Money changes everything. Over the past year new types of investors poured record sums into music, reshaping the power dynamics of the business. So Billboard decided to take a closer look at how the industry’s most powerful executives stack up now. On the list that follows, we rank the top 25 and present the rest in alphabetical order by sector.
The sands have certainly shifted since we made our last power list. Sure, Sir Lucian Grainge is still at the top of the heap, two years after we named him our executive of the last decade. But this year, there’s a very different reason for his No. 1 ranking: his leadership of Universal Music Group’s historic debut as a public company. It wasn’t just the largest direct listing in the history of the music industry, but one that has helped lift the boats of many music companies — including those of Grainge’s fiercest rivals.
All three major music groups soared as they raked in record-breaking revenue of their own and snapped up some of the indie world’s strongest labels. They also bought back rights to many of their catalogs, both recordings and publishing, in some cases paying a premium for rights they had previously given back to creators in exchange for extending their contracts so they can control more of the music that will drive returns for decades to come.
Music’s new investors became power players in their own right, too, such as billionaire Bill Ackman, whose investment entities had purchased 10% of Universal by September. Meanwhile, three of the world’s biggest private equity firms — KKR, Blackstone and Apollo Global Management — placed billion-dollar bets on music in the fall. KKR closed a deal to buy Kobalt Music Royalty Fund II; Blackstone bought a stake in Merck Mercuriadis’ Hipgnosis Song Management, while earmarking an additional $1 billion to buy music for a separate, private fund; and Apollo committed $1 billion to help Sherrese Clarke Soares’ new HarbourView Equity Partners buy assets like recording and publishing rights.
It was another tough year for the live-music business, of course, as the pandemic persisted and threw wrench after wrench in plans to restart it at full throttle. Touring executives lost some of their swagger on this year’s list as a result, while the talent agencies consolidated: Creative Artists Agency announced plans to acquire ICM, UTA grabbed the United Kingdom’s Echo Location Talent Agency and expanded its ranks and roster, and Casey Wasserman launched a new agency force — Wasserman Music — after acquiring Paradigm. We look forward to the wide-scale return of concerts — especially for the sake of all the artists and professionals whose livelihoods depend on them — and we applaud the touring leaders on this list who’ve worked tirelessly to support their clients, customers and employees during such troubled times.
Through it all, managers found new ways to keep their artists flourishing. Red Light Management founder Coran Capshaw kept his jam bands in business on the road last summer, while Scooter Braun rewarded his artists and staff with $50 million in equity after selling his Ithaca Holdings to South Korea’s HYBE for $1.05 billion in April.
As for streaming’s top dogs? The decision-makers atop music’s primary revenue engines are certainly forces to be reckoned with. But as music assets continue to trade at eye-popping multiples, it’s clear that content — at least for now — is king.
—HANNAH KARP, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR
1. Sir Lucian Grainge
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Group
The Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange, which traces its roots back to 1602, has a tradition of inviting corporate executives celebrating particular milestones — an initial public offering, a merger — to its trading floor to bang a gong, announcing the opening or closing of the day. But for Universal Music Group, which went public through a direct listing on the exchange in September, the Dutch government’s COVID-19 rules forced a rethink of the usual celebration.
“There had been a lot of debate right up until probably a week before as to whether we’d actually be able to fly to Amsterdam for the listing ceremony,” says Sir Lucian Grainge, chairman/CEO of UMG. Ultimately, Grainge and his team trudged to a Santa Monica, Calif., studio to livestream the ceremony at midnight local time, with one festive addition: a gong that executive vp/chief business administrator Will Tanous had airfreighted in. “I had the entire corporate team with me, all the people that had really done the heavy lifting on the work for the listing, and it was very exciting,” Grainge says. “But I can assure you, because of the time difference, that when we got home at about 2:30 in the morning, we all slept well.”
Universal’s direct listing was a watershed moment for both the world’s biggest music company and the industry at large, signaling a new era in the value of music as a financial asset. As of press time, UMG’s valuation stands at $53.9 billion. That figure was inconceivable when Grainge took over the top job at Universal in 2011 (just two years later, Vivendi rejected an $8.5 billion bid from Softbank for UMG), a time when the music business was approaching its nadir, shaken by a digital revolution that passed it by and not yet rescued by a streaming model that would bring it back to profitability.
2. Rob Stringer
Chairman, Sony Music Group
Under Stringer’s leadership of Sony Music Group, the company scored victories on and off the charts. In June, Sony launched Artists Forward, a global initiative that includes forgiving unrecouped balances for qualifying acts signed prior to 2000. Stringer says the plan, several years in the making, was “workshopped with managers and lawyers and artists,” and builds on the $750 million Sony dispersed to artists from the sale of 50% of its Spotify shares in 2018. “This isn’t a one-off thing where we decide we’re going to be more like a partner for June of 2021,” he says. “We have to be more of a partner for the next couple of decades.” Adele’s blockbuster album 30 helped boost Sony’s market share, with the release ending 2021 at No. 4 on MRC Data’s list of the top 10 most-consumed albums of 2021 in the United States with 1.94 million equivalent album units. “She touches something multigenerational. She’s a one-off,” Stringer says, adding that the 30 campaign will last two more years. Growth also came from young artists including Lil Nas X (“a cultural spokesman for a generation,” says Stringer), H.E.R., Doja Cat (Planet Her was No. 6 on MRC Data’s top 10 albums list), The Kid LAROI (F*ck Love was No. 7) and SZA, all of whom benefit from Sony’s ethos of experimentation. “We’ve got to be there to support them, [including] when they want to make changes to their focus,” says Stringer. Outside of the United States, “market share in every country in Europe is better than it was three years ago,” he says, while the Latin division also soared. The company also made some important strategic acquisitions, including buying a majority stake in Todd Moscowitz’s Alamo Records, purchasing AWAL (in a deal awaiting U.K. regulatory approval) and Kobalt Neighbouring Rights from Kobalt Music Group, and acquiring the master recordings and music publishing of Bruce Springsteen, who has recorded for Columbia for 50 years. “Under my watch,” says Stringer, “I wasn’t going to allow Bruce Springsteen not to be part of the future of this company.” The executive, who will receive the 2022 Grammy Salute to Industry Icons award later this year, relishes the deals and the pace that keeps him and his lieutenants on their toes. “There’s no standing still,” he says.
3. Steven Cooper
CEO, Warner Music Group
CEO, Warner Recorded Music
Warner Music Group recently announced $235 million in annual revenue from emerging platforms like video games, social media and the fitness app Peloton, which Cooper credits to “not just anticipating or preparing for what’s coming” but “actively working to create the future of the music business.” Twenty one pilots’ virtual Roblox concert drew millions of fans in September — WMG participated in a $520 million funding round for the gaming platform in January — and Cardi B’s Instagram “WAP” avatar debuted in fall 2020. “We’re bringing these new opportunities into the center of our creative campaigns,” says Cooper. “It’s incredibly exciting and rewarding to be stretching a bigger canvas for our artists.” During the past 18 months, Warner bought 300 Entertainment, home of Megan Thee Stallion, Young Thug and others, for $400 million; acquired the Doug Morris-founded independent label 12Tone; expanded its partnership with influential independent Artist Partner Group; and struck new deals with Russia’s Zhara Records and Ying Yang, a Vietnamese entertainment company with a catalog of 60,000 tracks. Warner also continued its global expansion with the launch of Atlantic Records outposts in Germany, Russia and the Benelux region (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), as well as Chinese hip-hop label JUUICE and U.K. dance label Signal Supply, while overhauling the executive structures at Alternative Distribution Alliance and WMX. As a result of such “investment in talent, originality, diversity and entrepreneurship,” as Lousada puts it, WMG had a 50% increase in Spotify No. 1s in 2021, according to the company, and launched new stars like Saweetie, GAYLE, France’s Aya Nakamura and Nigeria’s CKay, who reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart with his “Love Nwantiti” this year. WMG also saw veteran hitmakers Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars return to the upper reaches of the charts. “We’ve made sure we’re strong in all the places and spaces where the next generation of original music is going to come from,” says Lousada. “When our collective ingenuity, passion and teamwork are channeled into our brilliant artists, they become unstoppable.”
4. Daniel Ek
Ek has guided Spotify — and indirectly, a good portion of the music industry — during the pandemic, helping artists, rights holders and fans through a turbulent two years. The world’s largest streaming service now serves over 381 million users every month across 184 countries. It paid out over $5 billion in royalties to rights holders in 2020 — enough to account for 20% of all global recorded-music revenue — and over $23 billion in royalties to date, while its Fans First program generated nearly $250 million in ticket sales. Some 57,000 artists now represent 90% of the monthly streams on Spotify — a total that has grown four times over since 2014 — and 76,000 artists were added to a playlist for the first time in 2020. “That’s because we’re constantly investing in our editorial,” says vp/global head of music Jeremy Erlich, adding that Spotify is also focused on “elevating new artists and underrepresented voices.” With a rapidly growing podcast division that now hosts over 3.2 million podcasts, including exclusive deals with former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama; Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex; Joe Rogan; and Kim Kardashian, Ek’s goal of turning Spotify into the premier destination for audio online is progressing faster than many expected. “Our team is focused,” says Charlie Hellman, the company’s vp/global head of music product, “on building the most powerful audience development platform to help turn listeners into fans, fans into superfans and, ultimately, help artists earn more.”
5. Jon Platt
Chairman/CEO, Sony Music Publishing
With its rebranding from Sony/ATV to Sony Music Publishing in February 2021, the company doubled down on its commitment to foster a songwriter-centric, inclusive culture. Under Platt’s stewardship, the company has secured deals with top songwriters such as Olivia Rodrigo, The Kid LAROI and Kane Brown. President/global chief marketing officer Brian Monaco played an integral role in several top songwriter and catalog deals, most notably Bruce Springsteen, Janelle Monáe and AC/DC. In addition to key renewals with Ilsey, Becky Hill, Keityn, Måneskin, Jon Nite and more, the company negotiated several historic catalog deals during 2021 with Paul Simon, Gilberto Gil, the estate of Gregg Allman and River House Artists (which represents a large share of Luke Combs’ catalog). Citing inroads made this year by LAROI, Rodrigo, Polo G, Tate McRae, Conan Gray and Lil Nas X, senior vp of creative Jennifer Knoepfle notes their breakthroughs not only made an impact on the charts but also culturally. “It has been a nice reinforcement,” she adds, “of trusting your gut that you’re betting on talented people. Then when you see them thrive and have success, there’s just no better feeling.” For the first time since 2012, both ASCAP and BMI crowned the company’s Nashville division country publisher of the year. “It signifies the heart and soul that our songwriters are putting into these songs and how things are growing in the right direction,” says Sony Music Publishing Nashville CEO Rusty Gaston. Underscoring that sentiment is the company’s Songwriter Forward program, a global initiative that waives legacy unrecouped balances for qualifying songwriters with pre-2000 deals. Adds Gaston: “We have to do everything we can to advocate for songwriters and make sure they’re compensated fairly because they’re the lifeblood that makes every position in the music business happen.” As the industry moves forward in 2022, Knoepfle emphasizes that diversity and inclusion remain crucial issues. “We have to do better,” she says. “Our companies should look like the people who are making the music.”
6. Jody Gerson
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group
Universal Music Publishing Group, under Gerson, closed 2020 with a landmark deal that reverberated throughout 2021: acquiring Bob Dylan’s entire 60-year, 600-song catalog — one of the most prestigious in music — for an undisclosed price. But that was just the beginning. Over the last 13 months, UMPG signed deals with hit-making songwriters across the spectrum — Lionel Richie, Holly Humberstone, Clairo, Louis Bell, Tommy Brown and Julia Michaels — while also extending its relationship with Harry Styles. In addition, the company made deals in the digital space, inking licensing deals with TikTok and Triller “to create entirely new revenue streams for songwriters,” says Gerson. The publisher grew geographically, too, opening offices in Shanghai and Israel. For Gerson, the rewards also came in seeing writers-producers that the company invested in early, such as Blake Slatkin and Omer Fedi, have the biggest hits of their careers, including the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 smash “Stay,” by The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber (another UMPG artist). “The music industry is growing again, and I’m really proud of the role that our company has taken in returning the industry to growth,” Gerson says, adding that it has happened by dedicating “time and resources, financial and otherwise, to bet on and invest in securing long-term careers for our songwriters.” As the publishing industry becomes even more crowded with private equity-backed companies, Gerson says UMPG and other traditional publishers stand apart. “Now there are these players who are just buying up these rights, and they’re calling these catalogs ‘asset classes.’ But I represent songwriters. I represent them as human beings, and I represent their catalog of music that I believe changes culture… To me, music is not an asset class. It’s an art.”
7. Irving Azoff
Chairman/CEO, The Azoff Company
Over the course of the last decade, Azoff has expanded beyond his power base as one of the industry’s top artist managers (the Eagles, Harry Styles, John Mayer, Jon Bon Jovi), with ventures in arena development, music asset investment, music publishing and more. In 2021, Azoff and Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke completed the redevelopment of the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle; opened the UBS Arena in Belmont, N.Y.; moved forward on venues in Palm Springs, Calif.: Austin; Baltimore; and Savannah, Ga.; and acquired Spectra, a live events and entertainment company. Oak View expanded internationally with ongoing development projects for arenas in Manchester, England; Ontario, Canada; São Paulo; and Milan. Azoff launched Iconic Artists Group and is already active in acquiring stakes in the music and other rights of legacy acts such as The Beach Boys, David Crosby and Linda Ronstadt. Global Music Rights, the boutique performing rights organization that Azoff launched in 2013, just announced it has reached a conditional settlement that will both provide long-term licenses and end litigation with the Radio Music Licensing Committee over the royalty rates, which have been at risk during five years of litigation involving countercharges of antitrust practices. The Music Artists Coalition, which Azoff, Coren Capshaw, John Silva and others co-founded in 2019, continues to advocate for the rights of creators by lobbying for legislation that would change the music business and pushing behind the scenes to change industry practices that it sees as unfair to artists.
