20 Music Industry Innovators

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Steve Blatter
Senior vp/GM, music programming, Sirius XM Radio

It makes a certain sense that the leading digital radio head, 45-year-old Blatter, who oversees 85 commercial-free music channels that gained Sirius XM Radio 21.9 million subscribers since its beginnings a decade ago, is a country music fan. A former music director at NYC's WYNY, the most-listened-to country station in radio history, Blatter contributed to revenue of $2.23 billion through the first three quarters of 2011 -- enough to make Sirius the largest radio company in the world. Sirius XM has been a friend to artists by paying about $150 million annually in royalties that are shared among performers, record companies, songwriters and publishers, whereas only the latter two see royalty checks from regular radio. No wonder musicians love Blatter (or ought to): He manages programming partnerships with such artists as Jimmy Buffett, Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, Pearl Jam, Ozzy Osbourne and Willie Nelson, giving them their own branded channels and almost making his old job irrelevant.

Coran Capshaw
Founder, Red Light Management; co-founder, ATO Records, TBD Records

What can you say about a guy who is so business-minded that when he doesn't have his finger in almost every piece of the music pie -- from tour promotion to management, merchandising to licensing -- he's reportedly buying up real estate holdings valued as high as $99 million from his home base, Charlottesville, Va.? Brilliant enough to have figured out in 1992 what the music industry is getting only now -- that the best way to build a career is a strong touring business -- Capshaw might be notoriously press-shy, but he's a mad dog when it comes to marketing. Look no further than client Dave Matthews Band, which has played 1,700 shows and sold in excess of 11 million tickets, raking in more than $500 million on the road in the past decade, thanks to the 53-year-old's finesse with selling the band to a growing generation of live-music fans.  His company Red Light has dozens of managers handling the careers of more than 100 acts including Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Phish, and he also is at the helm of two independent labels, ATO Records and TBD Records, whose rosters feature My Morning Jacket, Radiohead and Dawes, among others. Seems the future, according to Capshaw, belongs to the multihyphenates.

Dr. Luke
Producer; CEO, Kemosabe Records

Perhaps the secret to success in a fragmented, shifting industry is to never let up. Luke (born Lukacz Gottwald), 38, the maestro behind such megahits as Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," Katy Perry's "California Gurls," "E.T." and "Teenage Dream" and Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A.," has come a long way from obsessing over the guitar parts in "bad music" while growing up in New York City, having notched 23 appearances on Billboard's Hot 100 in the past year alone (second only to his mentor, Max Martin). He also signed and molded Ke$ha, spending seven months on her platinum-certified debut -- all obvious reasons for Sony Music recently signing him to an exclusive five-year contract and CEO Doug Morris declaring him "the next Jimmy Iovine." But Luke doesn't take any of it for granted. "Success doesn't mean you'll continue to have number ones," he says. "I have the same drive as 10 years ago. You have to earn it every time." At a fee of $100,000 a track (not to mention owning a publishing company with a roster of 21 producers and writers), Luke certainly does, but he works hard for it. "If you want people to buy an entire album, make something real," he barks. "Put more than one single and a lot of filler on it, and get someone to invest in the talent."

Daniel Ek, CEO and Founder, Spotify
Tim Westergren, CEO, Pandora Radio

As 10-year-old Pandora, which allows users to create radio stations based on their musical tastes, goes up against buzzy newcomer Spotify, which gives instant, on-the-go access to a personal music collection, what's remarkable is how alike their tech- and music-prodigy founders are. Spotify's Ek, a 28-year-old Swede who plays five musical instruments, began designing commercial websites at 14 and was a millionaire by 23; Westergren, 46, spent years playing in rock bands before developing Pandora's ingenious Music Genome Project, a massive database that points users toward tunes and bands by comparing their musical "DNA." At the moment, Pandora is the champ, boasting an estimated 80 million users (accounting for 4 percent of radio usage in the U.S.) to Spotify's 10 million (worldwide). But because the former limits the number of times users can skip songs, the privately held Spotify, which partnered with Facebook in fall 2011, might have found an edge.

