Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas, the founders of #TheShowMustBePaused who demanded the music business reckon with racial injustice, lead this year’s roster of over 200 female executives and activists changing the industry.
The day a multibillion-dollar industry stood still: That’s how June 2, 2020, will always be remembered by those in the music business, thanks to the fearless impulse of two young Black female executives. After Minneapolis police suffocated George Floyd in late May, protests against racial injustice erupted nationwide, and friends Brianna Agyemang, 32, and Jamila Thomas, 35, considered taking a day away from work to vent their own frustration and anger. Instead, the New York natives turned their proposed time off into a movement. Calling for a day of widespread reckoning — dubbed Blackout Tuesday by some supporters — Agyemang, who is the senior artist campaign manager at Apple’s Platoon division, and Thomas, the senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records, took the entire industry to task for fostering systemic bias while historically profiting from Black music. #TheShowMustBePaused was launched.
“Once we sent our graphic out through social media [on May 31] and it went viral, we didn’t flinch,” recalls Agyemang. “We knew what we had to do. And it was time to get it done.” Shared over 700,000 times on Instagram, their hashtag appeared at the bottom of a black square against which the duo’s mission was explained in stark white letters: “To hold the music industry accountable and transparent in its practices across representation, social responsibility and holistic compensation as it pertains to its Black artists, partners and staff.”
On June 2, Agyemang and Thomas hosted three discussion groups joined by 1,500 invitees from the Black music community. Meanwhile, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and other companies suspended normal operations to organize workshops and conversations for their employees. Spotify and Apple Music, as well as numerous radio stations, offered playlists and other programming focused on Black music and artists.
As companies established in-house task forces to address diversity, inclusion and equity issues and created funds to donate millions of dollars in support of racial justice organizations, Agyemang and Thomas spent the next 90 days galvanizing their organization’s membership and developing an action plan. On Sept. 2, #TheShowMustBePaused shifted into phase two as its founders wrote an op-ed for Billboard with a list of demands for music companies, calling for “radical activism [in] restructuring the organization within music industry companies to gain more room for growth opportunities for Black people.”
Co-founder, #TheShowMustBePaused; senior artist campaign manager, Platoon
Co-founder, #TheShowMustBePaused; senior director of marketing, Atlantic Records
(See Executives of the Year section above.)
Tatum Hauck Allsep
Founder/CEO, Music Health Alliance
Shelia Shipley Biddy
COO/certified senior adviser, Music Health Alliance
The Nashville nonprofit Music Health Alliance marked its seventh anniversary in January “surpassing $50 million in health care cost savings for 11,000 music industry professionals,” says Allsep, 46. When the pandemic hit, Allsep and Biddy, 68, sought to give their clients a “sliver of hope” as they launched “a COVID-19 plan based on the immediate needs of the music community,” says Allsep. Music Health Alliance helped with reducing medical bills and even “providing gift cards to buy groceries, baby formula, diapers and other necessities.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “There is always hope. When the pandemic struck in March, none of us could anticipate how our resiliency would grow as we faced difficult challenges.” – Biddy
Vice chairman, Black Music Action Coalition
Binta Niambi Brown
Co-chairman, Black Music Action Coalition
Vice chairman, Black Music Action Coalition
Joining the industrywide call to end systemic racial bias, over 200 artists, producers, DJs, managers, lawyers and industry professionals signaled their support in June by launching the Black Music Action Coalition. Ayars, Brown and Veazey are the female members of the eight-member BMAC board. The group’s goals, says Brown, are to achieve equality, equity, fairness and justice throughout the industry; become deeply aware of how biases have limited opportunity; and refuse to be complacent. “That we’ve kept the conversation going during a global pandemic and are committed to continuing this effort for however long it takes is extraordinary,” she adds.
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘Justice’ by Citizen Cope. When we’re surrounded by insanity but can still manage to feel hopeful instead of hopeless, that’s the real flex.” – Veazey
President/executive director, Rock the Vote
Co-founder, #iVoted; partner, Collective Entertainment
Leaders of two of the most prominent organizations in electoral activism, DeWitt, 38, and White and their teams stepped up in an election year like no other. Amid the pandemic, Rock the Vote’s Democracy Summer 2020 concert, headlined by Katy Perry and the Black Eyed Peas, went virtual. The nonprofit also teamed with Pepsi for the Unmute Your Voice concert, which took place on the emerging social video app Triller and featured stars like Demi Lovato and Ava Max. For the #iVoted Festival on Nov. 3, hundreds of artists performed during a webcast in support of voter turnout. “It has been incredibly inspiring to see the important and uplifting joy that music brings to fans during such a heavy year,” says White, who staged the digital concert with an all-women executive team.
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “By focusing on the good that can come out of hard work. That only intensified knowing the future of our democracy was at stake.” – DeWitt
Owner/CEO, First Avenue Productions; board president, National Independent Venue Association
When the pandemic hit, Frank, 41, was kicking off a year of celebrations at the Minneapolis club First Avenue with performances by Neko Case and The Hold Steady. Immediately after, she and hundreds of other club owners across the country formed the National Independent Venue Association to save live music through fundraising, information sharing and lobbying for federal support. In June, a NIVA poll found that 90% of independent U.S. music venues would have to close permanently if they didn’t receive federal aid. In October, after lobbying from NIVA, the House of Representatives passed the $10 billion Save Our Stages Act, as part of the proposed $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package to provide federal relief for indie venues. (In the Senate, where it awaits action, it has over “54 bipartisan co-sponsors,” says Frank.)
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “The ability to survive until it’s safe to produce concerts again and reopen with an infinitely stronger, more equitable and more resilient independent live-music ecosystem.”
COO, Global Citizen
Henshaw, 56, is a senior member of the executive team of Global Citizen, which secured $127 million in collaboration with Lady Gaga from the One World: Together at Home special in April. The fund provided personal protective equipment for front-line health care workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic. (The event also featured Alanis Morissette, Billie Eilish, Burna Boy, Lizzo and Paul McCartney.) The follow-up show, Global Goal: Unite for Our Future in June, secured $1.5 billion to help ensure equitable access of COVID-19 tests, treatments and an eventual vaccine “to everyone, everywhere,” she says.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “A team can still be high-functioning, compassionate, funny and successful even if we are all scattered around the world on video conferences.”
Executive director, Farm Aid
When Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid staged its annual all-star festival online on Sept. 26, the virtual event marked the 35th anniversary of music’s longest-running concert for a cause, which has raised over $60 million to keep family farmers on their land and support a sustainable agriculture system. As Nelson puts it, Farm Aid’s mission matters only to people who eat.
Offstage and year-round, Farm Aid executive director Carolyn Mugar has guided the nonprofit since 1985 when it was created by Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp, with Dave Matthews later joining the organization’s board.
“Carolyn is the brains of Farm Aid, and I’m just the brawn,” says Nelson. “We each have our roles but make decisions together. Carolyn has the organizational skills that keep Farm Aid humming. We show up to play, and she and her team make us look good. She makes sure every farmer we raise money for receives it.”
Mugar, 77, leads a team of 11, most of them women. “What we do the whole year is work with family farmers in myriad ways,” she says. The 1-800-FARM-AID hotline and Farmer Resource Network respond to farmers in crisis, particularly after severe weather events in recent years. Farm Aid also makes grants to local and regional groups — over 300 so far — that support sustainable agriculture. It has helped expand the markets for family farm-grown food into city neighborhoods, stores, restaurants, schools and public institutions — even the Super Bowl.
Since Farm Aid’s first concert in 1985, says Mugar, “what has changed is people’s consciousness.” Farm Aid supporters have recognized the links between its mission and “the good-food movement, the environmental movement, the whole issue of structural racism. Farm Aid has been working with Black farmers and Black farm organizations since day one.”
From barnyards to backstage trailers, Mugar has networked nonstop on behalf of family farmers, herding artists and activists “like a collie dog,” she jokes. But inevitably, she deflects and gives credit for Farm Aid’s enduring impact to its four leading artists: Nelson, Young, Mellencamp and Matthews. “For all practical purposes, they lead Farm Aid — and they do not take prisoners. They really never give up.”
Executive director, MusiCares
This past year has been one of the most important for Segura, 41, and MusiCares. When lockdowns first began, MusiCares acted quickly to provide relief to those whose health and welfare were suddenly at risk. “Many months later, we continue with our COVID-19 relief efforts, having distributed more than $20 million to 20,000 music people in need,” says Segura. “This is the most recipients helped for any single relief response in MusiCares’ history.”
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘Let It Be’ by The Beatles. Something about classic songs comforts me during tough times.
Executive vp philanthropy and social impact, Sony Music Group
Executive vp global public policy and government relations, Sony Music Entertainment
Executive vp business affairs/general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
Senior vp international marketing, Columbia/Epic Records, Sony Music Entertainment
Sony enlisted all of its employees and multiple artists — including Camila Cabello, Chloe x Halle, Diplo, DJ Khaled and Gloria Estefan — for Your Voice, Your Power, Your Vote, a series of striking black-and-white “get out the vote” online spots. “This year has underscored the systemic inequalities that are at the root of change we need to see in this world,” says Thomas, “and I am incredibly proud to work at a company that leads with action.” Swidler adds that each business unit “researched and recommended social-justice initiatives to contribute to and partner with.” Austin — with over 20 years of experience fostering equal rights through advocacy, education and enrichment — joined Sony Music Group in July in a high-level role that reaches across Sony’s recorded-music and Sony/ATV Music Publishing divisions.
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Our work to make the music community as cohesive, equitable and resilient as possible cannot stop. We must seek out opportunities to stand together, not apart.” – McDonald
Executive vp, Universal Music Group
Executive vp global revenue and royalty optimization, Universal Music Group
Senior vp investor relations, Universal Music Group
Senior vp public policy and government relations, Universal Music Group
“Our policy and advocacy work this year was like nothing before,” says Joshua, speaking of UMG’s Task Force for Meaningful Change that launched in June in the wake of nationwide protests ignited by the May 25 killing of George Floyd. The company, she says, also “encouraged our employees and fans to ‘Use Your Voice’ this election cycle [with get-out-the-vote artist videos]; pushed Congress and other policymakers to support musicians, artists, touring personnel and venues suffering through the economic impact of COVID-19; and advocated on core policy issues important to our songwriters and artists.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Resilience. It is all about amazing people, and I will never take that for granted.” – Oliver
Chief digital officer/executive vp business development, Warner Music Group
Executive vp/chief people officer, Warner Music Group
Executive vp, WEA Europe
Executive vp global digital account management, WEA
As the pandemic redefined how companies work, Osherova’s team executed the Go Contribute program, allowing employees to step up to help one another across job roles, departments and territories. At WEA, Warner Recorded Music’s global artist and label services network, Vivero and Lovell were involved in boosting the presence of WMG artists and labels through digital channels and partnerships. “My team fundamentally exists to build value for our artists and songwriters,” says Ruxandra, with moves like WMG’s deal to incorporate music into posts on the photo- and video-sharing app Snapchat. “We have to super-serve our audience and our fans,” she says, “and the things that we’re working on need to be native and authentic to a platform, to a person, to a time, so we enrich people’s experiences.”
The Word to Describe 2020: “I’m just going to say ‘dumpster fire.’ ” – Ruxandra
Senior vp marketing, 300 Entertainment
Senior vp digital marketing, 300 Entertainment
Senior vp promotion, 300 Entertainment
This year 300 Entertainment has released chart-topping music by Young Thug, Megan Thee Stallion and Gunna. But the fight to preserve employees’ mental health amid the pandemic was also a top priority for the company. As lockdowns began, 300 created programs and benefits geared toward mental health services, along with a friends-and-family relief fund to alleviate their staff’s stress. “The fact that we continue to put out music and create successful campaigns in this climate,” says Bass, “is a huge accomplishment.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Making meaningful change. The industry has to reconcile the systemic oppression of Black people and people of color within the industry.” – Bass
Allison Brown Jones
Executive vp A&R, Big Machine Label Group
In “an incredibly difficult year” for both emerging and established artists, Brown Jones, 51, takes pride in the bright spots: Carly Pearce scored her second No. 1 on Country Airplay (“I Hope You’re Happy Now”); Tim McGraw returned to Big Machine, following his departure from Sony Music Nashville; and pop trio Avenue Beat earned a viral TikTok hit with “F2020.” Brown Jones also scored with Thomas Rhett, whose No. 1 Billboard 200 album Center Point Road earned a Grammy nomination for best country album and secured him the Academy of Country Music’s entertainer of the year award (in a tie with Carrie Underwood). Rhett’s MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund benefit single, “Be a Light” — featuring Keith Urban, Hillary Scott, Reba McEntire and Chris Tomlin — hit No. 2 on Country Airplay.
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Zoom happy hours with my besties. Pilates, yoga, getting to know my neighbors, gardening, cooking and wine.”