8. Guy Moot
Co-chair/CEO, Warner Chappell Music
Co-chair/COO, Warner Chappell Music
When Moot and Marshall took over as co-chairs of Warner Chappell Music in 2019, their biggest goal was a clear, unified strategy. Moot believes that big-picture direction has helped the publisher score key signings, including 2021 Hot 100 chart-toppers Cardi B (“Up”), Anderson .Paak (“Leave the Door Open,” as part of the duo Silk Sonic) and Daniel Caesar (for his feature on Justin Bieber’s “Peaches”), plus high-profile renewals with Madonna and George Michael, as well as the acquisition of David Bowie’s publishing catalog. Meanwhile, Ryan Press, who A&R’d Summer Walker’s first Billboard 200 No. 1, Still Over It, was promoted to president of North America; Gustavo Menendez, president of U.S. Latin and Latin America, signed singer-songwriter Joss Favela to a worldwide administration agreement; and Ben Vaughn, president/CEO of Nashville, orchestrated joint global publishing deals for Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus and former The Voice contestant Kyndal Inskeep. Moot also points to the publisher’s international moves, including signing Argentine singer Nathy Peluso and the United Kingdom’s Central Cee, and opening new offices in Vietnam and Shanghai. “Wherever you’re signing from to Warner Chappell, you’re going to get that same level of service,” Moot says. Of the rising interest in music publishing assets, Marshall says, “People outside of the traditional music business and publishing business are recognizing something that we’ve known for a while — that there’s real value there.” As Moot says, “It’s not just a financial investment. It’s a financial and a personal investment in songs and songwriters.”
9. Oliver Schusser
VP of Apple Music and international content, Apple
When it launched in 2015, Apple Music was late to the music subscription market. Now available in 167 countries, the service — which had a head start by being integrated into iPhone products — is still on the rise, with just 16% of the global market, according to MIDiA Research. Its competitors, including Spotify, YouTube and Amazon, have forced it to innovate. In 2021, Schusser says the company “made the product better in every aspect,” noting its premium surround sound tier, Spatial Audio, which launched in June, and its lossless audio quality, a form of compression that preserves all music data listeners can hear. While some of its competitors offered high-quality audio at a premium price tier, Apple instead followed Amazon’s lead to make the feature standard. Already, 50 million subscribers have listened to Spatial Audio at least once, says Schusser, who notes, “When was the last time young people talked about sound?” Product aside, Apple has focused sharply on personalities since it hired former BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe in 2015, and he has since attracted A-list talent to Apple Music 1, one of its three global radio stations. And in November, Apple Music hired WNYU’s Tim Sweeney to bring his 22-year-old show Beats in Space to the platform. “We are a home for artists to tell their stories,” says Schusser.
10. Lyor Cohen
Global head of music, YouTube
As Cohen describes it, the role he has played at YouTube since joining the company in 2016 is straightforward: “I evangelize music and explain the opportunity” — both inside the company and to the music industry. Initially, that meant launching YouTube’s music subscription service and helping to shift the company’s reputation from a recalcitrant obstacle to a helpful and willing partner of the music business. Now, with over 50 million global subscribers to its music service, YouTube has its sights set on becoming the music industry’s single biggest revenue source by 2025. From April 2020 to March 2021, YouTube paid roughly $4 billion to creators and rights holders, more than half of the estimated $7 billion Spotify spent on content costs — including podcasts. To achieve its goal, YouTube must become equally strong at promoting music and paying royalties, says Cohen. “Fame without fortune sucks,” he says, “and fortune without fame … it all has to knit together.” To appeal to creators, YouTube made substantial investments in new products such as its short-form video platform, YouTube Shorts, “the biggest priority of the company,” he says, and which will compete with TikTok and Instagram’s Reels. Cohen, whose four-decade career has included stints as Run-D.M.C.’s road manager and as chairman/CEO of recorded music at Warner Music Group, remains optimistic about the future, noting, “The entire opportunity for an artist and a song lies at YouTube.”
11. Steve Boom
VP, Amazon Music
Amazon Music, led by Boom, has become one of the industry’s top streaming services thanks to consistent leadership, brand-specific tie-ins and a willingness to invest in new sectors like podcasting and livestreaming. Thanks to its ongoing partnership with Amazon subsidiary Twitch, Amazon Music has quickly embraced livestreaming, incorporating the tool directly into its mobile apps and streaming global events with acts including Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, and Kanye West and Drake over the past 12 months. Amazon Music also acquired the podcast studio Wondery in late 2020 and spent the past year establishing a foothold in the podcast market, winning several awards in the process. “In the inaugural Ambies Awards — think of them as the Grammys for podcasting — Wondery/Amazon Music won six, the most of anyone, including podcast of the year,” Boom says. “So really changing the definition of what people do inside of the music service, I think, is our biggest accomplishment.” The division has also enhanced its music service for both creators and listeners, launching in-app merchandise integration for artists to be able to sell directly to fans and rolling out high-definition streaming for all of its Music Unlimited listeners, after cutting its HD tier fee from $15 per month to $10. “For us, it’s the evolution of Amazon Music and what it means to be a music service and becoming a much richer, more immersive, fan-forward experience,” Boom says. “I feel like we’ve become the go-to place for livestreaming, which, for me, is about as immersive and fan-forward as you can get.”
12. Hartwig Masuch
Under Masuch, BMG closed out 2021 with the news that it had partnered with the global investment firm KKR to acquire ZZ Top’s music interests, including the band’s publishing catalog and recorded-music royalties, in a deal reported to be valued at $50 million. For the last four years, ZZ Top’s album catalog has averaged close to 300,000 album consumption units a year. This was only the latest in a string of big moves in the past months for BMG: Its label division has signed Duran Duran, Santana, Louis Tomlinson and Bryan Adams. Other major rights acquisitions included deals with The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner and Fleetwood Mac co-founder Mick Fleetwood. In November, the company acquired Mötley Crüe’s entire recorded-music catalog. The gains further solidified BMG’s position as the fourth major music company. “Most of our most significant artist and songwriter signings and acquisitions are the result of existing client recommendations,” says Masuch. “I remain convinced that the biggest single opportunity for BMG is the behavior of our competitors, but the only guarantor of success is if we do better by artists and songwriters than others do. It’s about developing a service ethic, being efficient and committing not to take advantage of your clients,” he adds. “Most of all, it’s about delivering on artists’ and songwriters’ objectives. They are why we are here.”
13. Ole Obermann
Global head of music, TikTok
Following deals with both Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group in late 2020, TikTok completed the major-label trifecta in February 2021, signing an expanded global licensing agreement with Universal Music Group — and the influential app’s “commitment to culture and music starting on TikTok” was affirmed, says Obermann. Agreements with independent labels and songwriter royalty associations followed, including multiyear music licensing deals with the rights organizations in Australia. More than 400 songs used as audio on TikTok surpassed 1 billion video views, a threefold increase over 2020, Obermann says — adding that the most popular of those songs often reached or exceeded 20 billion views of the videos they soundtracked. Meanwhile, nearly 200 songs that trended on TikTok in 2021 charted on the Billboard Hot 100 — including No. 1 hits like Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” and Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” — twice as many as in 2020. Acknowledging the importance of the creators driving video consumption on the platform, in December 2021, TikTok unveiled Creator Next, a tool that allows for direct tipping. Not a bad year for an app that clocked more global traffic than any other site — including Google — in 2021, according to data security company Cloudflare.
14. John Janick
Chairman/CEO, Interscope Geffen A&M
Vice chairman, Interscope Geffen A&M
Janick counts the teamwork that met the challenges of remote work during the pandemic as his company’s greatest achievement, a collaboration that drove IGA’s multiple success stories, as well as a 2021 industry-leading year-end current market share of 11.05%. “It’s exciting to be firing on all cylinders with everyone working together,” he says. One example? Geffen drove its way back up the charts with newcomer Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” — the first song to hit 1 billion global streams in 2021. “She’s the biggest breakout artist of the year,” Janick says of the singer-songwriter. “She’s an amazing talent who’s going to be around for decades.” Noting that Interscope is built on “strategic partnerships with great entrepreneurs,” he cites Moneybagg Yo as another win through the label’s joint venture with rapper-turned-executive Yo Gotti’s CMG imprint. On the Latin front, there is Kali Uchis’ global Spanish hit, “Telepatía.” Adds Janick: “Kali was already doing great prior to that. However, our teams in Miami and Los Angeles came together and have been able to take that song to another level.” Expanding into film, IGA teamed with Billie Eilish’s label, Darkroom, founded by Justin Lubliner, to produce the artist’s Apple+ film, The World’s a Little Blurry, and her now Grammy-nominated Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles for Disney+. “I talk every day about moving culture with our company,” he says. “For any creative company, that’s where the power lies. It has been at the heart of Interscope since day one. Moneybagg Yo, Olivia, Billie, Lady Gaga, Juice WRLD … these artists are moving culture. And that’s what’s important.”
15. Monte Lipman
Founder/CEO, Republic Records
Founder/COO, Republic Records
Although 2021 marked the fifth time in the past seven years that Republic Records finished at No. 1 on Billboard’s year-end Top Labels chart, for the first time the label also placed atop the Billboard 200 Labels and Billboard Hot 100 Labels charts. Such dominance resulted from superstars such as Drake, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande collecting No. 1 Hot 100 hits from Billboard 200-topping albums, as well as success stories like Pop Smoke’s posthumous blockbuster project, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, and the slow-growing Glass Animals smash “Heat Waves.” “Our core business remains breaking new acts,” says Avery. “It’s harder than it has ever been. Part of it is just the transition of our industry — we went from selling things to trying to keep people’s attention.” Fortunately, Republic boasts a roster of stars adept at keeping fans curious. Swift’s endeavor to rerecord her first six studio albums has paid off, with Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version) scoring two of the biggest No. 1 debuts of 2021. Meanwhile, Drake launched nine songs simultaneously into the top 10 of the Hot 100, including the chart-topping “Way 2 Sexy” from his September release Certified Lover Boy. While the Republic team has evolved in recent months — Wendy Goldstein and Jim Roppo were promoted to co-presidents in November, while Dave Rocco was brought in as chief creative officer in December — the Lipmans remain ultracompetitive. “We have a responsibility to our artists, to our executives, the corporation and the competition,” says Monte. “They want to know that we’re bringing our best every day.”
16. Craig Kallman
Chairman/CEO, Atlantic Records
Chairman/COO, Atlantic Records
The past year “was about making sure we were able to provide artists the time and the resources to help them go to the next level,” says Greenwald. “Because of COVID-19, people pushed things back.” That resulted in a goal post-shaped year, with peaks at the start and at the end. Pooh Shiesty’s breakthrough debut, Shiesty Season, arrived in February, while the fourth quarter was full of album releases from many of the label’s major players: Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Roddy Ricch, Meek Mill, YoungBoy Never Broke Again and the Bruno Mars/Anderson .Paak duo Silk Sonic. In between, says Greenwald, there was the chance to “focus on our babies. Because that’s all you want: to make sure your babies have all the sunlight and oxygen and water to grow.” Case in point: Dallas-born 17-year-old singer-songwriter GAYLE. Signed at 14, she released her first single, “abcdefu,” three years later; it reached No. 8 on the Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart. “So many people talk about how we have to find things through research and TikTok. But she’s a real artist-development story of finding someone young and giving them the time they need to hone their craft and work on writing and performing,” says Greenwald a week after seeing GAYLE perform at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory. “She’s 17, and she can rock the f–k out and manhandle an electric guitar. This is all you dream of.”
17. Ron Perry
Chairman/CEO, Columbia Records
On Perry’s watch, Columbia enjoyed the view from the top of the Hot 100 in 2021, earning the No. 1 spot for a combined 33 weeks, the most in a year by a label since MRC Data’s information began powering the chart in 1991. That included first trips to the summit for breakout stars 24kGoldn, The Kid LAROI and Polo G, and two returns each for established champs Lil Nas X and BTS. “We broke new artists, which is the most gratifying part of this job, and a lot of the names on that list are new,” says executive vp/GM Jenifer Mallory, who describes the recent hit streak as “lightning in a bottle” and modestly refers to those 33 weeks at No. 1 as “a metric we can all understand.” The focus on tracks in the streaming age means “the emphasis is much less on the gatekeepers and more on the fans,” she says, necessitating a shift in marketing. “It’s all about telling stories in this attention economy in which we live.” But Columbia also deployed that narrative skill in supporting albums from “our artists who want to make full bodies of work rather than feeling like they need to chase viral hits or pander to streams,” adds Mallory, mentioning Adele, Harry Styles and Tyler, The Creator, as well as Baby Keem, who reached No. 5 with his debut album, The Melodic Blue. It’s part of Columbia’s “storied history,” she says, to allow artists to “continue to promote the album art form.”
18. Bang Si-hyuk
Co-CEO, HYBE AMERICA; founder, SB Projects
Co-CEO, HYBE AMERICA
In July, Bang, who founded the powerhouse K-pop entertainment company HYBE, home to BTS, stepped down as CEO to focus more on production. He was succeeded by Park Ji-won, who joined the South Korea company in May 2020 as HQ CEO. Braun — whose SB Projects last year co-produced a slate of documentaries about his biggest clients, including Demi Lovato’s Dancing With the Devil, J Balvin’s The Boy From Medellín and Justin Bieber’s Our World — struck a $1.05 billion deal in April under which HYBE acquired and merged with his Ithaca Holdings. The move united HYBE’s lineup of BTS, Tomorrow x Together and Seventeen with Braun’s superstar management roster of Bieber, Lovato and Ariana Grande, among others. “We were able to do a massive transaction and merger with HYBE to become one company and set a new precedent of creating this global company,” says Braun, who personally committed $50 million that was divvied up among acts and employees who have been with him since he started SB Projects in 2007. With Bang’s transition, Braun and Yoon in July were named co-CEOs of HYBE’s stateside subsidiary, HYBE AMERICA, where the two will adapt the K-pop business model for the U.S. market while developing new talent, including HYBE and Universal Music Group’s first-of-its-kind global girl-group audition. Within the last year, Braun stepped away from the business “for the first time in 20 years” to work on himself, he says. “In that time, the business thrived, and to know that we built such an incredible team, that we were more than OK during this time, makes me incredibly proud.”
