Black Music Month Exclusive
Compiling lists like these can be somewhat of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we are acknowledging the brilliant expertise and on-going achievements of Black executives currently influencing the music industry; on the other hand, you have the unfortunate task of leaving some very deserving names off. Amalgamation confidentially consulted with a panel of industry experts in publicity, A&R, legal, promotions and radio on the state of the industry. Our master list of nearly 75 names were whittled down to 25. We considered each individual’s efforts over the past 18 months, and how he or she influenced the industry or popular culture. We purposely omitted recording artists who owned companies—such as Jay Z, Kanye West or Rick Ross; and producers or artists who recently took on executive posts at the major labels, e.g. SaLaam Remi, Tricky Stewart, No ID or Ne-Yo. Our goal is to compile an evolving list annually and start a dialog of course. Names are in alphabetical order!
Bu was one of the executives involved in the jump off of Lady Gaga’s rise to stardom; and has been a long, trusted member of his brother Akon’s global Konvict brand. Currently, he is overseeing A&R of rapper Trinidad James’ forthcoming album. On top of it all, Bu and his company spend a great deal of time managing superstar Chris Brown, and all that comes with his storied career.
Along with his mother, Cathy Hughes (Founder and Chairman of Radio One), Alfred is undoubtedly one of the most powerful people in radio—with a reach and influence reverberating throughout the music industry and direct to the African American listener and consumer. Many of the companies 55 radio stations in 16 of the largest markets are Urban-music formatted. The company includes Television properties (TV One), an interactive division, and a 53.5% stake in Reach Media, which operates the Tom Joyner Morning Show.
The performance rights organization is one of the remaining consistent channels for songwriters (many which are artists) to be paid. BMI distributed nearly $750 million in royalties last year. Under Brewton, the company has acquired some of the hottest artist-writers in the game. BMI prominent writers include Cee-Lo Green, Chris Brown, R. Kelly, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, and more. BMI hosts its annual Urban Music Awards, a well-attended Gospel Music Celebration, and regular scheduled showcases for up and coming writers around the U.S.
These days it seems like anything Rick Ross touches turns to Gold, and overseeing much of the creative output of Maybach Music, Ross’ label and an Atlantic Records subsidiary, is Dallas Martin. Dallas has been working with a roster consisting of: Wale, Meek Mill, R&B star Omarion, Ross himself, a series of Self Made compilations, and others. Maybach recently made an announcement of the hiring of Kendall “Young Sav” Freeman as its new VP.
Based in Los Angeles, Granderson is a young, assertive practitioner—a rising star in this business. He has most recently caught the attention of the industry transacting deals for A$AP Rocky and the much talked-about Trinidad James signing to Def Jam. His clients have included Ne-Yo, Timbaland, Tyga, Shaggy, Sean Garrett, Aloe Blacc and Gucci Mane.
With over 240 million monthly listeners in the U.S., Clear Channel Media and Entertainment has the largest reach of any radio or television outlet in America. Some may argue that Wynter’s influence is purely in radio, but his input and influence on music programming and branding of the company’s 50 plus Urban Mainstream, Urban Adult and Gospel radio stations clearly affects and sways the consumption of musical tastes. Wynter has been with Clear Channel 25 years.
Ethiopia is one of the top-ranking women in the music business, wielding major roles in the worlds of recordings and publishing. At Motown, her new signings include Stacy Barthe, Kevin Ross, B5, B. Smythe, and Scotty Rebel. Motown veterans with forthcoming releases are Kem, India.Arie, Erykah Badu, Babyface and Chrisette Michele. At UMPG, the world’s largest music publisher, Habtemariam continues to spot and acquire new writers; some of her signings are Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, J. Cole, Ester Dean, Ciara, Polow da Don and Hit-Boy.
Currently, the big money in the music business is coming through branding deals and creative partnerships akin to the ones transacted by Pepsi, such as the Mountain Dew DEWeezy collaboration with Lil Wayne; the Nicki Minaj Pepsi commercials; Pepsi and the Michael Jackson Estate; or the much talked-about $50 million deal between Pepsi and Beyoncé. Cooper is the facilitator of these branding deals. Working with the Cornerstone agency, he has launched Green Label Sound, a music services label for indie artists connected to the Mountain Dew brand.