President, 4th & Broadway; executive vp, Island Records
Although many musicians shelved new music when the pandemic began, Burnette points to the late-March release of Jessie Reyez’s debut album, Before Love Came To Kill Us, as an example of Island Records leading the charge. “We were one of the first labels to release an album from our roster during the pandemic,” she says. “It took a certain level of fearlessness. Jessie trusted us.” The decision paid off: The project debuted at No. 4 on Top R&B Albums in April.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Take time to appreciate and cherish the little things, and spend as much time as you can with loved ones. Life is short, and tomorrow is not promised.”
Senior vp international marketing, RCA/Arista Records
Senior vp urban promotion, RCA Records
Shani Fuller Tillman
VP marketing, RCA Records
“We haven’t hesitated,” says Fuller Tillman of supporting RCA’s diverse roster of talent — from Miley Cyrus to Bryson Tiller to The Strokes — as they’ve found new ways to promote new projects in lockdown from artists such as Alicia Keys, Davido and Chris Brown. “As a company, we’ve stayed the course through the pandemic,” she says, “which has offered new ways and flexibility for us to work as a team virtually.”
The Word to Describe 2020: “Sankofa, which means, ‘In order to understand our present and ensure our future, we must know our past.’ ” – Fuller Tillman
VP A&R, EMPIRE
Bay Area-based independent label distributor EMPIRE launched a publishing division in September, with signings including producer !llmind (Drake, Beyoncé, JAY-Z) and Young Dolph. The move is part of the company’s vision for “reimagining the future via social change,” says Davis, who helmed the creation of EMPIRE’s Voices for Change, Vol. 1 compilation album released in September. Featuring contributions from PJ Morton, Mozzy and Lloyd, the album came “in the wake of losing George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other lives to police violence and racial injustice,” she says. “Our artists came together to create a call to action.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Archaic deals, systemic racism, ageism and sexism. This year I’ve seen more collaboration than ever across sectors, which gives me hope for the future.”
Executive vp/GM, Ingrooves Music Group
Dietz works with CEO Bob Roback on Ingrooves’ continued global expansion, including into Australia, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Sweden and Turkey. She and Roback also steered the growth of the label’s Latin music operation with key signings of the labels Carbon Fiber, Calle Fresa, GR6 and Serca. In September, the Universal Music Group-owned independent distributor was awarded a U.S. patent for its proprietary artificial intelligence-based music marketing technology, Trends Now and Dispatch, which identifies new audience opportunities and executes marketing campaigns accordingly. Dietz is also a member of the Music Business Association’s executive committee and the American Association of Independent Music’s mentorship program, where she counsels the next generation of aspiring female music executives.
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘Give’ by Harari, a South African group from the ’80s, which I was turned on to this year. The song talks about if you give of yourself, the return is immeasurable.”
Executive vp promotion, Def Jam Recordings
Senior vp urban promotion and artist relations, Def Jam Recordings
Senior vp A&R, Def Jam Recordings
Senior vp commerce and digital, Def Jam Recordings
Farag’s team helped drive Justin Bieber’s “Yummy” to a No. 1 debut on Digital Song Sales and No. 2 on the Hot 100, while Sandiford steered Jhené Aiko’s “breakthrough year” and a career-best No. 2 debut on the Billboard 200 with her third solo studio album, Chilombo. Pizarro cleaned up the roster, pumped out market share-boosting releases during the pandemic and helped plot the 2021 launch of Def Jam Philippines. Nimene is proud to be a part of UMG’s Task Force for Meaningful Change that formed in the wake of George Floyd’s death and also serves on the label’s legislative/public policy committee, which “brings me joy and purpose,” she says.
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “Ensure other women’s voices are heard. Validate female colleagues’ ideas in meetings, and ask for their opinions.” – Sandiford
Executive vp/COO Latin Iberia, Sony Music Entertainment
Sony Latin had a banner year, with strong releases by Maluma (whose “Hawái” topped Billboard’s inaugural Global Excl. U.S. chart), Ozuna, Anuel AA, Camilo, Kany García and rising star Rauw Alejandro. Sony and The Orchard’s market share (as of Nov. 12) made them the top Latin music company in the United States. In addition, says Fernández, 47, the company has given “great attention to social issues, including the creation of a COVID-19 Global Relief Fund and a Global Social Justice Fund.”
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Exercising and studying. I was able to lose 15 pounds by exercising every day, and I have almost completed my MBA.”
President of promotion, Atlantic Records
Senior vp marketing and brand partnerships, Atlantic Records
Senior vp digital marketing and strategy, Atlantic Records
Senior vp marketing, Atlantic Records
Across charts and genres, from Lizzo to Roddy Ricch, Jack Harlow to Coldplay, onward and upward to Cardi B’s “WAP” (featuring Megan Thee Stallion), Atlantic overdelivered on radio promotion in 2020, with the pop/rock radio promotion team led by Ganis, who’s in her 40th year at the label. During the pandemic, Atlantic “quickly retooled and shifted staff in nondigital roles to rethink how we do promo tours, artist showcases and create content” and grew the digital marketing team by 20%, says Cranford. The quick pivot paid off, as “WAP” debuted atop the Hot 100 with the most streams ever in a song’s first week (93 million). “Even during a pandemic, virtual releases can still translate into true fans.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Mental health and self-care are extremely important. It’s OK to take time for yourself, have a million emotions and not feel like you have to have all the answers.” – Cranford
President of West Coast creative, Republic Records
Senior vp business affairs, Republic Records/Island/Def Jam
VP business and legal affairs, Republic Records/Island/Def Jam
Senior vp marketing, Republic Records
Republic Records, Billboard’s 2019 label of the year, scored three multiweek No. 1s on the Billboard 200: Taylor Swift’s surprise eighth album, Folklore; Pop Smoke’s posthumous Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, which Goldstein says “happened under the most tragic circumstances possible but immortalized him as one of this generation’s greatest and most defining artists”; and The Weeknd’s After Hours, which came out in March during the pandemic’s first wave and held at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for four consecutive weeks. “We felt like the world needed music, so we didn’t move [After Hours’ release date],” says Goldstein. “The album ended up being a landmark.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Representation for female and [Black, Indigenous and people of color] artists, producers, songwriters, executives and other voices. We’re at the tip of the iceberg, but we’ve got to hold ourselves and all of the gatekeepers accountable now.” – Goldstein
Executive vp marketing and A&R, Universal Music Enterprises
Gowen’s work at Universal’s catalog division involves the legacies of many of the biggest names in music, including a 75th birthday campaign this year for Bob Marley, and new catalog releases for The Rolling Stones and both Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Amid the pandemic, she credits her team’s “ability to pivot our marketing strategies with creativity and innovation, with the entire team working remotely,” with UMe able to not only “sustain the catalog business but also thrive.”
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “Sharing experiences is always my way of giving confidence to other women, but also learning from their experiences. I’m very passionate about helping young women in the industry and encourage them to shoot for the stars, as it is possible.”
President/COO, Capitol Music Group
President, Motown Records
Senior vp global creative, Capitol Music Group
Capitol Music Group weathered the pandemic to steer high-profile album release campaigns for Katy Perry, whose Smile track “Daisies” hit No. 9 on Adult Top 40; Halsey, whose Manic featured BTS’ Suga and Alanis Morissette and reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200; and Niall Horan, who secured his first solo U.K. No. 1 with Heartbreak Weather. Habtemariam executive-produced the Queen & Slim soundtrack with director Melina Matsoukas and writer Lena Waithe; it was Motown’s first soundtrack helmed by an all-female team. Grimes was a keynote speaker at Midem in June and addressed Black Lives Matter, calling for increased diversity and more mentorship in the industry.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Seeing how our team persevered through caring for one another and for those that society has too long oppressed has reinforced my faith in humanity in a profound way.” – Jubelirer
Executive vp global catalog, Legacy Recordings/Sony Music Entertainment
Under Koppe’s leadership, Legacy Recordings in 2020 shepherded attention-grabbing catalog campaigns from Mariah Carey (The Rarities) and AC/DC (Power Up), while Whitney Houston’s 1987 album, Whitney, was certified 10-times platinum, making her the first-ever Black performer with three RIAA diamond-certified albums. Koppe says she has been impressed by the staff’s compassion and kindness during the pandemic: “Sony Music’s genuine and authentic compassion, passion and commitment to change and the well-being of our staff and society at large has been incredibly inspiring and motivating this year.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Get comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations.”
Executive vp A&R, Warner Music Nashville
In a year without the usual promotion opportunities, Lacy, 47, notes that Warner Music Nashville “had three women at or near the top of multiple charts.” Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope” ruled Hot Country Songs for 16 weeks (and counting) and Country Airplay for one; helped by a remix featuring Charlie Puth, it also reached No. 3 on the Hot 100 and topped the all-format Radio Songs chart, becoming just the fourth title to have hit No. 1 on both Country Airplay and Radio Songs in the charts’ 30-year histories, as well as the first debut single to achieve the feat. Meanwhile, Ingrid Andress’ “More Hearts Than Mine” and Ashley McBride’s “One Night Standards” rose to No. 3 and No. 11 on Country Airplay, respectively. “A few years ago,” says Lacy, “that would have been unheard of.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “I took a lot of things for granted for the last 47 years.”
VP sales and digital, Disney Music Group
The pandemic has challenged everyone this year, but it also created an opportunity for the Disney team run by Lieberman. “Our team conceived of the uplifting Disney singalong concept at the beginning of the safer-at-home initiatives for COVID-19,” she says. “The result expanded to include several successful network television specials, and it continued with crossover to social media and streaming partners, which has kept up throughout the year.”
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “I drove across the country and back — saw my family on the East Coast for six weeks and 11 national parks while en route. It was a literal breath of fresh air.”
President, Universal Music Group Nashville
Mabe, 47, is fiercely proud of UMG Nashville’s ability to “lift up and break” new artists during the pandemic: Texas native Parker McCollum’s major-label EP, Hollywood Gold, reached the top 10 on Top Country Albums; sister duo Maddie & Tae scored their second Country Airplay No. 1 with “Die From a Broken Heart”; and “Black Like Me” singer Mickey Guyton became the first Black woman to perform solo at the Academy of Country Music Awards in September. “Mickey stands up for the underrepresented,” says Mabe, “and has been a beacon of light in country music.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “I am once again reminded that people are the most important resource we have on this planet. We are all connected, and we have a responsibility to take care of each other.”
Senior vp legal and business affairs, Sony Music Nashville
Magill serves as counsel to all Sony Music Nashville departments, and her team was primed when the pandemic struck. “Sony Music had all systems in place on Friday, March 13, the day we shut the office, to allow us to hit the ground running from our homes on March 16,” says the executive, a 10-year label veteran. “This seamless transition laid the foundation for every win of 2020.”
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “I take my dog, Callie, into the backyard for a little walk. I breathe and I pull weeds. Callie is no help with the weeds.”
Executive vp/GM, Columbia Records
Senior vp marketing, Columbia Records
Co-head of urban, Columbia Records
Harry Styles’ Fine Line album campaign was a “perfect storm,” says Alfredson, 40, resulting in the singer’s second consecutive No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and marking the biggest week for a pop album by a male artist in over four years. It was a “real bright spot for the entire company,” she says, from the marketing ideation of a fake island, Eroda, to a string of inventive music videos that helped spike streams. “[It’s] a great — and often rare — balance of artistic statement and mainstream commercial success.” Fant helped break acts from Polo G and The Kid LAROI to Lil Nas X, whose breakout hit, “Old Town Road,” became the fastest selling RIAA diamond-certified single of all time, while Mallory managed strategy and creative for Rosalía, The Chicks, HAIM, Vampire Weekend and AC/DC.
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Deep breaths, Peloton, long walks and wine.” – Alfredson
Managing director, Warner Music Latina
Warner Latin has steadily grown its YouTube channel, Warner Música, with new programming and “100,000 new subscribers a month,” to reach 5.5 million total subscribers, says Martínez — an effect of the pandemic. The channel’s Mi Casa Tu Casa (My Home Your Home) series featured top talent including Sofia Reyes and Alex Ubago hosting mini specials from their homes. Martínez cites new priorities including Las Villa, Vicementa, Izaak and Justin Quiles, who in August earned his first No. 1 on the Latin Airplay chart with the multi-artist track “Porfa,” and Piso 21, whose hit “Pa’ Olvidarme de Ella” surpassed 300 million streams across all platforms.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “I have valued the small things in life more, like not second-guessing if I can hug someone I love.”
