Skip to main content

Revealed: Billboard’s 2019 International Power Players Led By Drake’s OVO Team

With global music sales rising at a record-setting rate, thanks to the explosive popularity of streaming, these are the executives in every sector who are driving the industry’s success outside the…

With global music sales rising at a record-setting rate, thanks to the explosive popularity of streaming, these are the executives in every sector who are driving the industry’s success outside the U.S.

Billboard's International Power Players 2019 Revealed | Billboard

Future the Prince*
Manager, Drake
Mr. Morgan*
President, OVO Sound
Noah “40” Shebib*
Co-founder, OVO/OVO Sound; producer
Oliver ­El-Khatib*
Co-founder, OVO

When Drake was named the world’s best-selling recording artist of 2018 by IFPI in February, cheering him on were the members of his OVO team who are closely identified with the Canadian superstar’s success.

Future the Prince and Noah “40” Shebib, honored in February on Billboard’s Power 100 list, and Mr. Morgan, recognized (with Shebib) last November in Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players report and OVO co-founder Oliver El-Khatib, lead the 2019 roster of International Power Players for their role in Drake’s global domination.

The rapper’s fifth album, the 25-track Scorpion, released in June 2018, was the first LP to reach 1 billion worldwide streams in its first week of release, according to IFPI. The track “God’s Plan,” put out in January, broke first-day streaming records on Spotify and Apple Music with over 14 million streams, reports IFPI.


Drake was also named the world’s top-selling artist of 2016 for the streaming success of his album Views. “That Drake has won this award for the second time is testament to his continued global appeal and his ability to engage and connect with fans,” says IFPI CEO Frances Moore.

Drake’s OVO team keeps a low profile. (They declined to speak for this story.) But their business partners praise their creativity and self-direction.

“Drake and them, they do their thing,” says Ronald “Slim” Williams, co-CEO of Cash Money Records, which has released each of the rapper’s albums, beginning with Thank Me Later in 2010. “We put together plans and stuff. But you don’t have to do much with Drake.”

The trio has particularly strengthened Drake’s ties with Spotify and Apple, the world’s two largest music streaming services, sometimes sacrificing potential CD sales to be digital-first.

“The OVO team never rested on their laurels,” says Nick Holmsten, global head of music at Spotify. “Future, Mr. Morgan and 40 consistently seek new and forward-thinking ways to reward existing fans and continue winning over new ones.”


Holmsten notes, for example, that to reach Spotify’s users in more than 80 markets worldwide, “the OVO team even made [Scorpion] available on-demand to our free-tier users for a limited time, capturing the attention of a far wider audience than they would have otherwise.”

Fans were hooked by Scorpion, says Holmsten, “and because of that, we saw a significant number of free users convert to paying subscribers after they got a taste of the premium experience.” The collaboration between the rapper and his team with Spotify proved fruitful: “Drake was the top artist globally in 2018, surpassing 8 billion streams.”

Apple Music global creative director Larry Jackson notes that Drake’s Views in 2016 achieved collective, first-week global sales and streams of 1.2 million units through Apple Music and iTunes alone.

“Following the launch of Views,” he recalls, “we traveled with Drake and the entire OVO team to South Africa, where we [shot] the short film for Please Forgive Me, his suspense thriller centered around many of the songs from Views, and it remains the most-watched video of any type on our platform today.”

For Scorpion, Drake and his team worked with Apple last July in the United Kingdom on his video for “Nonstop,” “which is also the most-watched music video ever on Apple Music,” says Jackson.

Apart from the global success of Drake’s albums and singles on Apple Music, OVO Sound Radio, hosted and curated by OVO co-founder ­El-Khatib, “is still one of the most successful and ­most-listened-to programs globally on Beats 1 radio since its launch in July 2015.”

Says Jackson: “I consider Drake, Future the Prince and the OVO team true friends and real partners who have not only set the bar on a global scale for themselves but also played a significant role in helping Apple Music to achieve notable global success.”

Billboard's International Power Players 2019 Revealed | Billboard

Peter Aiken, 57 
Head of Aiken Promotions

Aiken has brought some of music’s biggest names to Ireland, following in the footsteps of his late father, Jim Aiken, who founded Dublin-based Aiken Promotions. The crown jewel of 2018 was Ed Sheeran’s record-breaking ÷ (Divide) tour: Nine shows moved 415,000 tickets, making it the biggest event in Ireland last year. “The unbelievably huge appetite people have for live entertainment now is impressive when there are so many other things clamoring for attention,” says Aiken.

George Akins, 44
Managing director, DHP Family 

Akins and his independently owned DHP Family operate key British venues such as Rock City, The Garage and Borderline. The company is also one of the largest promoters of metropolitan festivals in England. In 2018 it helmed Massive Attack’s special Mezzanine tour at the Steel Yard venue in Bristol, England (drawing 30,000 people over two days), and co-promoted 15 Ed Sheeran shows for 900,000 fans. “In this ever-corporatizing world that we’re in, small companies like ours can deliver,” says Akins. “We take pride in that.”

Fernando Alterio, 66
Vice chairman/CEO, Time 4 Fun

Lollapalooza Brazil increased ticket sales by 92% and realized a 75% hike in total revenue from 2017 to 2018. “I am very happy to say that we have grown Lollapalooza Brazil significantly,” says Alterio of the music festival, which expanded from two days to three. Time 4 Fun, the local partner of Lolla promoter C3 Presents, says that the event continues to be a regional phenomenon despite the macroeconomic adversities it faces. “Brazil suffered impeachment,” he says, referring to the ouster of former President Dilma Rousseff. “Argentina suffered a major currency devaluation. This has made international concert promotion more challenging, but we are optimistic about the future.”