Eric Garland
CEO, BigChampagne.com; GM, LiveNation.com

After news broke that entertainment giant Live Nation had bought the tiny but influential media measurement company BigChampagne -- and once the industry got over its collective "Huh?" moment -- the merger, headed by founder Garland, 40, signaled a pivotal step toward full digitalization. With BC's Ultimate Chart, which measures a song's or artist's reach across multiple mediums, terrestrial and digital, ticket sellers will have a more accurate picture of their customers, while the user experience will be tailored to the individual fan. It's a win-win, says Garland, who spent 10 months negotiating the future-forward deal. "For Live Nation, it means they're becoming a technology-driven company. For us, it's going from playing a little club to the biggest stage in the world."

Daniel Glass
Founder, Glassnote Entertainment Group

From Pat Benatar and Huey Lewis in the '80s to Wilson Phillips and Vanilla Ice in the '90s to the Grammy-nominated Mumford & Sons today, few executives have managed to segue so seamlessly between decades as New York native Glass. Credit his slow-burn ethic, which looks beyond the buzz and builds talent. Proof positive: French popsters Phoenix and English folkies Mumford. Glass -- a DJ during New York City's disco heyday who still hits the clubs to scout new acts -- wooed the latter, little-known band after seeing them open for indie rockers The Temper Trap in a small NYC venue. (Then the marathon lover, ever a fan of the chase, pursued them persistently during the ensuing months.) With Glass' support, Mumford has amassed critical acclaim and double-platinum sales: The band's debut, Sigh No More, was 2011's top-selling rock album. This year, Mumford is up for four Grammys, including record of the year for "The Cave," rock radio's sixth-most-played song of 2011. Lesson learned: Patience -- and taste -- is not only a virtue but also a prognosticator.

Benjy Grinberg
President, Rostrum Records

What's the commonality linking Rostrum owner Grinberg and his two biggest acts, Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller? They all went to the same high school (just not at the same time). Although a seemingly trivial association, it's this strong connection to his hometown of Pittsburgh that curries favor for the 33-year-old, a former assistant to L.A. Reid, with the homegrown artists he nurtures and manages. And 2011 was a banner year for the exec. Rapper Khalifa, discovered as a teen by Grinberg, single-handedly resurrected team-specific sports anthems with "Black and Yellow," which went triple-platinum thanks to a Steelers Super Bowl appearance. His album, Rolling Papers (co-distributed by Atlantic), debuted at No. 2 despite just a smattering of guest rhymes. Add to that savvy, stoner-oriented merchandising like grinders and, yes, rolling papers, and Forbes estimates Khalifa's worth at $11 million. Rapper Miller might not be as rich, but he has made more ripples. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, he became the first independent artist to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in more than 15 years, buoyed by the support of more than a million Facebook and Twitter fans who weighed in on the album's release strategy. Note to politicians: In Grinberg's world, populism is paramount.

Jimmy Iovine
Chairman, Interscope-Geffen-A&M; co-founder, Beats by Dr. Dre

In a 15-minute conversation, Iovine uses the word "sound" 27 times. "At heart, I'm a second engineer," says the producer-turned-executive, referring to the studio role of ProTools expert and audio nitpicker. "But I see recording as part of an ecosystem. How we deliver music and how people receive it is important to me." Starting out in the 1970s, Iovine produced seminal albums by such artists as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, but this 58-year-old Brooklyn native has proved repeatedly over the decades that he can adapt, shepherding the likes of U2, Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga. His latest venture: Beats by Dr. Dre, which sells fashion-aware headphones while preaching Iovine's life passion. "It was frustrating that young people, through no fault of their own, were listening to terrible $2 ear buds," he says. "You can't get good sound out of those. There's no emotion. But they didn't know better. We lost a whole generation to bad audio." With Beats, which in three years has grabbed 23 percent of the headphone market, Iovine insists, "We are tilting it in a new direction -- a better one."  

Artist; founder, Roc Nation

Shawn Carter once declared, "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man." And that was before the 42-year-old rap mogul snared a share of the New Jersey Nets, sold his Roc-A-Wear clothing line for $204 million and inked a pact worth $150 million with Live Nation. But Jay-Z is not only among hip-hop's richest, he's also the genre's most resourceful, building the multifaceted Roc Nation as a label and management company while continuing to tour (his Watch the Throne trek with Kanye West grossed $48 million in 2011), record (he holds the mark for most No. 1 albums at 11) and endlessly influence (his latest passion project: daughter Blue Ivy, born Jan. 7, with wife Beyonce). Like that other Sean, born Combs, aka Diddy -- Jay began his empire-building 20 years ago with the monumental vision to take it to previously unimaginable heights.