Senior vp/GM, Entertainment One Nashville
At eOne Nashville, Miller, 48, celebrated a hat trick of hits on Top Gospel Albums in the past 18 months from John P. Kee, who also secured an NAACP Image Award nomination for outstanding gospel/Christian song (traditional or contemporary); Jonathan McReynolds, who collaborated on a performance with Kane Brown at the 2020 BET Awards; and James Fortune, who tied Kirk Franklin for the most Gospel Airplay No. 1s after earning his seventh (“Nobody Like Jesus”) in November. Miller is a co-founder of Nashville Music Equality, a chapter adviser for the Recording Academy’s Nashville branch and co-chair of eOne/Hasbro’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. “Everywhere I am connected, people are listening,” she says. “People are using their power and resources to do something real.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “To have a ‘bigger than life’ appreciation for life.”
General counsel, Concord
Concord has enjoyed a recent period of “explosive growth and maturation,” says Molter, who joined the company in January. Recent high points include a publishing joint venture with PULSE Music Group; the acquisition of Imagine Dragons’ publishing catalog; and closing a $600 million term loan B facility “with over 75 major institutional investors,” she says. “I am proud to be a part of a company that is investing in businesses, projects and organizations that are led by members of underrepresented or marginalized communities.”
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Caring for our backyard flock of chickens with my daughter. We bought chicks in May at the height of quarantine and now have both fresh eggs and hours of entertainment.”
CFO, Warner Records
Senior vp global brand partnerships and synch, Warner Records
Warner Records delivered on an “aggressive” release schedule throughout the pandemic, says Nadelman, led by Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia, which in April debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and spawned the No. 2 Hot 100 hit “Don’t Start Now.” In November, the U.K. dance-pop star performed a Studio 2054 livestream inspired by the legendary Manhattan club Studio 54. The label, which rebranded in 2019 from its former Warner Bros. Records moniker, also inked new deals with Latin upstart Anitta, artist-producer MyKey and 13-year-old protest singer Keedron Bryant.
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Movement is key: move, walk, run, swim, go. Or better yet, take Shonda Rhimes’ advice and put on some good music and ‘dance it out.’ ” – Nadelman
Chairwoman/CEO, Epic Records
Executive vp/head of business and legal affairs, Epic Records
Ericka J. Coulter
VP A&R, Epic Records
During the past year — “a wild ride that none of us could have predicted,” says Coulter — Rhone’s team at Epic saw Future achieve his seventh No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with High Off Life, while his single “Life Is Good” (featuring Drake) reached No. 2 on the Hot 100. In addition, Travis Scott and Kid Cudi’s “The Scotts” debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100, Ozzy Osbourne’s Ordinary Man reached No. 1 on Top Rock Albums and Hard Rock Albums, and Fiona Apple earned critical praise and a No. 4 debut on the Billboard 200 with Fetch the Bolt Cutters. But Rhone’s proudest moment was Epic’s participation in Sony’s “get out the vote” campaign to “address systemic racism and influence sustainable change.” “It’s easy to make statements” denouncing racism, says Yu. “It’s another thing to take actions that truly change the status quo.”
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “Be the best you can be and stay connected.” – Coulter
President of promotion, Interscope Geffen A&M
CFO, Interscope Geffen A&M
Executive vp visual creative, Interscope Geffen A&M
Executive vp/co-head of A&R, Interscope Geffen A&M
In 2020, the team at Interscope Geffen A&M “set out to achieve No. 1 market share and accomplished that,” says IGA CFO Annie Lee of a year that began with Billie Eilish sweeping the Big Four categories at the Grammy Awards and continued with a dominant run of No. 1s. DaBaby reigned over the Hot 100 for seven weeks with “Rockstar,” featuring Roddy Ricch. Juice WRLD’s posthumous album Legends Never Die debuted atop the Billboard 200. And Machine Gun Kelly switched from rap to rock with Tickets to My Downfall, plugging in at No. 1 on Alternative Albums, Top Rock Albums and the Billboard 200 — “an evolving and expanding musical journey,” says president of promotion Brenda Romano, “in step with his growth in TV and film.”
Romano adds: “I’m most proud of Interscope’s commitment to Black Lives Matter and social justice and our efforts to promote voter turnout. We had the opportunity and resources to engage like never before.”
Besides DaBaby, Juice WRLD and Machine Gun Kelly, IGA topped the Billboard 200 in January with Selena Gomez’s Rare, in February with Eminem’s Music To Be Murdered By and in June with Lady Gaga’s Chromatica. On Top Album Sales, 5 Seconds of Summer led the tally with CALM in April, followed by The 1975’s Notes on a Conditional Form in June and Blackpink’s The Album in October. In addition to DaBaby’s unstoppable “Rockstar,” Interscope led the Hot 100 with “Rain on Me” from Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande in June.
Interscope is also No. 1 in both total market share and current market share, with a 10.23% and 11.79% share, respectively, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data.
IGA executive vp visual creative Michelle An says a highlight of her year came Oct. 24, “having a ‘front-row seat’ and participating in Billie Eilish’s groundbreaking livestream” that was hosted on the singer’s website (“miss doing shows so muuuuuch,” Eilish wrote on Instagram). An is also working on Eilish’s upcoming Apple TV+ documentary about the making of her album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Nicole Wyskoarko was promoted in October to executive vp/co-head of A&R, alongside Sam Riback, reporting to IGA chairman/CEO John Janick, who calls her “a leader within Interscope, a mentor to her team, a savvy deal-maker and an important voice within our industry.”
Amid the achievements and stress of the pandemic, Romano suggests priorities: “More chardonnay!” she declares. “That and maintaining and strengthening friendships and relationships, and building some new ones, too.”
At Caroline, CMG’s independent distribution and label services division, Saturn oversaw success stories in the past 18 months including No. 1 debuts on the Billboard 200 from K-pop group SuperM and rapper Trippie Redd. There also were breakouts like iann dior, who has surpassed 1.5 billion streams in 2020; Clairo, who moved 700,000 equivalent album units with her first two releases; and Texas duo Surfaces, which earned 1.4 billion streams globally, according to Caroline. Saturn has also bolstered Caroline’s Latin division by signing partnerships with Daddy Yankee protégé Brytiago, trap-reggaetón star Omy De Oro and Brooklynbased label Sie7etr3.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “The importance of listening and checking in on people. You might think everything is fine, but once you ask you get the real story.”
VP/head of digital, Mom + Pop Music
This year independent Mom + Pop saw the breakthrough of Ashe, whose “Moral of the Story,” co-written and co-produced by FINNEAS, was featured in the Netflix film To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. The song “took off like a rocket, and we immediately jumped into high gear to take it as far as we could,” says Schapiro, 28. The song reached No. 7 on Hot Rock and Alternative Songs, as well as No. 18 on Adult Top 40, and cracked the Hot 100 at No. 71. Schapiro is in good company as a rising female executive at Mom + Pop: Producer-DJ Jai Wolf has said of his label: “I noticed that it was almost entirely run by women.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Too much adherence to the status quo.”
Executive vp business and legal affairs, Elektra Music Group
Scott was tapped to be part of the leadership team when Warner Music Group launched Elektra Music Group two years ago. She helped broker Elektra’s deal with Australian breakout Tones and I, whose “Dance Monkey” peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100, topped charts in multiple countries and in May surpassed 1 billion YouTube views. “It proved we could deliver a worldwide smash while retaining our identity as a small label,” says Scott, who also drafted and modernized a new artist contract used by all of Warner Music Group’s U.S.-based labels. She is a founding member of Elektra Women, a mentoring/resource group at the label.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “How to perform multiple roles simultaneously. Working from an office makes it easier to compartmentalize being a mom, a wife and a business executive.”
COO, The Orchard
Since March, Theis has led The Orchard’s 40-plus teams through the coronavirus pandemic by “pivoting to remote working on a few days’ notice” while continuing to “manage revenue and growth” and “maintaining and developing the teams globally.” New roster additions include Michigan rapper Bfb Da Packman and Chilean star Harry Nach, and labels Smash the House, Found Frequencies, Fool’s Gold, Ignition Records and Omnivore. In the United States, they have earned “326 appearances on the Billboard 200” so far this year and “17 top 10 releases,” including G Herbo’s PTSD, Joyner Lucas’s ADHD and Anuel AA’s Emmanuel.
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “How to best capture new revenue streams and expand growth of the digital, direct-to-fan ecosystem by creating transparent, equitable business partnerships.”
CFO/executive vp operations, Universal Music Latin America & Iberian Peninsula
Yep, who describes 2020 as one of “social distancing and recalibration,” helped several label artists cross over to the mainstream, expanding markets and achieving global hits from stars like Karol G and J Balvin. “Karol G is the most-watched female music artist on YouTube globally,” she says, while Balvin scored “1 billion streams the first week of release for his album Colores this year.”
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Getting in touch with nature, riding my bike around Miami and discovering or rediscovering places I perhaps did not notice with mindfulness in the past.”
Managing director, BMG Brazil
Having spent over a decade at BMG, the German-born Zammit, 36, has spent the past few years establishing and building out BMG’s recorded-music and publishing operations in Brazil. In the past year, that meant overseeing the signing of Brazilian acts Sepultura, Ego Kill Talent and pop singer-songwriter Zeeba and making publishing administration deals with companies that handle Brazilian sertanejo music.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “You can plan everything but sometimes can’t control anything.”
Babitt launched BABZ in May as a boutique management company that represents songwriters and producers including Nick Monson (Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga), Leroy “Big Taste” Clampitt (Justin Bieber, Carlie Hanson) and The Futuristics (Halsey, Camila Cabello). The company has already earned chart returns with writer-producer Alex Hope, who Babitt says is “one of the 2% of female producers in the industry today.” Her recent credits include songs on Alanis Morissette’s Such Pretty Forks in the Road and Alec Benjamin’s These Two Windows, which reached No. 1 on Top Rock Albums and No. 8 on Top Album Sales, respectively.
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “As Los Angeles chapter head and co-chair of the songwriting committee for She Is the Music, increasing the number of women in the studio has been a core mission of mine.”
Manager, Full Stop Management
Along with the entire Full Stop team, “I manage two very strong, outspoken and fearless women in music — and in life,” says Balden, 32, of clients Lizzo and Sara Bareilles, both of whom started the year on a high note. Lizzo arrived at the Grammy Awards with the most nominations of any artist (eight, with three wins), while Bareilles took home her first Grammy, for best American roots performance (“Saint Honesty”). Since, Balden has helped these artists “use their voices and platforms to promote change” by supporting and launching organizations benefiting front-line workers, the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s empowerment and the election.
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Family, food, Peloton and The Real Housewives of New York.”
Owner/artist manager, G Major
For Bunetta, 40, Thomas Rhett’s victory as co-entertainer of the year alongside Carrie Underwood at the Academy of Country Music Awards in September was a major victory. “Even though we couldn’t celebrate in person and together, we were so grateful for the validation of a decade-long career in the making,” she says. Also gratifying was the success of Rhett’s pandemic song, “Be a Light,” featuring Hillary Scott, Chris Tomlin, Reba McEntire and Keith Urban, which benefited the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund and spread a message of hope: “It really spoke to what we are going through in this year of disruption, change and awakening.”
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “Show up in meaningful ways. Cheer on their art, their clients’ art; support their charitable causes; show up for their successes. Be a voice of reassurance for the times that are difficult.”
COO, The Shalizi Group
Along with the success of Marshmello’s 2019 performance within the online game Fortnite, Carnegie and her colleague created Mellodees, a YouTube channel for kids featuring Dee, an animated robot. Launched in July, the channel’s videos are set to EDM-style music and next year will focus on topics like self-care, diversity, wellbeing, community and culture. “We never intended to launch this in the midst of a pandemic,” says Carnegie, 32. “But with children home and looking for engaging, educational content, it turned into an incredible opportunity for Marshmello to stay connected with these young families.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Mental health. We need to ensure artists, executives and young minds don’t face burnout and quit. We must provide support and resources to give the space for great work.”
Owner, EFG Management
Earls’ client, Kane Brown, had his headlining arena tour cut short by COVID-19, but his global stardom continued to rise, thanks to such hits as the Country Airplay No. 1 “Homesick”; the call for unity “Worldwide Beautiful,” released during the Black Lives Matter protests; and “Be Like That” (with Swae Lee and Khalid), which landed in the top 20 of the Hot 100. “We’ve just kept pushing despite all the obstacles and difficulties this year has brought on,” says Earls of her team, which also helped country trio Restless Road grow the group’s TikTok fans to 500,000 and started a new production company to produce videos, commercials and TV performances.
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Helping artists, their teams and their road bands and crews weather this horrible storm of nontouring. If this drought carries into next year without some sort of assistance, it will cause irreparable damage for these artists, their teams, bands and crews.”
Owner, The HQ
Not even a pandemic could stop Edelblute’s client Carrie Underwood from achieving her goals, as the newly crowned Academy of Country Music Awards co-entertainer of the year continues to build her brand. Underwood’s first book, Find Your Path, reached No. 2 on The New York Times’ bestsellers list for advice books and arrived with a companion fitness app, fit52, while her fitness/lifestyle apparel line, Calia, celebrated its fifth anniversary. Musically, the singer landed her eighth consecutive No. 1 on Top Country Albums with the holiday release My Gift, a record for debuts. Looking back on the year, says Edelblute, “I couldn’t put it any better than Carrie did in her ACM speech: ‘2020, man.’ ”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Be flexible, and lean into where we are right now.”
