIREE PEREZ, 48
COO, Roc Nation
A more peaceful nation: Under Perez’s guidance, some of Roc Nation’s most significant 2018 achievements were about advocacy and negotiation. The company lobbied for Meek Mill’s prison release and got behind the rapper’s push for criminal-justice reform. Perez was also closely involved in negotiating the Roc Nation-produced Made in America Festival’s new deal with the mayor of Philadelphia to keep the event in the heart of the city. But the Roc always has a few surprises up its sleeve, such as the unannounced release of the long-rumored album by The Carters, Everything Is Love, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with 123,000 equivalent album units in under a week of wide availability.
Strength in numbers: According to Perez, 13 of 31 Roc Nation executives are women.
DIA SIMMS, 43
President, Combs Enterprises
Realizing Diddy's dreams: Since 2005, Simms has been entrusted with Sean “Diddy” Combs’ endless ventures -- first as his executive assistant, and now as the company’s first president. She translates his grandiose ideas into what she describes as “scalable, replicable and profitable” products. Among them is Cîroc vodka, which, Simms says, has grown from selling 75,000 cases a year to 10 million cumulatively worldwide. Combs Enterprises also announced the establishment of a third Capital Prep charter school in the Bronx, set to open in 2019. Says Simms: “At Combs Enterprises -- and all enterprises since the beginning of time -- nothing would be accomplished without women.”
Co-founder/CEO, First Access Entertainment
Paying proper respect to Peep: After client Lil Peep -- a rising 21-year-old SoundCloud rapper -- died of an accidental drug overdose in November 2017, the Liverpool, England, native worked closely with his team and family to finish the genre-alchemizing artist’s final album, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2, which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. Also forthcoming is a Terrence Malick-produced documentary about Peep’s life, which Stennett says is “shaping up to be really sensational,” adding: “That’s the most rewarding: To know that we are in a position to give justice to his work, and have it sound the way he wanted.”
Nonmusical female icon: “This is so patriotic, but the Queen [of England]. She speaks facts, truth and integrity -- and she has done it since she was 21. That, to me, is extraordinary.”
Co-founding partner, i am OTHER Entertainment; co-manager, Pharrell Williams
MIMI VALDÉS, 48
Chief Creative Officer, i am OTHER Entertainment
Pharrell’s dream weavers: To work for someone who dreams as broadly as Pharrell Williams requires a rhythm, says Veazey, but also a resolve to “say no when the list gets too long.” What made i am OTHER’s cut in the last 12 months: the release of N*E*R*D’s No One Ever Really Dies, which spun off a top 40 Hot 100 hit with the Rihanna collaboration “Lemon”; Williams’ production work on Billboard 200 No. 1s from Ariana Grande and Justin Timberlake; the multihyphenate’s new philanthropic foray, a yellow American Express Platinum card designed to support arts and music education; and the Netflix debut of the Roxanne Shanté biopic Roxanne Roxanne, which Valdés co-produced. Says Veazey: “I know it sounds all ‘kumbaya,’ but our team genuinely believes in what we’re doing.”
Nonmusic story of the year: (Valdés) “The beautiful diversity [of those] taking leadership roles in politics.”
Co-owner/CEO, Big Yellow Dog Music
Breaking Brynn: In September 2017, Wallace’s boutique publishing/artist development firm inked an exclusive label partnership with Atlantic Records and signed its first artist, pop singer-songwriter and Harvard grad Brynn Elliott, all within 24 hours. “It was like lightning striking twice in a day,” says Wallace, whose track record includes early-career signings such as Maren Morris and Meghan Trainor. Now the Tennessee-based executive sees marquee-name potential in Elliott, whose still-ascending single, “Might Not Like Me,” has reached No. 12 on the Adult Top 40 chart. “I’ve got nothing but my gut,” says Wallace. “That’s the tool I most like to use.”
Nonmusical female icon: “My therapist. She knows so much.”
AMA WALTON, 48
Global general counsel/chief human resources officer, BMG
Building a bigger, better BMG: After joining BMG in June 2017 to oversee media business affairs in Europe, the German-born, Berlin-based Walton was promoted in July 2018. She now runs BMG’s worldwide legal and human resources departments as part of the quickly expanding company’s management board. “I’m the first contact with the most important stakeholders in the industry,” says Walton, who oversees artist and songwriter contracts and helps navigate streaming service deals. During the past decade, the publisher has grown into a multisector company that also operates an indie label, and another decade from now, Walton expects to see a 50-50 split between publishing and recorded music. “We have grown into a service company,” she says.
Revved up Rhett: Bunetta (née Davis) has shaped Thomas Rhett’s career into one of the most successful in country music. The singer-songwriter scored a pair of No. 1 singles on the Country Airplay chart in 2018, “Marry Me” and “Life Changes,” and his catalog has generated 3 billion streams and 11.3 million downloads. Bunetta, who partnered with Live Nation in 2013, credits the live-events giant with fueling her success through its commitment to “promote, invest in and support women executives and entrepreneurs in country.”
Industry change she'd like to see: “To embrace the conversation of public safety as it pertains to gun violence -- and start a dialogue that leads to a safer world for our fans, our road families and our artists.”
