Billboard Announces 2020 Pride List of Industry-Shaping LGBTQ Executives

Billboard Announces 2020 Pride List of Industry-Shaping LGBTQ Executives

For Billboard’s second Pride List, 40 executives from across the music business share their biggest victories — and the actions they’re taking to cope with the pandemic and reaffirm the Black Lives Matter movement.

PJ Acerno
Manager, festival talent, Goldenvoice

All year, Acerno, 37, works with marquee and boutique festivals alike to ensure the right artists are paired with the right events, supporting queer acts along the way: A nine-year veteran of the concert promotion giant, he was a particular champion of King Princess, who in the past year graduated from clubs and theaters to main stages at Coachella, Hangout and Mo Pop.

Advice for Young Queer Professionals: “Be prepared and excited to dive in. There’s no task too small. And lead with your pronouns.”


Ryan Aceto
Head of A&R, PEG Records; Talent manager, Producer Entertainment Group

The drag world and the music industry have never been more aligned, thanks in part to Aceto, 36, who shepherded a partnership between PEG and Warner Music Group’s Alternative Distribution Alliance in 2019. In addition to co-managing PEG’s roster of queer talent, Aceto helped PEG launch Digital Drag Fest during the pandemic, boosting clients and “helping as many LGBTQ artists and allies as possible.”

How We're Fighting Racial Injustice: “We’ve offered paid time off to peacefully protest. We’ve spoken with every client and are letting them tell us how they’d most like our help.”


Aileen Atkins
Director/associate general counsel, global head of music, Facebook

“Each time somebody sends a message [on] social media, there’s an opportunity to enhance that message and demonstrate how that user is feeling with music,” says Napster alum Atkins, 51, who leads the legal team that oversees music-related relationships and licensing agreements for the platform and its sister apps.

Advice for Young Queer Professionals: “Find people and groups that can be supportive. Younger people have a completely different opportunity to share their experiences.”


Elissa Ayadi
Senior vp fan engagement and digital marketing, Warner Records

Read more about how Ayadi is helping artists find success on TikTok here.

 


Jen Bontusa
VP label and artist partnerships, Nashville, Ingrooves Music

After a previous decade-plus stint at Ingrooves in California, Bontusa, 41, returned to the Universal-owned distribution/marketing company in a newly created role last August to launch its first Nashville outpost. “Nashville is a smaller music community than L.A. or New York,” she says, “but I’ve been blown away by the collaborative spirit.”

In the Wake of COVID-19, the Industry Will: “Have to diversify. Touring was such a big driver.”


Steven Braines
Co-founder, He.She.They./The Weird & The Wonderful

Braines, 38, and business partner Sophia Kearney co-founded both management company The Weird & The Wonderful (which joined forces with TaP Music in 2019) and event series, record label and fashion label He.She.They., which “queers up” venues from Ibiza to India. “In dance music, it’s harder to get booked if you’re black, trans, gay or a woman,” he says, “even though [those] people originated the genre. Our thing is to redress that balance.”

In the Wake of COVID-19, the Industry Will: “See the deals for DJs and live shows changing in the way that they’re constructed.”


Ashley Calhoun
Senior vp/head of creative, Pulse Music Group

“I came out a year and a half ago, so I’m new to the community,” says Calhoun, whose first Pulse signing was out hitmaker Starrah. The 29-year-old describes her job as playing “matchmaker,” which includes connecting artists, songwriters and producers in sessions; placing beats; and scouting talent. Drake’s “Toosie Slide,” produced by her client OZ, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April.

How We're Fighting Racial Injustice: “Pulse [donated] $100,000 to black organizations. We’ll be organizing initiatives including town halls, fundraising and voter action.”


Michael Cariglio
Senior director of marketing, Republic Records

Tiësto sent a handwritten thank-you letter to Cariglio, 28, whose campaigns helped the DJ-producer score his biggest mainstream hit to date with “Jackie Chan” (with Dzeko, Preme and Post Malone). “I like to think [I’m] the switchboard operator plugging in different pieces to make sure we’re going in the same direction,” says Cariglio, who this year is launching Out in Music, an LGBTQ networking group.

A Cause I Support: “The Ali Forney Center. Homelessness in the LGBTQ community is more prevalent than you’d think.”