President, KP Entertainment
Luke Bryan, one of Edwards’ seven management clients, scored his sixth consecutive No. 1 of new material on Top Country Albums, as well as his 23rd Country Airplay No. 1 with “One Margarita.” Due to the pandemic, Edwards and her team became makeshift experts at TV production. “I filmed the entire live portion of American Idol — Luke Bryan is a judge on the show — from a farm in Franklin, Tenn., by myself,” she recalls. Bryan wasn’t the only client scoring big numbers: Edwards notes that Buena Vista Records act CB30 reached 2 million TikTok followers this year.
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Lots of workouts, walks and wine to clear the mind.”
President, Scooter Braun Projects; partner, Ithaca Label Holdings
Amid the limitations forced on artists by the pandemic, Ariana Grande “remains an absolute force despite the times,” says Kaye, citing her client’s three No. 1 debuts on the Hot 100 (the benefit single “Stuck With U,” with Justin Bieber; “Rain on Me,” with Lady Gaga; and “Positions”), as well as the chart-topping success of the album Positions on the Billboard 200. “On top of that,” adds Kaye, “in a time where celebrities have received a lot of backlash for speaking out on social issues, she has managed to remain an authentic advocate in the political and social action spheres for issues she cares about. She has risen to every occasion with class, poise, grace, compassion and professionalism.”
The Word to Describe 2020: “Bizarre.”
CEO, ShopKeeper Management
Kraft’s client Miranda Lambert joined with several of the acts with whom she has recently toured, including some of country music’s brightest female artists — Maren Morris, Ashley McBryde, Elle King, Caylee Hammack and fellow ShopKeeper client Tenille Townes — to record a version of “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” which snagged vocal event of the year at the ACM Awards in September, expanding Lambert’s lead as the artist with the ceremony’s most honors, 35. Lambert also scored big in August when “Bluebird” became her first solo No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart in eight years. And through the pandemic, Kraft, 56, has kept the entire staff at ShopKeeper employed — not the easiest feat in a tough environment, she says.
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Doing virtual Pilates classes that my trainer, Bambi Watt of Willow Pilates, leads for my staff and team members, including our artists. It’s a good way to stay connected and check in with each other, plus staying fit.”
CEO, Lionfish Entertainment
León was named Billboard’s Latin Power Players Executive of the Year on the strength of her new partnership with Live Nation; new deals with MAC cosmetics and Nike for star client Rosalía; taking over management of dynamic up-and-comer Lunay (in partnership with producers Chris Jedi and Gaby Music of Star Island); and signing new act St. Pedro to Interscope. All coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced León to find alternate ways for her artists to reach fans in the absence of live shows. The key, she says, is artists having “diversified income. Strong brand deals, acting, podcasts and having your merch in line will keep you connected to your fan base.”
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘TKN’ by Rosalía and Travis Scott. The attitude and lyrics of the song pretty much sum up how I feel about 2020.”
President, MBK Entertainment
It has been a big year for MBK client H.E.R., who arrived at the Grammy Awards with five nominations, including album, record and song of the year, all coming a year after her nominations for album of the year and best new artist. But one of the successes McLean-Williams is most proud of is negotiating the artist’s deal with Fender, which made H.E.R. the first Black female artist to have a signature guitar line. The work involving the design, marketing and strategy paid off, says McLean-Williams, as the “initial launch inventory sold out in the first three days.”
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘Keep On’ by D Train. Listening to this song transports me back to a time when I had very few responsibilities and could be carefree.”
Founder/CEO, River House Artists
In November, Oliver-Cline helped star client Luke Combs, whom she manages with Chris Kappy, break history with the highest debut for a solo male country artist ever with “Forever After All,” which reached No. 2 on the Hot 100. The deluxe release of his album What You See Is What You Get also pushed it to a weekly streaming record for a country album with 102.26 million on-demand streams. Current priorities for the talent manager: Jameson Rodgers, who is signed to River House’s label and scored his first Country Airplay chart-topper (“Some Girls”), and Niko Moon, who achieved an RIAA gold single (“Good Time”). Both artists have “made the most of their time at home by engaging with their fans and it is really paying off,” says Oliver-Kline, 47.
The Word to Describe 2020: “Avenue Beat said it best: ‘Brutal.’ ”
President, TaP Music
TaP Music shifted release plans for Dua Lipa and Ellie Goulding during the pandemic, and both Lipa’s Future Nostalgia and Goulding’s Brightest Blue topped the U.K. album chart, while Future Nostalgia reached the top five on the Billboard 200. Marquee act Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell!, which hit No. 1 in the United Kingdom and No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in September 2019, also secured a Grammy nomination for album of the year. TaP Music has launched TaP Futures, a nonprofit division of the management firm whose goal, says Ong, is to “inspire the next generation of industry professionals to break through and reach their full potential.” Adds Ong: “Breaking into these roles is tough, not least for the underprivileged and underrepresented, which must change.”
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Transcendental meditation with the David Lynch Foundation. I also made a decision to take a break from alcohol. It has made me calmer and happier with more energy.”
Senior vp global marketing, WK Entertainment
Pablo, 39, oversees marketing, branding and publicity globally for WK’s roster. She brokered brand deals for Maluma with Calvin Klein and Hennessey and for CNCO with T-Mobile and Forever 21, while the latter act became the first Latin MTV Push Artist, VEVO Lyft Artist and Latin group to perform on MTV’s Video Music Awards preshow with an all-Spanish-language song. “Our roster was represented at every major award show and televised event,” says Pablo, who also points to Maluma’s “Hawái,” which reached No. 1 on the Global Excl. U.S. chart and earned a remix with The Weeknd.
The Word to Describe 2020: “Awakening. We were walking around life with blindfolds on, and now it feels like we have finally taken them off.”
Founder/CEO, Friends at Work
In April, Stiklorius helped execute Global Citizen’s One World: Together at Home concert, which featured streamed appearances by Lady Gaga, The Rolling Stones, Michelle Obama, Beyoncé and Paul McCartney and raised $127.9 million for health care workers. Stiklorius navigated the June release of John Legend’s Bigger Love LP and is a principal in the singer’s Get Lifted Film production company, which executive-produced Netflix’s competition series Rhythm + Flow starring Cardi B, T.I. and Chance the Rapper. Finding ways for clients to “fill the gaps” from touring losses has, says Stiklorius, 45, “made it so the company’s revenues are still on track to match or beat last year’s.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “How to properly compensate Black artists for the exploitation that has happened from the beginning of the music business and how to achieve parity for women artists in playlisting, radio, Grammy nominations and every other metric one can think of.”
Executive vp, SALXCO
“Our team approached the quarantine as an opportunity,” says Unwin, by encouraging clients The Weeknd, Doja Cat, French Montana, Nav and Bebe Rexha to “see this time as a gift.” SALXCO saw The Weeknd reach No. 1 in over 20 countries with “Blinding Lights” while his album After Hours spent a month atop the Billboard 200. Breakout star Doja Cat landed her first Hot 100 No. 1 with “Say So,” which scored over 2 billion streams and 7 billion views on TikTok, according to the company; MTV’s Push Best New Artist 2020 at the Video Music Awards; and a guest spot on Ariana Grande’s Positions album (“motive”).
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “The Weeknd’s ‘After Hours.’ Because if you play it loud and close your eyes, it transports you straight to a warehouse party in downtown Los Angeles.”
Partner, Emagen Entertainment Group
Ward helped score No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 for management clients Future (High Off Life) and Gunna (Wunna), while, she says, Future’s Drake-assisted “Life Is Good” went “five times platinum,” and became the first video to surpass 1 billion views on YouTube this year. Ward also brokered a Gunna documentary directed by Spike Jordan and released in partnership with Amazon Music that gave fans “an exclusive behind-the-scenes look into the making of the album.” Ward is a founding member of the Black Music Action Coalition and was recently added to Triller’s advisory board.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Adaptation is vital to success. There is true power in being able to pivot, regroup, strategize and execute.”
Owner, House of 42; manager, Red Light Management
Weir’s client Maren Morris not only took “The Bones” to No. 1 on Hot Country Songs, Country Airplay and Adult Pop Songs, but the track made a 40-week climb to No. 1 on Adult Contemporary, the longest ascension by a woman in the chart’s history. “Having a Maren Morris song charting on multiple formats simultaneously has been a goal from the beginning,” says Weir, 46, who keeps a note on her phone that has helped her stay resilient during the pandemic. It reads: “Sleep, nutrition, exercise, meditation, self-compassion, gratitude, connection and saying no.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Staying present and not taking anything for granted.”
Jaime Zeluck Hindlin
Owner/founder, Nonstop Management
Zeluck Hindlin’s 3-year-old company continued to prosper with a rising crop of hit songwriters: Ryann co-wrote Tate McRae’s “you broke me first,” which reached the top 50 of the Hot 100; Nick Long co-wrote 13 tracks on Machine Gun Kelly’s first Billboard 200 No. 1 album, Tickets to My Downfall; and Michael Pollack hit Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, on the Hot 100 with Maroon 5’s “Memories” and Justin Bieber and Chance the Rapper’s “Holy.” Meanwhile, Zeluck Hindlin’s marquee client (and husband), JKash, wrote Jawsh 365 and Jason Derulo’s megahit “Savage Love” “during the second week of quarantine,” says Zeluck Hindlin, 35, which reached No. 1 on Mainstream Top 40, the Billboard Global 200 and the Hot 100 and became “one of the biggest songs of the year.”
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry; “Empower them, especially the ones who work for you. Teach them what you know and be good to them. And with others, don’t be competitive.”
Global head of music publishing, YouTube
Head of live music and artist partnerships, YouTube
Rivera’s team helped deliver live events virtually during the pandemic, from Coachella’s 20th-anniversary documentary and Global Citizen’s Together at Home fundraising concert to online editions of Lollapalooza, The Roots Picnic and Bonnaroo. The video platform also launched an initiative to help save independent music venues, #SOSFEST, and a $100 million fund to amplify Black voices in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted this summer. Higginson says both are “part of a much bigger push to advance racial equity internally and externally in the long term.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Music is the soundtrack for movements. Whether it was Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ or Chuck D’s ‘Fight the Power,’ Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’ or Beyoncé’s ‘Black Parade,’ music’s power to inspire, uplift and galvanize a movement is undeniable.” – Higginson
VP global marketing, Amazon Music
Global head of artist marketing, Amazon Music
Postelle helped shape the marketing around Amazon Music’s Breakthrough program, which helped boost newcomers Gabby Barrett, Kiana Ledé and Arlo Parks. She also led the e-commerce giant’s Friday Live series, at which Katy Perry, John Legend and Tim McGraw performed and raised money for various COVID-19 relief efforts. Hurwitz, who steers advertising, engagement, business development and marketing technology, developed the “A Voice Is All You Need” campaign, which recruited Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and others to do global TV and digital spots, and launched Amazon Music HD and its new ad-supported free tier.
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “Bring more women into the interview pool. If you’ve got three guys, make sure there are six women.” – Postelle
Global head of business development and music partnerships, internet software and services, Apple
Senior director, Apple
Expansion — both internal and global — was on the agenda this year for Apple Music. The streaming service launched in 52 new countries, two dozen of them in Africa, bringing its worldwide total to 167 markets. In order to drive growth, Marks helped Apple partner with Best Buy in the United States, as well as automakers Porsche, Volkswagen and Seat in Europe. Walsh and her team also continued to expand the company’s content offerings with the launch of two radio stations — Apple Music Hits and Apple Music Country — and the addition of new shows from Lady Gaga, Nile Rodgers, Huey Lewis, Luke Combs and Carrie Underwood.
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “This summer was all about Ruth B’s ‘Lost Boy.’ Watching my nieces sing along to her beautiful vocals makes my heart smile.” – Marks
VP artist development and relations, SoundCloud
Even before the pandemic, SoundCloud was unveiling tools for creators like its mobile upload, track/profile editing and self-service marketing feature Promote. Montes, 43, says she’s proud of how the company doubled down on that after lockdowns hit, rolling out $15 million in direct investment to support creators during the pandemic, as well as educational programming around mental health and wellness. “Our team worked hard to ensure our creator resources remained fresh and relevant during this unprecedented year,” she says.
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “Making sure I pass on the same kindness shown to me on my way up to others. I would not have made it this far without the incredible women I have in my life.”