Lady Gaga

As wild cards go, few have paid off as handsomely as 25-year-old Stefani Germanotta, who started out as a downtown Manhattan lounge act scrounging for tips and transformed into Gaga, mistress of shock and awe, who earned more than $90 million in 2011. Among her other feats: She sold 2.3 million copies of Born This Way and became the first artist to notch a billion YouTube views -- all while rewriting the book on theatrics and almost single-handedly resurrecting the music video business with her extravagant, high-concept clips. Clearly, corporations are paying attention. Google signed her to an endorsement deal said to be worth $10 million. She also has her claws in fashion (Gilt Groupe, Barneys), gaming (Zynga), electronics (Polaroid, Beats by Dr. Dre, Virgin Mobile) and media (her ABC Thanksgiving special drew an impressive 5.5 million viewers). What worlds will mama monster conquer next?

Team Odd Future
Christian Clancy, Manager, 4 Strikes
Michelle jubelirer, Attorney, King, Holmes, Paterno & Berliner Heathcliff Berru
Publicist, Life or Death PR

Ragtag South Central rap collective Odd Future defied the odds when they scored a 70-30 split with Sony-owned RED Distribution and final approval on all music decisions for the duration of a five-year deal. But that's just the tip of their hip-hop portfolio, which includes Loiter Squad, an Adult Swim show, branded skateboarding gear, a clothing line, books and an L.A. pop-up shop. With six touring members and as many as 15 affiliates ages 17 to 24, the group makes plenty of headlines, like when frontman Tyler, the Creator rapped about wanting to stab Bruno Mars in the esophagus or, more recently, when he was arrested for trashing the sound system at Sunset Strip club The Roxy. The controversy has only created more demand for Odd Future-spawned talent, which now includes proteges Syd the Kid and Frank Ocean.

Alexandra Patsavas
Owner, Chop Shop Music Group

To see the influence 43-year-old Patsavas has had in curating music for film and TV is to look at the spike in working music supervisors since she became a name in the field circa 1999. According to the Guild of Music Supervisors, their number has ballooned from a couple dozen then to more than 200 today. The competition, Patsavas admits, "has gotten more intense," but at the same time, the process has gotten easier. "It's so much less time-consuming today," she says. "It used to take us five hours to create a compilation CD; now it's as easy as dragging songs onto a playlist." And placement is more important than ever, which makes Patsavas, who doubles as a label executive via her deal with Atlantic Records, one of the industry's most sought-out consultants. "To run across new music is by nature what we do as music supervisors," she explains. "But working with a small list of artists that I really care about and being able to put out the Grey's Anatomy or Twilight soundtracks, it's really sort of a dream."

Jeff Price
CEO, TuneCore

By founding Brooklyn-based digital music distributor TuneCore in 2005 (with Gary Burke and Peter Wells), this early online adopter helped solve a conundrum unique to independent artists: how to sell their music on iTunes and other online retailers easily and with accountability on both sides of the transaction. For a flat fee, artists could keep 100 percent of profits without relinquishing any of their rights, and by providing UPCs, barcodes and ISRC codes, TuneCore allows them to be counted by SoundScan. In the past two years, TuneCore artists have sold more than 400 million units and generated more than $250 million in gross music sales and songwriter revenue. Although the mainstream industry has insisted that "80 percent of what TuneCore releases is crap," Price's response is as succinct as anyone too busy looking at the future to entertain criticisms of the past: "Go f-- yourself. … You're no longer the gatekeepers."

Trent Reznor
Artist, film composer

As a Hollywood A-lister with an Oscar to prove it, Reznor, 46, has caused fans of daring, boundary-pushing scores to rejoice. The film world is littered with the corpses of rockers who thought they could write movie music (Toto's ill-fated score to David Lynch's equally doomed Dune comes to mind), but the innovative musician effortlessly transitioned into the hyper-competitive sector with his first effort -- the somber, lush, pitch-perfect score for David Fincher's The Social Network. Says Reznor, "To listen to a chunk of music, not half a song or a chorus, but an album length's suite of songs, that feels like something -- like a statement." And he would know.