Roberson is a very sharp businessman, with strong partnerships and allies. He has experienced major success on the recording end (Roc-A-Fella, Atlantic Records, recent Chairman of Geffen Records), and undeniably on the management end with the creation of the Blueprint Group—in partnership with Cortez Bryant. The managerial, artist development and touring divisions of Blueprint represent some of the biggest names in Urban-Pop music: from Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Drake to Nicki Minaj and T.I. The Blueprint label (1st signing, producer- artist Hit Boy) is distributed through Interscope Geffen A&M.
Few promotion guys are faced with a consolidation like the one that took place in 2011 when Jive, LaFace, Arista and J Records were all placed under the RCA Records banner; and more recently the Verity Gospel Music Group was renamed RCA Inspiration, with Bivins named General Manager. He and his staff must now harness all of these Urban and Gospel releases; a massive roster consisting of Chris Brown, Usher, Justin Timberlake, Fantasia, Miguel, Alicia Keys, R. Kelly, Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp and lots more.
There is so much going on at Roc Nation from the company’s revered recording side (Jay-Z, J. Cole, Calvin Harris, Willow Smith), its publishing division (Philip Lawrence, Chase J, Rita Ora) and management arm (Rihanna, Wale, M.I.A., Timbaland, Kylie Minogue, Shakira) to its new ventures in to the world of sports (New York Jets QB Geno Smith). Jay Brown sets the vision and tone for the global, full-serviced entertainment company that is home to dozens of clients, and founded by Jay-Z.
Harleston fills a vital role as he is responsible for overseeing business and legal affairs for the Universal Music Group’s entire North American operation, which includes labels such as Interscope Geffen A&M, Universal Republic, Motown, Island Def Jam, Cash Money, Mercury, Polydor, Verve, Universal Music Latino, MCA Nashville, and more. He also helps to coordinate the company’s government relations, trade and anti-piracy activities to ensure a unified strategy across all of the company’s divisions. Harleston has been with the company for 20 years.
Platt joined Warner Chappell last summer, after nearly 17 years at EMI Music Publishing. Within six months of his Warner Chappell arrival, he announces two mega-global publishing signings: Jay-Z and his Roc Nation roster, and the one and only Beyoncé. It is important to note that Platt’s presidency includes overseeing A&R and creative strategies for all genres of music at Warner Chappell. Some key Warner Chappell writers include producer Mike Will, Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, Bruno Mars, Lil Wayne, T.I., Timbaland, and Katy Perry.
Kevin Liles has taken his longtime record label experience—when he was Executive Vice President of Island/Def Jam and EVP for the entire Warner Music Group—and turned it into one of the most attractive management companies, with a coveted client list that includes Big Sean, Estelle, Mike Posner, Nelly, Raheem DeVaughn, Young Jeezy, Trey Songz, and D’Angelo. Not relegated only to music, KWL has taken on celebrity clients,athletes, Broadway production, and more. Liles is also an author, having published, Make It Happen: The Hip-Hop Generation Guide to Success.
Reid is the highest-ranking African American executive currently at any major record label. After spending two seasons with Simon Cowell as a judge on X-Factor, Reid’s celebrity and profile certainly elevated. Now the true test comes as he devotes full-time at Epic, in hopes of developing X-Factor finalists into full-fledged recording stars, and churning hits for the label’s direct signings, i.e. Ciara, her boyfriend rapper Future, Pop stars Cher Lloyd, Kat Dahlia, Avril Lavigne, in addition to a new venture with Sylvia Rhone’s boutique label, Vested in Culture.
Lee ‘Q’ O’Denat, a Hollis, Queens-based Hip-Hop fan, created World Star in 2005. It is the most visited Hip-Hop or ‘Urban’ destination on the net; which according to Alexa ranks an impressive 195th in site traffic within the U.S. Those who visit the site regularly may get their daily dosage of Pop culture gossip, model girls, and of course, shock and fight videos; but primarily, World Star is a vital platform for introducing new artists, new music, and music videos from both independent and major artists.
Pitts’ Bystorm Entertainment specializes in Artist Management, Publishing, Film and Television, and a Record label (Joint Venture with RCA/Sony). He manages two of the hottest clients currently on the charts: rapper J Cole and R&B/Pop star Miguel. As President of RCA’s Urban roster, Pitts oversees a roster that includes Usher and Chris Brown (he’s A&R’d recent projects for both stars), R. Kelly, Monica, T-Pain, Mario, Marsha Ambrosius and more. Miguel’s Grammy win and No. 1 single, “Adorn” are major milestones for Pitts over the last year.