Chief content and advertising business officer, Spotify
VP/global head of music, Spotify
With 144 million paid subscribers and 320 million monthly active users “in 92 markets,” Spotify aims “to allow artists to live off their craft,” which “had an entirely new meaning” during the pandemic, says Ostroff. The streaming service launched a COVID-19 Music Relief fund, matching up to $10 million in donations to organizations supporting the music community. The company continues to build out its podcast arsenal, signing content deals with Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, Kim Kardashian West and Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings, while Dicus’ team has executed promotional campaigns and immersive experiences both on- and off-platform for global stars (Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga) and emerging artists (Lauv, Alec Benjamin) alike.
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Streaming and subscription are among the only sources of stability in the market, and this is affecting all artists. A key focus remains to grow the number of people paying for streaming.” – Ostroff
Senior vp global human resources, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Senior vp creative, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Senior vp business development, U.S. Latin, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
VP U.S. business development, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
At Sony/ATV, Felix-Hughey points to “the tremendous strides we’ve made in diversifying our employee population and elevating women to leadership roles.” Despite “so much work to be done,” she says, the company has “developed a long-term strategy in order to build sustainable change.” A perennial powerhouse, Sony/ATV led Billboard’s Top Radio Airplay and Hot 100 Publishers charts in the third quarter of 2020 with market shares of 22.10% and 26.68%, respectively.
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “Through opportunity, exposure, inclusivity and simply leading by example. The most impactful growth cycle in business is when someone helps elevate you — and then you in turn help elevate someone else.” – Felix-Hughey
This year Reservoir made a prized acquisition in the 16,000-song Shapiro Bernstein catalog, chockfull of Great American Songbook tunes performed by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf and The Beatles. Khosrowshahi, 49, also says the pandemic made clear the resilience of the Reservoir staff “and our ability to come together in a time of crises.”
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)’ by Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer, cowritten by my dear friend and Reservoir writer Bruce Roberts. It has been an anthem for me this year. Enough is enough. Change is happening.”
President of Latin America and U.S. Latin, Universal Music Publishing Group
Senior vp film and television, Universal Music Publishing Group
Senior vp/head of film and television licensing and clearance, Universal Music Publishing Group
Director of A&R, Universal Music Publishing Group
This year the global publishing group celebrated continued success from signees like Taylor Swift, whose surprise album folklore spent eight weeks atop the Billboard 200, and Megan Thee Stallion, who released the No. 1 singles “Savage” (featuring Beyoncé) and “WAP” (with Cardi B), as well as new superstar signings including Kendrick Lamar, Brandi Carlile and Kenny Chesney. The company is also helping its songwriters and producers track revenue with the launch of online royalty portal UMPG Window, plus earn more of it with what Murphy calls “unprecedented” music licensing deals with digital platforms like TikTok and Snapchat.
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘One Love’ by Bob Marley. It’s a favorite, but was particularly inspiring and meaningful this year.” – Murphy
Owner/president, DMG Clearances
Mannis-Gardner, 55, has cleared samples for chart-topping Billboard 200 albums like Pop Smoke’s Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, Lady Gaga’s Chromatica and Eminem’s Music To Be Murdered By, as well as a pair of No. 1s on Top Rap Albums in Drake’s Dark Lane Demo Tapes and Logic’s No Pressure. But she also answered “a call to action to face our nation’s problems and overcome them” by clearing music for ads and rallies for the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris campaign. Her busy year also included pro bono work for the Newport Folk Festival, helping the event pull off its Our Voices Together online concert film/documentary in August.
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Redefining virtual live rights. I’ve gotten more questions this year about clearances for online livestreams than anything else, and the fact is, it’s complicated. We need clarity here, especially if the pandemic rages on through 2021.”
Co-chair/COO, Warner Chappell Music
Head of international A&R/managing director U.K., Warner Chappell Music
Senior director of A&R, Warner Chappell Music
Marshall says creating an environment in which creators can thrive is key at Warner Chappell, where recent signings include Quincy Jones, Mike WiLL Made-It, Thomas Rhett, the estate of Pop Smoke and the catalogs of the Grateful Dead and Duran Duran. Warner Chappell has launched a “whole suite” of artist services, including a new royalty-tracking app, and a tool to “make pitching our writers’ songs easier,” says Marshall, and even partnered with Stride Health to allow talent to find quality, affordable healthcare options. “We’re not only committed to our writers’ careers and songs,” she says, “but also their well-being.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “How resilient we are. These are incredibly challenging times, but I’m really proud of how our team has rallied around each other and our songwriters. Life can be a little messy, and it’s really about leaning into that and being OK with being vulnerable.” – Marshall
Songtrust represents over 300,000 songwriters and over 2 million songs, collecting royalties from 215 countries and territories — roughly 90% of the world. Neuman’s role spans expansion and development, overseeing every department in the company: income tracking, rights management, client/partner relations and business operations. Each year Songtrust has experienced a 150% growth in client acquisition, focused on growing its existing markets and expanding into new ones around the world.
The Word to Describe 2020: “Unbelievable. When we shut down in March, we couldn’t have anticipated that it would be this extended. We have hired people that we’ve never met in person. It’s just not in the cards right now.”
Ebony “Wondagurl” Oshunrinde
Oshunrinde — aka Wondagurl — has already solidified herself as one of hip-hop’s most sought-after producers, helming Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” and Drake’s “Company,” among other hits. Her recent studio wins include three hit albums on the Billboard 200 including Travis Scott’s Jackboys collective, Don Toliver’s Heaven or Hell and Pop Smoke’s posthumous Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon. In July, she added “executive” to her nameplate with the launch of her own publishing venture and Wonderchild imprint with Sony/ATV and Travis Scott’s company Cactus Jack. Wonderchild’s first signing is Toronto rapper Jugger.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Nothing is guaranteed. So many people’s lives changed overnight. You have to just take it day by day.”
Senior vp film/TV music, Downtown Music Publishing
The stars aligned when Park, 43, shepherded a Hallmark Channel network holiday theme song written by client Ryan Tedder and recorded by Gwen Stefani through Downtown, something she calls “an undertaking that required a lot of collaboration across different departments.” That was just one highlight in a year spent trying to rethink the role of a publisher amid a global pandemic, which resulted in a 52% increase in TV synchs and a 24% boost in film synchs year over year. “We really challenged ourselves,” she says. “If immediate revenue was going to be harder to come by, then how could we be there for our songwriters and create long-term value?”
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Checking in with everyone in my life, from friends and family to my team, colleagues and songwriters. Also, tequila.”
Mary Megan Peer
Deputy CEO, peermusic
In October, Peer, 43, led the acquisition of three neighboring rights companies: Canada-based Premier Muzik, France-based All Right Music and Netherlands-based Global Master Rights. It’s an area “poised for growth,” she says, “especially with the new European legislation, which would make more U.S.-based performers and labels eligible to receive this type of income.” Clients from the three companies represented performers in 24% of Billboard’s 2019 year-end Hot 100 songs and 40% of the yearend top 20 songs, a coup for the longtime publisher. The company also bolstered its stable of songwriters with the addition of Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, whose credits include songs by Justin Bieber and Usher.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Everything happens for a reason. Our global team has been incredibly productive during the pandemic, and in many ways new communication channels have been forged.”
CFO, Primary Wave Music
In 2020, Reisman shepherded acquisitions of the catalogs of Godsmack, Air Supply, Devo and Olivia Newton-John, as well as some of Ray Charles’ songs. She has also been involved in strategic marketing partnerships with The Four Seasons and Burt Bacharach, all to the tune of a $500 million investment. “We’ve proven the success of our creative partnership business model for the incredible artists and songwriters who have entrusted us with their legacies,” says Reisman. Primary Wave’s creativity and promotional muscle paid off this past year with the multipart celebration of Bob Marley’s 75th birthday, which generated several synchs and reissues. That, plus a partnership with the Whitney Houston estate, was “a huge financial win for everyone involved,” she says. “And we’re just getting started.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “We have to find a way to work with technology, to get ahead of the curve and find a way to make it simpler for content creators to reap the timely financial outcomes they deserve while also supporting the emerging technologies that promote them.”
CFO/COO, PULSE Music Group
PULSE kicked off the year with a major announcement: Concord Music Publishing purchased a majority stake in the company to form a creative joint venture to administer PULSE’s 10,000- song catalog (by 175 writers), as well as future signings, with financial backing from Concord. Beyond that, the company grew its market share 150% among Hot 100 songs on Billboard’s Publishers Quarterly ranking and 92% among radio songs since the fourth quarter of 2019, with its writers delivering hits like Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” and Trevor Daniel’s “Falling.”
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘Everything Is Everything’ by Lauryn Hill. It’s about staying positive through life’s inevitable struggles and the eventual return to a brighter space.”
Executive vp, Artist Partner Group
Since 2017, Rogers has overseen all areas apart from A&R and has led APG’s global marketing and artist development efforts for a roster that includes Charlie Puth, Bazzi, Lil Skies and Kevin Gates. Recent coups include breakout star Alec Benjamin, whose “Let Me Down Slowly” has been a hit in 20 countries; rapper YoungBoy Never Broke Again, who earned three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 in 12 months when Top debuted at the pinnacle of the tally in September; and “breaking Ava Max in every corner of the world,” says Rogers, including the U.K. singer’s latest hit, “Kings and Queens,” which peaked at No. 22 on the Hot 100 in November. “With crisis comes opportunity.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Sustaining our live-music piece not just through this current crisis, but the next. Is it cash-flow mechanisms, more aggressively diversifying noncorrelated but connected assets or something less reactive and more creative?”
Senior vp creative, BMI
This year BMI increased its membership with nearly 100,000 new songwriters, composers and publishers joining the performing rights organization; new creators include Anitta, Tame Impala, Chance the Rapper, Nicholas Britell and Karol G. “I’m extremely proud of the way we’re managing as a company through COVID-19 and supporting the fight against racial injustice,” says the first woman and first Latin in her role, noting that for the year that ended June 30, BMI posted record revenue ($1.3 billion, up $28 million from last year) and distributions ($1.2 billion, up $37 million from last year).
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “How rapidly we can adapt while in a fluid situation — we are stronger than we think we are.”
For the sixth consecutive year, ASCAP topped the $1 billion mark in collections, and for the third year, it passed on that milestone in royalty distribution to its members. But during the pandemic, Matthews says the company has “never been more focused” on supporting its members “financially through their royalty payments and COVID-19 relief, and fighting in Congress for them to be included in government relief efforts.” ASCAP also made a commitment to social justice and racial justice issues by matching employee contributions to Color of Change and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, lobbying for police reform and launching a historically Black college/university internship program. Its ASCAP Citizen campaign, which started in September, encourages members and employees alike to “exercise their right to vote and to ensure that their voices are heard,” says Matthews.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “A crisis escalates innovation.”
Executive vp/CFO, SoundExchange
Singh’s role spans operations, finance, human resources and administration, and she has long served as a key member of the SoundExchange executive team. Since its inception in 2003, SoundExchange has distributed over $7 billion in performance royalties to its members, with distributions of $908 million. Despite the pandemic, the organization has “not skipped a beat” in processing and paying rights holders their monthly royalty distributions, says Singh. Doing so while working remotely proved the durability of their “technology infrastructure,” she says, especially at a time when “our constituents have lost sources of other revenue streams due to the impact of COVID-19 on the live-performance space.”
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘Caution’ by The Killers. For some reason this song just helped me cope and accept that sometimes you just have to let it be and throw caution to the wind.”
In a year shaped by both a pandemic and racial justice reckoning, SESAC fought for legislation efforts that provide relief for the creative community and established a diversity and inclusion network that is implementing programs focused on education, community outreach and employee engagement. For her part, Turner ensured that royalty payments to the company’s songwriter and publisher affiliates went uninterrupted during this time, and continued to oversee SESAC’s licensing agreements — notably completing one of the company’s most significant deals in recent years with a leading digital service provider this summer.
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘Heaven,’ cowritten by SESAC’s Matt McGinn and performed by Kane Brown, continues to be poignant during these difficult times and reminds me to be grateful for time with the people that I love.”
COO, Concerts West/AEG Presents
While much of Las Vegas closed down during the pandemic, Concerts West took on one of Sin City’s biggest projects: the development of a theater at the $4.3 billion Resorts World hotel and casino property. Concerts West, whose client list includes tours for The Rolling Stones, Roger Waters and Céline Dion, will book touring acts and residencies at the venue’s 5,000-capacity venue, says DiStefano, when it’s “scheduled to open along with the property next year.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “The issue we can’t control, but have to manage: the COVID-19 pandemic; and the issue we can control: ensuring the industry supports diversity at all levels and in all areas.”
VP global content and development, ASM Global
GM, Greek Theatre
ASM Global transformed its currently empty arenas and theaters into drive-in performance locations, hospital spaces and polling places. “Each one of our venues was able to continue to engage with their respective communities,” says DuFine, who oversaw the launch of VenueShield, a global environmental hygiene protocol that will be implemented at over 325 of its facilities once they reopen. Measures including temperature checks, thermal cameras (for fever detection) and contactless transactions will “make sure the artists and fans know it’s safe to come back to our music venues,” says DuFine.