MARTHA EARLS, 41
Owner, EFG Management
Breaking barriers with Brown: The power manager’s ace client, Nashville outlier Kane Brown, made history with three American Music Award wins in 2018 -- the most ever awarded to a first-time country nominee. From her company’s luxe office in the Gulch neighborhood of Music City, Earls masterminded the biracial crooner’s crossover from viral video star to Billboard 200 chart-topper. “Kane could be his generation’s Justin Timberlake, where he transcends any expectation, stereotype or box,” says Earls, a pianist who majored in organ performance. “We’re not just putting out songs for country radio to play at the fair.”
First female musical influence: “Madonna. She ran that business like she was the queen, but she was also very culturally diverse. And this was 30 years ago.”
Owner, The HQ
Setting records with Carrie: Thanks to Edelblute’s continuing guidance, Carrie Underwood’s 2018 return couldn’t have gone better: With her September LP, Cry Pretty, Underwood became the first female artist to take four country albums to the top of the Billboard 200. She also clinched her 27th top 10 on the Country Airplay chart with the album’s title track and logged the biggest sales week for a woman this year. In November, Underwood co-hosted the Country Music Association Awards, where she won best female vocalist. “She has exceptional instincts,” says Edelblute.
President, KP Entertainment
Bringing up Bryan: It was another big year for Luke Bryan, whom Edwards has managed since 2006. The country superstar grossed $65.5 million on the road in 2018; joined ABC’s American Idol reboot as a judge -- a role that he’ll reprise for a second season; and scored his 20th Country Airplay No. 1 with “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset.” Also on the KPE roster, Cole Swindell notched his first No. 1 on Top Country Albums with All of It in September.
Best gift from an artist: “Cole Swindell found me a vintage Dolly Parton T-shirt -- he knows I’m a big fan.”
ALLISON KAYE, 37
President, SB Projects
Thank u, now: Since her promotion to president in July, Kaye has focused on the agency’s “crown jewel,” Ariana Grande, whose August album, Sweetener, launched atop the Billboard 200. “I love that we’re keeping pop in the conversation as hip-hop dominates,” says Kaye. Grande did just that by unexpectedly dropping a headline-grabbing homage to her exes, “Thank U, Next” -- which then debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100. As Kaye, a mother of three, puts it: “We have the ability to get music out immediately, so why wouldn't we?”
Canceled: “Girl-on-girl crime. We need to help each other win.”
REBECA LEÓN, 43
CEO, Lionfish Entertainment
Raising Rosalía: Now that client J Balvin has conquered the Hot 100 with No. 1 single “I Like It” (with collaborators Cardi B and Bad Bunny) and also briefly became the most popular artist on Spotify, León is setting new goals for Rosalía, a rising Spanish flamenco-pop singer who won two Latin Grammys in November. “We’ve seen more companies start to shine lights on female artists than ever,” says León, who sits on The Recording Academy’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, and also manages Juanes and Matt Hunter.
Recent TV show rec: “Luis Miguel, La Serie. It’s one of the Latin music industry’s first biopics.”
AMY THOMSON, 44
CEO, ATM Artists
Taking DJ Snake global: Despite amicably parting ways with career client Swedish House Mafia in August, Thomson celebrated a big year with megawatt client DJ Snake, whose bilingual crossover hit, “Taki Taki” (featuring Cardi B, Ozuna and Selena Gomez), crowned the Hot Latin Songs and Dance/Electronic Streaming Songs charts and hit No. 11 on the Hot 100. “Four superstars, two languages, people wanting to fuck with the record on every platform -- that’s just heaven to me,” says Thomson, who also orchestrated a five-day music-biz crash course in London, which, she says, drew 152 students from 65 countries.
Canceled: "Suits -- all the suits can just fuck off. They literally make you feel bad for daring to speak, to answer back. I’m done with their rules. The end."
500 million tickets sold: With Howe at the helm, the first three quarters of 2018 have been among the biggest for Ticketmaster. Year-end projections are even more impressive: With its digital platform in almost 200 venues, the live-industry giant will deliver nearly 500 million tickets worth approximately $31 billion across 28 countries this year. Says Howe, “Achieving this kind of success requires a diverse group of people to come together as a team to deliver great products and results for the live entertainment industry every day.”
Advice for women executives: “Picking yourself up after you fall is a muscle -- spend time developing it.”
BROOKE MICHAEL KAIN, 38
Chief digital officer, AEG Presents
Senior vp, AEG Presents
VP global content and development, AEG Facilities
Paving the Yellow Brick Road: In January, Kain helped create the virtual reality-enhanced announcement for Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour that was simulcast from Los Angeles, New York and London and included a Facebook livestream that crashed John’s website. “That’s a good kind of crash,” says Kain of the excitement generated by the announcement. Rathwell also worked on John’s 300-plus-stop world tour, which will last through 2021, and promoted Lorde’s 30-city North American Melodrama Tour. DuFine booked sellouts by Mary J. Blige and Cage the Elephant for the opening weekends of the new 4,200-seat Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C.