Kelly Chappel*
Senior vp European touring, Live Nation
Michael Coppel, 69
Chairman, Live Nation Australia 
Denis Desmond, 65
Chairman, Live Nation U.K. & Ireland
Antonella Lodi, 53
COO, Live Nation Italy 
Anna-Sophie Mertens, 32
Vp touring U.K., Live Nation
John Reid, 57
President of concerts, Live Nation Europe

Live Nation has been expanding its European presence through acquisitions — absorbing Norway’s Tons of Rock music festival, Spain’s Planet Events and Swiss promoter Mainland Music — and Reid notes that the European division’s talent and promoter teams are now 50% staffed by women. Mertens, who sees herself as a role model for the next generation of female promoters, has been focused on supporting young acts. “Four artists I’ve been working with — Lewis Capaldi, Sigrid, Greta Van Fleet and Yungblud — have seen stellar growth,” drawing audiences of 5,000-plus in London, she says. Chappel, a 15-year veteran of Live Nation, orchestrated “female inspiration” Michelle Obama’s book-tour stop at London’s O2 Arena, which sold out in minutes. She also helped Live Nation set a record with Bon Iver’s eight sold-out shows at London’s Eventim Apollo. In Italy, Lodi notes that local rocker Vasco Rossi sold 350,000 tickets for six concerts at Milan’s San Siro Stadium in June, and rising star Marc Mengoni will play 34 arena dates in 2019 — two examples of Italian artists that she believes could achieve international success. In August, Desmond sold his MCD concerts to a 50-50 joint venture between Live Nation and Desmond’s Gaiety Investments. He now controls 20 U.K. venues and festivals, including Reading, Leeds and Isle of Wight. Events like Brighton’s The Great Escape — a South by Southwest-style showcase — have created a pipeline for the next generation of artists, says Desmond, adding, “Being in a position to discover new acts, invest in their future and staying with them over the course — that is what’s important to me and Live Nation.” Coppel saw sellouts in 2018 from Cher, Taylor Swift, Kevin Hart and Roger Waters, and helped P!nk move over 600,000 tickets. On tap Down Under for 2019 are Fleetwood Mac, Post Malone, Maroon 5 and stadium tours by Metallica and U2. Australia is “one of the top live touring markets in the world,” says Coppel.


Nick Farkas, 53
Vp bookings, concerts and events, evenko

For Montreal-based evenko, Farkas last year faced the “massive logistical puzzle” of shifting his four festivals — Osheaga, Ilesoniq, Heavy Montreal and the punk-oriented ’77 Montreal — to a temporary location within the city’s Parc Jean-Drapeau while it renovated the park’s primary amphitheater. Despite the disruption, the festivals sold over 200,000 tickets, reports Farkas.

Michael Gudinski, 66
Chairman, Mushroom Group; CEO, Frontier Touring

In the intensely competitive Australian live music market, Gudinski now wields “more artillery” after reuniting with former partner and fellow promoter Michael Chugg and striking a 50-50 joint venture between AEG Live and Frontier, the No. 2 and No. 3 promoters worldwide, respectively, according to Billboard Boxscore. “It’s very humbling to be standing up against Live Nation,” says Gudinski, who scored a record-breaking, million-plus-ticket-selling tour of Australia and New Zealand with Ed Sheeran in 2018. Meanwhile, Frontier’s parent company, Mushroom Group, saw Kylie Minogue’s album Golden reach No. 1 in Australia and Childish Gambino top the singles chart with “This Is America,” with both artists released by Mushroom’s Liberator label.

Michael Gudinski and Ed Sheeran
Frontier Touring, led by Gudinski (left), sold 1 million tickets in 2018 to stadium shows in Australia and New Zealand by Sheeran, and ranked as the No. 3 promoter worldwide, according to Billboard Boxscore. Matt Jelonek/WireImage

Steve Homer, 55
Co-CEO, AEG Presents Europe
Toby Leighton-Pope, 42
Co-CEO, AEG Presents Europe
Adam Wilkes, 38
President/CEO, AEG Asia

“A totally uplifting experience,” says Homer of promoting former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s biggest solo tour ever in the United Kingdom, which sold over 80,000 tickets. Under the guidance of Leighton-Pope, Hugh Jackman’s The Man. The Music. The Show. World Tour sold out 26 arenas in Europe, moving more than 300,000 tickets. “We were confident,” says Leighton-Pope, “but it outperformed our confidence.” Wilkes reports that AEG announced the development of two new venues in Thailand — the Em Live performance hall and the Bangkok Arena — with capacities of 6,000 and 16,000, respectively. Both buildings are expected to open in 2023.

Fokert Koopmans*
Managing director, FKP Scorpio

Germany’s FKP Scorpio presented festivals and concerts that drew 750,000 fans in 2018, “but sheer numbers can’t do justice to the bond we’ve come to share with many of our artists,” says Koopmans. On Ed Sheeran’s blockbuster ÷ (Divide) tour, “we were responsible for all shows in Germany and several European countries as well” — including a stadium date in Warsaw, Poland, that drew 100,000, adds Koopmans. “This was a very rewarding experience for my whole team, not only because the tour was extraordinarily successful but because we’ve worked with Ed for many years now and have seen him rise from newcomer to international megastar.”


Simon Moran, 53
Managing director, SJM Concerts

One of the United Kingdom’s biggest promoters, Moran’s SJM Concerts co-owns and operates the T in the Park and V festivals as well as the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London and O2 Brixton Academy venues. Moran also co-owns Future Records with Take That frontman Gary Barlow. His highlights for 2019: the Spice Girls and Take That U.K. reunion tours, which have each sold over 600,000 tickets, he reports.