Richard Russell
Co-founder, XL Recordings

Once the frontman of a forgettable electro-dance band (anyone remember Kicks Like a Mule?), 40-year-old Russell is now the master of transforming renegade talent such as M.I.A. and Vampire Weekend into unforgettable breakout artists. In 2011, he outdid himself by releasing Adele's 21, music's biggest seller since Usher's Confessions in 2004. (Columbia Records co-signed onto the singer's U.S. deal.) The former DJ, who still produces music for artists such as the late Gil Scott-Heron, is famous for his no-B.S. attitude that manifests itself cleverly in his witty tweets and Tumblr blog. That ethos translates nicely into signees such as the gimmick-free Adele, who proved a palate cleanser to 2010's pop tartness while partially filling the Amy Winehouse void. Astoundingly, her second album muffled efforts from sure things such as Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, selling more than 6.2 million copies and garnering six Grammy noms. And that's how a former raver pulled off last year's coolest hat trick.

The Tastemakers
Bob Boilen
, Host, NPR's All Songs Considered
Ryan Schreiber, Owner, Pitchfork Media
Elliott Wilson, CEO, RapRadar.com

In the increasingly noisy digital era, a few individual voices still have megaphones. As host of All Songs Considered since 2000, Boilen, 58, has ushered bands from Fleet Foxes to Florence + the Machine onto the radios and TV sets of mainstream listeners -- and built an online presence with blogs, album previews and Tiny Desk concert videos that contribute to NPR.org's 19 million monthly visitors. The All Songs podcast ranks in iTunes' top 30 -- its top music podcast. Schreiber's Pitchfork, long an indie-rock gatekeeper with 1 million page views a month, has become influential enough for William Morris Endeavor's Mark Geiger to credit the site's "Best New Music" review with earning R&B breakthrough The Weeknd $25,000 in tour guarantees and drawing 18,000 to its annual Chicago music festival, now in its seventh year. Says founder Schreiber, 36: "I could see where it was going from a mile away." And in the hip-hop realm, readers turn toward Wilson, 41, The Source alum and former XXL editor, whose frequently updated blog (where he sometimes posts up to 24 times day) lets no relevant track, video or news item slip through the cracks and boasts 300,000 monthly unique views to boot.

Bryan "Birdman" Williams
Co-CEO, Cash Money Records

Naming your record company Cash Money is not the subtlest move, but neither are the brothers Williams -- Baby (aka Birdman), 42, and co-CEO brother Ronald "Slim," 44 -- whose impressive ability to consistently create wealth while dictating tastes during their 20 years in the business justifies the boast. In 1992, they begat a grassroots-to-big-green game plan by starting a tiny New Orleans label with zero marketing budget -- and acts that would leave most radio programmers running for the hills. Then Birdman and Slim employed their unerring hip-hop A&R and marketing skills and added Juvenile and Lil Wayne to their roster, followed by hundreds of thousands of dollars in record sales revenue to their coffers. Having created an insatiable market, Cash Money and its indie success engendered a $30 million distribution deal with Universal in 1998 that more than paid off, especially in recent years. With acts like Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj under their collective diamond-encrusted belts and contributing mightily to the more than 20 million albums the label has sold, it's no wonder they retain the right to say that they mint money.

Kanye West

How influential is West? Even his worst-reviewed album, 2008's 808s and Heartbreaks, started a new wave of sad sack rap that yielded the ethereal gloom of Kid Cudi, Drake and many others. From fashion to art, the 34-year-old Louis Vuitton don has kept his peers playing catch-up. West's seismic impact has wrought 14 Grammys (this year, he leads the pack with seven noms), four No. 1 albums in a row, 25 million-plus digital songs sold, a fashion line, a blog, a multimedia company with plans to make a film in the Persian Gulf and, like Watch the Throne partner Jay-Z, a label and management company (G.O.O.D. Music, home to Common, John Legend, Big Sean and others). West's latest idea? An appointed board of directors to handle his myriad business ventures.