KATE MCMAHON, 51
Executive vp, Messina Touring Group
SARA WINTER-BANKS, 34
Senior vp, Messina Touring Group
The stadium sellers: McMahon and Winter promoted several of the year’s largest arena/stadium tours, including two George Strait shows at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., that grossed over $5 million. McMahon also marketed 19 stadium dates for Kenny Chesney, who collected his highest-grossing earnings ever: $114.3 million. Meanwhile, Winter handled Taylor Swift’s tour, which pulled in $289.5 million in North America and became the top-grossing U.S. run by a female artist. “We’re a team of 30 people, which is absurd when you look at the numbers,” says McMahon, an ace multitasker who helped form the firm in 2001. “Sometimes you have to unload the dishwasher and cut the American Express deal.”
First female musical influence: (McMahon) “Chrissie Hynde. I still yell [along to The Pretenders’ 1980 song “Precious”]: ‘Not me baby, I’m too precious/Fuck off!’”
CFO, Live Nation Entertainment
Chief content officer, Live Nation Entertainment
President of national and festival sales, Live Nation Entertainment
TARA TRAUB, 35
Senior vp touring, Live Nation Entertainment
8.2 billion reasons: Under Willard’s direction, Live Nation keeps growing, with 2018 revenue already totaling nearly $8.2 billion for the year’s first three quarters, compared with $7.4 billion during the first nine months of 2017. Ford diversified the company’s sponsorship and advertising footprint, chalking up new deals with American Eagle and ASICS. Traub promoted and produced Michelle Obama’s Becoming book tour in 12 arenas across the United States, which will donate 10 percent of ticket inventory to local charities. Parry, whose film and TV division had already produced the Lady Gaga documentary Five Foot Two, got Live Nation involved in the financing and marketing of the box-office smash A Star Is Born.
Canceled: (Traub) ”Goat yoga and traffic -- but mostly goat yoga.”
Cha-ching quartet: In 2018, the U.K.-based Banks became the first female executive to receive the Music Industry Trusts Award and added Paramore, Muse, Green Day and HAIM to her roster. Los Angeles-based Tsuchii helped Gorillaz transplant their Demon Dayz Festival from the U.K. to the U.S. while also heightening the rise of breakout act Maggie Rogers, who catapulted from New York University student to Saturday Night Live musical guest without releasing a full-length album. Kinzel’s year began with a worldwide Lana Del Rey tour and included runs from Dua Lipa, New Order and Radiohead. In March, Yim moved from ICM to CAA, bringing a roster that includes SZA, Future, Anderson .Paak and Kehlani.
Owner/founder, Cara Lewis Group
Growth agent: Lewis says her year was made way back in February, when she became the first woman to win Pollstar’s Bobby Brooks Award/Agent of the Year honor -- 23 years after she was first nominated -- but the ensuing months have given her plenty of bragging rights. Cara Lewis Group booked over 1,200 shows for its roster in 2018, she says, including Travis Scott’s headliner arena tour, Astroworld: Wish You Were Here, which sold out 29 North American dates. The rapper will embark on a second leg in 2019, as will Eminem, who, after headlining Coachella, Bonnaroo, Boston Calling, Governors Ball and Firefly in 2018, will head Down Under for five stadium shows in Australia and New Zealand in February and March. Lewis says the dates have all sold out -- over 270,000 tickets in all. Other CLG artists on the road in 2018 included Khalid -- who grossed $10.4 million on his Roxy Tour -- Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Lil Baby and Bazzi. Those last two artists are among a spate of buzzy new signings that also includes Flipp Dinero, Sheck Wes, Trippie Redd and Stefflon Don.
Strength in numbers: “I have always made it a priority to support, promote and mentor young women. At CLG, 75 percent of our executives are women, including our head of business affairs, general manager and operations manager.”
CORRIE CHRISTOPHER MARTIN, 41
Co-head of music, West Coast; Paradigm Talent Agency
Co-head of Nashville Office, Paradigm Talent Agency
Alt aces: Martin’s roster includes “outspoken” acts like K.Flay and Rise Against, but the veteran agent’s biggest sociopolitical undertaking of 2018 was brokering the deal for the Imagine Dragons film Believer, a documentary about frontman Dan Reynolds’ efforts to reconcile his Mormon faith with his support of LGBTQ+ youth, which HBO acquired in January and aired in June. After 17 years on the West Coast, Nalpant “followed the music to Nashville” and became co-head of Paradigm’s Music City office, where she still represents cross-genre acts Walk the Moon, Cigarettes After Sex, Sylvan Esso and Tash Sultana, whom Nalpant fondly describes as “one tiny little person selling thousands of tickets.”
Good cause: Martin has joined the entertainment leadership board of Time’s Up.
Advice for men in the industry: (Nalpant) "Stop flirting with talent. Don’t drink on the job. Be on time -- and be better listeners."
GM, Global Music Group; United Talent Agency
Agent, United Talent Agency
Dance expansion: UTA’s April acquisition of Circle Talent Agency meant an aggressive expansion into EDM, along with the addition of boldface dance-music names like Kaskade and Marshmello. Separately, Nastaskin enlarged the agency’s Latin music arm, merging Pitbull and Paulina Rubio with a disparate roster that also boasts Grammy-winning Broadway star Cynthia Erivo and Steve Earle. “Nothing happens -- good or bad -- if you stay in your comfort zone,” says Nastaskin. Paglierani, who reps Post Malone, 21 Savage and Lil Pump, took that advice to heart when planning the inaugural Posty Fest, a daylong Post Malone-curated concert staged in the pop star’s native Dallas. “It was one of the biggest challenges of my career,” says Paglierani, who has represented the genre-mashing artist since 2015. “There were so many moving parts.”