John Sharkey, 53
Executive vp European operations, SMG

Sharkey directs European operations for SMG, the venue management company whose facilities in European markets sold over 3 million tickets in 2018. He and his team oversaw the opening of the TECA complex in Aberdeen, Scotland, including its 12,500-capacity arena, and Sharkey led SMG’s efforts to develop the new $3 billion, government-backed Kai Tak sports park in Hong Kong, which will include a stadium and an arena. In Asia, says Sharkey, “the growth opportunities are limitless.” In February, SMG owner Onex announced a merger with AEG Facilities to create ASM Global, the world’s biggest facility management company with more than 300 venues under contract.

Alejandro Soberón, 59
President/CEO, CIE/OCESA

OCESA, a subsidiary of the Mexican entertainment giant CIE, proved the global power of a Latin American star across Europe, Canada and the United States as Mexican pop icon Luis Miguel sold 899,442 tickets from the 104 shows on his 2018 tour. Within Mexico, “Miguel showed that markets exist in the country that can accommodate bigger shows than had previously been staged,” says Soberón. For OCESA, 2018 was a breakthrough year, as the company experienced an 18.8% increase in festivals and was named a finalist in the Billboard Touring Awards’ top promoter category, alongside AEG Live and Live Nation.

Billboard's International Power Players 2019 Revealed | Billboard

Rebecca Allen, 45
President, Decca Records Group U.K.

Allen, marking Decca’s 90th anniversary this year, led the classical label to another milestone when Andrea Bocelli simultaneously topped the Billboard 200 and British charts with . It was “a first for Bocelli and a first for Decca,” whose share of the U.K. classical market reached 45% in 2018, says Allen. “Dealing with artists that lead, rather than follow, is still the best reason to get out of bed.”

George Ash, 55
President, Universal Music Asia Pacific
Frank Briegmann, 51
President/CEO, Universal Music Central Europe/Deutsche Grammophon; Universal Music Group
Sipho Dlamini, 45
Managing director, South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa; Universal Music Group
Naoshi Fujikura, 51
President/CEO, Universal Music Japan
Adam Granite, 45
Executive vp market development, Universal Music Group
David Joseph, 50
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music U.K. & Ireland; Universal Music Group
Jesús López*
Chairman/CEO, Latin America & Iberian Peninsula; Universal Music Latin Entertainment
Olivier Nusse, 51
CEO, Universal Music France
Dickon Stainer, 51
President/CEO, Global Classics & Jazz; Universal Music Group

The world’s largest music company, Universal Music Group operates in some 60 markets — and counting. Since September 2017, Granite has been responsible for the company’s strategy in fast-growing territories including China, India, sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa, Turkey, the Middle East and markets within Southeast Asia. “Sixty percent of the world’s population lives in India, China, Southeast Asia and Africa,” he says. Last July, under Dlamini, UMG launched Universal Music Nigeria, which also covers Ghana, Gambia and other territories. The new label signed Nigerian artists including WurlD, Odunsi (The Engine), Tay Iwar and Mr Eazi, and, in May, Nigerian star Tiwa Savage joined UMG. Joseph oversees UMG’s crucial repertoire source in the United Kingdom, with a roster including Sam Smith, The 1975, The Rolling Stones, U2, Florence + The Machine and Mumford & Sons. “I don’t think our labels have ever been so in tune with what’s going on in the market in terms of possibilities and how the next 10 years could look,” he says. Nusse reports considerable success with the French division’s domestic repertoire in 2018: the most-streamed artist (Damso) and track (Vald’s “Désaccordé”) on Spotify, as well as the most-streamed album of the year (Dadju’s Gentleman 2.0) on Deezer and Apple Music France. In Japan, the world’s second-largest music market, Fujikura launched a new label, Johnny’s Universe, and reports 800,000 physical copies sold of the debut single from boy band King & Prince, “Cinderella Girl.” UMG artists and labels enjoyed a record year across the Asia-Pacific region by market share, chart share, platform share and other metrics, according to Ash, who highlights the breakthroughs of Australian signings Dean Lewis and AB Original. López notes that Universal Latin acts such as J Balvin, Sebastián Yatra and Karol G are winning fans worldwide. Stainer has moved UMG’s classics and jazz repertoire into the digital age with streaming successes for composer Max Richter and Italian composer-pianist Ludovico Einaudi, while also developing artist-discovery partnerships with streaming services. In 2018, “Universal Music was once again market leader in every country I am in charge of [in central Europe],” says Briegmann, while “transforming companies on the fly.”

Frank Briegmann and Lady Gaga
UMG’s Briegmann (right) hosted Lady Gaga during her visit to Berlin in 2016 for the Universal Inside event at Mercedes-Benz Arena. Julia Schoierer/Universal Music Germany

Si-Hyuk Bang, 46
CEO/executive producer, BigHit Entertainment

The mastermind behind BTS catapulted the seven-man K-pop band to No. 1 on both the Billboard Artist 100 and Billboard 200 charts and engineered a sold-out Love Yourself: Speak Yourself stadium tour across the globe. Despite those feats, Bang says the most significant moment of the past year was the group’s speech at the United Nations on Sept. 24. “BTS worked very hard to deliver their message, put together in their own words,” he says. “It was a symbolic moment where the artists’ life itself was a performance, a message of hope to the youth all around the world.”