19. Wassim “Sal” Slaiby
Founder/CEO, SALXCO/XO MGMT/Universal Arabic Music
Playing the Super Bowl halftime show or scoring the biggest Hot 100 hit of all time would each be massive accomplishments in their own right. Slaiby celebrated as his superstar client The Weeknd did both in the past year. In January 2021, The Weeknd put on a halftime spectacle of career-spanning hits, earning an Emmy Award nomination in the process; spent 2021 releasing marquee collaborations; then rounded out the year with his unstoppable 2019 track “Blinding Lights” knocking off Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” to gain the distinction as the Hot 100’s biggest No. 1 hit of all time. On Jan. 7, he released his latest album, Dawn FM. Meanwhile, Doja Cat, who is co-represented by SALXCO and 10Q Management, had her most successful year to date with Planet Her, which hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and earned the breakout star eight 2022 Grammy nominations, including album and record of the year and best new artist. Slaiby also orchestrated release plans around the reunion of EDM trio Swedish House Mafia, which will headline Coachella 2022 before embarking on a global tour. Slaiby and his team didn’t just focus on massive stars, though: In the past year, rising SALXCO client Shenseea became the first Jamaican female dancehall artist to appear on the Hot 100 in 17 years, says Slaiby, solidifying his company’s bona fides in continuing to break new acts — “our passion,” he says. Slaiby’s strategy focuses less on quick hits and more on building artists and catalogs that endure beyond viral trends and album cycles. “I’ve always operated and worked with artists like [The Weeknd] and Doja,” says Slaiby, “where it’s that bigger-picture vision we cultivate.”
20. Merck Mercuriadis
Founder/CEO, Hipgnosis Song Management/Hipgnosis Songs Fund/Hipgnosis Songs Capital
The Hipgnosis spending spree over the past three years, during which the company bought a slew of assets from big-name music artists and left other veteran music-industry asset traders stunned, slowed down a bit last year. But Mercuriadis is looking forward to more of the same in 2022, however, now that his company is backed by mega-financial firm Blackstone. While Hipgnosis did spend $1 billion in the last 12 months as of December, according to Mercuriadis — acquiring the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ publishing catalog for $140 million, as well as the song catalogs of Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham, the publishing for both Kaiser Chiefs and Rhett Atkins, and the song and recorded-master royalties from Heart’s Ann Wilson — most of those acquisitions occurred in the first six months of 2021. The rest of the year was spent putting together the deal with Blackstone, in which the company acquired a stake in the Hipgnosis Song Management platform and brought in new financial systems to improve operational and financial controls, according to Mercuriadis. So while the second half of 2021 might have been quieter than what the industry has come to expect from Hipgnosis, Mercuriadis says his company has also made other deals in the second half of the year that haven’t been announced yet. Meanwhile, the Blackstone deal, which is expected to provide a minimum of $1 billion in funding for acquisitions, was still among the biggest announcements of the year. With Blackstone’s backing, “every deal is now possible,” says Mercuriadis, who notes that he hopes to announce and complete a new acquisition every week in 2022.
21. Michael Rapino
President/CEO, Live Nation Entertainment
It was a year of triumph and tragedy for Live Nation and Rapino, who guided the world’s largest concert promotion company through a historic financial comeback while cooperating with authorities looking into one of the worst tragedies in company history at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival. In the aftermath of the latter, Rapino has discussed with Scott the launch of a festival-safety initiative with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to identify new technologies to prevent similar situations. Rapino is also focused on leading Live Nation’s comeback during another year of uncertainty as the pandemic persists. Decisions early on to require vaccines or COVID-19 testing have persuaded governors in states like Florida and Texas to ease up on anti-mandatory vaccine laws, while more liberal municipalities have supported Live Nation festivals as far back as Lollapalooza last July in Chicago. Earlier this year, frontline venue workers received gratitude bonuses and their salaries were increased permanently. For most of the year, the company’s most arresting story has been its stock rebound, as Live Nation is on track to end the year up 58% over 2020. The company will spend most of 2022 continuing its international expansion by completing the acquisition of Mexican promoter OCESA-CIE, which will offer access to opportunities in Latin America. What hasn’t changed is the number of ticketing competitors ready to chip away at its market share, but with a near 100% renewal rate with Ticketmaster clients, Rapino is unfazed by the latest would-be disrupters. “I worry about who our future competitors might be,” he recently said. “Not the ones chasing our business model.”
22. Coran Capshaw
Founder/CEO, Red Light Management
As head of the industry’s largest independent artist management company, with a roster of some 400 acts, Capshaw says Red Light’s biggest achievement of 2021 was working with others in the live sector “to get the touring industry going again in the second half of the year.” Red Light acts that returned to the road or performed shows included Dave Matthews Band, Brandi Carlile, Luke Bryan, Evanescence, Brittany Howard, Phish, Chris Stapleton, Lady A, Enrique Iglesias and Dierks Bentley. Meanwhile, the festival circuit restarted, with the return of several events in which Capshaw has a stake — including Outside Lands, the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival and South by Southwest. On the label side, his ATO Records, which he co-owns with Dave Matthews, re-signed Old Crow Medicine Show while Black Pumas landed another pair of Grammy Award nominations, the fifth and sixth of their career. And Red Light artists including Luke Bryan, Lady A and Sam Hunt landed 12 No. 1s on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. But it was the return to live shows that resonated most and helped the overall music industry resume the growth it had experienced before the pandemic. “It took a lot of effort, testing and thought, but we are getting through it,” Capshaw says of resurrecting live music. “It’s all part of learning how to live with the virus because it doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon.”
23. Jay Marciano
Chairman/CEO, AEG Presents; COO/office of the chairman, AEG
Last April, as vaccines became more widely available and touring ramped up, AEG brought back furloughed workers after operating with a reduced staff for nine months. “We hyper-communicated throughout COVID-19,” says Marciano, “even when we had nothing to say, which was often the case.” By summer, venues reopened nationwide and AEG had announced new shows including The Rolling Stones’ No Filter Tour, which became the first post-pandemic trek to earn $100 million from just 14 dates. The group brought in $130.9 million from 577,000 tickets, earning the Billboard title of top tour of the year. “Five decades later, they’re still the biggest band in the world,” says Marciano. “There’s no question about it, and they’ve got the numbers to prove it.” As the omicron variant spread in the fall of 2021, AEG required proof of vaccination at all owned-and-operated events starting Oct. 1. The decision, according to Marciano, was to keep local governments from implementing more capacity limits on live events, as profits were lower when compared with pre-pandemic metrics. “Generally, you’ve got to sell 85% of tickets to break even. At 50%, no one is making money,” says Marciano. “If [local governments] didn’t see that we were acting responsibly, they were going to take actions of their own.”
24. Rob Light
Managing partner/head of worldwide touring, Creative Artists Agency
In September, CAA announced a planned acquisition of competitor ICM Partners in a deal that marks the consolidation of the former “Big Four” agencies of the music business into three, alongside WME and UTA. Between that deal and CAA’s own growth during an unstable time, Light declares that “we are set up in ways we couldn’t have even imagined coming out of COVID-19.” CAA clients hit the road as early as safely possible. The Hella Mega Tour, with Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer, was one of the first stadium shows to return last summer, while Harry Styles, new signee Zac Brown Band and the pairing of James Taylor and Jackson Browne filled venues across the country in the latter half of 2021. Light credits the leadership displayed by his team — in November alone, CAA promoted nine staffers to agent/executive and announced a slew of agents joining the company. Among the roster additions — some brought in by the new hires — over the past 12 months are The Weeknd, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shawn Mendes, Lil Baby, Mumford & Sons, Miguel, Vampire Weekend, My Chemical Romance and Janet Jackson. A group of 15 to 20 up-and-coming artists including Maggie Rogers, Jorja Smith and Conan Gray is already filling 2,000 to 3,000 seats a night and poised to expand further. “You’ve rarely seen this sort of window of time,” says Light, “where a company that has been so stable for so long has really now seen an opportunity and grown from it.”
25. David Zedeck
Samantha Kirby Yoh
Partners/co-heads of global music, UTA
During the pandemic, UTA grew its staff in London, New York, Nashville and Los Angeles; expanded its client list; and strengthened its ability to support marquee artists, including roster additions like Bad Bunny, Demi Lovato and deadmau5. In 2020, Zedeck was joined as agency co-head by Samantha Kirby Yoh and, in late 2021, by Scott Clayton. Coming from a 16-year run at WME, Kirby Yoh brought to the roster Florence + The Machine, Rosalía, LCD Soundsystem and James Blake, while the Nashville-based Clayton delivered his expertise in that market and beyond. UTA’s acquisition of the U.K.-based Echo Location Talent Agency in March included Obi Asika signing on as the U.K. office co-head alongside industry veteran Neil Warnock. (Founded in 2012, Echo has focused on emerging genres like Afrobeats, grime, drill, hip-hop and electronic music and brings UTA international representation for Alesso, Diplo, Major Lazer, Marshmello and Wizkid, among others.) Says Zedeck: “I know we are all so proud of the excellent work we have executed on behalf of our clients this year, and hopefully, that momentum will continue into 2022.”
Sir Lucian Grainge
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Group
Executive vp/CFO/president of operations, Universal Music Group
Executive vp, Universal Music Group
General counsel/executive vp of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
Executive vp of digital strategy, Universal Music Group
Executive vp of commercial, innovation and artist strategy, Universal Music Group
Executive vp/chief people and inclusion officer, Universal Music Group
President of global e-commerce and business development, Universal Music Group
Executive vp/chief administrative officer, Universal Music Group
See No. 1 in The Top 25 above.
Chairman, Sony Music Group
COO, Sony Music Entertainment
President of global digital business and U.S. sales, Sony Music Entertainment
Executive vp of business affairs/general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
President of premium content, Sony Music Entertainment
Executive vp/global chief people experience officer, Sony Music Entertainment
Tiffany R. Warren
Executive vp/chief diversity and inclusion officer, Sony Music Group
Executive vp of philanthropy and social impact, Sony Music Group
Executive vp/CFO, Sony Music Entertainment
See No. 2 in The Top 25 above.
CEO, Warner Music Group
CEO, Warner Recorded Music
Executive vp/CFO, Warner Music Group
Executive vp/chief people officer, Warner Music Group
Executive vp/general counsel, Warner Music Group
Chief digital officer/executive vp of business development, Warner Music Group
Dr. Maurice A. Stinnett
Global head of equity, diversity and inclusion, Warner Music Group
President/chief marketing officer, Warner Recorded Music
See No. 3 in The Top 25 above.
Chairman/CEO, The Azoff Company
Co-presidents, The Azoff Company
CEO, Oak View Group
COO, The Azoff Company; CEO, Full Stop Management
See No. 7 in The Top 25 above.
Co-CEO, HYBE AMERICA; founder, SB Projects
Co-CEO, HYBE AMERICA
See No. 18 in The Top 25 above.
Founder/president/CEO, Big Machine Label Group
In the past year, Big Machine artist Carly Pearce released her most critically acclaimed music to date, with her album 29: Written in Stone reaching the top 10 of Top Country Albums. Pearce in August was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and was named female vocalist of the year at the Country Music Association Awards in November. “She has established herself as one of the most important artists in the format,” Borchetta says, “with both feet firmly planted in country music.”
Co-founders, Q Prime Management
Q Prime’s Burnstein and Mensch rallied during the pandemic to support new releases from The Regrettes, Foals, Three Days Grace and Metallica — whose charity tribute album, The Metallica Blacklist, featured 53 artist collaborations and peaked at No. 7 on Top Album Sales in October. The management firm continued to expand in Nashville with Q Prime South, founded and led by John Peets, with new projects from Brothers Osborne, Ashley McBryde and Eric Church. Plus, says Mensch, they did it all while keeping Q Prime “intact with our full staff.”
Founder/CEO, Cárdenas Marketing Network
Landing at No. 4 on Billboard’s year-end top promoters chart, Cárdenas Marketing Network grossed $43.2 million from 54 shows. “After almost a year and a half of lockdown, this is a blessing,” says the Chicago-based Cárdenas. Behind top-grossing tours by Maluma ($25.5 million, 27 shows) and Marc Anthony ($13.7 million, 16 shows) — both of which made Billboard’s top tours of the year list — CMN’s Maestro Cares Foundation annual gala, sidelined by the pandemic last year, returned in person for its eighth edition, which took place in New York in December.
Founder/CEO, Artist Publishing Group/Artist Partner Group
Artist Publishing Group has been a music publishing force for years, with clients including Charlie Puth, Ava Max, Bazzi and YoungBoy Never Broke Again. But in 2021, Caren, 44, says the company “built most of the architecture for a next-generation independent music company, with every key department and all the systems needed for real artist, writer, executive and entrepreneur development.” Along with its forward-thinking expansions, APG is guiding new signees including Madison Love, 24kGoldn and Amy Allen to create sustainable careers — a process that Caren calls “our trademark.”
Founder/CEO, Red Light Management
See No. 22 in The Top 25 above.
Partner/CEO, Big Loud
Partner/president of A&R, Big Loud
Partner/songwriter, Big Loud
In January 2021, Big Loud released Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album in conjunction with Republic Records. It spent 10 weeks atop the Billboard 200, becoming the first title to spend its first 10 weeks at No. 1 since Whitney Houston’s Whitney in 1987. Dangerous also ended the year as the top Billboard 200 album overall — despite the February appearance of a video showing the singer uttering a racial slur that caused the label to temporarily suspend Wallen’s recording contract. Big Loud scored other successes, too. Artist MacKenzie Porter notched her first chart-topper on the Country Airplay chart with her Dustin Lynch collaboration “Thinking ‘Bout You” (on Broken Bow Records), Jake Owen earned a No. 1 on that same chart with “Made for You,” and newcomer Lily Rose made her country radio debut with breakthrough hit “Villain.”