Advice for men in the industry: (Paglierani) “Always behave as if your mother is watching.”
YVES C. PIERRE, 40
Concerts agent, ICM Partners
JACQUELINE REYNOLDS-DRUMM, 32
Concerts agent, ICM Partners
The three Migos and more: Together, Reynolds-Drumm and Pierre rep all-star trio Migos, which played sold-out North American arenas on the Aubrey & The Three Migos Tour with Drake. Reynolds-Drumm helped Lil Yachty “accomplish his dream of acting” with a role in the upcoming How High 2. Pierre added rappers Leikeli47 and Lil Baby to a client list featuring Grammy-nominated MC Rapsody, who voiced recent ad campaigns by NBA 2K19, Sprite and Snickers; the latter artist, says Pierre, is “super important” to her. “Female rappers aren’t always given the space to grow into who they want to be.”
Peace-of-mind activity: (Reynolds-Drumm) “Y7 [Studio’s] hip-hop yoga.”
SARA NEWKIRK SIMON*
Co-head of music department, WME
SAMANTHA KIRBY YOH*
Partner/head of East Coast Music, WME
35,000 dates booked: As co-head of WME’s music department, Simon led 140 WME agents who, the agency says, booked 35,000 dates for its roster in 2018, including for her clients Camila Cabello; The Weeknd, who had a headlining stint at Coachella; and Pharrell Williams, who was out on the N*E*R*D world tour. Simon also brokered Selena Gomez’s Defy X SG sneaker deal for Puma and says she’s on the hunt to sign artists “who stand for something” and “fight lies, prejudice and hate.” Yoh’s rising-star flamenco revivalist, Rosalía, won two Latin Grammy Awards in November. And Bernstein, who as head of tour marketing works with clients across the agency, helped Drake’s 55-date arena tour with Migos sell out seven New York dates: four at Madison Square Garden and three at Barclays Center.
First female musical influence: (Simon) “Stevie Nicks. I was 4, and she was a good witch.”
President, Artist Group International
Road warrior: With artists relying more on touring than ever, Vlasic has a clear advantage: She knows the road intimately, because she spends so much time on it. “I had to sit on my suitcase to close it this morning,” says the Brooklyn native -- who was en route from a Metallica charity event in San Francisco to Los Angeles, where new client Norah Jones performed at Joni Mitchell’s 75th birthday party. Vlasic, who also booked an Elvis Costello & The Imposters tour to promote the band’s Look Now album, is plotting 2019 dates for Cage the Elephant. “Continuing to build careers is what I try to do,” she says. “And it’s not always driven by a hit record.”
One item she always has: “Russian Red lipstick. That’s my signature.”
Her Starrah is rising: Egan helped the 11-year-old boutique publisher score major market-share gains (1.8 percent in the third quarter of 2018) with hitmakers like Starrah -- the fame-shy writer responsible for such smashes as Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You,” featuring Cardi B, and Camila Cabello’s “Havana,” featuring Young Thug -- and recent signee Ty Dolla $ign. But her proudest achievement is spearheading REBOOT, a new initiative with veteran songwriter Simon Wilcox to create more resources for female writers and producers.
Best gift from an artist: “Carly Simon gave me a pair of vintage leopard-print boots when I was on her management team. I still wear them.”
AMANDA HILL, 35
Senior vp/co-head of West Coast A&R, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
JENNIFER KNOEPFLE, 42
Senior vp/co-head of West Coast A&R, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Mass success: As Sony/ATV continued its reign as the industry’s No. 1 publisher, Hill helped propel 24-year-old Aussie expat songwriter Sarah Aarons to seven weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 chart and a record 33 weeks atop Hot Dance/Electronic Songs with the Maren Morris, Zedd and Grey tag-team smash, “The Middle.” Longtime client Greg Kurstin scored his second consecutive Grammy for producer of the year. Knoepfle saw Jack Antonoff come into his own “as a producer of full records,” parlaying the songwriter-producer’s 2017 success with St. Vincent (Masseduction), Lorde (Melodrama) and Taylor Swift (reputation) into a collaboration with Lana Del Rey. “Everybody’s playing at their highest level,” says Knoepfle, who also reps Joel Little, writer-producer of Imagine Dragons’ No. 12 Hot 100 single, “Whatever It Takes.”
Canceled: (Hill, Knoepfle) “Donald Trump.”
GOLNAR KHOSROWSHAHI, 47
GROWTH, GROWTH AND MORE GROWTH: Founded slightly more than a decade ago, Reservoir has emerged as a leading indie publisher both in aggressiveness and size. In 2018, Khosrowshahi supervised the signings of Young Thug and Grammy-nominated songwriters James Fauntleroy and Carla Marie Williams, and the acquisition of a global stake in Hoagy Carmichael’s catalog. Reservoir also had a piece of 56 singles that hit the Hot 100, says Khosrowshahi, whose company snagged 1.4 percent of third-quarter market share in 2018: “For us, it’s a solid story of growth, growth and more growth.”