South Korea’s K-pop sensation BTS visited the United Nations in New York last September for a UNICEF campaign meeting.  Craig Ruttle/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Stu Bergen, 52
CEO, international and global commercial services; Warner Music Group
Thierry Chassagne, 55
President, Warner Music France
Bernd Dopp, 63
Chairman/CEO, Warner Music Central Europe
Tim Fraser-Harding, 59
President of global catalog, recorded music; Warner Music Group
Alfonso Perez-Soto, 47
Executive vp Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Warner Music Group
Simon Robson, 47
President, Warner Music Asia
Iñigo Zabala*
President, Warner Music Latin America & Iberia

WMG revenue in 2018 topped $4 billion for the first time in over two decades, and the biggest contributor to growth came from the international recorded-music division led by Bergen. “In the streaming era, a hit can race around the world faster than ever before,” he says. “But at the same time, local repertoire is incredibly strong in most markets. We’re seeing it particularly with urban music in Europe, but also everywhere from Canadian country to Korean hip-hop.” The December 2017 death of an iconic local artist, French rock legend Johnny Hallyday, led to 1.7 million in worldwide sales of his posthumous album, Mon Pays C’est L’amour, released last October, which for “an album sung in French is an incredible feat,” says Chassagne. Dopp, who has led WMG’s division in central Europe for 18 years, had Warner artists claim five of the top 10 slots on the year-end 2018 singles chart in Germany, the world’s fourth-largest music market. “With superstar rapper Bausa and ‘Was Du Liebe Nennst,’ Warner had the most successful domestic single,” he says, “while Ed Sheeran was the most successful international artist of the year.” Fraser-Harding says the market for catalog music “has been revolutionized” and become “a digital-first sector.” Last year’s 50th anniversary of the founding of Led Zeppelin drove some 307 million global streams on Spotify alone for “Stairway to Heaven,” he says. Zabala cites “the success of our artists outside of the Spanish-speaking markets,” particularly Paulo Londra, Sofía Reyes, Piso 21 and Zion & Lennox, while Robson observes that “getting China right is crucial to the future of our company.” In a first, Tia Ray, who is signed to Warner Music China, reached the top 10 of IFPI’s global singles chart with “Be Apart” at No. 7. Perez-Soto has struck strategic partnerships with Nigeria’s influential music/entertainment company Chocolate City; Boomplay Music, Africa’s largest streaming service with 42 million registered users; and the music division of Turkey’s Do?an Media Group. “Today’s emerging markets,” he says, “will be the major markets of tomorrow.”

Thierry Chassagne and Ninho
WMG’s Chassagne (right) with French-Congolese rapper Ninho. Courtesy of WMG

Rebecca Berman, 42
Michael Nance*
Senior vp/co-heads of international, Concord

Before joining Concord, Nance’s 25-year tenure as executive vp global at Warner Bros. Records concluded with the international success of “Meant to Be” from Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha. At the label group since November, he says he is still adapting to Concord’s not-so-corporate culture. “Working at a major, one of the things I had to say a lot was ‘no,’ ” he recalls. “I’m saying ‘yes’ a lot more here.” Berman says rapper Denzel Curry reached 175 million streams outside the United States, largely thanks to a key Australia TV appearance on Triple J’s Like a Version. “What we do at Concord is not necessarily a pop game, so that was massive,” she says. “I’m really proud.”

Fred Casimir, 57
Executive vp global repertoire and marketing, BMG
Dominique Kulling, 38
Executive vp repertoire and marketing, continental Europe; BMG
Alistair Norbury, 53
President of repertoire and marketing, BMG U.K. 
Ama Walton, 48
Global general counsel/chief human resources officer, BMG

While music publishing still accounts for some two-thirds of BMG’s global revenue, the company’s rise as a “fourth major” record label is affirmed by the success abroad in the past year of albums by Kylie Minogue, Lenny Kravitz, Marianne Faithfull, Dido, The Prodigy and others. “Apart from highly successful releases, [we had] revenue growth of 12% versus the prior year in continental Europe,” says Casimir, “and BMG’s worldwide recordings business is now accounting for one-third of its revenue.” Responsible in the United Kingdom for publishing and frontline recordings, Norbury looks to “make good on BMG’s promise to offer artists and songwriters a genuine alternative to the established players.” The British charts confirm his success with Minogue’s Golden and The Prodigy’s No Tourist both reaching No. 1, while George Ezra, signed to BMG as a songwriter (and Sony Music U.K. as a recording artist) hit No. 1 with his album Staying at Tamara’s and single “Shotgun.” Kulling, promoted to her regional role in April, previously was managing director for Germany, Switzerland and Austria. She notes the “strong expansion” of the company’s recording roster in Germany with Adel Tawil, Anna Loos, Seeed, KitschKrieg and Stefanie Heinzmann. Walton collaborated with BMG North America general counsel Keith Hauprich to reach a “substantial settlement” in August 2018 in the company’s long-pending copyright infringement action against Cox Communications. Terms were not disclosed, but “BMG is extremely happy” with the agreement, she says.

Rob Cowling, 46
GM, Gallo Record Company/Gallo Music Publishers

In South Africa, the independent Gallo label claims 13.4% of market share in local repertoire across all formats, “putting us third behind majors Universal and Sony in the territory,” says Cowling. In March, the executive traveled to Musexpo in Burbank, Calif., to showcase one of the label’s homegrown stars, Paxton, winner of South Africa’s Idols TV talent show. With its “vast musical landscape … unique sounds and special rhythms, South Africa can develop its own styles and genres,” says Cowling, who cites gqom as “a new genre of electronic house music that is taking the country by storm.”