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “Consistent inclusion. No matter what, if there is a woman who is interested in what I do or what you do, we must include them in any way that we can.” – DuFine
Under scrutiny from Congress and millions of fans, Ticketmaster issued hundreds of millions of dollars of refunds for canceled and rescheduled shows in the early days of the pandemic. Howe co-led the initiative — the largest in the ticketing giant’s history — by returning a portion of the $2 billion in tickets from 65,000 shows. The move stirred hope in the live sector: Only 17% of fans had requested refunds for rescheduled shows. Howe, who was elevated to COO in August, is now focused on implementing tools to combat the coronavirus, like proprietary social-distance seating technology that’s customizable for different regions and works in tandem with existing interactive seat maps.
President of business development, Oak View Group
In June, Oak View Group announced that Amazon had secured the naming rights for its renovated KeyArena in Seattle. The 18,000-capacity facility will be known as Climate Pledge Arena when it is scheduled to reopen in 2021 and is on a mission to become the first net-zero, carbon-certified venue in the world. “It is not easy,” says Leiweke-Bodie, 34, of the “expensive” decision, which will “overcome the traditional way of thinking about building arenas, [but is] critical to the industry and the future for our environment.” Operating without carbon emissions, she adds, shows fans and artists alike that “we understand and prioritize the environment and sustainable initiatives.”
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “Provide a corporate environment that celebrates those complex roles that women are concurrently: mom, wife, daughter, executive, leader, advocate.”
President/CEO, Femme It Forward
Lowery, head of the Live Nation joint venture Femme It Forward, had presented 20 concerts before the pandemic “with a portion of every ticket sold going directly to charities supporting women in music education, career development, empowerment, homelessness, domestic abuse and incarceration.” She helped produce the Brandy vs. Monica Verzuz showdown, which drew an audience of 6 million and raised $250,000 for those causes, says Lowery. (She had previously curated the first female episode of Verzuz with Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, which drew 5.6 million unique viewers overall.) To mark Women’s History Month in March, Lowery did a takeover of Spotify’s Black Girl Magic playlist. She partnered with DJ D-Nice to spotlight 12 female DJs on his Club Quarantine stream. And for the #SayHerName campaign launched by the African American Policy Forum, Lowery hosted a panel to highlight injustices faced by Black women and define steps for change.
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Empowering young women to see themselves in positions of influence and leadership.”
VP/GM, Messina Touring Group Nashville
Messina Touring Group had big tours on the books for Kenny Chesney, The Lumineers and Blake Shelton, as well as a first-of-its-kind Lover Fest from Taylor Swift, when the pandemic ground one of the country’s most successful touring outfits to a halt. It was a jarring, stressful shift for McCollister, 33, who says she is eager to get shows safely back on the road. “If we don’t come back correctly,” she says, “it’s going to take even longer for us to recover.”
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘Out of the Woods’ by Taylor Swift. I don’t know if it has so much inspired me as it has become my constant internal question for what is ahead.”
VP talent, AEG Presents
Head of digital marketing, AEG Presents
Senior project manager/digital marketing, festivals, AEG Presents
Phillips leads AEG’s Dallas office and has boosted the touring careers of Sturgill Simpson, LCD Soundsystem and The Lumineers from clubs to arena status in the Southwest. Lyons helps manage AEG’s festivals, which includes Coachella, Hangout and Firefly, while Torchia specializes in trendsetting digital marketing initiatives like Luke Combs’ Bootleggers tour upgrade and premium packages, and Stagecoach’s digital merchandise and upgrade programs. There has “never been a more important time for us to lean on each other,” says Phillips. “The pandemic has decimated every corner of the music industry, which will continue to be affected for years to come.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Take nothing for granted, especially your own mental health. You have to put the figurative oxygen mask on yourself before you can put someone else’s on for them.” – Phillips
Senior vp, Goldenvoice/AEG Presents
As the uncertainty of the spring gave way to the resigned acceptance of the fall, Rosenbluth was busy booking, and then postponing, Coachella and Goldenvoice’s other festivals. The company’s people-centric response to the crisis has made her “extraordinarily proud to be a part of AEG,” she says. “I am especially proud of the work Goldenvoice folk have done to address issues of diversity, equality and inclusion this year.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Getting back to presenting live concerts safely is our main issue as an industry. There are many other issues, but the rest fall behind this one.”
CFO, Live Nation Entertainment
President/chief strategy officer, Live Nation Women
International group counsel, Live Nation
After 2019, Live Nation’s ninth consecutive year of record results — with revenue, operating income and adjusted operating income all up year over year — the company faced a calendar with almost no events or incoming revenue. With Willard’s leadership and guidance, Live Nation moved rapidly to cut costs, manage cash and amend its credit agreements. Emeny helped advance aid packages internationally to benefit not only Live Nation but the entire industry. Before the halt in touring, Harnell, as head of Live Nation Women, promoted the Oprah 2020 Vision Tour and Brandi Carlile’s Ryman Auditorium residency. She has also been working with SoLa Impact to create scholarships for young people in South Los Angeles to encourage entrepreneurship.
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “When we raise our voices for one another, we strengthen our collective community to ultimately have impact in leveling the playing field toward gender equality. We put together an all-female collaboration of songwriters and artists to produce ‘A Beautiful Noise,’ a song about the importance of finding your voice and using it to stand for what matters ― not just in the heat of an election, but every day and everywhere. And that’s the energy I want to keep carrying through these efforts.” – Harnell
Music leadership, strategy and operations executive, Creative Artists Agency
Music agent, Creative Artists Agency
Lucy Kozak Cesnik
Music marketing agent, Creative Artists Agency
Music agent, Creative Artists Agency
CAA weathered the pandemic with innovative wins. Anderson steered the agency’s drive-in events and socially distanced concerts in states including Texas. Kozak Cesnik, 36, helped clients including Tim McGraw, Darius Rucker and Dan + Shay navigate a post-quarantine market. Jones, 35, led the team that rescheduled college and university shows for clients including Lennon Stella, KYLE, Maddie & Tae and Rico Nasty, while Sharpe, 34, helped singer-songwriter Jon Pardi, whom she signed to the agency in 2015, sell out his fall 2019 run in support of Heartache Medication, which earned an Academy of Country Music album of the year nomination in 2020. Anderson, 39, says that CAA Amplify’s Town Hall event in June brought together leaders in entertainment, sports, media, branding, technology and social justice to end systemic racism and “delivered critical action steps for real and permanent change throughout our communities.”
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘I Called Mama’ by Tim McGraw inspired me to prioritize connecting with my loved ones.” – Anderson
Mari Arionne Davies
Yves C. Pierre
Agents, ICM Partners
Davies, 34, has signed to the agency breakout R&B and hip-hop talents YBN Nahmir, Teyana Taylor, Kiana Ledé and Jacquees. Pierre and Reynolds-Drumm, 34, who represent Rapsody, Madison Beer and Baby Rose, have focused on finding new revenue streams outside music, including an extension of Quavo’s six-figure Ambassador deal with Martell and a live painting session and Q&A with Lil Yachty at the University of California, Santa Barbara. ICM also created Diversify/ICM, an internal group to promote diversity, equality and inclusion, which is committed to filling 50% of new job openings with diverse candidates.
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “To be a mentor as a member of She Is the Music. As a female executive, it’s important to guide the next generation of women in our industry and to help make it a more inclusive place.” – Reynolds-Drumm
Yvette Davis Gayle
Partner/COO, Africa Creative Agency
Launched in 2016, Davis Gayle’s Africa Creative Agency represents clients in music, comedy and acting with a current roster that includes rapper Nasty C, who signed to Universal Music Group South Africa in 2017 and to Def Jam in the United States in March. The firm also handled music supervision for Netflix’s first two original African series, Queen Sono and Blood & Water, which were both renewed for second seasons. Calling 2020 “unimaginable,” Davis Gayle, 49, says that in “learning to pivot and adapt, we can focus, restrategize and make appropriate changes to ensure we survive this pitfall.”
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘Brighter Days’ by Sauti Sol and Soweto Gospel Choir. It’s difficult to look at the future as being promising. This song came at the perfect time to instill hope.”
Co-head of music, WME
Partner/co-head of the Nashville office, WME
Head of electronic music, WME
WME moved traditional bookings into coronavirus-safe events and branding opportunities. Dickins, 45, rescheduled the Asian leg of breakout star Rex Orange County’s Pony tour after two sold-out performances at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in February. Agi retooled Swedish singer Snoh Aalegra’s sold-out domestic run and curated the musical performances for client Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty fashion show. Gardenhire, 39, helped Ingrid Andress tack on a VIP merchandise bundle through AXS for a virtual show and booked Sara Evans to appear on Endeavor’s fully interactive On Location Live platform. And LaFera, 41, helped establish WME’s “virtual appearances” department.
The Word to Describe 2020: “Roller coaster.” – LaFera
Chief marketing officer, Paradigm Talent Agency
Agent, Paradigm Talent Agency
Executive vp brand partnerships, Paradigm Talent Agency
Feldman joined Paradigm in 2019 after nearly 25 years at Warner Records to oversee brand partnerships and marketing initiatives in a newly created role, generating revenue for the company while touring ceased. Kinder, who joined Paradigm’s Nashville office in 2018, booked Kacey Musgraves’ 2019 Oh, What a World Tour in 21 countries. Miles connected Halsey and Diplo with Budweiser for a Super Bowl party before the pandemic, and Billie Eilish and Janelle Monáe with Verizon for an April charity benefit.
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘If You Got a Problem’ by Joy Oladokun. It speaks to putting your arms around the people you love and helping to ease their burden during times of struggle. It’s something we all need to do more of, especially during these challenging times.” – Kinder
Founder/agent, Cara Lewis Group
When touring stopped, Lewis prioritized virtual and branding opportunities for her clients, who include Eminem, The Roots, Jill Scott, Chance the Rapper and Russ. Recent branding deals include Khalid’s spring/fall campaign with Levi’s, an Erykah Badu livestream concert with Verizon and Travis Scott’s multilevel partnership with McDonald’s. The lattermost kicked off with his Cactus Jack meal — a Quarter Pounder with bacon and fries with barbecue sauce — which was the chain’s “first celebrity meal since Michael Jordan in 1992,” says Lewis, who notes the collaboration will include “an animated commercial, massive merch and charity components.”
The Word to Describe 2020: “Unfathomable.”
GM, global music group, UTA
Co-head of music brand partnerships, UTA
Samantha Kirby Yoh
Partner/co-head of worldwide music, UTA
UTA’s all-female music brand partnerships division closed over 300 deals after the pandemic hit, with many containing a charitable element: Chance the Rapper and General Mills launched the Twilight Awards, which donated $300,000 to schools and teachers; Common and Tiffany Haddish went on a virtual date on Bumble to send meals to frontline health care workers; and Offset and Friends, a livestream performance with Oculus and Facebook, covered nearly 325,000 meals for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Meanwhile, the company struck deals for rising female stars like Arlo Parks and Princess Nokia.
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “Join their teams, understand their strengths, and highlight their accomplishments to others.” – Kirby Yoh
President, Artist Group International
AGI worked hard to reschedule and reroute tour dates for clients like Billy Joel, but Vlasic acknowledges that the biggest challenges are yet to come. “This is a time for growth, both professionally and personally,” she says, in “navigating and dominating” the changing landscape of the live entertainment business. “Even with the negative impacts of the pandemic on our industry, I am optimistic that there is opportunity to grow, build and become even stronger.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Not only has the pandemic had a severe impact on the current year, it will have a ripple effect on the future. Venues closing, promoters going bankrupt, mass layoffs and corporate restructuring will dramatically impact the industry.”
Co-president, The Azoff Company
While many of its businesses were affected by COVID-19 due to their position in the live sector — from performing rights organization Global Music Rights to arena developer Oak View Group and Full Stop Management (Eagles, Harry Styles, Lizzo, Gwen Stefani, Chelsea Handler, Bon Jovi) — Collins says The Azoff Company, which she runs with co-president Susan Genco, is focused on maintaining momentum. The team grew closer during the pandemic by planning for the future, she says. Styles recently invested in OVG’s latest venture, Co-op Live, a new arena in his hometown of Manchester, England, that is slated to open in 2023.
The Word to Describe 2020: “I don’t think you really want my word for 2020. All I want to know is, can we get a do-over?”