Sam Carlin
U.S. head of publishing, Beggars Music

As brands change the tone of ads amid the pandemic, Carlin, 33, has found new opportunities to place Beggars Music as more serious songs enter high demand. “Before, it was a much longer process,” says Carlin, who also signed his first artist, Gia Margaret, in 2019 and is a longtime music supervisor for MTV’s Catfish, which he calls “the most unexpected, rewarding thing.”

How We're Fighting Racial Injustice: “There’s been so much internal discussion, led by our company heads, of ways to make lasting impacts, not just surface-level change.”


Jeff Consoletti
Founder/CEO, JJ|LA

In 2009, Consoletti was a volunteer for the LA Pride Parade and Festival. Ten years later, his company produced the sold-out event, which annually raises seven figures to support LGBTQ organizations, as well as WorldPride NYC’s Pride Island concert, headlined by Madonna and Grace Jones. Prior to South by Southwest’s cancellation this year, the 38-year-old was helping plan its first queer artist showcase.

A Cause I Support: “The Point Foundation, a national organization that supports LGBTQ people going to college.”


Tony Corey
VP marketing, Island Records

Corey, 38, has overseen product management — “essentially being an artist manager, but inside a company” — for acts like Demi Lovato, Skip Marley and Jessie Reyez, whose long-awaited debut album, Before Love Came To Kill Us, arrived in March. Says Corey: “I can’t wait to continue the journey with her.”

In the Wake of COVID-19, the Industry Will: “Find other ways to get things done. It’s pushing everyone to not check the boxes you would normally check.”


Shane Cosme
VP marketing and global repertoire, BMG

Though Cosme, 46, develops global marketing strategies for all of BMG’s U.S.-signed artists, he’s especially proud of helping out rock star LP break big in Mexico and South America, where her 2015 song “Lost on You” recently gained immense traction: “We were able to capitalize on a viral video and turn it into a radio hit.”

A Cause I Support: “Rainbow Railroad. They help our gay brothers and sisters flee countries where they are being persecuted.”


Nick D’Angiolillo
VP nontraditional licensing, Concord

D’Angiolillo’s job is to find Concord opportunities “that may otherwise be overlooked” — from getting Isaac Hayes’ music on the Univoice language-learning app to a Denzel Curry concert streamed via MelodyVR. “In my career history, I have, maybe unfairly, given more weight to LGBTQ projects that didn’t have the budget of a major Hollywood studio,” says the 33-year-old. “It was important to support their art.”

A Cause I Support: “The Gay Men’s Chorus of Tampa Bay [Fla.]. It provides an outlet for all gay men to socialize without prejudice [toward] age, class or social status.”


Amy Davidman
Booking agent

Bay Area-based Davidman, 42, has been shaping the careers of a range of emerging electronic and Latin artists as an agent for over a decade. For queer producer Madame Gandhi, Davidman booked a tour exclusively with female-identifying promoters and venue owners. “Concertgoers specifically mentioned that they could feel a difference,” she says.

How I'm Fighting Racial Injustice: “We have to speak up even when uncomfortable and not let the silence take over. Black voices are our past and our future, so we must do our part to hire, sign, promote, and fund artists of color.”


John Farrey
Label relations manager, Amazon Music

Farrey, 30, led the team behind Amazon Music HD, the streaming service’s high-quality audio tier, and unveiled PROUD, a playlist that spotlights LGBTQ talent and has exclusive originals from stars like Years & Years. As a founding member and current co-lead of Amazon Music’s Diversity Action Team, he stresses the business value of inclusion: “Our industry benefits from a diversity of voices.”

A Cause I Support: “TeenTix. I’m on the board of directors. In high school, it gave me the opportunity to explore art on my own terms.”


Joel Flatow
Senior vp artist and industry relations/chief of West Coast operations, RIAA

Flatow “takes the awe that people and policymakers feel for music” and turns it into laws that protect its creators. This year, he helped amend California’s AB5 gig-economy law to protect music professionals and worked with industry leaders and California politicians to ensure that coronavirus relief funds get into musicians’ hands.

A Cause I Support: “The Ally Coalition, [which] addresses the immediate needs of LGBTQ youth, particularly in this current climate.