Denis Handlin, 68
Chairman/CEO, Sony Music Australia & New Zealand; president of Asia, Sony Music Entertainment
Jason Iley, 50
Chairman/CEO, Sony Music U.K. & Ireland
Daniel Lieberberg, 48
President of continental Europe and Africa, Sony Music Entertainment
Nicola Tuer*
COO, Sony Music U.K. & Ireland
Afo Verde*
Chairman/CEO, Latin America, Spain and Portugal; Sony Music Entertainment

“The desire to be No. 1 never goes away, and we’ve had some quite special No. 1s this year,” says Iley of the U.K. chart-topping single “One Kiss” by Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa, and George Ezra’s album Staying at Tamara’s. Concluding his term in February as BRIT Awards chairman, Iley adds, “I feel amazingly privileged to [have looked] after the biggest night in British music.” Tuer, Iley’s fellow Sony Music U.K. executive, takes pride in how the British company “has evolved with the changing market. We’re in the attention business. Offering the broadest range of bespoke services and having a diverse range of people [on] your team is the only way to succeed.” Handlin, Sony’s longest-serving executive worldwide (49 years), says the company has invested “millions” in the Asia-Pacific region in recent years, including A&R-driven joint ventures like dance label Liquid State, a partnership with China’s Tencent Music Entertainment Group. “Our A&R approach has always been about taking local artists to the next level,” says Handlin. Overseeing Sony Music teams in 20 countries, Lieberberg wants to “enhance their confidence in what they do and support them.” Since joining Sony from Universal in January 2018, he has boosted A&R staff in the region by 30%. Verde highlights the international achievements of Sony Latin stars including Maluma, Rosalía, CNCO, Nicky Jam, Wisin & Yandel and Lali. “I’m also very proud of the work we’ve done with The Orchard [Sony Music’s global independent distributor] on joint projects like Ozuna, Natti Natasha and Anuel AA, among many others.”

Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa won best single of the year at the 2019 BRIT Awards for “One Kiss,” her duet with Calvin Harris. Samir Hussein/WireImage

Paul Hitchman*
President, AWAL
Paul Trueman*
GM of U.K. and international, AWAL
Ryan Wright*
Chief marketing officer, Kobalt/AWAL

“In the last 12 months we proved that AWAL can compete at the highest level globally,” says Hitchman of Kobalt’s recording division, which has formed new partnerships with labels including Glassnote, Good Soldier, First Access, Downtown Records, Lex Records and B-Unique. Trueman highlights the achievements of AWAL artists including Gerry Cinnamon, Tom Misch, Rex Orange County and especially Lauv, who has reached 2.5 billion streams worldwide (65% outside the United States), he says. Through a multichannel drive involving social media, events, email, print and online advertising, Wright has relaunched AWAL’s brand around the world, enlisting several artists for the division’s “I Am My Own Label” campaign.

Billboard's International Power Players 2019 Revealed | Billboard

Azi Eftekhari, 39
Head of label relations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa,YouTube/Google
Sun Lee, 43
Head of music content partnerships and subscriptions for Korea and Greater China, YouTube/Google
David Mogendorff, 40
Head of artist relations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa; YouTube Music, YouTube/Google

Within the past year, Eftekhari spearheaded YouTube Music’s launch in 19 new markets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, with more territories to come. “Whether you’re an aspiring musician in a small U.K. town or an Afrobeats star in Nigeria, [creating] a platform to directly find a global audience means we’re giving a voice to diversity and creativity,” says Eftekhari. Lee orchestrated BTS’ first YouTube Originals series, Burn the Stage, which offered exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of its 2017 international tour. The inaugural episode attracted 5 million views in 24 hours — and 80% of the series’ total views have come from outside Korea. “Cultural communication is happening at lightspeed, driving wonderful new forms of music,” says Mogendorff.

Tomas Ericsson, 51

At the helm of AMRA, the global digital music collection society that has been owned by Kobalt since 2015, Ericsson led recent expansion into Japan and Brazil, which join “the other 180-plus territories” where the service licenses music for digital consumption. He has also brought on new executives to strengthen AMRA’s presence in Europe and the Middle East. “Our mission is to deliver more value, and faster,” says Ericsson of AMRA’s proprietary technology. “It’s not acceptable that songwriters, in some cases, receive royalties from digital 12-18 months after the song was consumed.”

Rene Fasco, 48
Director, Amazon Music Japan
Paul Firth, 48
Director, Amazon Music U.K.
Sahas Malhotra, 43
Director, Amazon Music India
Federico Pedersen, 48
Head of Amazon Music Latin America

Firth coordinated the launch of Amazon Music in 20 countries during the past year but remains a champion of each market’s local repertoire. “It’s great that we have global stars, but let’s not forget that a strong local scene is vital,” he says. Under Fasco’s oversight, prominent Japanese artists such as Mariya Takeuchi, Atarashii Chizu and Tatsur? Yamashita joined Amazon Music’s lineup in an effort to crack a market that historically has been reluctant to embrace streaming. Fasco notes that “streaming revenue in the Japanese music industry [grew] 33% in 2018 and is finally overtaking downloads.” Malhotra led the record-breaking launch of Amazon Prime Music in India in February 2018, doubling its listener base in the five months ending in March 2019. India also became the first marketplace for Amazon to launch the Prime Music service with voice capability (Alexa) built into the app. Pederson led the November launch of Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited in Mexico. “Technology has changed the way we coexist with music, starting years ago with audio and video streaming, which are still rapidly growing in Latin America,” he says. “We’re really looking forward to its continued growth.”


