STEPHEN COOPER, 71
CEO, Warner Music Group
MAX LOUSADA, 44
CEO of recorded music, WMG
Last Year’s Rank: 8
2017 ACHIEVEMENTS In a year where the music business as a whole achieved its best yearly growth after nearly two decades of decline, WMG CEO Stephen Cooper was able to brag about four consecutive years of global market share increases, including a nearly 25 percent upswing in digital revenue in 2017.
SHEERAN IS BELIEVIN’ While Ed Sheeran’s third album, ÷ (Divide), conquered, making the singer-songwriter No. 1 on Billboard’s year-end Top Artists tally, hits from Bruno Mars, Lil Pump, Cardi B, Dua Lipa and the continued success of the Hamilton Broadway cast album also provided plenty of firepower.
MAKEOVER BY MAX With Cooper’s October elevation of Warner U.K. head Max Lousada to CEO of recorded music, WMG took its first step toward accelerating that growth in 2018. Lousada, who has played a key role in Sheeran’s success, says he envisions WMG under his leadership as “a company with a bespoke approach to making music, but run with volume results. We have the ability to be everywhere globally … from the moment of launch,” he says, adding that when it comes to identifying and nurturing talent, “the story is not always in the stats. Creativity in A&R and artist development is always going to be a constant, and if you come out of A&R, then you’re comfortable with risks.”
“It was obvious from when I first met him that Max had an amazing music brain,” says Sheeran of Lousada, who splits his time among New York, Los Angeles and London. “His passion and knowledge is second to none, and he has been responsible for so many artists’ success stories.”
The father of two, who is over a decade younger than the heads of rival label groups Universal (Lucian Grainge is 57) and Sony (Rob Stringer is 55), wasted no time in shaking up the status quo at WMG: He appointed Island A&R head Rani Hancock to run Sire Records even before he officially began his new duties, and on his second day, tagged RCA’s Tom Corson and Interscope Geffen A&M’s Aaron Bay-Schuck to run Warner Bros. Records.
WAKING WARNER BROS. RECORDS Once the new executive team is in place later in 2018 — due to contractual obligations, Bay-Schuck may not start until September — the industry will be watching closely. WBR’s current market share for 2017 was 3.39 percent, just a little over a quarter of sister label Atlantic’s market-leading 12.43 percent. But an assured Lousada says, “Complementing Atlantic with a compelling, resurgent Warner Bros. is one of the things I’m looking forward to seeing.”