Under Ghazi (who professionally uses only his first name), EMPIRE continued to innovate on behalf of a roster that includes Yung Bleu, Key Glock, Fireboy DML and Tyga. EMPIRE has also partnered with Blackground Records 2.0 to release catalog titles and new posthumous music from Aaliyah. In December, EMPIRE established an artist equity pool from the label’s stake in Riff, the emerging social livestream platform that combines voice and video chat with music. Plus, Ghazi says, “Our new blockchain payment platform will see an aggressive evolution in the years to come.”
Founder/CEO, Glassnote Records
The creative workarounds that Glass’ label and artists have engineered during the pandemic paid off in 2021. Chvrches embarked on a sold-out tour after the 2018 song “Forever” had a recurring synch on a Netflix series and blew up on streaming services. Hamilton Leithauser couldn’t tour behind 2020’s The Loves of Your Life, so he livestreamed at-home performances before returning in front of sold-out crowds. After Aurora’s 6-year-old “Runaway” went viral on TikTok, Glassnote worked the song into a playlist staple, generating over 227 million U.S. audio and video streams, which resulted in a 2022 U.S. tour at venues double the capacity of her pre-pandemic shows. “We’re now getting to see the fruits of our two-plus years of labor,” says Glass, with crowds “hearing our artists play, in person, the songs that carried them through the pandemic.”
Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter
Founder/chairman, Roc Nation
Vice chairman, Roc Nation
CEO, Roc Nation
Roc Nation’s partnership with the NFL led to an Emmy nomination for the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show featuring The Weeknd, while the return of its Made in America Festival marked the 10th anniversary of the event with 60,000 fans crowding Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Meanwhile, Roc’s management division helped Moneybagg Yo and DJ Khaled score Billboard 200 No. 1 albums, a feat J. Cole matched for its recorded-music division. But, Perez says, the company is “always putting philanthropic endeavors and community initiatives first” — epitomized by the Team Roc Job Fair in November that “hosted over 3,000 attendees, offering close to 10,000 jobs and services.”
The nation’s third-largest performing rights organization, helmed by Josephson, expanded beyond its core business in August when it acquired digital rights collection agency Audiam from Canadian rights-management group SOCAN. Audiam — which launched in 2013 and whose clients include Round Hill Music, Blackened Recordings, Ruthless Attack Muzick and Country Road Music — has collected $140 million for songwriters and publishers as of 2021. Along with promoting Malcolm Hawker to COO of SESAC Music Group and Scott Jungmichel to COO of SESAC PRO, SESAC Music Group reports an anticipated revenue rise of 40% for its current fiscal year, with Josephson adding that the company continues “to create value for its affiliates and customers.”
Founder/executive chairman, Downtown Music Holdings
“Our decision to focus Downtown exclusively on the fast-growing services segment of our business was the major theme for the company in 2021,” says Kalifowitz, who transitioned Sept. 1 to executive chairman of Downtown and was succeeded as CEO by Andrew Bergman. Earlier in the year, in April, Downtown sold its portfolio of 145,000 owned copyrights to Concord in a deal estimated at $350 million. The moves were part of a strategy “aligning the company around our 1.7 million creator and 2,500 enterprise clients who manage over 23 million music assets on our platforms,” says Kalifowitz.
Founder/CEO, WK Entertainment; founder/owner, WK Records/WKMX
In 2021, WK Entertainment announced Maluma’s Papi Juancho Tour, the touring industry’s most ambitious trek since the pandemic took hold in the United States. After 27 shows, the outing reached No. 14 on Billboard’s year-end Top Tours chart, grossing $25.5 million. Meanwhile, Los Legendarios, Wisin and Jhay Cortez’s viral hit “Fiel,” released by La Base and WK Records — the label Kolm launched in mid-2020 — ended 2021 on Billboard’s top 10 Hot Latin Songs list. But one of Kolm’s most notable successes of the year is landing WK on the year-end top 10 Latin Labels chart, calling it “a huge accomplishment for a label so young.”
CEO, Tencent Music Entertainment
Tencent Music Entertainment’s music services division has delivered steady growth and development, says Liang, who was named CEO in April. (He succeeded Cussion Pang, who is now executive chairman of TME’s board.) Tencent’s music service increased its paid user base to 71.2 million in the third quarter of 2021 and grew its long-form audio category to 140 million monthly users. In November, the company partnered with Apple Music to bring its music content from Chinese labels/creators to the streaming service’s global user base for the first time. Liang says the deal will “empower artists and provide users with better services to promote the long-term healthy development of the digital music industry.”
See No. 12 in The Top 25 above.
Founder/chairman, Beggars Group
Home to independent labels 4AD, Matador, Rough Trade, XL Recordings and Young, Beggars Group includes its own publishing division and catalog imprint, with recent releases by Radiohead, Snail Mail and Parquet Courts. The London-based music rights company thrived during lockdown by “successfully developing strategies to create and expose content for artists in the pandemic era,” says Mills. It also hired a head of sustainability to establish a new green program, committed to becoming carbon negative by the end of 2024 and took part in the parliamentary hearings in the United Kingdom on the economics of music streaming in 2021.
Concord became the sixth-biggest music publisher in April, when it bought Downtown Music’s owned and publishing copyrights, “bringing Concord’s owned and controlled music assets to over 600,000 works,” Valentine says. In August, the company — which releases recorded music in a renewed partnership with Universal Music Group — launched its narrative content creation division, Concord Originals, which, Valentine explains, will “develop and produce a slate of scripted and unscripted films, television shows and premium podcasts centered around artists and [intellectual property] Concord owns or represents.” Concord Originals has already partnered with Jennifer Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions and Skydance to co-develop original projects based on Concord’s historic catalog of musicals.
CEO, Dayglo Ventures
Despite the shutdown of live shows, Shapiro hit his stride during the pandemic, continuing his successful Fans.Live streaming shows that included Tyler Childers at Red Rocks in Colorado and Billy Strings at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, N.Y. He also opened two more venues in 2021: Brooklyn Bowl Nashville, as a joint venture with Live Nation, and Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia, in an agreement negotiated with Live Nation Philadelphia president Geoff Gordon. “We’ve been really well received,” says Shapiro, after opening the Nashville club with Old Crow Medicine Show and Rebirth Brass Band from New Orleans. “Power,” Shapiro says, “is having the freedom to book the bands I want to book.”
Wassim “Sal” Slaiby
Founder/CEO, SALXCO/XO MGMT/Universal Arabic Music
See No. 19 in The Top 25 above.
Stoute led UnitedMasters to a $550 million valuation in 2021, thanks to recent partnerships that benefit its independent artist base of 1.3 million. It follows the company’s plans to offer artists Dolby mastering services for as little as $5 and cryptocurrency payments through Coinbase. Stoute’s aim is to “help independent artists realize the promise of the creator economy” with all of the necessary resources at their disposal to “distribute their music and earn a meaningful income by marketing themselves effectively,” he says. “Artists need to build wealth from their cultural influence, leveraging ownership of their art as a path to success.”
After their platform was acquired by the Triller Network in a deal that closed in January 2021, the hip-hop veteran co-founders continued expanding the scope of their streaming battle series — even giving a stake in the company to all Verzuz participants who appeared prior to the acquisition. “The artists are the voice for what we as producers and writers create,” Swizz says, “and we all deserve to be paid for the work we do.” Thanks to their impact, the duo was honored among Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2021 and, in March, won the NAACP Image Award for outstanding variety series or special. Verzuz has continued to attract millions of virtual viewers and added a number of live shows across the country. “We all have the power to change the world, but we have to use our power to better ourselves so we can inspire and better others,” says Timbaland. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Chairman/CEO, Def Jam Recordings
GM, Def Jam Recordings
Def Jam has “continued to put its indelible stamp on the music industry,” says newly appointed chairman/CEO Balogun, 38, noting that Justin Bieber’s and Kanye West’s respective releases — Justice and Donda, which both debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2021 — are nominated for album of the year at the 2022 Grammy Awards. “Even as the label has undergone massive transition over the past two years,” he continues, “the team delivered superstar rollouts for two of the biggest artists in the world, both of whom embody the ethos the label was founded on: artistry, authenticity and culture.”
Co-chairman/CEO, Warner Records
Co-chairman/COO, Warner Records
Warner Records celebrated the arrival of “a young superstar” in Saweetie, whose 2022 best new artist Grammy nomination was “the culmination of three years of persistent artist development,” says Bay-Schuck, 40. It was also the label’s fourth nomination in the category in the past four years, following nods for Chika (2021), Bebe Rexha and Dua Lipa (both 2019). This past year, Dua Lipa achieved her first top five album with Future Nostalgia, which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in March.
President, Disney Music Group
“[We were] thrilled that we were able to help bring live concerts back with three Black Panther film concerts at the Hollywood Bowl and two Nightmare Before Christmas concerts at Banc of California Stadium,” says Bunt. The company also supported the acclaimed Questlove Hulu documentary Summer of Soul and Billie Eilish and Beatles films on Disney+; two Queen specials on ABC and the films Encanto and Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story were other significant 2021 wins. In addition, Bunt celebrated the launch of a dedicated SiriusXM Disney Hits station, as well as successful campaigns with TINI and Area21 (Martin Garrix and Maejor) and a new partnership with S-Curve Records.
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Group Nashville
President, Universal Music Group Nashville
Universal Music Group Nashville claimed Top Country Albums Label honors on Billboard’s 2021 year-end charts thanks to stalwarts like Chris Stapleton, Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Carrie Underwood. Such artists have achieved career longevity through development and patience, leading Dungan to caution against “the tendency to overreact to the influence of TikTok metrics in our A&R departments,” which causes “a feeding frenzy unlike any other … The financials are insane for a practice that really throws s–t up against the wall to see what sticks.”
President, Warner Music Latin America
Duque became president of Warner Music Latin America in October after 15 years at Universal, where he most recently served as managing director of Universal Music Latino, Machete and Capitol Latin. At 39, he’s the youngest head of a Latin multinational music company. The move to Warner was motivated by Warner Music Group’s “truly global focus on developing artists’ careers,” says Duque, citing acts including Anitta, Justin Quiles and Myke Towers who “make Warner passionate about evolving the culture of our industry.”
Co-presidents, Elektra Music Group
Elektra Music Group celebrated a year of wins, from All Time Low’s first Alternative Airplay No. 1 (“Monsters” featuring Blackbear) and twenty one pilots’ “enormous” Roblox album release concert to Brandi Carlile’s five Grammy nods for “In These Silent Days” (including song and record of the year) and new signee Masked Wolf earning a No. 6 Hot 100 hit with “Astronaut in the Ocean.” By pairing veteran stars with younger talent, Easterlin and Nadel have focused on creating a roster of rock and alternative artists for fans of any age. “We’re building career artists with fan bases who will come out to shows, buy merch and fill arenas for years to come,” says Nadel.
Chairman/CEO, RCA Records
COO, RCA Records
President, RCA Records
RCA is an “incredible artist-development engine,” says Edge. He points to “our work with Doja Cat in 2021,” whose triumphs include a No. 2 debut on the Billboard 200 with Planet Her; collaborations with SZA, Saweetie, The Weeknd and Ariana Grande; and starring in a Pepsi ad. “We created and executed a long-term setup and global marketing plan that made her into a superstar artist,” he says. In addition, the label is steering Normani’s rise in R&B with the single “Wild Side” (featuring Cardi B) and signed rising Nigerian star Tems in September.
Co-CEOs, Island Records
In June, Universal Music Group named Eshak and Majid the new co-CEOs of Island, effective Jan. 1, to build on the label’s success with Shawn Mendes, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas and others. The two had served as the co-heads of A&R at Columbia Records since 2018, but their arrival is a UMG homecoming for both: Eshak’s career began with an Island internship, while Majid in 2004 joined Republic Records, where the two first met. Hit-making aside, “As an industry that is full of diverse music and artists from around the world,” Majid says, “we collectively need the music companies to reflect the same in diversity and inclusion. If the artists we represent don’t see a reflection of themselves and their values within these companies, it will always put us a step behind.”
Chairman/CEO, Warner Music Nashville
In 2021, Warner Music Nashville celebrated Blake Shelton’s 20th year on its roster, as well as career breakthroughs by Gabby Barrett and Cody Johnson, plus the return of Zac Brown Band to the top of the Country Airplay chart after its move to WMN. But the label’s biggest achievement, Esposito says, is one the whole planet can cheer: “We celebrated 87.5% waste diversion at Dan + Shay’s massive album launch concert in Nashville’s Centennial Park by implementing composting and recycling services, eliminating single-use items wherever possible, working with sustainable vendors and more,” he says.
Chairman/CEO, Sony Music Nashville
Luke Combs landed both the No. 2 and No. 3 slots on Billboard’s year-end Top Country Albums chart, but for Goodman, his label’s greatest accomplishment was made by the Nashville Equity Taskforce (NET), comprising staff from Sony Music Nashville, Provident Entertainment and Sony Music Publishing, all dedicated to improving inclusivity among its workforce. But equally important is that the task force is making changes in the community. “We support local organizations that address everything from access to music for young people to helping combat food insecurity in underserved neighborhoods,” Goodman says. “We know there are many strides to make in terms of tackling equity in our format and how we impact our broader community, but we are approaching our NET work with incredible zeal as a way to begin that process.”
President of global catalogue/president of arts music, Warner Music Group
After helping strike global partnerships in 2021 with Madonna (for her full catalog, from her earliest albums to Madame X) and David Bowie’s estate (also for his catalog, from box sets to Blackstar), Gore, 55, calls Warner Music Group’s global catalog division “stronger and set up for the future,” adding, “We’ve continued to be trusted by iconic artists to look after their life’s work.” This year, he expects more industrywide sales of catalog recordings, which reflect recent trends. Says Gore: “We must remember it all starts with people who wrote a song that meant something to a fan in a way that transcends capital and balance sheets.”
Chairwoman/CEO, Motown Records
With Habtemariam’s promotion in March to chairwoman/CEO of Motown, the legendary imprint became a stand-alone label once more. Motown has since released Vince Staples’ critically acclaimed eponymous fourth album in partnership with Blacksmith Recordings and expanded its hip-hop roster with new joint ventures with YoungBoy Never Broke Again and his label, and with Smino, in partnership with his Zero Fatigue and EQT (Equative Thinking) labels. Habtemariam also continued a successful partnership with Quality Control with recent projects from Migos, City Girls and current Grammy nominee Lil Baby, who is up for best melodic rap performance. Habtemariam is most proud of “Motown’s evolution [and] the music.”
