Among the 29 executives included in Billboard‘s Latin Power Players list, it turns out a good number of them are musicians too. Read on to learn how music changed their lives and the defining musical moments that shaped their careers.
1. Afo Verde (chairman/CEO Latin region, Spain and Portugal, Sony Music Entertainment; guitarist/producer): “I’ll go back to when I started. I had my reggae band, La Zimbabwe Band, and UB40 was playing in Buenos Aires. They went to our soundcheck, they liked it, and asked us to play with them. I was a big fan of ‘Rat in My Kitchen,’ and we went onstage with my entire band to play with them at Estadio Velez. Imagine, a 21-year-old guy who would ditch school to listen to UB40 ends up playing with UB40. Obviously, I went on to play with many wonderful artists. But at that point in time, it was very hard to even fathom an English band playing with a little Argentine band.”
2. Gabriel Abaroa (president/CEO the Latin Recording Academy; drummer): “I began playing piano when I was 10 years old, and then I became a drummer. I began giving concerts and really improving until I came to study to the U.S. when I was 12. When I was 15, I began playing for money. I don’t continue to play for money now, but I continue to be very close to music. It’s part of my life. So there was not, like, a concert that put me there, I just loved music.”
3. Nir Seroussi: (president, Sony Music U.S. Latin; guitarist/composer): “When I was in high school, I was making money by buying and selling instruments to my friends. In Caracas, I studied at the American high school, and in six months I ended up supplying half the kids in the school, I had half the kids playing an instrument. I played guitar in the early stages, but that experience of buying and selling instruments actually gave me a rush more than playing an instrument.”
4. Iñigo Zabala (president, Warner Music Latin America/Iberia; keyboardist, songwriter): “I was a musician, signed to Warner [Zabala was a keyboardist for Spanish rock/pop band La Union and co-wrote their hit ‘Hombre Lobo en París’]. I became a musician because of David Bowie, The Clash, Lou Reed, The Beatles. It’s something you have inside, and at some point it becomes an obsession.”
5. Tomas Cookman (president, Cookman/Nacional; drummer): “When I first saw Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True on the shelves at a record store, I was intrigued, bought the album without hearing it, and it changed my life. From there I discovered The Clash, Ramones, Talking Heads and so much more. It was a parallel universe for a guy growing up in the projects in a Puerto Rican family. From that moment on, I said ‘I have to be in this,’ and a month later I was in a band.”
6. Jorge Mejía (EVP Sony ATV Music Publishing, Latin America/U.S. Latin; pianist, composer): “The Keith Jarrett Koln concert made me want to be a piano player. When I heard that I said, ‘I want to do this.’ I started playing when I was 16. I broke my leg and it was a pretty bad fracture and I couldn’t do anything, I always wanted to play the piano and finally we had the piano sent to Colombia from the U.S.”