Chief experience officer, Kobalt Music Group
GM of creative, Kobalt Music Publishing
Senior vp creative marketing, AWAL
Kobalt has remained “unified and resilient” since quarantine began in March, says Perez, who touts virtual events and writing camps and the establishment of a governance board and task forces to conduct mandatory unconscious bias training among Kobalt’s moves. The indie publisher also reaped honors including ASCAP’s pop and Latin independent publisher of the year, as well as BMI’s gospel publisher of the year in “quite possibly one of the largest achievements of any ‘nonmajor,’ ” says Drew. The creative team overseen by Bhagat, 33, has focused on expanding in-house resources for all artists on the AWAL roster, such as video production, album artwork, photo shoots and virtual tours for its roster that includes girl in red, FINNEAS and Lauv.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Humility. Real growth requires us to let go of our egos, learn to live with discomfort and open our minds to thoughts and ideas that challenge our beliefs.” – Bhagat
CFO, Secretly Services
Secretly Services took a two-pronged approach to dealing with a difficult year: “We protected our employees and worked to diminish the impact on vulnerable parties, whether that be our artists or distributed label partners,” says Savcic, 62. “We moved equally as quickly to support the broader community during Black Lives Matter protests by contributing monies, using our social media voice where valuable and elevating diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives for our teams.” But that didn’t distract the company from capitalizing on marketing opportunities for its artists: Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher, which hit No. 2 on the Alternative Albums chart, helped boost her catalog to 130,000 album consumption units this year, while Khruangbin’s Mordechai has propelled its catalog to over 150,000 album consumption units.
The Word to Describe 2020: “Dastardly.”
Camille Soto Malave
Founder/CEO, GLAD EMPIRE
Soto Malave’s digital music distributor scored multiple accomplishments this year, including a multimillion-dollar distribution/label deal with Flow La Movie and such chart-topping releases as Myke Towers’ sophomore album, Easy Money Baby, which debuted at No. 1 on Top Latin Albums. Soto Malave, 38, also helped Towers’ “La Jeepeta (Remix),” with Anuel AA and Nio Garcia, see major success on TikTok, generating over 1 million videos from users on the platform. “We literally never stopped working,” says Soto Malave, 38. “Although we worked remotely from home, we made it happen.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Never take anything for granted. The world can change drastically in the blink of an eye.”
Lauren Wirtzer Seawood
Wirtzer Seawood and her staff curated UnitedMasters’ first virtual conference with SelectCon, which was attended by 1 million people. The company also struck numerous partnerships — with TikTok, Twitch, ESPN, NBA 2K, Bose and others — expanding opportunities for its client base of indie artists. “The industry as a whole needs to look ahead and think about how the business is changing,” she says. “Artists are calling out for independence and ownership, and we’re thrilled to be providing them with the tools.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Innovation, especially in business models. One size does not fit all when it comes to partnering with artists.”
President, SBS Entertainment
As the first female head of SBS’ live-entertainment division, Alarcón moved quickly to address the pandemic with the launch of the weekly radio broadcast Mi Casa Es Tu Casa, which has featured Maluma, Natti Natasha, Pitbull and Prince Royce, and the LaMusica Live concert series, which kicked off with Lunay performing in Miami on Halloween. “Both have resulted in ratings increases and unique sponsorship opportunities,” says Alarcón, with the goal to “uplift, entertain and support Latinos during this strange time.”
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “Making sure women are supported during this crisis. A lot of us are mothers, wives and caretakers who are balancing careers and family. Companies need to be sensitive to that.”
Mary G. Berner
President/CEO, Cumulus Media
As CEO since 2015, Berner has guided Cumulus, the country’s third-largest radio company, through a 2017 bankruptcy and subsequent growth in 2018 and 2019. After hitting an unexpectedly tumultuous advertising market in March due to the pandemic, Cumulus reacted by cutting costs “to navigate through and emerge from the COVID-19 crisis” in a better position “in 2021 and beyond,” she said during the company’s Nov. 5 earnings call. Revenue growth in every month since April suggests Berner is leading Cumulus in the right direction.
Best Way to Help Other Women in the Industry: “Stop talking about research and the 20th-century inequities in the music industry and commit to action. Hire more women. Give more exposure to female artists. Don’t be satisfied until women are 51% of every table, chart and playlist.”
Senior vp music and talent, CMT
Fram led the call to action to incorporate equal parity between male and female artists in video hours on CMT and CMT Music channels, and launched an initiative, CMT Equal Pay, to create measurable action to increase female representation industrywide. During the pandemic, she launched on social platforms CMT Next Women Goes Live, which featured Ashley McBride and Mickey Guyton, and in October successfully helped execute the CMT Music Awards, which used outdoor performances to “showcase the beauty of Tennessee” and a new “live watch-party element” to engage fans at home, she says. Despite the challenge of “producing a major awards show during a pandemic,” this year’s event surged “to a new level,” says Fram.
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “Maren Morris’ ‘Better Than We Found It.’ It’s about this time we are going through, but it is also timeless and offers hope.”
VP content, industry and affiliate relations, Univision
Hill leads radio and music industry relations for Univision’s Uforia brand, which includes talent booking for events and experiences. During the pandemic, she helped launch the Uforia Hangout Sessions, which featured J Balvin, Yandel, Nicky Jam and Calibre 50, as well as a Uforia Live experience with Bad Bunny in New York in September. The latter was a “total mic-drop moment,” says Hill, that featured a mobile stage traveling through the city and provided “a memorable cultural experience for some of the largest Latino neighborhoods in New York City that continue to be hit the hardest by this pandemic.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Keeping my routine and setting boundaries. I’ve learned to log off and stay off so I can be present with my family.”
VP music business development and partnerships, Facebook
Head of music partnerships, Facebook
Hrivnak launched Instagram Reels in over 50 countries and worked with artists including Ariana Grande, Lizzo and Taylor Swift on innovative watch experiences and augmented-reality filters to promote fan engagement. Quemerais, 35, who oversees the platform’s artist relations team, helped execute Human2Human’s live donation event supporting MusiCares, Imagination Library’s bedtime story series with Dolly Parton and Big Freedia’s Easter Gospel Brunch. Music companies also took notice of the virtual trend: Both 88Rising’s inaugural Asia Rising Forever festival — featuring sets by Alextbh and Beabadoobee — and Atlanta’s A3C Conference were livestreamed exclusively on the platform. “The powerful and almost immediate innovation,” says Quemerais, was “extraordinary and awe-inspiring.”
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Speak up, even if you’re afraid you might say the wrong thing. As white women, we have to accept that we will make mistakes. Let’s spend our energy focusing on truly listening and learning from our mistakes.” – Quemerais
Strategic partnerships, music, Instagram
Instagram helped pivot live events into the home during the pandemic through platforms including Stories, IGTV and its newly launched Reels. “Instagram Live really stands out as a breakthrough product for us,” says Kader, 38, noting highlights like DJ D-Nice’s Club Quarantine, which drew guests Rihanna, Janet Jackson and President-elect Joe Biden; Diddy’s Dance-A-Thon benefit for front-line workers; Tory Lanez’s Quarantine Radio variety show; and the viral battle series Verzuz, created by Swizz Beatz and Timbaland. “No one was expecting the impact that this pandemic would have in all the different areas of our lives,” says Fader, which “includes the way we use and interact with social media.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Inclusivity. We need male allies to continue to be advocates for women and femmes, who have what it takes to lead, innovate and bring dynamism to the space.”
Chief marketing officer, SiriusXM/Pandora
In a year of uncertainty, “we know music has the power to heal, connect people and bring energy to the world,” says Karkos, head of marketing for both SiriusXM and Pandora. Her department offered listeners escapism as the satellite radio provider gave pandemic-weary fans free access to over 300 channels, including programs by Dr. Dre, U2 and Howard Stern. Pandora also produced a virtual concert series that featured Kane Brown, The Killers and H.E.R.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “The power of good and frequent communication. We cannot communicate enough during times of uncertainty.”
Executive vp programming, iHeartMedia; program director, WWPR (Power 105.1) New York
Senior vp artist relations, iHeartMedia
Mitchem and Morris have had one mission this year for iHeartMedia: to “serve, connect, entertain and communicate with our communities in different ways,” says Mitchem. They were able to accomplish that by raising $115 million from the special Rise Up New York: A Benefit for Robin Hood Relief, launching the iHeartRadio HBCU Homecoming Celebration — a monthlong fest promoting Black excellence for college students — and the Black Information Network, the first audio news network created specifically for the Black community.
How I’ve Managed The Stress of the Pandemic: “I rediscovered my old favorite albums and started a new love affair with them. There is nothing more comforting than a great song or album. It’s like an old friend.”
Executive vp specials, music programming and music strategy, BET Networks
In 2020, Orlando and her team managed to execute one of their most successful BET Awards to date, and the first awards show that was held after the pandemic began. Following notable, remotely filmed performances and now-viral moments calling for social justice amid a global crisis, Orlando says that the 2020 BET Awards were a show that she will not soon forget. “It challenged us as producers, a network and a company to quickly learn and evolve,” she says. “We were able to show the world once again how much music has been and will always be an important voice and platform for change.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “The spirited discussions happening around ownership of masters and what that will mean for labels, artists and the industry in general.”
Senior manager, music partnerships and artist relations, TikTok
Quinteros says she took “risks” on “big ideas” like The Weeknd’s August virtual concert in the short-form video app, which drew over 2 million unique viewers and raised $350,000 for the Equal Justice Initiative. The undertaking illustrated how “every idea can be championed across the company and delivered to millions of fans,” says Quinteros, who also conceptualized the new Sound Off in the Comments artist Q&A series, launched in May.
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Acupuncture once a week, running 5K [races] twice a week, Peloton three times a week, dog walks twice a day and hours upon hours watching my 2-year-old son transform into a mini adult.”
Founding partner, Alter Kendrick & Baron
Alter says her firm’s transactional work “continues to expand as the boom in the buying and selling of music assets has continued at and beyond the pace of the past several years.” During the past year alone, she has represented Reservoir Media Management in its deal with Shapiro Bernstein and Primary Wave Music in its acquisition of the iconic Ray Charles catalog, as well as its partnership with Four Seasons Music and its acquisition of a stake in the interests of the legendary Burt Bacharach.
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “To implement a plan whereby the industry can support its most essential players — the songwriters and artists — at a time when touring and live musical events have come to a standstill.”
VP/general counsel, Collective Gallery; attorney, Arrington & Phillips
With consumption of music increasing to an all-time high and artists bereft of touring opportunities, Brooks, 28, says the legal side of her business has had to keep up with a huge number of music releases, negotiating numerous major recording and publishing deals and clearing many full albums for artists like NBA YoungBoy, who scored three No. 1 albums in under a year. Meanwhile, Collective Gallery, branded as a “label for photographers,” landed a partnership with Atlantic Records to serve as its full-service creative division, which Brooks says is a first-of-its-kind deal.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “The importance of showing gratitude. This past year [showed] that at the drop of a hat your world can be completely turned upside down. With so much loss around us all, it really put emphasis on all that there is to be thankful for and how essential it is to focus on the positive.”
Partner, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp
Lepera was part of MSK’s governing committee, which created “listening circles” for employees to discuss diversity and inclusion issues and “the racism profoundly affecting our country,” she says. The litigator has been involved in high-profile cases for Dr. Luke and Katy Perry and has since taken on new clients Post Malone, whom she represented in a joint authorship and copyright dispute involving his Hot 100 No. 1 single “Circles,” and the late Juice WRLD in a recently dismissed copyright case brought by the rock band Yellowcard related to his breakout single “Lucid Dreams.”
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “I haven’t figured that out yet.”
Partner, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light
An intellectual-property attorney with over 20 years of experience in the music industry, Milagros-Butler navigates the complexities of large catalog sales and company acquisitions. In January, she represented Pulse Music Group in Concord Music Publishing’s acquisition of a majority stake in the company, whose roster includes Ty Dolla $ign, Rich the Kid and Bonnie McKee. She helped longtime client Dropkick Murphys transform their annual St. Patrick’s Day performance into a livestream from Boston’s Fenway Park that drew some 10 million viewers, says Milagros-Butler. Of catalog sales, she says, “the decision by an artist/entrepreneur to sell their life’s work is a difficult one that is fraught with many competing interests and considerations. The analysis, diligence and focus required on these large transactions is intense.”
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Marijuana gummies. And music, of course.”
Owner, business and law office, Berkeley Reinhold
As general counsel for Lollapalooza, Reinhold negotiated artist deals for canceled and rescheduled events, including festivals in seven countries. She also fielded music rights and negotiated artist performance deals for TV and digital campaigns for Global Citizen’s virtual fundraisers such as the Every Vote Counts special hosted by Alicia Keys, Kerry Washington and America Ferrera; the Lady Gaga-curated One World: Together at Home concert, which raised over $127 million; and the Global Goal: Unite for Our Future summit/concert that aired in over 180 countries. “It has been a great honor to make a direct impact on the community,” she says.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “It’s easy to succeed when things run smoothly. Real accomplishment and fulfillment comes from dealing with unforeseen obstacles.”