Tracey Hannelly*
Senior director of Apple content and services, international; Apple
Elena Segal*
Global director of music publishing, Apple
Jen Walsh*
Senior director of Shazam, Apple Music

Hannelly, who was promoted in April 2018 to lead Apple’s international content business and teams, is particularly excited about the potential of markets like Russia — previously plagued by illegal downloads — where Apple Music launched in 2015. It has since become “one of the world’s most promising music streaming markets,” she says. “We have helped shift the country toward legal consumption of content [and] are able to support the local indie music community and provide a global platform for promising new artists from all over the country.” In May 2018, Segal launched Apple’s first publishing division to strengthen relationships with songwriters and publishers worldwide. “The complexities around the flow of money to songwriters are only increasing around the globe, but it is essential to work through them to ensure a healthy, sustainable music ecosystem,” she says. ”Songwriters cannot be an afterthought, and must be front and center.” Walsh, a 12-year Apple veteran, now leads the company’s integration with the music-discovery tool Shazam, which it acquired last September. Worldwide, the app has been downloaded 1 billion times and is used 20 million times a day, according to Apple. Walsh helps the music industry navigate trends on regional Shazam charts and oversees the development of the Shazam for Artists dashboard, which “alongside the Apple Music for Artists dashboard is a very powerful tool,” she says.

Cecilia Qvist, 47
Global head of markets, Spotify

Under Qvist, Spotify expanded into 17 new markets in the Middle East, Romania, Vietnam, India and North Africa as part of its Global Cultures initiative, and in February reached the milestone of 207 monthly active users worldwide. “Conducting business in the global market is challenging and complex,” says Qvist, who believes international executives must study local competition and mobile infrastructures closely. “We see global distribution as a massive benefit for creators and users alike. Engage local users and creators in each market instead of applying a cookie-cutter approach.”

Kerry Trainor*
CEO, SoundCloud

SoundCloud unveiled a new feature in February that allows creators to distribute music to all major streaming services. The tool provides creators worldwide with “the only unified platform that enables them to instantly upload and share, connect with fans in real time and get paid for their work everywhere,” says Trainor. Included in SoundCloud Pro and Pro Unlimited, the tool passes 100% of the earnings back to the artist and, not surprisingly, is fueling engagement. “The platform is a two-sided ecosystem serving both creators and listeners,” says Trainor. “Both sides of the business are at an all-time high, and growing.”

Kerry Trainor and Lil Uzi Vert
SoundCloud’s Trainor (left) with Lil Uzi Vert in 2017. Courtesy of SoundCloud
Billboard's International Power Players 2019 Revealed | Billboard

?Bertil David, 44
Managing director, Universal Music Publishing France
Tom Foster, 39
European head of film and TV, Universal Music Publishing Group
Mike McCormack, 56
Managing director, U.K.; Universal Music Publishing Group

McCormack celebrated 2019 victories at the BRIT Awards for singer-songwriter Tom Walker and at the Grammy Awards for Dua Lipa (signed to UMPG through Tap Publishing), affirming the U.K. company’s success in developing homegrown talent. Foster played a key role in the global synch deals for the forthcoming Elton John biopic Rocketman, which will help the singer and Bernie Taupin’s “unbelievable catalog of songs reach a whole new audience,” he says. At UMPG in France, David says the A&R team “has done an outstanding job of growing our local roster,” citing the signing of Damso, Maître Gims, Dadju and Kalash, among others. Seven of the top 10 titles on the 2018 year-end French albums chart featured UMPG songwriters.


Kim Frankiewicz, 55
Executive vp worldwide creative, Concord
Kent Hoskins, 43
CFO, Concord
John Minch, 62
President of publishing, Europe; Concord
Janis Susskind, 66
Managing director, Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers

“Concord has been very good at identifying niche areas of the music business that are undervalued,” says Hoskins. “As people zig, we may zag.” Concord’s net publishing royalties worldwide grew by 18% in 2018, he says. After the company acquired publisher Imagem in 2017 for $600 million, Minch spent the past year merging the two. “Composers and writers didn’t even feel the bump,” he says. The Imagem deal included the catalog of Boosey & Hawkes, which represents Leonard Bernstein. Susskind worked with Bernstein’s family on some 5,000 worldwide events to mark the centennial of the late composer’s birth on Aug. 25, 2018. “Our goal was to look beyond West Side Story and encourage exploration of the full catalog,” she says. Frankiewicz, who was managing director of Imagem before its acquisition by Concord, maintains her A&R focus. She signed U.K. songwriter Justin Parker, who co-wrote Lana del Rey’s “Video Games,” which peaked at No. 91 on the Billboard Hot 100, and Rihanna’s “Stay,” which reached No. 3.

Guy Henderson, 58
President of international, Sony/ATV Music Publishing

Henderson played a key role as Sony/ATV successfully sought regulatory approval from the European Commission to buy out its partners in EMI Music Publishing. The November 2018 deal led to a $4.75 billion valuation of EMI, making it the biggest music publishing acquisition in history. That was “particularly satisfying,” says Henderson, who also cites Sony/ATV’s growth across Southeast Asia, particularly in China, as a highlight of the past year. “One of our biggest global successes has been BTS,” he notes, adding that some of Sony/ATV’s “biggest [recent] synchs involved writers in France and Australia. Barriers of old continue to fall.”

Lars Karlsson, 57
Managing director of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Nordics, Warner/Chappell Music
Mike Smith, 53
Managing director, Warner/Chappell Music U.K.

“Warner/Chappell is the No. 1 publisher in Germany for the first time in 15 years,” says Karlsson, who credits a local urban music surge for “huge commercial and creative success.” In 2018, Warner/Chappell Music’s international publishing share posted the largest percentage increase of the company’s operations, growing 14.3% to $359 billion in revenue for its fiscal year. To foster what Smith calls the ”golden age of songwriter collaboration,” Warner/Chappell opened an in-house studio and created writing camps in London and around the world offering “a real creative space that will encourage collaboration and innovation.” In the past year, the U.K. roster yielded hits from Dua Lipa’s “IDGAF” to Jonas Blue’s “Rise.”