Jasmine Flott
Creative licensing director, Terrorbird Media

In 2019, Terrorbird had one of its “strongest years in synch licensing” yet, says Flott, 37, but the work that’s especially important to her is what’s happening amid the pandemic: “It’s rewarding to be able to tell indie artists that they have money coming in when [other sources of revenue] aren’t available.”

In the Wake of COVID-19, the Industry Will: “Push through. How many times before have we heard the line, ‘This is the end of the industry as we know it’? The same innovative spirit has carried us through before and will again.”


Jess Furman
VP sync strategy, Big Noise Music Group; co-founder/president, Motion Creative

After joining Big Noise last year, Furman, 37, built up the artist-development firm’s synch division and co-founded Out Sessions, a writing camp for LGBTQ songwriters that’s now a part of Motion Creative, a nonprofit that empowers underrepresented communities in the industry. “Being able to be who I am makes me fearless,” she says.

How We're Fighting Racial Injustice: “I participated in a call with over 200 synch licensing professionals [to assemble] directives aimed at holding local municipalities accountable.”

John Geraghty
Founder/artist manager, JPG Projects

Carter Gregory
Director of A&R, Capitol Records

Read more about how Geraghty and Gregory are helping queer pop singer Fletcher reach new heights here.


Murdoc Hardy
Digital marketing manager, Interscope Geffen A&M

Hardy, 26, “grew up on stan Twitter” and now guides the social media presence of acts like Ari Lennox and Mustard, whose Instagram (2.4 million followers) Hardy helped transform from “photos of Ferraris” to video-heavy posts that highlighted the producer’s personality. “To fully grow your brand and get these Nike deals and water sponsorships,” says Hardy, “you have to show there’s someone worth investing in.”

My Side Hustle: “I’m a classically trained fine artist — oil paintings, drawing, charcoal sketches.”


Kei Henderson
Co-founder/head of marketing, Since the 80s

With six Grammy Award nods for clients this year, Henderson, 35, is studiously shaping the label, management and publishing firm into a next-generation powerhouse. Rappers EarthGang and J.I.D contributed to Dreamville’s platinum Revenge of the Dreamers III compilation, while songwriter NJOMZA worked on Ariana Grande’s thank u, next.

How We're Fighting Racial Injustice: “We’ve always been very focused on honoring the past while paving our future and investing quite a bit into mentorship — which the generations after us truly need.”


Lázaro Hernández
VP A&R, U.S. Latin and Latin America, Warner Chappell Music

Last year, the Miami native, 37, signed reggaetón upstarts Jhay Cortez and Lunay to the publishing company, whose Latin LGBTQ roster includes Brazilian drag star Pabllo Vittar, Chilean pop singer Javiera Mena and Dominican singer-songwriter Rita Indiana. “I didn’t want to lose any opportunities because of anybody’s biases,” he says of being out professionally, “but [being different] taught me to see different angles early on.”

A Cause I Support: “The UN Refugee Agency. It’s a cause close to me because my mom is Cuban and a Marielita [someone who fled Cuba during the 1980 mass emigration].”


Preston Hershorn
Creator product marketing lead, Instagram

Before COVID-19 made livestreaming from home common, Hershorn, 32, led the business and marketing strategies around tools like Instagram Live and IGTV, giving stars such as Billie Eilish and Selena Gomez new outlets to connect with fans. “Now artists are using the platform as a tool to bring levity during [the pandemic],” he says.

My Side Hustle: “Last year I launched a series of concerts in the Bay Area, Queer Beats, [to bring] queer artists into queer spaces.”


Mike Heyliger
Director of national sales, The Orchard

Heyliger, who co-ran The Orchard’s first Pride event last June, managed physical sales for such titles as BTS’ gold-certified Map of the Soul: Persona and Kelsea Ballerini’s recent self-titled album. “I’m a queer black guy working K-pop, metal, Latin, country,” says Heyliger, 44. “I wouldn’t want someone to think, ‘Since you’re queer, you should only be working with dance music.’ ”

My Side Hustle: “I started a podcast, Detoxicity, talking to people about communication, empathy and rewriting the code for what’s considered masculine.”