Chairman/CEO, Interscope Geffen A&M
Vice chairman, Interscope Geffen A&M
See No. 14 in The Top 25 above.
Chair/CEO, Capitol Music Group
A “new” Capitol Music Group began taking shape in 2021 after former chairman/CEO Steve Barnett retired in late 2020. The home of Halsey, Sam Smith and Katy Perry has been aggressively reinvigorating and expanding its roster through signings such as rappers Toosii and Justus Bennetts and electronic musician Surf Mesa. And in December, Jubelirer succeeded Jeff Vaughn as chair/CEO of CMG, becoming the first woman to helm the label group. Proud of overcoming challenges imposed by the pandemic, Jubelirer, 47, says the team “brought tremendous energy and motivation and continued to keep our artists at the forefront.”
Chairman/CEO, Atlantic Records
Chairman/COO, Atlantic Records
President of Black music, Atlantic Records
President, West Coast, Atlantic Records
See No. 16 in The Top 25 above.
President, Alternative Distribution Alliance
After taking over as leader of Warner Music Group’s independent label and artist services division in April, Kreidich has helped ADA through a “reinvention,” hiring key players in early December such as Universal marketing executive Sam Juneman and longtime tech product manager Andrea Slobodien. The company also created and hired executives for top data and catalog positions. “We’ve laid the operational and functional foundation to become a truly global company and reimagined our leadership team,” Kreidich says. The business’ challenge is “building a dedicated fan base,” she adds, although not instantly: “It’s a long game, and curating paying audiences pays dividends down the road.”
Chairman/CEO, 300 Entertainment; chairman/CEO, Elektra Music Group
300 Entertainment has been “laser-focused on redefining what it means to be a true partner in the modern/post-COVID-19 era,” says Liles, acknowledging a successful year headlined by Megan Thee Stallion’s three Grammy wins and two Billboard 200 No. 1s for Young Thug and one for Gunna. In addition, the entertainment company launched distribution entity Sparta and film production house 300 Studios, whose first documentary will premiere on Netflix in 2022. In December, it was announced that Warner Music Group had acquired 300 Entertainment in a deal valued at $400 million. Liles was named chairman/CEO of both 300 and Elektra Music Group, where Mike Easterlin and Gregg Nadel remain co-presidents.
Founder/CEO, Republic Records
Founder/COO, Republic Records
Co-presidents, Republic Records
Executive vp, Republic Records
See No. 15 in The Top 25 above.
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Latino America & Iberian Peninsula, Universal Music Group
“Latin music has become a global brand,” says López, a leader of that globalization whose marquee acts include superstars Karol G, who ranked at No. 3 on Billboard’s year-end Top Latin Artists chart, and J Balvin, who was No. 5 on the chart. The Universal roster also includes Colombia’s Sebastián Yatra, who is kicking off his U.S. tour in early 2022 and is booked and managed by Universal-owned GTS, and Puerto Rico’s Jhay Cortez, whose hit single “Dákiti” with Bad Bunny was No. 1 on the year-end Hot Latin Songs chart. Says López: “They are at the top of the new generation of transmedia artists who are crossing borders not only with their songs but representing an explosion of Latin lifestyle in different platforms, encompassing acting, clothing, food and all cultural expressions.”
President/CEO, Arista Records
Arista Records scored with new artists JP Saxe, whose “If the World Was Ending” earned a song of the year nod at the 2021 Grammys and over 1.3 billion global streams, and Italian rockers Måneskin, whose platinum single “Beggin’ ” logged 11 weeks atop Alternative Airplay, the most of any song in 2021. He highlights rising acts including Emmy Meli, the label’s “most recent breakthrough artist,” he says, signed in collaboration with Disruptor, and Tai Verdes, who is “certified gold for singles ‘Stuck in the Middle’ and ‘A-O-K’ and is selling out all shows on his first headlining tour.”
CEO, The Orchard
COO, The Orchard
The Orchard, which marks its 25th anniversary in 2022, struck a global distribution deal last year with Noah Assad’s Rimas Entertainment (home of Bad Bunny) and boosted both its U.S. and global market shares. “The power of streaming means music knows no boundaries,” says Theis, noting the Sony-owned company’s big upcoming milestone. “As we head into our 25th year, we will continue to redefine distribution by expanding our comprehensive suite of services and tackling every challenge with the artist in mind.”
Chairman/CEO, Columbia Records
Executive vp/GM, Columbia Records
See No. 17 in The Top 25 above.
President/CEO, Universal Music Enterprises
Universal Music Group’s catalog division, Universal Music Enterprises, closed out 2021 with a “record-high catalog market share for the sixth consecutive year,” says Resnikoff. He credits the gains to Chris Cornell’s posthumous album No One Sings Like You Anymore and the 50th-anniversary reissue editions of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Both albums were nominated for 2022 Grammys, including best rock album and best boxed or special limited-edition package, respectively. This year will bring a new global alliance with Aerosmith, which includes recorded music, merchandise and audiovisual projects, he says.
Chairman/CEO, Epic Records
Executive vp/head of A&R, Epic Records
Home to established hitmakers Camila Cabello, 21 Savage, Future and DJ Khaled, Epic also celebrated a series of new artist triumphs: Rapper BIA’s breakout “Whole Lotta Money” scored a remix from Nicki Minaj, British pop artist Mimi Webb made waves on TikTok with “Good Without,” and Giveon guested on Justin Bieber’s multiple Grammy-nominated track “Peaches” and counted 2.5 billion on-demand global streams for his own songs in 2021. Says Rhone: “Epic’s focus on breaking new talent in multiple platforms hit new heights.”
CEO, Ingrooves Music Group
Ingrooves Music Group, the Universal Music Group-owned global distribution and marketing company, has been granted two U.S. patents in the past year and a half for pioneering marketing methods “that enable us to identify high-value audiences based on listening behavior,” says Roback. “These audiences are more likely to stream a particular artist’s song with deeper and stronger potential to become long-term fans.” The patents follow “five years of hard work,” he says, “first building the team and then investing the resources to create something very unique in our business. Our goal is to provide the most innovative insights and marketing solutions to our artists and labels.”
President, Virgin Music Label and Artist Services
Under Saturn, Virgin Music since 2019 has played a part in No. 1 Billboard 200 releases (through its artists and label partnerships) from Lil Baby, Trippie Redd, NF and K-pop act SuperM. It has contributed to gold or platinum sales certifications for SHAED, Clairo, Zoe Wees, iann dior, Brytiago, Internet Money, Masego, Surfaces and Judah & The Lion. Among the partnerships Saturn has been instrumental in signing are deals with Primary Wave/Gaither Music Group, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Soulja Boy, Grupo Diez 4tro and NCT-127. But her proudest achievement in the past year? “Our team unity and how much everyone delivered, no matter what they had to get through,” she says, “and how everyone learned how to ask for help when they needed someone to pick up the slack. We are stronger together now and better than ever as a team.”
President, Commercial Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment
Story oversees influential divisions like Legacy Recordings, which markets Sony’s catalog, and the SyncShop licensing department. He says the past year has been about “communicating, motivating and caring for our staff” and “providing calm and clear leadership to our global community” during the pandemic. Under Story, the Commercial Music Group leverages Sony’s partnerships with the Prince estate, Jack White’s Third Man Records, AC/DC and Philadelphia Records and manages Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” holiday campaign.
Chairman/CEO, Latin-Iberia, Sony Music Entertainment
President, U.S. Latin, Sony Music Entertainment
Sony Music Latin — home to Maluma, Shakira, Ricky Martin, Romeo Santos and Enrique Iglesias — topped Billboard’s year-end Latin label charts thanks to breakout artists like Camilo and hits that sonically broke rank, including Rauw Alejandro’s “Todo de Ti” and Farruko’s “Pepas.” Gallardo says, “These songs have been remarkable because none of them had collaborations and none of them are reggaetón,” paving new ground within the Latin ecosystem. Sony further expanded its footprint and its status in Latin America with the acquisition of Som Livre, Brazil’s biggest indie label, pending regulatory approval. Still, Verde is eager for recording, promotion and touring cycles to return to normal, noting that “the sheer volume of music means many things get lost.”
Founder/CEO, Victor Victor Worldwide
Pop Smoke posthumously ranked No. 10 on the year-end Top Artists chart after his 2020 No. 1 album, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, released by Victor Victor Worldwide after the rapper’s death in February 2020, spent another 23 weeks inside the top 10 of the Billboard 200 and scored another top 10 Hot 100 hit in “What You Know About Love,” which peaked at No. 9. In July, the label kept up momentum with the release of Pop Smoke’s follow-up, Faith, which earned him his second chart-topping title on Billboard’s all-genre albums chart. Victor explains that the goal was “to finish what Pop started and continue to drive it to the success he deserved.”
In November, Warner Music Group launched the artist-to-fan service WMX under Weaver “to superserve artists, labels and brand partners,” she says. The division includes a rebranded WEA commercial services and marketing network as well as the company’s media and creative content division, and is part of a reorganization of Weaver’s team to be “more efficient and agile,” she says. Over the past year, adds Weaver, “we saw incredible growth for our e-commerce, merch and ad-sales divisions. It’s an inspiring time in the industry.”
Ronald “Slim” Williams
Bryan “Birdman” Williams
Co-founders/co-CEOs, Cash Money Records
After developing a hip-hop dynasty over the last 20 years anchored by the successes of Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj, Cash Money Records expanded into a new genre in 2020 when it launched a Latin division. Headlined by the release of emerging artist Luis Armando’s single “Chica Mala,” which it promoted into early 2021, Slim and Birdman are looking forward to their newest foray in the Latin space. Slim says, “We’re excited to adapt our lessons in helping develop Latin talent that also stands grounded in the hip-hop world from day one.”
Kobalt flexed its diversity and global reach in 2021, signing or renewing deals with Young Thug, Jazmine Sullivan and Madison Beer, and earning wins for BMI’s hip-hop/R&B and gospel publisher of the year, as well as ASCAP’s Latin independent publisher of the year. Meanwhile, the company reports that its artists landed 22 Grammys, seven Latin Grammys, nine Australian Recording Industry Association Awards and four Swedish Music Publishers Awards. Its global digital collection society, AMRA, has grown significantly, and now collects in 180 territories around the world.
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group
COO, Universal Music Publishing Group
Global CFO, Universal Music Publishing Group
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Publishing Nashville
President of Latin America & U.S. Latin, Universal Music Publishing Group
See No. 6 in The Top 25 above.
Chairman/CEO, Round Hill Music
In November 2020, Round Hill led a “very successful” initial public offering for one of its private equity funds on the London Stock Exchange, says Gruss, 47, raising “over $440 million and [increasing] the stock over 10% in a year.” Just 12 years after its founding, the independent music publisher today manages more than 120,000 compositions, including six Beatles tunes, as well as songs from Stephen Sondheim, Keith Sweat, Heart, Whitesnake and others.
Founder/CEO, Reservoir Media
Migos’ Offset rang the NASDAQ opening bell on Aug. 30 in Times Square, celebrating Reservoir Media’s debut as a public company, trading under the stock symbol RSVR. The publisher’s roster includes Joni Mitchell, 2 Chainz, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Migos’ Offset and Takeoff, and songwriters Ali Tamposi (Shawn Mendes, Dua Lipa), James Fauntleroy (Beyoncé, Bruno Mars) and Jamie Hartman (Jennifer Hudson, Celeste). After an eventful year, Khosrowshahi, 50, celebrates her company’s status as both “the first independent music company to be publicly listed in the United States,” she says, and also the “first female-founded and -led” music entity to be listed.
Founder/CEO, Hipgnosis Songs Management/Hipgnosis Songs Fund/Hipgnosis Songs Capital
See No. 20 in The Top 25 above.
Founder/CEO, Primary Wave Music
President, music publishing, Primary Wave Music
In December, Primary Wave announced a deal (that sources value at $90 million) for multiple rights from the estate of James Brown. Following transactions that made the company the single largest owner of the Prince estate and deals with Sun Records, Chris Isaak, Bing Crosby, Luther Vandross, Toto and others, “We raised our assets under management to over $2 billion,” says Mestel. He also highlights Primary Wave’s internal task force launched in 2020, which led to a partnership with the Black Music Action Coalition. The publisher and rights holder raised funds for the BMAC, and its brand team produced its first awards gala in September.
Co-chair/CEO, Warner Chappell Music
Co-chair/COO, Warner Chappell Music
President of North America, Warner Chappell Music
President of U.S. Latin and Latin America, Warner Chappell Music
President/CEO Nashville, Warner Chappell Music
See No. 8 in The Top 25 above.
CEO, Anthem Entertainment
Murphy, 59, became Anthem Entertainment’s CEO in 2018, succeeding co-founder Robert Ott, and has since focused on legacy artists and new publishing partnerships. Under her leadership, the company released a new master recording of José Feliciano’s holiday classic “Feliz Navidad,” titled “Feliz Navidad 50th Anniversary (FN50),” guided by Grammy-winning producer Rudy Pérez. Feliciano’s revamped song features 30 acts, including CNCO, Isabela Merced, Shaggy, Jon Secada, Jason Mraz, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Gloria Gaynor, Big & Rich, Michael Bolton, Sam Moore and Styx — an all-star ensemble that Anthem compares to the 1985 landmark “We Are the World.”
Head of A&R, West Coast, Prescription Songs
Prescription Songs, which ranked at No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Publishing Corporations list for 2021, saw revenue grow 40% last year, says Pasricha, 34, thanks in part to the success of longtime signee Doja Cat, whose Planet Her album arrived in June. The rapper-singer earned her first No. 1 on Top R&B Albums, as well as a Grammy nomination for best rap song for her involvement in Saweetie’s “Best Friend,” which was co-written by rising Prescription writers-producers Rocco Valdes, A1 LaFlare and Kaine. “Chart success aside, I’m most excited about our newest signings, some of whom haven’t even had their first cuts released yet,” says Pasricha.