Best gift from an artist: “Yo-Yo Ma gave me a sound machine with 16 funny sound bites. I use it to convey reactions.”
Executive vp Latin Music, Universal Music Publishing Group
JOY MURPHY, 44
VP/head of film and television music licensing, Universal Music Publishing Group
Purple reign: Murphy and Lioutikoff made key contributions to the global publisher’s bottom line: revenue of $809 million for the first nine months of 2018, a year-over-year increase of 5.1 percent. For her part, Murphy debuted Prince’s catalog on American Idol, licensed the artist’s music on a landmark 100th episode of ABC’s Black-ish and placed “Let’s Go Crazy” in a Capital One campaign. Meanwhile, Lioutikoff bolstered UMPG’s Latin division through an exclusive agreement with indie label/publisher Rich Music, which has a stake in the Hot Latin Songs hit “Downtown” from J Balvin and Brazilian singer Anitta. Regarding the latter’s success, Lioutikoff says: “Finally, there are more female urban artists who are less shy and don’t care what anybody says.”
COO, Warner/Chappell Music publishing
Showrunner: In June, Marshall became COO at Warner/Chappell after over a decade at SONGS Music Publishing, where she had been since 2006. Just six months later, the University of Southern California grad was promoted to lead the global publisher on an interim basis when chairman/CEO Jon Platt leaves for rival Sony/ATV. “It has been quite a remarkable 12 months,” says Marshall, who started her career managing and booking local bands around Los Angeles. “I’m doing my best to do great things for our writers and their songs.”
Canceled: “Passive-aggressive people.”
Chief creative officer, Kobalt Music
37 Hot 100 Top 10s: Indie Kobalt was the No. 2 publisher for two quarters in 2018 and in the past year cracked the Hot 100’s top 10 with 37 clients, including songwriters Noah Shebib (Drake), Max Martin (Ariana Grande) and CyHi the Prynce (Travis Scott), plus hits from the A Star Is Born soundtrack, Eminem and Cardi B. As the Los Angeles-based leader of a 40-person global A&R team, Metcalfe says she does “everything from bringing in deals to networking collaborations.” Recent signings include Enrique Iglesias, Childish Gambino, Marshmello, Ozuna and King Krule.
Strength in numbers: “Thirty-four women -- that’s 36 percent of all Kobalt executives -- hold the position of vice president or higher.”
ANGIE PAGANO, 38
GM, Artist Publishing Group; senior vp, Artist Partner Group
Broke Bazzi: In 2018, Pagano oversaw the Artist Partner Group A&R team responsible for songwriter Mark Nilan’s work on the A Star Is Born soundtrack, which spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and Charlie Puth’s Voicenotes, which debuted at No. 4. But Pagano is most proud of breaking songwriter Bazzi, whose hit “Mine” reached No. 11 on the Hot 100 in April, and whose current single, “Beautiful,” featuring Camila Cabello, has climbed to No. 30 on the chart. Chicago native Pagano’s secret? Patience, she says: “We take our time, and we don’t report to numbers.”
Advice for women executives: “Women need to ask for permission less and just start doing -- trusting our guts and knowing that our decisions are going to be OK. If they’re not, we’ll ask for forgiveness after the fact.”
Over $1 billion served: In 2018, ASCAP locked down new deals with Ariana Grande, Migos, Cardi B, Junkie XL and St. Vincent, and in April announced that member distribution had surpassed $1 billion for the first time. Three years into a six-year plan, the 680,000-plus-member performing rights organization has hit its goals, says Matthews, who came onboard in 2013. She has steered ASCAP through a period of technological disruption as deftly as another esteemed New York diplomat, the subject of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton -- “my all-time favorite,” says Matthews.
Best gift from an artist: (ASCAP president/chairman) “Paul Williams gave me a monthly cheese subscription. He will want me to mention that it also included fruit.”
ALISON SMITH, 57
Executive vp distribution, publisher relations and administration services; BMI
BMI’s queen of green: As head of BMI’s royalty payouts, Smith has bragging rights to a record $1.1 billion distributed to songwriters, composers and publishers for 1.7 trillion performances worldwide, according to the PRO. Hired by legendary BMI CEO Frances Preston, Smith started at BMI’s Nashville office in 1985 and ascended the corporate ranks when female executives were an anomaly. “I learned golf because most of [my peers] were men who played,” she says. Day to day, the green that Smith focuses on is the one going back to BMI’s 900,000-plus members: “Overhead is the lowest ever, returning nearly 90 cents of every dollar dispersed,” she says.
Good cause: “I co-chair the National Advisory Council at the Harpeth Hall School for girls in Nashville -- my alma mater -- with Marcie Allen of MAC Presents.”
KELLI TURNER, 48
100 new deals, one big new title: Turner, who was promoted to president/COO in October, led SESAC to sign over 100 new digital licensing deals in the fiscal year ending March 31, according to the PRO. The avid hiker is bullish on SESAC’s international growth and is helping expand Mint Digital Services, the organization’s joint venture with Swiss authors’ rights society SUISA that handles pan-European digital licensing for U.S. publishers.