We couldn’t have assembled this list, and not mention the hardworking efforts of publicists. Melissa oversees a diverse line-up of Pop, R&B and Hip- Hop talents—starting with her most popular artist, mega-star Justin Bieber; one of the biggest social media phenomenon in the world. Melissa has been handling Bieber’s PR duties from the very beginning. At Island Def Jam she also oversees PR for Ludacris, Madison Beer, Luke James, Jhene Aiko, QTip, Pusha-T, Jeremih, and Smokey Jones.
In the not so distance past, it used to be commonplace to have presidents of Black Music Divisions at the major label level; now, unfortunately, that distinguishment is rare. After serving at Def Jam, Keyser joined Atlantic Records in 2004 and took over as President of the division in 2011. He now oversees Atlantic’s various subsidiaries like Maybach Music and Grand Hustle along with a roster of some of the hottest artists: B.O.B, Trey Songz, T.I., Wiz Khalifa, Flo Rida, Janelle Monae, Lupe Fiasco, Tank and Estelle.
The three performance rights orgs engage and access nearly every songwriter, producer and artist in the music industry. ASCAP alone has almost 500,000 members, and its Nicole’s role along with her staff to oversee their legion of R&B, Hip-Hop and Gospel writers. The ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Award shows are a hot ticket, as is their annual I Create Music Expo conference. Attend any ASCAP event and you may run into some of their highest profile members, a la Quincy Jones, Ne-Yo, Pharrell Williams, Lionel Richie, Stargate, No ID, and more.
Johnson joined the Beats org in 2010, after six-years with Nike. He and the Beats team have transformed the way music and artists are presented to today’s sensory overloaded consumer. Beats has expanded internationally, recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its first standalone retail store, bought streaming-music service MOG and added new products and services, including wireless speakers (the Pill by Beats). The Beats brand has become a household name, in thanks to a premium product, along with some rather colorful commercials and music by Will.i.am & Britney Spears, Robin Thicke, and others.
Ronald “Slim” Williams and younger brother Bryan “Birdman” Williams, not only have introduced us to some of Hip-Hop’s most successful artists, they have also have brought forth young talented executives, Cortez Bryant and Mack Maine—who both have presided over the red-hot Young Money label, an imprint of Cash Money Records, distributed through Universal Republic. It’s been an incredible 18 months plus for Young Money/Cash Money Billionaires—and their collective rosters of Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj, R&B wonder PJ Morton, Tyga, Birdman, DJ Khaled, Limp Bizkit, and forthcoming music from recent signee, socialite Paris Hilton.
As president of music and entertainment, Shawn has handled tours for Lil Wayne (I Am Still Music), Nicki Minaj (Pink Friday), J. Cole (Cole World), Drake (Light Dreams and Nightmares), and Kanye West’s (Glow in the Dark). He works with Gee Roberson and Cortez Bryant at the Blueprint Group, handling the company’s touring arm. Shawn told Billboard Magazine last year, “a successful tour hinges on three Ps: packaging, pricing and performance. We never want to put anything out that the consumer has to think about. You want something that over-delivers to them.”
BET is the leading provider of entertainment for the African-American audience and consumers of Black culture globally. Hill’s responsibilities include managing and directing the creation, development and production of all music programming and specials at BET Networks, including 106 & Park, Black Girls Rock!, the BET Honors and the #1 black family event on television, the BET Awards. Mr. Hill also serves as Executive Producer for the BET Awards and the BET Hip Hop Awards. Check out our exclusive interview with Mr. Hill in this month’s edition of Amalgamation.
Eighteen months ago, Troy Carter would have made this list purely on the laurels he gained by representing Lady Gaga. His expansive management roster has included Priyanka Chopra, Mindless Behavior, Greyson Chance, John Legend, and producers Da Internz. Even more impressive is how Carter—a sought-after speaker on the conference circuit—now sits in a particular unique seat at the crossroads of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. He and Gaga co-founded Backplane, a new social-media platform that blends celebrity and technology; and he’s an investor in transportation technology company Uber; the political platform, Votizen; and summarized news site Summly.