Mary Megan Peer
Ralph Peer II
Executive chair, peermusic
Mary Megan became the CEO of peermusic in a January 2021 transition that moved Ralph to the role of executive chair after leading the privately held company for 37 years. Peermusic recently moved into neighboring rights, acquiring or partnering with Premier Muzik, All Right Music and Global Master Rights, representing over 300 labels and more than 2,500 performers around the world. For peermusic, which has 38 offices in 31 countries, Mary Megan says the moves have “expanded what we can offer to our writers while providing growth for many of our offices around the world.”
Chairman/CEO, Sony Music Publishing
President/global chief marketing officer, Sony Music Publishing
CEO, Sony Music Publishing Nashville
Senior vp of creative, Sony Music Publishing
President/CEO, Sony Music Publishing Latin America and U.S. Latin
See No. 5 in The Top 25 above.
Co-founders, 10Q Management
10Q co-founders Asrat and Kaplan oversaw the year’s breakthrough success of superstar Doja Cat. The rapper-singer blew up thanks to Planet Her, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The album spent its first 21 consecutive weeks in the top 10, leading up to eight nominations at the 2022 Grammys for the 26-year-old artist including nods for album, record and song of the year. She also guested on songs by Lil Nas X and Young Thug, hosted the MTV Video Music Awards and starred in a Grease-inspired Pepsi ad.
Co-founder/CEO, Rimas Entertainment
Assad, who was named Billboard’s 2021 Latin Power Players Executive of the Year, saw his top management client, Bad Bunny, make history in 2020 with the first all-Spanish album to top the Billboard 200. Last April, the artist sold over 600,000 tickets to his upcoming 2022 tour in a single week, generating between $64 million and $84 million in revenue, Billboard estimates. With roughly 100 employees globally, Rimas is a full-fledged label, publisher, management and booking firm with a roster that also includes Arcángel, Tommy Torres and newcomers Mora and Eladio Carrión, whose Sauce Boyz 2 debuted at No. 2 on Top Latin Albums in December. “We collaborate with a lot of people very well; we work with everybody,” says Assad. For example, new management client Karol G is signed to Universal, and Rimas has a new distribution and development deal with The Orchard to sign and develop new talent.
Manager, Full Stop Management/Giant Music
Managers, Full Stop Management
In February, it was reported that Holiday, the veteran Columbia Records urban executive, was joining The Azoff Company in a role that would include the launch of a new label and publishing company. Under The Azoff Company umbrella, the Full Stop Management roster includes clients such as the Eagles, Harry Styles, John Mayer, Roddy Ricch, Florida Georgia Line, Anderson. Paak, Jon Bon Jovi, Daniel Caesar, Gwen Stefani, Lizzo, James Blake, Maroon 5, HAIM and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Chief navigation officer/owner, Make Wake Artists
Kappy helped longtime client Luke Combs hit a new career peak in 2021: The country star earned his 13th consecutive No. 1 hit on the Country Airplay chart with “Cold As You,” and the Country Music Association named him entertainer of the year, just three years after he won new artist of the year. In September, Combs returned to his home state of North Carolina to perform his first stadium concert. “We truly live the term ‘teamwork,’ ” says Kappy, 49, “and we celebrate as a family.”
President, SB Projects
When Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings (the parent company of SB Projects) and Bang Si-hyuk’s HYBE joined forces in April, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato and BTS were brought under one roof. With HYBE’s purchase of Braun’s company for $1.05 billion, the merged businesses will “amplify the voices of some of the biggest artists on earth” with their newly shared “technology and business sources,” says Kaye, 40, adding, “The possibilities are endless.”
President, Jon Landau Management
Partner, Jon Landau Management
A year after Bruce Springsteen sold his masters to Sony Music and his music publishing to Sony Music Publishing in a combined deal that sources tell Billboard is upwards of $500 million — in what may be the largest deal for an individual body of work in history — Landau and Carr, in a joint statement, had a ready answer for what they considered their top achievement of the year: “supervising the arrangements for the future stewardship of Bruce Springsteen’s music.” This echoes a comment that Springsteen made when the deal was announced: “I’m thrilled that my legacy will continue to be cared for by the company and people I know and trust.”
Founder/CEO, Lionfish Entertainment
León, with a management roster of Latin pop stars, helped her clients cross over in more ways than one this year. Rosalía ventured into makeup with the launch of her signature MAC collection while also finishing her highly anticipated third album, Motomami, “amid massive expectations and pressure,” León says. Plus, Rosalía’s collaboration with Dominican rapper Tokischa, “LINDA,” hit No. 18 on the Latin Digital Song Sales chart in September. Meanwhile, Lunay stepped into the mainstream U.S. festival market with performances at Chicago’s Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits in Texas.
Co-founders/co-CEOs, TaP Music
The triumph of Dua Lipa’s duet with Elton John on “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix),” which recently ascended to the top 10 of the Hot 100, on the heels of her 2020 smash Future Nostalgia album, is just one recent highlight at TaP, which also manages Lana Del Rey, Ellie Goulding, Noah Cyrus and a growing roster of songwriters and producers. TaP, with offices in London, Los Angeles, Berlin and Sydney, also runs a label, digital marketing unit and publishing company. Driven “to use any leverage we have to push for greater equality in the industry,” says Mawson, he and Millett recently launched TaP Futures to engage with young people from different backgrounds because, Millett says, “Despite all the talk, the most important issue continues to be a lack of equality at all levels of the industry.”
Founder, Camp Far West Management
There are few precedents for the speed at which Olivia Rodrigo took pop culture by storm: After her first single, “drivers license,” debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100, follow-ups “deja vu” (No. 3) and “good 4 u” (No. 1) made her the first artist in history to have her first three singles debut in the top 10 of the chart. Rodrigo’s debut album, Sour, then debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, helping earn the young singer seven Grammy nominations, including record, album and song of the year and best new artist. “Olivia’s passion and drive is inspiring, and witnessing her rise to the occasion over and over again is amazing,” says Smith, who shepherded the star’s career until the two parted ways earlier this month. “Olivia has incredible vision for her art.”
VP, Amazon Music
VP of music industry, Amazon Music
VP of global marketing and growth, Amazon Music
Director of content acquisition and strategy, Amazon Music
See No. 11 in The Top 25 above.
Head of music, Twitch
According to Twitch — which reached an agreement in 2021 with the National Music Publishers’ Association to partner with music publishers — the company has done well during the pandemic, as the livestreaming service became a hub for artists, DJs and musicians to reach their audiences while touring wasn’t an option. “When venues were shut down and tours were stopped around the world, over 100,000 musicians came to Twitch to build their communities and make real money directly from their fans,” Chan says. According to Twitch, the company has supported hundreds of music jobs through partnerships with festivals including Outside Lands and Rolling Loud, both of which streamed on Twitch in 2021.
Global head of music, YouTube
Chief business officer, YouTube
Global head of music product and industry marketing, YouTube
See No. 10 in The Top 25 above.
Chief content and advertising business officer, Spotify
VP/global head of music, Spotify
VP/global head of music product, Spotify
See No. 4 in The Top 25 above.
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Benji and Joel Madden’s Veeps has become a livestreaming powerhouse, hosting online shows for artists including Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne and Brandi Carlile. In January 2021, Live Nation purchased a majority stake in the business, marking the first major acquisition of the pandemic livestreaming era. Today, most of the company’s concerts are hybrid shows, drawing both in-person and online audiences “that can sometimes eclipse the venue capacity many times over,” says Joel Madden, thereby allowing artists “to create additional revenue and reach.”
VP of Apple Music and international content, Apple
Global director of original content, Apple
Global head of business development and music partnerships, Apple
Global creative director/host, Apple Music
Global creative director, Apple Music
Global director of editorial, Apple Music
See No. 9 in The Top 25 above.
Weissman, 41, who took over as CEO in January, strengthened his executive team last year, bringing on former Alternative Distribution Alliance chief Eliah Seton as president in May, UnitedMasters’ Lauren Wirtzer-Seawood as chief marketing and content officer in June and Drew Wilson as COO/CFO in April, as well as naming Troy Carter to the board. But the company’s biggest achievement was the introduction of Fan-Powered Royalties, which “ties artist payouts directly to fandom,” he says, and creates “a more equitable and transparent way for the over 125,000 independent artists who monetize on SoundCloud to get paid directly by their fan base.”
CEO, Loud and Live
When the pandemic hit, Loud and Live was poised for a major expansion, particularly in its concert-promotion business. After canceling a long list of tours, however, the entertainment marketing and media development firm doubled down by keeping all employees on staff, expanding into audiovisual production and becoming “one of the first promoters to bring back live events in March 2021,” says Albareda, 45. Between 2020 and 2021, the company promoted over 400 shows, including dates for Camilo, Carlos Vives, Ruben Blades and Farruko. It’s a good problem to have: “We could start to see a routing and venue availability challenge for larger tours,” he says.
President/CEO, ASM Global
Bension, who joined Los Angeles-based ASM Global as president/CEO in March 2021 after serving as president of Live Nation’s House of Blues Entertainment division, oversaw the signing of 27 major deals during the pandemic, from San Antonio to Saudi Arabia. In October, the venue and event management company launched a new corporate social-responsibility platform aimed at combating climate change and helping to diversify the live-entertainment industry.
Co-chairmen/co-CEOs, Concerts West
Concerts West, co-led by Gongaware and Meglen, rebooked the final U.S. dates of The Rolling Stones’ No Filter stadium tour that topped the Billboard Boxscore chart for 2021. Over the course of 14 dates, the band grossed $130.9 million from 577,000 tickets, with an average of $9.4 million per show. The promoter also took over booking a slate of high-profile residencies for the new theater at Resorts World Las Vegas, including shows from Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan and Katy Perry, that run through May.
Chairman/CEO, AEG Presents; COO/office of the chairman, AEG
President of global touring and talent, AEG Presents
President of North America, AEG Presents
COO of festivals, AEG
See No. 23 in The Top 25 above.
CEO, Messina Touring Group
Messina had nearly his entire roster of touring artists performing live last summer and is cautiously optimistic about the future. He says his biggest accomplishment in 2021 was booking George Strait to headline the Austin City Limits festival in the singer’s home state of Texas, a deal that Messina set up in 2019 with promoter Charles Attal of C3 Entertainment. “It was a different audience than he normally performs for, and they sang along to every word,” Messina recalls. “It was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done.”
CEO, Another Planet Entertainment
Under Perloff, the longtime independent concert promotion giant Another Planet Entertainment made it through the pandemic without having to lay off or furlough any staff, then rebounded to promote two of the highest-grossing festivals in 2021: Outside Lands in San Francisco, which leads Billboard’s year-end Top Boxscores chart, and Life Is Beautiful in Las Vegas. “This is the most exciting time to be working in music in my career,” says Perloff. “Not only is everything selling incredibly well, but there is so much great music coming out of the pandemic, and it’s getting people very excited for the comeback of concerts.”
President/CEO, Live Nation Entertainment
Chairman, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Live Nation
President of global touring/chairman of global music, Live Nation
President of U.S. concerts, Live Nation
Global president of Live Nation media and sponsorships, Live Nation
Global tour promoter, Live Nation
Senior vp of touring, Live Nation
President of Venue Nation, U.S., Live Nation
See No. 21 in The Top 25 above.
Founder/CEO, Insomniac Events
This year, the “unity” aspect of the rave world’s long-standing “peace, love, unity, respect” ethic looked different, but Rotella, 47, still found ways to bring people together. With the dance mega-festivals typically produced by Rotella’s Insomniac Events largely removed from the calendar, the company evolved its offerings by bringing 250,000 visitors to its Electric Mile drive-through experience and producing over 70 Park ’N Rave drive-in events. When live shows returned, Insomniac celebrated the 25th anniversary of its flagship fest, Electric Daisy Carnival, with 775,000 total attendees in Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., according to Insomniac. The debut of EDC in the Roblox metaverse also created “a huge milestone” for the Los Angeles-based company, says Rotella.
In October, Goldenvoice signed a long-term lease with the owners of the 642-acre Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif., signaling Tollett’s intention to keep the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and its country music sister, Stagecoach, on the site through 2050. After a two-year hiatus, Goldenvoice plans to open both festivals on successive weekends in April. Swedish House Mafia has announced Coachella as the group’s first major festival appearance since it reunited after a nearly 10-year hiatus. In November, Goldenvoice’s Day N Vegas also returned for its second year with headlining slots from Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, The Creator.
After a grueling year for the touring industry, demand for shows skyrocketed in 2021, and Yovich says Ticketmaster rose to the occasion: “From on-sales through entry, our technology and teams have performed flawlessly at massive scale to bring the industry back to life,” he says. Superstars from Adele to Bad Bunny to Olivia Rodrigo have had record-breaking sales powered by the platform, according to the company, and Live Nation’s third-quarter investor report notes that Ticketmaster achieved its highest operating income and adjusted operating income quarter ever, at $114 million and $172 million, respectively. “Ticketing was the first part of the industry to be tested at full strength,” says Yovich. According to Live Nation, Ticketmaster has already sold 65 million tickets for 2022 concerts.
Founder/chairman, Artist Group International
President, Artist Group International
President of touring, Artist Group International
With the partial comeback of live music in 2021, Artist Group International’s executive team seized an opportunity to expand. In August, AGI formed a strategic partnership with U.K. company X-ray Touring following a 2020 deal with London’s K2 Agency, all joining under parent company Y Entertainment Group to bring a newly aligned roster of A-list acts — including Billy Joel, Coldplay and Metallica — to stages around the world. To help sell its new tours, the company also formed a partnership with branding and sponsorship group Brandmark Agency to bolster AGI’s sponsorship opportunities in a post-pandemic market.
Executive vps/managing executives, Wasserman Music
Senior vp, Wasserman Music
Since Wasserman Media Group assumed control of Paradigm’s North American live-music division in April, the newly launched Wasserman Music has guided the touring plans of clients including Billie Eilish, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay. It has also continued to grow its staff, with the hire of an additional 55 employees and the promotion of 12 others during the year. “Our greatest achievement is that we exist,” says Anderson, who expects the company to maintain its “trend of growth” in 2022. The group will “continue to look for new and improved ways to continue to serve our clients, whom we proudly represent.”