Advice for women executives: “Integrity is first and foremost in everything we do.”
Drive to license: Spearheading licensing strategy; leading negotiations with all major publishers and performing rights organizations in the United States; and creating added recognition for artists and writers through embedded credits were among Higginson’s big wins during the last year. The Columbia University law grad combines legal savvy with a love of music and the business to “educate YouTube’s partners. It was a lot of one-on-one time with industry stakeholders,” she says of her efforts to change negative perceptions of the service. Artist advocate Lewit introduced new programs to help performers earn more revenue from concert ticketing while also engaging more deeply with their fans. The new YouTube Music app, now in 29 countries (and counting), also launched under her watch.
Advice for men in the industry: (Higginson) “That assistant you are dealing with today might be that executive you call on in the future. With that in mind, you should remember to treat everyone with respect, because your reputation will follow you.”
Global head of business development and music partnerships, Apple
Global director of original content, Apple Music
Global go-getters: Gleeson, who previously worked in the branding sector in London and concert promotion in Ireland (she’s a native of County Clare), says that she is particularly proud of Apple Music’s “Up Next” program, which spotlights rising artists for the streaming service’s 50 million subscribers worldwide. “That’s the future of music,” she says. “We are constantly looking for ways to support the developing community.” Marks, a former senior digital executive at Universal Music Group, recently launched partnerships with Verizon, Disney Parks & Recreation and Volkswagen.
Good cause: (Marks) ”The Women’s March Los Angeles. I participate because we all need to stand up and say, ‘Enough.’ No one should be treated without respect. No one should be made to feel unsafe in their workplace or home or anywhere -- not because of their sex or race, gender identity or sexual preference.”
ELIZABETH MOODY, 46
VP global content partnerships, Pandora
Pandora's peacemaker: When Moody arrived at Pandora’s Oakland, Calif., headquarters in March 2015, the company was at odds with the music industry: “There was work to be done,” she says. That’s changing thanks to the American University law school alumna, who in 2018 focused on educating artists and labels about existing Pandora features such as location-based tour promotion to help artists reach fans. And licensing deals that Moody brokered led to the December 2017 unveiling of a new model that enables users to unlock a temporary premium-listening session by watching an ad. “The music industry always wanted Pandora to be a partner,” she says. “It was a matter of finding the right way for us to work together.”
Advice for women executives: “Don’t be afraid to be female. Being a single mom has taught me to be a better manager.”
Chief content officer, Spotify
Stream queen: After seven years as president of Condé Nast Entertainment, Ostroff signed on to Spotify in the wake of its initial public offering in April and during an especially busy summer for the company. The streaming service, which has 83 million paying subscribers, launched in the Middle East and North Africa and introduced a new podcast section that includes exclusive rights to The Joe Budden Podcast With Rory & Mal, which had previously garnered millions of views across SoundCloud and YouTube. Spotify also paid a reported $1 million for comedian Amy Schumer to host her new 3 Girls, 1 Keith podcast. But Ostroff says she’s most excited about Spotify’s recent partnership with nonprofit SoundGirls -- “an organization that seeks to amplify the careers and achievements of women working behind the scenes in music and audio” -- to launch the EQL Directory, a searchable database of women in these professions who are seeking work.
Mantra: “Passion, persistence and patience.”
MILANA RABKIN LEWIS, 31
Rounding up royalties: Stem’s end-to-end payments and digital distribution software came out of beta just a year ago, and, according to Lewis, there are already 300 labels and management companies using the technology that organizes and disburses royalties from digital consumption so that everyone on the master gets paid. Lewis says that Stem has paid out on over 10 billion streams as of October and its clients include Red Light Management, Maverick and SB Projects. “Being able to automatically split the revenue of a song between songwriters, producers and investors is solving a really big problem for artists,” she says, adding that users are typically paid within 45 to 60 days of a song’s release and receive a check on the 15th of every month. “Plus, we’re making it easier for managers to get artists to collaborate, because they know we will take care of making sure everyone gets paid in a timely manner.”
Nonmusical female icon: “Kathryn Haun. She’s currently a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz leading their crypto fund. Previously she was a federal prosecutor at the Department of Justice. When you meet her she’s this bubbly, smart Reese Witherspoon doppelgänger, and then you realize she [was] taking down organized criminals for over a decade.”
No static at all: While leading terrestrial radio giant Cumulus Media out of bankruptcy and slashing debt by over $1 billion, Berner also engineered a sweeping cultural overhaul of the company, emphasizing collaboration and empowerment among nearly 6,000 employees at 440 stations and, she says, reducing turnover by 30 percent. Additionally, the College of the Holy Cross graduate has leveraged her overall audience of 245 million weekly listeners into an aggressive digital expansion. To be a successful leader (and to keep great employees), Berner has a simple rule: “Be the boss you want to work for.”
Canceled: “Cowards who won’t use their powers -- elected and otherwise -- to demand an end to the hatemongering and bigotry now defining our country.”
Nonmusical female icon: "The women of #MeToo, who’ve changed everything for women forever. I’d also bestow honorary female-icon status on Ronan Farrow.”