Sean Hill
Director of tour marketing, music, UTA

Tasked with promoting clients across all territories outside of North and South America, Hill, 34, has helped build buzz around some of the world’s biggest live shows, including the Jonas Brothers’ Happiness Begins trek, which sold over 180,000 tickets in Europe. “How we presented the tour creatively was something I was really proud of,” he says.

How We're Fighting Racial Injustice: “My colleagues and I marched in Parliament Square in London in support of Black Lives Matter. We’ll continue to be a part of that conversation.”


Tammy Hurt
Vice chair, board of trustees, Recording Academy; managing partner, Placement Music

Atlanta-based Hurt, 44, who owns boutique production/licensing company Placement Music, feels it’s her duty to ensure the LGBTQ community is well represented in the industry. At the Recording Academy, that means co-chairing its membership committee and “creating a more diverse and inclusive” group of voters.

My Side Hustle: “Behind the drum kit! Sonic Rebel’s We Made This With Our Hands is an instrumental EP mashing up electronic, rock and hip-hop elements, scheduled for fall 2020.”


Kenneth Jarvis III
A&R manager, Republic Records

Jarvis, 26, is constantly “connecting the dots” between artists and Republic’s A&R team by identifying emerging talent and coordinating A-list projects like Ariana Grande’s thank u, next. He also aims to empower LGBTQ people professionally: “I wasn’t sure if [my sexuality] was something I should be open about, but when you’re walking into rooms with creatives, they can see when you’re not comfortable.”

How We're Fighting Racial Injustice: “The Republic Records Action Committee [launched] to support various social justice issues. We also took a step back and self-audited our company’s culture through town halls.”


Clara Kim
Executive vp/general counsel, ASCAP

Kim oversaw all of the contracts that helped ASCAP bring in a record $1.27 billion in revenue in 2019, including agreements with companies like Spotify, NBC and Pandora. Amid the chaos of the pandemic — “Everything has to be rethought,” she says — she also helped ASCAP form a coalition with performing rights organizations and other groups to ensure Congress’ relief efforts benefited songwriters.

Advice for Young Queer Professionals: “Figure out ways to help your bosses, and stand out in the contributions you make. Turn them into your advocates.


Eric Mackay
Executive vp global digital strategy, Warner Chappell Music

In two years, Mackay, 39, has grown the global strategy team from two to a five-person “small but mighty” squad in the United States and the United Kingdom (with frequent collaborators in Asia) — and contributed to a 17% boost in first-quarter digital revenue. “I’m really proud of building a forward-thinking and inclusive team,” says Mackay.

My Side Hustle: “My drag queen tarot-card-reading alter ego hasn’t made an appearance for a while, as I’ve been busy working on a tech project to change the face of the music industry. So, no biggie!”


Brad Minor
Senior vp brand marketing, creative and communications, Pandora

Minor, 41, helped roll out Pandora’s revamped mobile experience last December with its “most ambitious marketing campaign ever,” including a livestreamed Halsey concert that accompanied a silent disco in New York’s Times Square. “When reviewing creative,” says Minor, “I always ask, ‘Would a human say this?’ We all want to be seen and heard — the best creative acknowledges that truth.”

Advice for Young Queer Professionals: “Fully embrace and express your full humanity. We are so fortunate to work in a field built on a foundation of expression and connection.”


Spencer Moya
Senior director, digital marketing, Interscope Geffen A&M

Read more about how Moya is helping artists find success on TikTok here.

 


Antonious Porch
General counsel, SoundCloud

Porch’s job comes down to three pillars: “Managing risk, protecting [intellectual property] and enhancing our brand,” says the Chicago native, who oversaw the acquisition of distribution company Repost Network in 2019, which gave SoundCloud’s 25 million-plus creators access to exclusive analytics and content-protection tools. “Giving artists the chance to shape their career and make money on SoundCloud is what the company has always been about,” he says.

How We're Fighting Racial Injustice: “On Blackout Tuesday, we paused our promotional activities and [amplified] the message through our platform and social media. We’ll continue to do all we can to ensure all voices for change are heard.”


Stephanie Ruyle
Executive vp/head of licensing, ASCAP

For Ruyle, bringing in over $900 million in domestic licensing revenue in 2019 involves more than closing deals with TV networks and streaming services — it means staying in touch with songwriters and publishing members at the heart of the organization. “My day-to-day is largely spent talking to licensees to identify issues,” she says. “It makes the work very rewarding.”