Head of music, ICM Partners
Co-heads of worldwide concerts, ICM Partners
Head of international/head of Europe, ICM Partners
Over the past year, ICM Partners capitalized on the growth of 2020 when the company partnered with major European agency Primary Talent International, a move that added almost 600 acts to its roster, including Daft Punk, The 1975, Lana Del Rey and Noel Gallagher. This expansion helped revive ICM in a big way as live music returned, with artists in key slots at numerous festivals during the summer. A leadership restructuring elevated Gibbs to head of music; he is believed to be the first Black executive to serve in that role at a major talent firm. The company’s team also created a concerts leadership committee to track industry trends while grooming new departmental talent.
Managing partner/head of worldwide touring, Creative Artists Agency
Co-heads of contemporary music, Creative Artists Agency
Co-head of international touring and the London office, Creative Artists Agency
See No. 24 in The Top 25 above.
Co-heads of worldwide music, WME
Co-heads of Nashville music, WME
In April, WME parent company Endeavor went public with a valuation of an estimated $10 million, which Sommer says will position the agency to “grow the department and better serve our clients.” WME confirmed more of those clients as headliners for festivals in 2021 than it did in 2019. “We’re deep into [festival bookings] for 2023 already,” says Sommer. “The early bird gets the worm.” Meanwhile, WME helped Adele craft the Weekends With Adele Las Vegas residency at Caesars Palace, a 24-night run that sold out immediately — before the singer postponed the shows. And client Olivia Rodrigo announced a 40-date North American and European tour for 2022. Sommer says WME’s emerging talent is “really exciting because that’s what keeps you motivated. It’s why we got into this business in the first place.”
Samantha Kirby Yoh
Partners/co-heads of global music, UTA
Co-head of global music brand partnerships, UTA
See No. 25 in The Top 25 above.
Senior managing directors, Blackstone
From opposite sides of the Atlantic, Abbas and Kestnbaum are leading a rapid deployment of capital investments into music industry assets. In April, Kestnbaum and associates put together a deal to acquire eOne, the label, distributor and management company, and Audio Network, a production music platform, for $385 million. He then added to Blackstone’s 2017 $1 billion acquisition of SESAC by paying an undisclosed amount (estimated by sources as tens of millions of dollars) to acquire music rights management company Audiam in August. Meanwhile, in October, Abbas closed one of the year’s blockbuster deals by buying an undisclosed equity stake in what is now known as Hipgnosis Song Management and agreeing to initially fund $1 billion to acquire music rights in a play that backs one of the industry’s most aggressive music asset buyers, Hipgnosis founder/CEO Merck Mercuriadis. While these are the publicly known deals, there’s this to consider: “Blackstone’s private equity business has also been highly active pursuing other opportunities in the music ecosystem,” according to Kestnbaum.
Founder/CEO, Pershing Square Capital Management
As private equity and other investment firms flocked to the music industry this year, Pershing Square Capital Management’s founder/CEO made the biggest splash of all when he spent nearly $4 billion for 10% of Universal Music Group ahead of the company’s Sept. 21 listing as a publicly traded company. Ackman, 55, bought in as an anchor investor when UMG had a $41.3 billion valuation. That move was an “introduction of the company to the investment community that helped facilitate the company’s highly successful public listing in September,” he says. Today, UMG’s market capitalization is $48.78 billion — an 18.1% increase in value.
The global investment firm KKR unleashed its massive buying power on music assets in 2021, purchasing — in partnership with Dundee Partners in a collaboration called Chord Music Partners, which holds all of KKR’s investments in music royalties — the Kobalt Music Royalties Fund II for $1.1 billion. But earlier in the year, the firm also announced that it was reuniting with BMG to the tune of $1 billion, which so far has been publicly deployed, again through Chord, in acquiring ZZ Top’s entire music interests including publishing and recorded-music royalties in a reported $50 million deal. “We will continue to grow by providing flexible, creative capital to music rights owners,” Box says, noting that the Kobalt acquisition gives the firm significant scale. “Across KKR, we are investing in innovative technology, media and entertainment businesses that are connecting fans to music in new ways,” she says, “and we are excited about how this can enhance the value and reach of these songs.”
Sherrese Clarke Soares
Founder/CEO, HarbourView Equity Partners
Although Clarke Soares only opened the new firm HarbourView Equity in October, she notes that “what my team was able to accomplish in an extremely short period of time is truly inspiring.” A force to be reckoned with in the music industry, she was previously a managing director at Morgan Stanley before founding Tempo Music, where she closed deals on various music assets/rights of the Jonas Brothers, Florida Georgia Line, Jeff Bhasker and more. Upon launching HarbourView — backed by $1 billion in funding from mega-investment firm Apollo Global Management — Clarke Soares was rumored to be pursuing one of the biggest asset deals of the year, the Bruce Springsteen catalog, which Sony Music purchased for $500 million.
Partner, The Raine Group
Through The Raine Group’s roles as investor and investment bank, Davis, 62, played a key role in the trading of music assets in 2021. He served as an adviser on one of the biggest publishing deals — the sale of Downtown Music Publishing’s owned music publishing copyrights to Concord Music for an estimated $400 million-plus — and acted as exclusive financial adviser to Todd Moscowitz’s Alamo Records move to Sony Music from Universal Music Group. “Additionally, we continue to grow and make significant impact on two of our music investments, SoundCloud and Amuse,” says Davis. The Raine Group will continue to focus on the “creator economy” in the next year, having already established itself in the sector thanks to its involvement with CD Baby, acquired by Downtown Music, and Songtrust.
Co-founder/managing partner, Shot Tower Capital
Founded in 2012, Dunn’s boutique investment banking operation, Shot Tower Capital, has grown into one of the music industry’s top asset traders. Shot Tower was involved in “just under $1 billion worth of music financing and merger and acquisition transactions” in 2021, says Dunn, citing his role as adviser on the sale of rights from the James Brown estate to Primary Wave for an estimated $90 million and the sale of SideOneDummy Records to Exceleration Music for an undisclosed amount. The company continues to serve as financial adviser to the estates of Michael Jackson, Prince and Aretha Franklin.
Executive vp/head of entertainment banking, City National Bank
Henderson, a 38-year veteran of City National Bank and one of the most senior leaders at the company (she oversees a team of 250 entertainment bankers in New York, Nashville, Atlanta, Miami and Beverly Hills, Calif.), highlights her staff’s efforts to help clients receive much-needed funds through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program in 2020 and 2021. “My incredible team worked around the clock to help our clients obtain critical financing,” she says, noting that it secured nearly 10,000 PPP loans worth over $1.2 billion. “It was a blizzard [of work] like I’ve never experienced in nearly 40 years since I’ve been in this business.”
Director of music, sports and entertainment, Pinnacle Financial Partners
Moats reports that Pinnacle Financial Partners made over $600 million in new loan commitments to independent music publishers and labels “of all sizes and genres” in 2021. “We have also supported dozens of our artist clients with the capital they needed to successfully get back on the road in a post-shutdown world,” he says. Noting that the value of music assets “is greater than ever,” he adds: “We can’t forget that music is an art form and not just a financial instrument. The music and the best interests of the artists who create it must remain the primary purpose of our efforts.”
Head of music, celebrity and entertainment partnerships, Anheuser-Busch
Over the past year, Barry prioritized a collaborative approach in the partnerships between Anheuser-Busch and artists despite challenges posed by the pandemic. “When we dream big together, we develop more impactful creative [content], align more quickly on the direction and deliver faster results,” she says. Campaign highlights included The Notorious B.I.G. x Bud, which featured a limited-edition line of Budweiser cans and merchandise that honored the late rapper and a concert during the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! festival to salute his legacy. Barry is “proud that we’ve continued to delight consumers with meaningful experiences and build connections with our brands and fans.”
Global chief marketing officer, McDonald’s
The McDonald’s “Famous Orders” promotion, which kicked off in 2021 with a Travis Scott partnership, is Flatley’s latest win for the fast-food giant, immersing the 66-year-old brand in music and pop culture to boost both its sales and social media presence. “No matter how big or famous you are, everyone has a go-to McDonald’s order,” Flatley says of the ongoing campaign, citing J Balvin (Big Mac, fries and an Oreo McFlurry), Saweetie (Big Mac, McNuggets, Sprite, fries and the temporarily named “Saweetie N Sour” sauce) and BTS (McNuggets, fries and a McDonald’s co-branded clothing line on the side). “This is more than just a celebrity endorsement,” says Flatley. “We’re partnering with artists who truly love our brand.”
Head of experiential marketing, Verizon
For the 2021 Super Bowl, Hull’s team at Verizon launched a postgame series called The Big Concert for Small Business in an effort to drive donations to grant-based organizations that serve small businesses in need. An audience of 20 million viewers (and potential donors) tuned in to watch performances from Alicia Keys, Brandi Carlile, Brittany Howard, Christina Aguilera, Eric Church, H.E.R., Jazmine Sullivan, Luke Bryan and Miley Cyrus. Verizon also created an eight-week virtual music showcase focusing on women in music — including Maren Morris, Jessie Reyez, Kelsea Ballerini, Karol G, Maggie Rogers and Chloe x Halle — during a time when they were unable to perform in-person due to the pandemic.
As the former head of music and entertainment for PepsiCo, Quigley is a pro at harmonizing music and branding. Since the 2020 launch of her music and marketing shop, Shakermaker — which serves as the music agency of record for PepsiCo and its Frito-Lay subsidiary — she has scored big with numerous successful campaigns. Among her recent achievements was Cheetos’ comical “It Wasn’t Me”-themed Super Bowl LV commercial featuring Shaggy and celebrity couple Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher. “There is tremendous power in the right partnerships,” Quigley says. “When there is trust on both sides, that’s when the magic happens.” Career highlights this past year included overseeing Cheetos collaborations with Bad Bunny and MC Hammer and a Pepsi partnership with Doja Cat.
VP of global entertainment experiences and partnerships, American Express
When Sanders, 38, reflects on her achievements in 2021, executing Lizzo’s American Express Unstaged performance at Art Basel in Florida is at the top of her list. She says partnering with the “unbelievably powerful and dynamic” artist has been one of her career highlights. Platinum card members were able to watch the performance live in Miami Beach, while other fans throughout the world could stream the show. SZA and Maroon 5 performed in the series earlier in the year, but Sanders teases the best might be yet to come: “I can’t wait to bring music fans even more incredible Unstaged performances from their favorite artists in 2022.”
Founding partner, Alter Kendrick & Baron
In the past year, Alter’s firm represented clients in music acquisitions valued at more than $2 billion. Among the highlights: a blockbuster deal in which Primary Wave Music Publishing bought a stake in the catalog of Stevie Nicks, a deal that is “emblematic of the new wave of acquisitions of the rights of legacy artists,” says Alter. The firm also represented Reservoir in the purchase of iconic hip-hop label Tommy Boy Music as well as Influence Media Partners buying a stake in Julia Michaels’ catalog. The latter transaction was exciting “because virtually everyone involved in the deal was a woman,” Alter says. “In an industry that is still predominantly male-dominated, the deal represents the refreshing face of the future.”
Partner/music department head, Ziffren Brittenham
For Branca, the long-serving co-executor for the estate of Michael Jackson, the past year brought progress on several ventures. Highlights included work on the upcoming authorized musical biopic about the King of Pop, plus development of MJ: The Musical, which is scheduled to debut on Broadway in 2022 after delays caused by COVID-19. Perhaps most notably, Branca also helped shepherd the Cirque du Soleil show Michael Jackson ONE at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino through the many complexities of a long pandemic shutdown, scoring a sold-out reopening in August.
Senior counsel, Barnes & Thornburg
During 2021, Katz negotiated a new contract for the Country Music Association that assures the CMA Awards will be broadcast on ABC through 2026 and streamed on Disney-owned Hulu. With a client roster that includes Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta, Universal Music Group Nashville’s Mike Dungan, Sony Music Nashville’s Randy Goodman and Warner Music Nashville’s John Esposito, the attorney is a go-to negotiator for senior executives. Katz also changed shops last year, moving to Barnes & Thornburg after 20-plus years at Greenberg Traurig.
Founder/owner, LaPolt Law
LaPolt has been recognized as an outspoken policy advocate for songwriters, and in 2018, she pushed for the passage of the Music Modernization Act. Her role took on new urgency during the pandemic, when she worked with members of Congress and industry stakeholders to ensure that COVID-19 relief efforts included songwriters. She also helped create an online resource to assist self-employed musicians with applying for such federal aid. The next fight for LaPolt? “Leading an industrywide initiative to remove racist ‘master’ recording terminology from contracts,” she says.
Named partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Meiselas was involved in representing Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and Lionel Richie in the sale of their music catalogs in deals led by his firm’s senior partner, Allen Grubman. He also negotiated the agreement for The Weeknd’s Pepsi Super Bowl LV halftime performance, as well as the singer’s deal to produce, write and star in the upcoming HBO drama series The Idol. For Lady Gaga, Meiselas closed deals for her starring role in House of Gucci and her Grammy Award-nominated Love for Sale collaborative album with Tony Bennett. Another 2021 career highlight, he says, was representing, along with partner David Jacobs, “next-generation superstars” like The Kid LAROI and Lil Nas X.
Partner, Gang Tyre Ramer Brown & Passman
Passman and his partners — who are said to represent superstars such as Adele, Taylor Swift, Stevie Wonder and Elton John — handled the sale of a number of recording and publishing catalogs last year. Though he declined to name specific deals or clients, Passman says the high prices that catalogs now command make it a seller’s market. “With the multiples as they are now, [sellers] can get quite a number of years of income at once and do a little bit more simplifying of their lives, so it can make sense,” he says, noting that he tries to talk younger clients out of selling. “But it makes more sense for legacy artists and, typically, people who are looking to do estate planning or people who have heirs who aren’t interested in running the catalog.”