TAMARA HRIVNAK, 41
Head of music business development and partnerships, Facebook
Facebooking the music: Under Hrivnak’s watch, Facebook has signed deals with all major labels and music publishers in under a year, as well as agreements with PRO Global Music Rights and organizations like Australia’s APRA AMCOS, France’s SACEM and Europe’s ICE that enable the launch of legal, licensed music on the platform in over 15 countries. “At their core, Facebook and music share something special: They both bring people together and help them express themselves,” says Hrivnak. “While it’s just the beginning for us, we’re excited about the partnerships we’ve made this year across the music industry to build stronger, more connected communities around music on Facebook.”
Nonmusical story of the year: “#MeToo. More than any single story, it’s the holistic awakening of women. It’s such an important pivot for women to call on the world to call out and not tolerate the exploitation, harassment and abuse of women.”
MARISSA MORRIS, 32
Senior vp artist relations, iHeartMedia
No comfort zones: Thanks to recent pairings like a Nas show at a Verizon-sponsored “secret” New York location and Avril Lavigne’s live return as part of the Honda Stage series in Hollywood, Morris says iHeartMedia has generated $50 million through brand partnerships. “We ask artists to step outside their comfort zones,” says Morris, whose radio career began in high school as an intern at WHTZ (Z100) New York. “You want something that makes people stop in their tracks.”
Peace-of-mind activity: “Scrolling Instagram for funny pet pics.”
Executive vp/head of programming, BET Networks
Kept the BET Awards on top: In her first full year as executive vp, Orlando ensured that the BET Awards held its spot as the top cable awards show in the key 18-49 demographic (for a fourth consecutive year), drawing 4.3 million total viewers. The Syracuse University alum also executive-produced the 2018 installment of Black Girls Rock!, a landmark awards show she brought to BET in 2010, and continued the network’s push into the documentary space with Death Row Chronicles, a miniseries about the West Coast rap label’s rise and fall. Coming soon: Ladies’ Night, a docuseries trailing Salt-N-Pepa, SWV and En Vogue on tour.
Catalog shopper: Copyright expertise and experience in large catalog transactions have put Alter Kendrick & Baron at the center of deals worth, says Alter, over $500 million in the past year, including Carlin Music’s sale to Round Hill and Primary Wave’s purchase of Blue Mountain Publishing. Longtime clients include the Bienstock family, Philly soul masters Gamble & Huff, Mick Jones of Foreigner and Steve Miller. Alter, who had an entertainment-law upbringing (her father was counsel to the New York Screen Actors Guild), founded AKB in 2001 and has since expanded it to six attorneys. The firm’s core strategy? “We’re perfectionists,” says Alter. “Spoken words matter. Written words matter, right down to the schedule of exhibits.”
Mantra: “In the words of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: ‘Fight for things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.’”
Partner, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp
Protected "Big Pimpin'": The veteran attorney scored a long-awaited 9th Circuit Court of Appeals victory in May for Jay-Z and Timbaland when she staved off moral-rights claims over a song from a 1960 Egyptian film that was sampled in “Big Pimpin’.” “Now Jay and Tim can exploit ‘Big Pimpin’’ to their hearts’ content,” says Lepera, who’s also defending Katy Perry in a copyright-infringement suit over the pop star’s 2014 Hot 100 No. 1, “Dark Horse” (featuring Juicy J), in a case scheduled for a May 2019 trial.
Partner/deputy chair, music industry practice; Loeb & Loeb
The K-pop counselor: White pulled off quite a feat this year when she signed on as the U.S. legal representative for South Korean boy band sensation BTS, which landed three songs on the Hot 100 in 2018, including top 10 hit “Fake Love.” White’s understanding of the Asian and U.S. markets -- she also advises China’s internet giant, Tencent Holdings -- made her an ideal candidate. “For the first time in Western entertainment’s history, the cultural exchange with Asia is truly becoming reciprocal,” she says. White’s reputation and connections in the music industry also helped seal the deal with BTS’ management, BigHit Entertainment. “They needed someone to help weed out the bottom feeders who would sell them out to make a buck,” she says.
Mantra: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
Paired Khalid and Hollister: The small deals are just as important as the big ones, says Allen, whose schedule includes alternating weeks with her family in Nashville and running her business in New York, where branding deals include Billy Joel’s partnership with Citi at Madison Square Garden, Khalid’s work with Hollister and Valee’s alignment with Adidas. “I believe that music and sports together are the future,” says Allen, who recently paired Ludacris and Budweiser for a packed show at GIPSY nightclub in Moscow during the World Cup. The Rhodes College alum also teaches two courses at New York University -- appropriately, Female Entrepreneurs and Branding. Her message to students, particularly young women: “Yes, you can have it all. It’s difficult. But you can do it.”
Mantra: “Fail forward. When you fail at something, pick yourself up and do something better the next time.”