Senior associate of media and entertainment, Russ August & Kabat
Representing such clients as Drake and Post Malone, Russ August & Kabat recently expanded its roster with Simon Cowell and TikTok collective The Hype House, a group of content creators led by Chase Hudson (aka Lilhuddy). It’s a “wide range,” says Sanders, 34. She also was part of her firm’s group that represented co-creators of the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. The firm achieved a settlement with Universal Music Group over copyright termination and accounting issues surrounding the movie’s sound recordings and soundtrack. (A related settlement was also reached with other parties to the suit, Vivendi and StudioCanal.)
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Listening to some classical music, mainly Chopin nocturnes, at the end of the day to wind down. It really relaxes my mind and helps me de-stress.”
Vice chair, music industry, Loeb & Loeb
White advocates for fair pay and intellectual property protection for her clients including BTS, The Who and Christina Aguilera, as well as the companies Tencent, Primary Wave and Friends at Work. During the pandemic, her international practice has worked to navigate the legal issues involved in livestream events like Pay It Forward Live, which raised funds for small businesses affected by the pandemic. She hasn’t stopped closing deals, either: In May, after months of negotiations, she finished negotiating Diane Warren’s deal with BMG, which White calls “one of the largest foreign subpublishing administration deals” of her career. “I’m grateful to see that new artist deals have not slowed down,” she says. “And, thankfully, catalog sales and purchases are still booming.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “Force majeure clauses left artists, and the whole music industry, in an unprecedented bind. We are now working to restructure tour deals for when live shows do resume. As a result, conversations have somewhat shifted from the blame game to a solution-based approach.”
Julie M. Boos
Chairman/shareholder/business manager, FBMM
Boos is proud that her firm was able to “transition our entire workforce to a work-at-home environment with little to no interruption to our clients’ business operations,” she says. FBMM is recognized as one of the premier business management firms in Nashville, New York and Los Angeles (with a client roster that is kept confidential). We “never could have imagined the circumstances under which every tour in the country would go down at the same time,” she adds. “And yet, here we are.” The ability of artists to both adapt and find “new ways to connect with fans and stay active [is] remarkable.”
The Word to Describe 2020: “Relentless!”
Life as a business manager continued at a normal pace amid the pandemic, says Harris, 59, founding partner in the firm Huskins-Harris. This year the company celebrated marquee clients Riley Green, Kane Brown and Chris Young, who won big at the Academy of Country Music Awards and CMT Music Awards, though they had to accept their trophies from afar. “It’s always an honor when one of your artists is winning awards and especially gratifying during 2020,” says Harris. “But it’s also heartbreaking when you don’t experience it in person.”
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “While I was unable to do my preferred exercise of ballroom dancing, my husband and I converted my living room with a wood floor to a modified ballroom, and he heroically stepped up to help me practice there.”
Founder/CEO, Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group
In a tumultuous 2020, Taylor, 55, has found that one of her greatest professional achievements was to “be the calm in the storm” as she and her team — based in Nashville and Los Angeles — worked with their music superstar clients like Steven Tyler, Meghan Trainor, Mary J. Blige, Reba McEntire and Florida Georgia Line to navigate a pandemic that severely restricted revenue streams for artists of all walks of life. In addition, the financial adviser says that “pivoting quickly to help our artists and their staffs” has been another success.
Most Important Lesson Learned This Year: “Take one day at a time. I know that sounds cliché, but it holds true this year more than any other in time.”
Founder/president, MAC Presents
When Allen staged ATL Live in November 2019, she had no idea the two-day benefit concert — which brought 90,000 attendees to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and featured sets by Keith Urban, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs and Eric Church — would be MAC’s “last large-scale live-music event for a while.” The music branding maven says she’s most concerned about “the ripple effect of the pause button” that has accompanied the pandemic. “This does not stop with the artists,” she says. “We are talking about everyone from catering crews to set designers to bus drivers.”
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Ration the news when possible and Anzie Blue CBD from our coffee and wellness shop in Nashville.”
Sherrese Clarke Soares
Founder/CEO, Tempo Music
When the portfolio company Tempo Music, a joint venture of Providence Equity and Warner Music Group, started up in fall 2019, Clarke Soares did not get much of a runway to launch the alternative investment platform driven by the idea that premium content provides attractive noncorrelated returns. And yet, she’s airborne. “We onboarded a team of nine outstanding professionals amid a pandemic,” she says. “We provided liquidity to a number of songwriters and artists, closing on average a deal a month in 2020, and assembled the largest dedicated capital structure to acquire music assets, with over $1 billion in investable capital — ready to be deployed without need to return to market.”
The Word to Describe 2020: “Clarity. 2020 has provided me the superior vision to value what is most important.”
Senior vp/team leader, Entertainment Division — Nashville, City National Bank
When the U.S. economy slowed to a crawl due to the pandemic, Pearson’s team went into overdrive to ensure that its clients with small businesses received funds from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. “We didn’t know how long the money would last, so we were racing against the clock,” says Pearson. “We worked 18 to 21 hours every day for over three solid weeks — we crammed about a year and a half of work into those three weeks. Our whole company had to roll up our sleeves to get the work done.”
Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “ ‘Be a Light’ by Thomas Rhett, featuring Reba McEntire, Hillary Scott, Keith Urban and Chris Tomlin. This song inspires you to be better, which in turn helps others, and if you aspire to do good, you feel good.”
Founder/president, Raised in Space
In a year that many would view as one of the hardest times to secure capital, “all of my portfolio companies at Raised in Space have raised meaningful additional rounds of funding, with increased valuations and significant product and business traction,” says Shara Senderoff, who is president of the music/tech investment firm and an equal partner with Scooter Braun and Zach Katz.
Those companies include the data management platform Audigent, “which has run successful data/ad campaigns for Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, Justin Bieber, J Balvin, Travis Scott and more,” says Senderoff. Also in her portfolio: the immersive mobile game engine Artie, the SMS direct-to-fan text platform Community, the virtual concert platform Wave and the social music-integration platform Songclip.
“Each of these companies has helped solve challenges facing the music industry as a result of the pandemic,” says Senderoff, by using technology “to grow our audiences and open new revenue streams.”
Senderoff has also targeted other challenges of the moment, participating in March in Ballot Boxes, a voter registration initiative involving music industry leaders, HeadCount and the Black Voters Matter Fund. In addition, she is developing a series of town hall-style virtual gatherings to discuss how the industry can change its approach to hiring Black women and addressing racial injustice.
As a woman working in the traditionally male-dominated investment space, Senderoff also has a clear view of how to support other female executives: “The best way to help other women is by rooting for the accomplishments of the women around us,” she says. “I mean truly going out of our way to congratulate and acknowledge even the smallest victories of our peers.
“We often create artificial barriers for ourselves by believing that we are undeserving or of less value than the men in this business,” she adds. “I’ve learned that the best way to overcome such a challenge is to simply eliminate the thought of it entirely. Negative thoughts deserve zero acknowledgement. When you approach everything with the belief that nothing stands in your way, magically, nothing will stand in your way.”
So how has she managed the stress of the pandemic? “Meditation and music,” she says. “No better combination.”
Senior vp global brand media and experiences, American Express
VP global brand experiences and partnerships, American Express
The exclusive access that American Express provides for its card members continued as events went virtual. The company found that 62% of its millennial customers said “exclusive or limited access when watching sports/music events online is appealing to them,” says Spaeth. “So we prioritized providing unique experiences that kept our customers’ passions top of mind.” The latest version of American Express Unstaged launched in September with Alicia Keys celebrating the release of her new album, ALICIA. “In a year where plans were upended, we had to mobilize, listen and pivot,” says Sanders. “The way American Express shifted and navigated in these unprecedented times was energizing and inspiring.”
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “How we reinvent connection. Live, in-person shows are the heartbeat of the industry. We must innovate and find new ways to connect fans and artists in unforgettable ways.” – Spaeth
Michèle S. Ballantyne
In her second year as COO of the RIAA, Ballantyne stewarded a resource hub for musicians and songwriters affected by the pandemic, plus helped organize participation in the congressional copyright hearings. She also helped push for the repeal of New York’s law shielding police discipline records and the passage of the Justice in Policing Act in the House of Representatives. “Passing the Music Modernization Act in 2018 showed that our music family is strongest when we work together,” says Ballantyne, 54. “Facing a global pandemic, we were able to build on that sense of community to help each other when we needed it most.”
The Word to Describe 2020: “Is there one word? Uncertainty. Resilience. Chaos?”
Board chair, Mechanical Licensing Collective; COO, ABKCO
Under the guidance of Coleman and its board, the Mechanical Licensing Collective — which was created by the Music Modernization Act — hired CEO Kris Ahrend, found a headquarters in Nashville and established an online portal to prepare for its launch on Jan. 1, 2021. Coleman, who also advocates for indie publishers as president of the New York board of the Association of Independent Music Publishers, rallied her team at ABKCO “to ensure our work-from-home measures did not cause us to miss a beat” and earned four national placements in commercials for Lexus, McDonald’s, Walmart and the trailer for the latest installment in the Fast & Furious franchise. In addition, Coleman served on a campaign team for President-elect Joe Biden that consulted on music licensing strategy and “kicked cancer to the curb.”
How I’ve Managed the Stress of the Pandemic: “Work harder, play harder, live harder. As a bonus, I’m much more knowledgeable about California chablis.”
In this challenging time, the temptation could be to hunker down and wait for the virus to pass,” says Frances Moore, CEO of IFPI, the international trade organization of the recording industry. Instead, this year she has guided expansion of “our global footprint,” opening offices in Vietnam and Nairobi, Kenya — IFPI’s first regional outpost in Africa — while “ensuring the industry interests are covered in South Korea,” says Moore.
With the goal of improving the global performance of rights payments, IFPI launched a partnership in October with Worldwide Independent Network to create a centralized gateway for record labels to exchange data about their repertoires with music licensing companies.
“It is more vital than ever that we see fair value for music and a proper return to those investing in it and creating it,” she says. “That is particularly important for the digital marketplace. Around the world, governments are looking at the role of large platforms and the responsibilities they have toward keeping illegal content off their sites. As we look forward to what sort of environment we want to shape online, enforcement will be one of the most important issues for the industry to deal with.”
To put the past year in perspective, Moore reflects on her heritage. “As a Scot,” she says, “I am reminded of the line from the poet Robert Burns: ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft agley.’ In other words, things rarely go as planned and, as the virus has shown, you have to be able to adapt and improvise.”
She has coped with the stress of the pandemic “by accepting that we are living through stressful times,” says Moore, “and by carving out some ‘me’ time with a glass of wine and some good music.”
And her word to sum up 2020?
CEO, Country Music Association
In the aftermath of tornadoes that hit Tennessee in March and the pandemic that followed, the CMA made a $1 million donation to MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund and established a “comprehensive and ongoing” COVID-19 action plan for CMA members, says Trahern. The latter includes professional webinars and resources to address “mental health support, food supply assistance, financial planning and résumé development — you name it,” she says. And as president of the CMA Foundation, Trahern recently supported her team in launching an advocacy initiative, Unified Voices for Music Education, dedicated to supporting music educators during this academic year amid the pandemic.
Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “The touring industry has taken a massive hit, and it is imperative that we help. The majority of artists’ income comes from touring, not to mention the livelihood of road managers, guitar techs, venue operators, caterers — the list goes on.”
Contributors: Trevor Anderson, Katie Bain, Alexei Barrionuevo, Dave Brooks, Anna Chan, Ed Christman, Tatiana Cirisano, Leila Cobo, Stephen Daw, Frank DiGiacomo, Thom Duffy, Griselda Flores, Gab Ginsberg, Josh Glicksman, Paul Grein, Lyndsey Havens, Steve Knopper, Carl Lamarre, Robert Levine, Joe Levy, Jason Lipshutz, Joe Lynch, Taylor Mims, Gail Mitchell, Mia Nazareno, Melinda Newman, Glenn Peoples, Jessica Roiz, Claudia Rosenbaum, Dan Rys, Andrew Unterberger, Christine Werthman, Nick Williams, Xander Zellner
Methodology: Billboard power lists are selective, with honorees chosen by Billboard editors. Nominations for each power list open not less than 120 days in advance of publication. (For a contact for our editorial calendar listing publication dates, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.) The online nomination link is sent to press representatives and/or honorees of companies previously featured on any Billboard power list, as well as those who send a request before the nomination period to email@example.com. Nominations close and lists are locked not less than 90 days before publication. Billboard’s Women in Music honorees for 2020 were chosen by editors based on factors including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors. In addition to nominations, editors weigh the success of each executive’s company or affiliated artists as measured by chart, sales and streaming performance. Career trajectory and industry impact are also considered. Unless otherwise noted, Billboard Boxscore and Nielsen Music/MRC Data are the sources for tour grosses and sales/streaming data, respectively. Nielsen is also the source for radio audience metrics. Unless otherwise noted, album streaming figures cited represent collective U.S. on-demand audio totals for an album’s tracks, and song/artist streaming figures represent U.S. on-demand audio and video totals.