DAVID ABDO, 37
SENIOR VP GLOBAL OPERATIONS AND DISTRIBUTION, DISNEY MUSIC GROUP
David Abdo has been instrumental in doubling Disney Music Group’s market share during the last year. He capitalized on the soundtracks to Guardians of the Galaxy and Frozen (which have sold 374,000 and 3.4 million, respectively, according to Nielsen SoundScan) by encouraging user-generated content: For the latter, DMG included a karaoke version of “Let It Go” so listeners could make their own YouTube videos. “It added to the virality,” says Abdo. It also reflects his enthusiasm for technology, which is what got him hired straight out of college as a digital marketing coordinator at Disney’s Hollywood Records in 1999. “In my core, I knew tech and music were going to converge,” he says. “I wanted to be at the epicenter of it.”
The book I learned the most from “Professionally, Don Passman’s All You Need to Know About the Music Business. But science fiction like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the best reflection of — and contributor to — my personality.”
AARON BAY-SCHUCK, 33
PRESIDENT A&R, INTERSCOPE RECORDS
Aaron Bay-Schuck is best-known for his 2009 signing of Bruno Mars to Atlantic. “He was struggling to make it as an artist; I was struggling to define myself as an A&R person,” says Bay-Schuck. But the 38.9 million tracks that Mars has sold — along with 2.3 million copies of Unorthodox Jukebox — have defined them both. Mars was Billboard’s 2013 Artist of the Year, and earlier this month Bay-Schuck was named Interscope’s new president of A&R.
My first job “No. 2 assistant to the head of international operations at Interscope Geffen A&M.”
If I wasn’t in the music business “I’d be a food critic who always wished he was in the music business.”
ALEX DA KID, 33
CEO, KIDINAKORNER RECORDS & PUBLISHING
After Alex Da Kid produced the 6.3 million-selling 2010 hit “Love the Way You Lie” for Eminem, Jimmy Iovine offered him a label deal. Kidinakorner Records and Publishing launched in 2011, and Alex Da Kid quickly proved himself with signees Imagine Dragons, whose debut album, Night Visions, has logged 105 weeks on the Billboard 200 and has sold 2.3 million copies and another 14.4 million tracks. The band built a profile with a series of EPs, a strategy Alex Da Kid is now pursuing with X Ambassadors, whose track with Jamie N Commons, “Jungle,” was featured in a Beats World Cup ad and in the season-two trailer for Orange Is the New Black.
My first job “Working at a shoe store in London.”
The best way to manage stress “Sex.”
DONNA GRYN, 31
SENIOR DIRECTOR OF MARKETING, REPUBLIC RECORDS
Tapping focus groups to better tailor her marketing campaigns for Ariana Grande, Colbie Caillat and Jessie J has led Donna Gryn to create powerful direct-to-fan initiatives. For Grande, that meant giving fans who purchased her new album, My Everything, from the singer’s direct-to-consumer page an exclusive stream of a concert at Los Angeles’ iHeartRadio Theatre. “The key was it wasn’t just singles,” says Gryn. “She basically taped the entire album.” The result was Grande’s second No. 1 album debut in less than 12 months. To this, Gryn adds partnerships like Austin Mahone’s $8.7 million Aquafina deal that result in a healthy boost for both label and artist.
My big break “Working as a promotions assistant at Roc-a-Fella during its prime, while I was still in college.”
Power lunch spot “I’m sort of obsessed with Pio Pio in Hell’s Kitchen.”
JOHN JANICK, 36
PRESIDENT/CEO, INTERSCOPE GEFFEN A&M
When John Janick was named president/CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M in May, he succeeded label co-founder Jimmy Iovine. If taking over for a legend is heavy pressure, Janick isn’t letting it show. In the past year, he secured 25 Grammy nominations; cemented some of the industry’s biggest breakthrough artists, including Kendrick Lamar, Imagine Dragons and Disclosure; and helped steer Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” to become the top-selling digital song of 2013 with 6.5 million downloads. “I don’t find myself always wishing for the good old days,” says Janick. “I’m scrappy about everything.”
My first job “I started a label when I was 17 called J4 Records, and when I was 18 I started Fueled by Ramen. I was a part-time tennis instructor to pay the bills, but this has always been my passion.”
My big break “One of the first big acts I worked with was Fall Out Boy when I was 22. It was amazing.”
BRIAN NOLAN, 34
VP, CREATIVE AGENCY, COLUMBIA RECORDS
Single sales of Hozier’s “Like Real People Do” rose 2,300 percent the week after the track closed MTV’s Teen Wolf, a great example of how Brian Nolan turns to film/TV supervisors and the ad world to gain momentum for active singles. Songs from Pharrell Williams, John Legend, DJ Snake and many others have benefited from Nolan’s Creative Agency work. Up next: a second season of exposure for Columbia artists in season two of the Citi Web series Culinary Beats.
My big break “Landing the job at Sony in the mixshow promotion department.”
The album that made me want to be in the music business “Rawkus Records Presents Soundbombing Vol. 2.”
The song I wish I worked “Pink’s ‘U + UR Hand.’ This record lost its bullet at least twice before it charted at top 40. Pink’s career went into overdrive after that.”
ROD RILEY, 39
PRESIDENT/CEO, WORD ENTERTAINMENT
Under Rod Riley, Word Entertainment artists have won the Dove Award for new artist in three of the last four years, as the company has expanded into events, merchandising and more. “We’re going to continue to have artists creating great music that inspires people,” he says.
My first job “Customer service phone rep at Brentwood Music. The year I started, the company began to merge warehouses while UPS went on strike – I got to learn on the front lines.”
The best way to manage stress “Electronic quarantine. It’s hard to do, but sometimes I have to shut down every electronic device to recharge myself and think clearly.”
If I weren’t in the music business, I would be “Travel show host on TV. Seriously, that is a great gig.”
NIR SEROUSSI, 38
PRESIDENT, SONY MUSIC U.S. LATIN
Nir Seroussi saw the midyear market share of Sony Music U.S. rise to 32.2 percent from 25.7 percent thanks to big wins like Romeo Santos’ Formula: Vol. 2 (with sales of 215,000 units) and success for Wisin, Yandel and Carlos Vives. Up next: new releases from Ricky Martin, Chayanne and Prince Royce — and acts that target the global market. “I want to become a hub of international success stories,” says Seroussi.
My first job “The lowest entry position at WEA Latina, stuffing envelopes and pretty much helping everyone else.”
The album that made me want to be in the music business “The tape I wore down was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I must have been 9 or 10.”
The best way to manage stress “Practicing akido. It’s a martial art that stands for unifying the harmony of energy. I do it three to four times a week.”