JULIE BOOS, 49
Co-owner/chairman/business manager, FBMM
Handpicked to lead: At the start of 2018, Boos was named chairman of this Nashville business and financial management powerhouse, which, insiders say, represents Blake Shelton, Eric Church and Keith Urban, among other high-profile names. (Boos won’t divulge or discuss the firm’s clients.) As one of several executives selected to succeed the founding owners, Boos also took over the company’s day-to-day management -- and already has an eye on the future. “I’m always looking to promote great employees,” she says, “so when I’m riding off into the sunset, the business can keep going.”
Mantra: “Life’s too short to work with assholes.”
Global consumer chief marketing officer, CITI
Live-sector power player: Under Breithaupt’s leadership, Citi’s entertainment platform provided card-member access to over 12,000 events globally in 2018 -- an 11 percent year-over-year increase, according to the company -- and partnered with more than 1,400 artists in 2018 alone. Chris Stapleton, Jay-Z and Beyoncé participated in the Citi Private Pass program for their respective tours; Lady Gaga approached Citi to sponsor her A Star Is Born Los Angeles premiere; and Katy Perry played for an intimate crowd of 1,600 in Los Angeles as part of Citi’s Sound Vault, which offers unprecedented access to card members.
Best gift from an artist: “At Cannes Lions, we had Billie Joe Armstrong perform. At the end of his set, he threw his guitar into the pool. Later, he brought it to me and signed it.”
VP global experiential marketing and partnerships, American Express
Scored with Shaq and Scott: Shaquille O’Neal at Austin City Limits? The NBA legend’s appearance at the 2018 festival, where he shot hoops with Travis Scott before hopping onstage with the rapper, stirred up social media buzz. ’Grammable moments like that are Curtis’ specialty. She also staged a series of intimate listening sessions for Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods, including one at Prince’s Paisley Park estate.
Recent film rec: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor? [about] Fred Rogers. I wept the whole time.”
Executive vp/manager of entertainment banking, City National Bank
Music's big banker: “I’m not going anywhere!” says Henderson, who’s celebrating 35 years as the head of City National Bank’s entertainment division -- a position with even more clout since the institution’s 2015 merger with the Royal Bank of Canada. Her added investment capabilities led to CNB’s 2018 acquisition of Exactuals, a tech firm that uses artificial intelligence to locate and expedite the payment of royalties and residuals. Despite the tech boost, she remains hands-on with a clientele that includes film composer Hans Zimmer and Disney songwriter Richard Sherman, and was in high demand during the onslaught of California wildfires. “Whether it’s cash or extending a credit card limit,” she says, “we just try to calm our clients and be there for them.”
Founder/director; Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, University of Southern California
The equalizer: After designing solutions to help Hollywood tackle inequality both onscreen and off, Smith and her USC research team released their first music-business study in January, revealing a staggering dearth of top female artists, songwriters and producers on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end charts. (Women accounted for 12.3 percent of songwriters from 2012 to 2017, while only 2 percent of producers were female.) Now Smith wields influence as one of 16 members of The Recording Academy’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, formed after this year’s male-dominated Grammy telecast. “Women and men throughout the industry want to see the numbers change,” says Smith.
LOU TAYLOR, 53
CEO, Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group
Residency rainmaker: Tri Star client Britney Spears recently announced the 2019 launch of her second Las Vegas residency (Britney: Domination at Park MGM), after the pop star’s four-year stint at Planet Hollywood grossed over $130 million. Taylor also oversaw Jennifer Lopez’s nearly three-year Planet Hollywood run, which wrapped in September with over $100 million in ticket sales.
Strength in numbers: Taylor supervises an executive team of 13 women -- 89 percent of the company’s total workforce.
SARAH TRAHERN, 54
CEO, Country Music Association
Mapping country's future: While the CMA celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2018, Trahern laid the foundation for the next 60. She shifted the organization’s focus to new talent -- creating, for example, a Spotlight Stage at CMA Fest for 52 rising singer-songwriters. Trahern also continued the CMA’s global expansion by launching task forces in Scandinavia and Germany. “We want to grow in smart markets where there is a capacity to garner long-term fans,” she says.
Methodology: A committee of Billboard editors and reporters weighed a variety of factors in determining the 2018 Women in Music executives power list, including, but not limited to, Billboard’s 2018 Top Artists and Top Tours rankings; 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 Nov. 15. 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 album plus track-equivalent and streaming-equivalent album-consumption units and Billboard’s quarterly top 10 publisher rankings. Unless otherwise noted, Billboard Boxscore and Nielsen Music are the sources for tour grosses and sales/streaming data, respectively. Nielsen is also the source for radio audience metrics. Unless otherwise noted, album streaming figures cited represent collective U.S. on-demand audio totals for an album’s tracks, and song/artist streaming figures represent U.S. on-demand audio and video totals.
Contributors: Trevor Anderson, Megan Armstrong, Dean Budnick, Ed Christman, Tatiana Cirisano, Leila Cobo, Chuck Dauphin, Camille Dodero, Gary Graff, Jenn Haltman, Andrew Hampp, Lyndsey Havens, Cherie Hu, Hannah Karp, Steve Knopper, Katy Kroll, Joe Levy, Brooke Mazurek, Taylor Mims, Gail Mitchell, Paula Parisi, Dan Rys, Eric Spitznagel, Taylor Weatherby, Deborah Wilker, Nick Williams, Xander Zellner
*Declined to provide age.