Rachel Kelly, 43
Creative director/head of sync for Australia and New Zealand, Downtown Music Publishing
Roberto Neri, 45
Executive vp/head of European business development, Downtown Music U.K.
Taeko Saito 34
Vp international A&R, Downtown Music Publishing

Since joining Downtown Music in Australia in February, Kelly has enjoyed success with The Teskey Brothers, Stella Donnelly and the John Butler Trio, whose latest LP, Home, rose to No. 1 on Australia’s independent albums chart. The country’s geographical isolation “somehow works in our favor,” she notes. “Independent artists are thriving.” Neri highlights the acquisition of British indie publisher Salli Isaak Music, which brought more than 700 copyrights to Downtown and a roster that has written nine U.K. No. 1 singles. Under Saito, Downtown’s Songwriters Without Borders initiative paired Atlanta-based writer Vedo with South Korean boy band NCT 127 and led to the K-pop group’s first English-language track, “Regular,” debuting at No. 2 on the World Digital Song Sales chart. “Too many artists in Asia have little understanding of publishing,” says Saito. “I aspire to educate people, which will allow more creators to think for themselves.”

Kelly with Donnelly and her manager, Phil Stevens
Kelly with Donnelly and her manager, Phil Stevens. Jess Gleeson

Sas Metcalfe*
Chief creative officer, Kobalt Music
Jeannette Perez, 39
President of global synch and brand partnerships, Kobalt Music/AWAL
Ann Tausis, 51
Managing director, Kobalt Neighbouring Rights

Metcalfe credits “the incredible success of our international creative team” with Kobalt’s signing of publishing deals in the past year of artists including Marshmello, Ozuna, Wolf Alice and Angie McMahon; the songwriting duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (The Greatest Showman); and producer BlaqNmilD (Drake). “It has been an exemplary year,” she says. Perez’s synch team has achieved a 114% gain during the past year in the United Kingdom and 75% in Latin America. (The company does not provide specific revenue figures.) “Having a team with strong relationships on the ground in each market is integral to success,” she says. “We made a concerted effort to rethink and restructure the way we were doing business in the U.K., Asia, Sydney, among other markets, which has led to incredible results.” In the business of neighboring rights (the collection of payments for public performances of master recordings in countries outside the United States), Tausis reports year-over-year growth of 16%, signing and extending agreements with performers including Cardi B, Troye Sivan, Dua Lipa, Anne-Marie, Pitbull, Jax Jones, A$AP Rocky and Ariana Grande. “Despite the great growth this sector has seen in the last few years,” she says, “more education is necessary to ensure money due to rights holders is not left on the table.”

Ozuna (center), who performed with Nicky Jam at the Billboard Latin Music Awards, was YouTube’s most-viewed artist globally in any genre for 2018. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Mary Megan Peer, 41
Deputy CEO, peermusic
Ralph Peer II, 74
Chairman/CEO, peermusic

Songs credited to peermusic writers won eight Latin Grammy Awards in 2018, including one for the hit “Boo’d Up” by British singer-songwriter Ella Mai, which broke the record for the longest-running No. 1 from a female artist on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart. “One of our underlying principles at peermusic is to spread the music of the many cultures in which we work,” says Ralph Peer, who in 2018 was presented with France’s top cultural honor (Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters) for his contributions to the arts in France and around the world. With a focus on continued global expansion, peermusic acquired South Korea indie publisher Music Cube, which was “a big deal,” says Mary Megan Peer. Not only was it the 30th country added to the company’s global network, but it “brought 40,000 Korean copyrights to our catalog,” including works recorded by K-pop act BTS.

Billboard's International Power Players 2019 Revealed | Billboard

Jackie Alway, 53
Chairwoman, Music Publishers Association (United Kingdom); executive vp international legal and industry affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group

While serving in a key role at UMPG, Alway is recognized among her industry peers for her work with the U.K. arm of the Music Publishers Association, which represents British publishers. The MPA successfully lobbied for the European Union’s copyright law overhaul that gained final EU approval in April. The new Copyright Directive now goes to individual European parliaments, which have two years to write it into their national laws. “The music industry has always innovated to adapt to changing methods of use and distribution,” says Alway. “It’s exciting to be part of this new wave of rapid development, with great songs always at the center of it all.” The MPA Group is also the parent company of the United Kingdom’s Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society, and Alway has been involved in its transformation to a profitable, publisher-led organization that “sets the standard for collecting societies.”


Jean-Michel Jarre, 70
President, CISAC

Electronic music pioneer Jarre has long been one of the world’s most relentless activists for creators’ rights. As president of CISAC (the Paris-based organization representing 239 authors societies), he successfully fought for passage of the new Copyright Directive to ensure rights holders were fairly compensated. “In this struggle, we face giant opponents: the Goliaths of the tech world,” says Jarre. “These companies are essential partners for us, and they have produced fantastic innovations. Yet we can never stop getting the creators’ message out: It is us — the creators, not the tech companies — who are providing the fuel of the digital world.”

Frances Moore*

As head of the recording industry’s global trade association, Moore waged a four-year campaign to close the “value gap” — described by IFPI as the rising mismatch between the value that user-upload services (notably YouTube) gain from music and the revenue returned to music creators. She celebrated passage of the new Copyright Directive to address the issue, calling it “world-first legislation. The directive also includes a ‘stay down’ provision requiring platforms to keep unlicensed content down — another global first.” Moore, who led IFPI’s April 2 announcement that worldwide music sales had risen 9.7% in 2018 and reached $19.1 billion, adds that “music has truly become global in ways never before imagined. We are working to create the right environment to do business. That means achieving rights where they don’t currently exist around the world.”