Vice chair, music industry practice group, Loeb & Loeb
White added Christina Aguilera to her roster of superstar clients last year, negotiating live engagements at the Hollywood Bowl and Disney World and brand ambassador deals with Nintendo and others. “It’s a good year when you sign one of the best female vocalists of all time as a client,” she says. She represented Primary Wave in its acquisition of the catalogs of Nicky Chinn, Stephen Marley and Mason Levy, among others; struck music licensing and endorsement deals on behalf of brands like Uber, Verizon and Citi; negotiated songwriter Diane Warren’s deal with BMG for her debut album, The Cave Sessions Vol. 1; and represented BTS in a deal that put a “BTS Meal” on the menu of McDonald’s locations in 86 countries. “I may not get a lot of sleep,” says White, “but I work on something new and exciting each day for clients around the globe whom I admire and adore.”
Raúl Alarcón Jr.
Chairman/CEO, Spanish Broadcasting System
In June, Spanish Broadcasting System announced that Albert Rodríguez was assuming the role of company president held since 1985 by Alarcón, who remains chairman/CEO. Alarcón says he’ll stay focused on “continuing to deliver industry-leading news, entertainment and unparalleled cultural experiences to the Latin community across our top-rated audio, digital, video and live-music platforms.” SBS properties include the leading Spanish-language radio stations in the United States and Puerto Rico, such as WSKQ-FM (La Mega) New York. During 2021, SBS secured over $300 million for recapitalization, which, Alarcón says, “will allow the brand to continue expanding [with the] acquisition of properties and talent as well as audience growth.”
Director of music partnerships, Instagram
Despite competition from new apps like TikTok, Instagram remains a go-to service for artists looking to engage with their fans and tease new music. Looking back at 2021, Bashkoff, 42, highlights the “value-adding products and tools that launched for artists of all levels” to take Instagram beyond a photo-sharing app to one that is useful for both creators and their followers. A new feature is global audio search, which allows users to search for songs used in the platform’s short videos called Reels. Another feature, live scheduling, lets artists notify and remind followers about upcoming live sessions.
President/CEO, Cumulus Media
Advertising revenue dropped precipitously across the radio business in 2020 due to the pandemic, according to published reports, but Cumulus adapted and returned to form in part by taking advantage of the myriad ways that the audio experience has changed in recent years. “We met our listeners’ demand by creating new programs, perfecting our streaming services so they could listen in different ways and devising new ways to connect with listeners when we could not engage face-to-face,” Berner says. “When we safely returned our programming talent to the studios, we once again experienced the magic a live studio affords.”
In March, radio company Entercom rebranded as Audacy “to reflect our transformation into a leading, scaled multiplatform audio content and entertainment company,” says Field. Led by 200-plus radio stations, a growing digital business and a flurry of new podcast content, Audacy’s revenue in the first nine months of 2021 grew 18% from the prior year period. It also restarted its live-events series with a country concert in New York on 9/11, then flipped the host station, the former WNSH (Country 94.7 FM), to classic hip-hop WXBK a month later. “At a time of great disruption in our world, including changing consumer habits and audience fragmentation,” says Field, “radio’s emergence as the No. 1 reach medium demonstrates the deep and enduring power of its connection to the American public.”
President of radio, Univision Communications
Lara is most proud of “successfully landing on our feet after the disruption from COVID-19,” he says. Univision earned some of its largest attendance numbers at its Uforia Music live events in Houston, Miami and New York, as well as for its portfolio of radio stations in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago, among other markets. In late 2020, over 10 million viewers saw Uforia Live’s livestream of Bad Bunny performing atop a moving flatbed truck in New York, according to Univision. The company’s artist development platform, meanwhile, helped break “amazingly talented new artists,” says Lara, “including Camilo, Rauw Alejandro, Eslabon Armado and Jay Wheeler.”
Global head of music, TikTok
See No. 15 in The Top 25 above.
President of entertainment enterprises, iHeartMedia
Chief programming officer/president of national programming, iHeartMedia
With over a quarter-billion monthly listeners through its broadcast assets, iHeartMedia now also reaches more than 32.5 million unique monthly podcast listeners and is the No. 1 podcaster overall in the United States, according to the podcast ranking company Podtrac. Pittman says that iHeart has widened its lead “over everyone else in terms of audience, revenue and earnings,” noting recent partnerships and podcasts launched with the NFL, the NBA, Viacom, the Black Effect Podcast Network and My Cultura podcast network, among others.
Director of music business development and partnerships, Meta
Head of music partnerships, Meta
“We are on the precipice of a new frontier of innovation,” says Quemerais, 36, “and artists are taking advantage of new products and features first.” She points to “everyone from Kehlani and Lil Huddy to Becky G and Tobe Nwigwe” engaging their audiences through Facebook’s new Live Audio Rooms and Sound Bites features. Billie Eilish debuted the artist sticker-pack feature on WhatsApp, while Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo showcased chat themes of customized backgrounds and text bubbles on Facebook Messenger and Instagram. “We anticipate many more partnerships like these,” says Quemerais, “as we continue to develop new opportunities for artists in the metaverse.”
Global head of music partnerships, Snap
In the past 18 months, Snap brokered agreements with thousands of rights holders, including the three major-label groups. Those deals provide a wider library of music to choose from while using the Sounds tool, which allows users to soundtrack the Snaps that they’re sharing with friends or Snapchat’s larger Spotlight community. To date, over 1.2 billion videos have been created using the feature, garnering more than 77 billion views in the past year alone, according to Snap. The app reaches 90% of 13- to 24-year-olds in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and the Netherlands, says Suh, and is “helping change the way Generation Z listens to and discovers new music.”
President/chief content officer, SiriusXM
Witz, 53, credits the SiriusXM team’s “creativity to deliver exclusive content and experiences for our 150 million listeners in the face of enormous challenges” amid the pandemic. By reintroducing the “special live-music events that are a SiriusXM hallmark,” she says the company accelerated financial growth and expanded its digital music content. Greenstein adds that “betting on the artists, venues and our subscribers’ love for special live events” allowed SiriusXM to launch its Small Stage Series, which prompted Alicia Keys, Brandi Carlile, Coldplay and J. Cole to deliver “never-before-[experienced]” performances at iconic U.S. venues.
CEO, Mechanical Licensing Collective
During the Mechanical Licensing Collective’s first year of full-fledged operations, Ahrend, 50, guided the organization’s distribution of more than $280 million in digital audio mechanical royalties to its members. He focused on growing his team by dozens of new staffers to keep up with its monthly royalty distributions and to educate and engage with its membership by hosting or participating in over 250 webinars and offering an in-house support team available by phone, email or online chat. “The MLC’s mission is simple,” he says. “To strive to pay each of our members all of the mechanical royalties they are entitled to receive when their songs are distributed on interactive streaming and download services in the U.S. that operate under the new blanket license.”
Co-founder/CEO, Global Music Rights
Despite working remotely for over a year and a half — “nearly 20% of the entire time our company has been in existence,” says Grimmett, 53 — Global Music Rights “made every distribution, did every licensing deal and signed every client we planned to during this time,” he says. “Being the newest and youngest [performing rights organization] in the U.S. has made us nimble and flexible, able to pivot when circumstances require it.” Looking ahead, Grimmett expresses concern over the consolidation of ownership of musical intellectual property assets “in the hands of a concentrated few funds, not all of whom have long-term experience managing those assets. It’s not a good trend for the overall long-term health of intellectual property rights and creativity.”
Over the past 18 months, SoundExchange distributed “$1 billion-plus” to its artist and record-label clients, says Huppe, converting data from “over 3,600 digital service providers” to send monthly payments on time to its 250,000 creators. In Congress, the rights organization continued its long-running efforts to close the loophole that exempts AM/FM radio stations from paying royalties on recorded music with the introduction of the American Music Fairness Act in July. “AMFA, if passed, could mean significant royalty income for working artists — local bands, background singers, musicians everywhere — who are in financial need as the pandemic crushes opportunities to perform,” he says. SoundExchange has pursued similar legislative action since 2009.
In March, ASCAP reported that its revenue collections for 2020 during the pandemic were up 4.16% over the previous year to $1.3 billion, while its distributions to songwriters and publishers grew 2.45% to $1.2 billion, or $29 million more than in 2019. Matthews praises “the ASCAP employees who have maintained their grace, goodwill and sense of humor throughout the immense pressure and isolation of the past two years and who consistently give of themselves in order to help songwriters and composers.” The organization ended the year on a high note, celebrating board member and musician Jon Batiste’s 11 Grammy nominations — the most of any nominee — including nods for both record and album of the year.
For its fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, BMI reported $1.4 billion in revenue and distributions of $1.34 billion to songwriters, composers and publishers — record levels for the performing rights organization. Driven by the digital sector, BMI’s total domestic licensing revenue also exceeded $1 billion for the first time. As a result of a new distribution schedule for 2022, the organization added a one-time fifth distribution in November to help maximize royalties for songwriters and composers. The BMI team “continued to focus on our priority of mitigating the financial impact of the pandemic on our creative community,” says O’Neill, 60.
Richard James Burgess
President/CEO, American Association of Independent Music
In January 2021, A2IM launched its Black Independent Music Accelerator grant program, designed to amplify Black voices in the independent music community, with sponsors including Spotify, Amazon Music and Alternative Distribution Alliance. The fellowship initiative was a “long overdue and critical step” in creating “full equity for underrepresented communities” in the music industry, says Burgess, who was reelected to a third term as A2IM’s top executive in December. “BIMA is the start of the beginning,” he adds. “We build from here.”
While COVID-19 affected most businesses, revenue from recorded music grew — and its U.S. trade organization made 2021 “a year of a lot of different things,” Glazier says. The RIAA worked state by state to assist musicians who weren’t eligible for traditional unemployment benefits in accessing coronavirus relief funds and helped push a California police-reform bill that became law in the fall. It also won an important court decision against the stream-ripping site FLVTO, which set a precedent for how U.S. law can apply to foreign online platforms. Next up: crucial, but probably modest, reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act based on the idea of “standard technical measures” to combat piracy, says Glazier.
President/CEO, National Music Publishers’ Association
Under Israelite, in 2021 the NMPA struck precedent-setting deals with Roblox and Twitch that secured new royalties for publishers and songwriters. With the goal of “[paving] the way for music to be used legally” on new digital platforms, Israelite has led the NMPA in forging key agreements to license music for up-and-coming technologies, creating new income streams for music creators. In 2022, songwriters and publishers will be “under a dual assault from streaming services,” Israelite says. “We continue to defend the 44% raise we won in 2018 against Spotify and Amazon’s unprecedented appeal as we enter a new trial at the Copyright Royalty Board to determine mechanical rates for 2023 to 2027.”
Harvey Mason Jr.
CEO, The Recording Academy
The Recording Academy in 2021 made “bold, substantive changes across several areas,” says Mason, who was named CEO in May after serving in the role on an interim basis. He now guides the academy along with co-presidents Valeisha Butterfield Jones and Panos A. Panay, whom he appointed in June. Among the biggest changes for the organization that bestows the Grammy Awards: disbanding the nominations review committees and letting voters have the final say in all noncraft categories. Mason is also excited about the academy’s decision to expand the number of nominees from eight to 10 in the Big Four categories — album, record and song of the year and best new artist.
Moore continued to expand the geographical reach of the global recorded-music trade association by opening a Middle East North Africa office and appointing a regional director, Rawan Al-Dabbas. IFPI also won approval from the Vietnamese government to set up an office in Hanoi. “This reflects the ambitions of our member companies for those countries/regions and the truly global nature of today’s music industry,” says Moore, who was honored as a Member of the Order of the British Empire on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June for her contributions to the U.K. music industry.
Sirota, 45, oversaw Merlin during a year in which 32 independent labels and distributors from 17 countries joined the global digital rights organization, including first-time direct members from 10 new countries. “Merlin is now approaching nearly 40 deals in which our members can benefit from premium terms, access and partnership,” he says. The nonprofit hired more staffers and redesigned its brand with a new website and logo. The revamp culminated in Merlin’s January 2021 Celebrate Music event, which included an announcement about the organization’s commercial relationship with Apple. That partnership now includes 27 members of Merlin from 13 different countries.
Contributors: Darlene Aderoju, Trevor Anderson, Rania Aniftos, Cathy Applefeld Olson, Katie Bain, Alexei Barrionuevo, Starr Bowenbank, Dave Brooks, Ed Christman, Leila Cobo, Stephen Daw, Frank DiGiacomo, Bill Donahue, Thom Duffy, Chris Eggertsen, Nolan Feeney, Griselda Flores, Josh Glicksman, Paul Grein, Lyndsey Havens, Ashley Iasimone, Gil Kaufman, Steve Knopper, Carl Lamarre, Robert Levine, Joe Levy, Jason Lipshutz, Heran Mamo, Taylor Mims, Gail Mitchell, Mia Nazareno, Melinda Newman, Jessica Nicholson, Glenn Peoples, Mitch Peters, Kristin Robinson, Jessica Roiz, Neena Rouhani, Dan Rys, Micah Singleton, Richard Smirke, Jewel Wicker, Nick Williams, Xander Zellner
Methodology: Nominations for Billboard’s executive lists open no less than 120 days in advance of publication. (For a contact for our editorial calendar, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.) The online nomination link is sent to press representatives who send a request for notification before the nomination period to email@example.com. Billboard editors chose the industry sectors to be included on each list, the most significant companies within each sector and the maximum number of honorees per company. In choosing honorees, editors weigh a variety of factors including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors. For the Power List, we considered the impact of each nominee’s company on consumer behavior, as measured by chart, sales and streaming performance; social media impressions; and radio/TV audiences reached, using data available as of Nov. 22, 2021. We heavily weighed year-end Billboard charts for 2021 and also considered career trajectory and industry impact. Where required, U.S. record-label market share was consulted using MRC Data’s current market share for albums, plus track-equivalent and streaming-equivalent album consumption units and Billboard’s quarterly top 10 publisher rankings. Unless otherwise noted, Billboard Boxscore and MRC Data are the sources for tour grosses and sales/streaming data, respectively, and MRC Data is also the source for radio audience metrics.
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