Artist, producer, songwriter, creative director, manager … If will.i.am had any more titles, he'd be a centuries-old British monarch. In fact, the canny 36-year-old L.A. native is royalty when it comes to pop music, having sold more than 65 million albums worldwide as the mastermind behind The Black Eyed Peas. He has evolved from an Eazy-E protege into a global superstar, versatile enough to rock the Super Bowl and The X Factor and spin records at underground Parisian nightclubs. Next up: a solo album, #willpower, featuring collaborations with Alicia Keys and Swedish House Mafia. Says Jimmy Iovine, chairman of the Peas' label, Interscope: "Will has an insatiable curiosity and the unique capacity to see what's around the corner. He's that guy who can mix technology, music, fashion and create art." In 2012, the better question might be: What isn't Will?

Joel Zimmerman, Agent, WME
Cara Lewis, Agent, CAA

Where live entertainment is concerned, no one has made a bigger bang in the past decade than these two former co-workers-turned-competitors. Lewis, who declines to give her age, is a 23-year veteran of William Morris and hip-hop's reigning booking queen, bringing the once-marginalized genre to the mainstream with hot tours by Eminem, Lil Wayne and this year's Watch the Throne matchup of Kanye West and Jay-Z. In January, the New York-based Lewis left for rival CAA, and in short order, West ditched WME. Back at the house that Ari Emanuel built, Zimmerman has been the undisputed king of dance music for the better part of a decade, responsible for more than 100 superstar electronic acts including Avicii, LMFAO, Swedish House Mafia, Afrojack and Grammy-nominated Deadmau5, who, in one of the music industry's most fabled coincidences, is also named, wait for it, Joel Zimmerman.



  • Troy Carter, Coalition (Lady Gaga, Mindless Behavior): The Interscope exec's strategy: Leave 95 percent of the creative to the artist and 95 percent of the business to the manager.
  • Cortez Bryant, Blueprint (Drake, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj): With partner and Geffen Records president Gee Robertson, a hip-hop powerhouse was born.
  • Bradford Cobb, Direct Management Group (Katy Perry, Adam Lambert): Marrying strong visuals with vocals is his winning formula.
  • Dean Wilson, Three Six Zero (Deadmau5): Already a leader in dance music, his firm raised its player profile via a partnership with RocNation.
  • Ian Montone, Montone Entertainment (Jack White, The Shins): Turning indie rockers into platinum sellers since the late 1990s.


KAI RYSSDAL'S RECESSION PLAYLIST: The host of popular radio program Marketplace picks five mood-boosting songs.

  • Cults, "Rave On": "Just a great, slow-building song to drag you out of the dumps."
  • The National, "England": "Mesmerizing and lyric-heavy, it will make you think."
  • Mumford & Sons, "Little Lion Man": "Like a cold musical slap in the face. Not for the faint of heart."
  • The Low Anthem,"Charlie Darwin": "Put it on repeat and let it be the soundtrack of your day."
  • Beirut, "Goshen": "Couldn't download their album fast enough, if only to hear this song."



  • Milo Greene: "Los Angeles five-piece with beautiful, complex harmonies." -- Alexandra Patsavas (Twilight)
  • The Wellspring: "Nice cover of Big Star's 'The Ballad of El Goodo'; beautiful harmonies." -- Gary Calamar (True Blood, Dexter)
  • Delta Spirit: "They made a smart rock record and will have a big 2012." -- Thomas Golubic (Breaking Bad)
  • Porcelain Raft: "Indie rock with electro throwback." -- Gabe Hilfer (50/50, Luck)
  • King Oliver: "In 1923, 'race music' is what was happening. It doesn't get better than that." -- Randall Poster (Boardwalk Empire)


TWITTER POWER: Who in the biz scores high in social-media savvy?

Scooter Braun
Manager, Justin Bieber

  • 1.3 million followers of @scooterbraun
  • On top with a tenth of his No. 1 client's audience

Founder, Cash Money Records

  • 673,000 followers of @BIRDMAN5STAR
  • Mobile platform? Yes.
  • Cash Money Content books to sell at concerts? Check.

L.A. Reid
Chairman, Epic Records

  • 303,000 followers of @LA_Reid
  • Feed doubles as Epic pep rally and PR trigger, recently announcing Fiona Apple's return

Doug Davis
Attorney (Swizz Beatz, RedOne)

  • 28,806 followers of @djd
  • Witty commentary on the biz from Clive's son

Alex Da Kid
Producer (Eminem, B.o.B.)

  • 26,170 followers of @AlexDaKid
  • Brit tastemaker also blogs on KidinaKorner.com
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