LUCIAN GRAINGE, 57
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Group
Last Year’s Rank: 2
BRAGGING RIGHTS: Grainge has done more than any other executive to lead the recorded-music industry to the promised land of streaming, and UMG, which controls 36.7 percent of the U.S. market, is now reaping the benefits. In the first three quarters of 2017, the label group’s revenue from recorded music grew 12.1 percent on a constant currency basis compared with the same period in 2016, while revenue from streaming was up 40.8 percent. By the end of the year, the company’s EBITA (earnings before interest, taxes and amortization) are expected to grow around 20 percent.
WHAT IT’S WORTH: In 2013, Universal corporate parent Vivendi turned down an $8.5 billion bid for the music company. Last August, a bullish Goldman Sachs report valued UMG at $23.5 billion.
MAN WITH A PLAN: UMG’s growth is the result of years of planning. In 2011, when the recorded-music business seemed doomed, Grainge, who had been running UMG for under a year, bet his career on the $1.9 billion purchase of EMI’s recorded-music operations. He has since continued to invest in both A&R (which revitalized Capitol Records with Migos and Halsey) and acquisitions like multimedia producer-distributor Eagle Rock Entertainment and digital marketer Fame House. Now, as streaming boosts the industry, UMG’s market share and pipeline of hits give Grainge leverage to negotiate key deals with tech companies. After years of holding out for better long-term agreements with Spotify and YouTube, Grainge in 2017 signed deals with both, as well as a pioneering contract with Facebook that will monetize music in user-generated content. “He is willing to think long term and played a very large role in the comeback of the recorded-music business,” says SB Projects founder Scooter Braun, whose Schoolboy Records label is distributed by UMG. Braun’s management client Justin Bieber, along with UMG’s marketing might, fueled the crossover success of the most-streamed song of the year, “Despacito.” (The track, including Bieber’s remix, generated 1.3 billion plays.)
TALENT IS TALENT: At a time when the dearth of women in corporate leadership is a hot-button issue, “Lucian chooses his executives without regard to anything but talent, and that’s why he has two of the strongest women in the business on his team, Jody Gerson and Michele Anthony,” says manager and Azoff MSG Entertainment chairman/CEO Irving Azoff. In 2017, UMG also partnered with the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, a University of Southern California program to foster diversity in media.
He has also helped change the business by remaining focused on what hasn’t changed. “At his core,” says Azoff, “Lucian is a music man.”