How We're Fighting Racial Injustice: “Helping connect people with resources on ascap.com/fightforchange [and] matching [employee] donations to Color for Change and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.”


Alexa Shouneyia
Manager of digital marketing, Columbia Records

In addition to developing campaigns for artists like the Dixie Chicks, HAIM and Hozier, Billboard alumna Shouneyia, 27, led the digital strategy for King Princess’ debut album, Cheap Queen, which included helping the queer singer-songwriter become an “Artist To Follow” on Twitter last December.

Advice for Young Queer Professionals: “Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Sometimes you’ll be in a room where you see something no one else sees. It can make all the difference.”


Troy Suda
Chief product officer, Ticketmaster International

Over the past year, Suda, 41, has led the transformation of Ticketmaster’s online fan marketplace across 21 countries and 17 languages. “It’s not just changing aesthetics,” says the Australian-born, London-based executive. “People are not only finding what they want; they’re actually buying tickets to more events because we’re making it easier for them.”

My Side Hustle: “Vegan advocacy. I do things like talk to restaurant owners or chains about how they could [offer] more options.”


Jenny Swiatowy
VP/head of creative sync licensing, Capitol Music Group

Placing the right song in the right screen project is a “magic moment,” says Swiatowy, 37, who secured Sam Smith’s cover of “I Feel Love” for Target’s 2019 holiday campaign and calls co-producing the buzzy upcoming Promising Young Woman soundtrack — featuring seven Capitol artists, three of whom are LGBTQ — “the highlight of my career.”

Advice for Young Queer Professionals: “If you’re in a place where you’re not finding a seat, move to a different table. At a different company, there will be a seat for you.”


Theresa Velasquez
Senior vp strategic partnerships, Live Nation

In her five years at the company, Velasquez, 35, has helped nurture relationships with such brands as Samsung and Hulu, while finding new ways to improve the fan experience through technology. “The proof is in our renewal rate and the multiyear commitments our clients have with us,” she says. “They go all-in.”

My Side Hustle: “DJ’ing. Occasionally for Pride month I’ll do back-to-back gigs and remember afterward that I’m 35 and don’t recover quite the same way.”


Ramon Villa
COO, Primary Wave

Managing almost $1 billion worth of music rights, Primary Wave executives often say they’re in the “legends business,” and Villa — whose close ties with Bob Marley’s family made the 52-year-old instrumental in the 2018 Marley publishing deal — says he “keeps the trains running so passengers are happy getting where they want to go.”

How We're Fighting Racial Injustice: “We’ve convened to hear experiences and ideas and are working on long and short plans that will be weaved into the ethos of the company.”


Annika Walsh
Artist and label partnerships lead, U.K. & Ireland, Spotify

With thriving acts like Emily Burns, girl in red and Claud, Walsh, 35, says it’s “an amazing moment in time” for LGBTQ visibility in music. She has also advocated for gender equity on Spotify playlists and was part of the team that helped launch RADAR, its global emerging artist program, which has supported acts like Alaina Castillo in the United States and queer pop star Rina Sawayama in Japan.

In the Wake of COVID-19, the Industry Will: “Be more supportive, on both a personal and professional level. We’ll increase our empathy for artists and the workforce.”

Contributors: Trevor Anderson, Katie Bain, Ed Christman, Leila Cobo, Stephen Daw, Nolan Feeney, Eric Frankenberg, Gab Ginsberg, Alim Kheraj, Steve Knopper, Jason Lipshutz, Joe Lynch, Taylor Mims, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Claudia Rosenbaum, Dan Rys, Avery Stone, Nick Williams

Methodology: Executives who publicly self-identify as LGBTQ were chosen by editors based on factors including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors at selected music companies. In addition to nominations, editors consider timely career accomplishments, recent successes by artists and clients, inclusivity initiatives and overall impact on the music industry.

This article originally appeared in the June 13, 2020 issue of Billboard.

Pride 2020 isn't canceled. Join Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter's Pride Summit & Pride Prom on Saturday (June 13) starting at 12:30 p.m. ET for performances, queer conversation, drag, artist cameos, glam sessions, DJs, dancing and more.

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