Billboard's International Power Players 2019 Revealed | Billboard

Brian Ahern, 40
Partner/co-head of London music team, WME
Brian Cohen, 40
Partner, music; WME
Tony Goldring 52
Partner/head of international music team, WME
Rob Markus 51
Partner, music; WME

The touring business continues to become more global, says Ahern. “Operating around the clock is key. We must think and service globally in order to best represent our clients.” On his list of artists to watch is Latin Grammy winner Rosalía, who is “poised to be a global superstar.” Cohen helped launch Backstreet BoysDNA world tour, which, between Europe and North America dates, sold over half a million tickets in one day, he says. Goldring, who guided John Mayer’s recent sold-out arena tour in Europe, Asia and Australia, says the formula for global success comes down to “investing time and money at the beginning of an artist’s career to develop their touring business overseas.” For Markus, booking longtime client J Balvin as a headliner at Lollapalooza Chicago was, he says, “a landmark moment for Latin artists in the U.S.”

Emma Banks*
Co-head of international/co-head of CAA Music London, Creative Artists Agency
Chris Dalston*
Co-head of international touring, Creative Artists Agency
Mike Greek*
Co-head of international/co-head of CAA Music London, Creative Artists Agency
Jon Ollier*
Agent, Creative Artists Agency
Marlene Tsuchii*
Co-head of international touring, Creative Artists Agency

CAA booked more than 8,000 shows internationally in 98 countries and over 3,000 venues during the past year, but few were as notable as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ March concert at the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, which was livestreamed globally. “The Chili Peppers’ crew and the promoting team in Egypt literally built a show out of nothing,” says Banks. Ahead of the release of the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, Dalston helped plot Queen and Adam Lambert’s 88-date global tour in 2017 and 2018. “As a fan, growing up seeing Queen performing at Leeds University, to working with them the past few years has been amazing,” he says. Greek helped Sam Smith sell over 1 million tickets globally for his 2018 The Thrill of It All tour, which grossed $86.1 million from 94 dates. “The worldwide live business moves quickly, so artists and their teams need to be reactive to demand and be able to make decisions accordingly,” he says. Tsuchii helped Damon Albarn’s virtual band Gorillaz launch its Demon Dayz Festival while also plotting Ariana Grande’s Sweetener world tour, which kicked off in March with 80 North American and European dates and runs through October. Ollier joins his four senior agents on the International Power Players list for the first time after repping Ed Sheeran’s stadium dates worldwide. The 2018 leg of Sheeran’s ongoing ÷ (Divide) tour (booked by Paradigm Talent Agency in North America) took in $429 million and set records for the top-earning solo tour and highest year-end gross, according to Billboard Boxscore.

Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers
A performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the pyramids in Egypt in March was livestreamed worldwide. Gehad Hamdy/picture alliance via Getty Images

Ari Bernstein, 37
Agent, concerts; ICM Partners
Scott Mantell, 40
Partner/head of international touring, ICM Partners

ICM has booked its artists into 500 festival spots across 150 countries and territories, with grosses up 15% over 2018. Mantell booked Daddy Yankee’s well-received shows in Shanghai, a milestone for a Latin superstar. “It has been great to see the influence his presence there has had on Latin acts who have since followed suit,” he says. Bernstein fulfilled his goal of growing Khalid “into an international superstar” with the young chart-topper’s first arena tour of Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Greg Bestick*
President, Paradigm Talent Agency
Alex Hardee, 50
Partner, Coda Music Agency
Steve Strange, 51
Director, X-ray Touring

Bestick in the past year has focused on strengthening the relationship between Paradigm and its partners abroad, Coda and X-ray Touring. (In turn, both agencies have access to the European branding and media services of Independent Talent Group.) The goal, says Bestick, is to “provide the resources of a full-service talent agency for our international artists.” Coda represents acts including Imagine Dragons, Sia, Ellie Goulding and Shawn Mendes. Hardee’s coups in 2018 included the sale of 120,000 tickets to Jess Glynne’s fall tour, he says. “She’ll top that with over 200,000 on her upcoming summer tour,” he adds. For X-ray, Strange oversaw Eminem’s European stadium run, selling out seven 55,000- to 80,000-seat dates in under an hour, he says.

Jules de Lattre, 39
Agent, United Talent Agency
Neil Warnock, 73
Global head of touring, United Talent Agency

Warnock, who represents 55 artists including Mariah Carey, Dolly Parton, Alice Cooper, David Gilmour and Deep Purple, booked some 1,000 shows in 2018 — and was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his service to music and charity.

“I was, and still am, thrilled to be honored in this way,” he says. “As the live sector continues to expand, we must ensure that the fan experience exceeds the value of the ticket price, so that the customer returns time after time.” De Lattre worked with Christine & The Queens to play 32 international festivals in addition to the French band’s 15-date European tour, which sold out six months in advance. The trek includes with a headlining performance at London’s 40,000-capacity All Points East festival on May 26.

*Declined to reveal age

Contributors: Rich Appel, Karen Bliss, Remi Bouton, Lars Brandle, Dave Brooks, Judy Cantor-Navas, Ed Christman, Leila Cobo, Camille Dodero, Thom Duffy, Adrienne Gaffney, Gary Graff, Cortney Harding, Cherie Hu, Steve Knopper, Juliana Koranteng, Taylor Mims, Paula Parisi, Alex Pham, Rob Schwartz, Paul Sexton, Wolfgang Spahr, Eric Spitznagel, Rich Smirke, Colin Stutz and Deborah Wilker

This article originally appeared in the May 25 issue of Billboard.