From Blackpink to Top Execs: Women in Music Who Have Made an Impact in Global Entertainment

Mark Sutherland and Jem Aswad
·6-min read

The world has changed tremendously since Variety‘s last International Women’s Impact Report a year ago: The COVID-19 pandemic shut down business around the globe and accelerated the shift toward streamed entertainment. The music industry has felt the impact of the pandemic more than many — particularly live entertainment — but it has rose to meet those challenges, and the music artists and executives featured in Variety‘s larger International Women’s Impact Report (see the full report here) are among those leading the charge. We at Variety salute them, and their accomplishments, in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8.

Natascha Augustin

Senior creative director, A&R, Warner Chappell Germany

Germany

Warner Chappell Music was the top publisher in Germany for the third year running in 2020 with a 33.64% market share — thanks in no small part to Augustin, who has made WCM the go-to publisher for the country’s burgeoning “Deutsch Rap” hip-hop scene. This has produced stellar numbers — rapper Capital Bra is the most streamed artist in Germany of all time — but, Augustin notes, has also “reshaped culture to better reflect the diversity of our country.” Next stop? The world. “There’s increasing global demand for the distinct sound of our rap producers,” she says. “I’ll be concentrating on establishing Germany as a hub for high-quality rap/EDM productions with international potential.”

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Natasha Baldwin

EVP, head of Decca Publishing, Universal Music Group

U.K.

Since launching it in 2017, Baldwin has established Decca as “specialists in the space between core classical and core pop publishing.” Determined to “disrupt, diversify and democratize classical and score music,” she has found room for experimentation, via pioneering collaborations between composers and mainstream chart talent. Meanwhile, sync placements have soared, and Max Richter passed 2 billion streams — proof, Baldwin says, of classical’s untapped potential beyond its old “elitist culture.” “Today, in a streaming world with an always-on culture, creative authority is displayed by composers being connected and adaptive and this has encouraged larger, more diverse fanbases,” she says. “The future for the next generation of composers is getting brighter.”

Blackpink

Recording artists

South Korea

While K-pop titans Blackpink made a splash in 2019, the past year has seen them cement their superstardom — in a lockdown year, without touring. The quartet — who have appeared on songs with Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Selena Gomez and others — dropped a debut full-length album in October. It topped the iTunes chart in 57 territories; the companion documentary (“Light Up the Sky”) arrived shortly thereafter, and the artists played a global pay-per-view concert in January. Their popularity knows no borders: Their video for “How You Like That” garnered 86.3 million views in 24 hours on YouTube when it debuted in June, setting a record.

Vanessa Craft

Director of content partnerships, TikTok Canada

Canada

Craft has no doubt why so many people have turned to TikTok during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s an incredibly powerful driver of connection, which we need more than ever, and a place for communities to uplift each other,” she says. Craft’s own expertise in connection led her from Elle Canada, where she was the global brand’s first Black editor-in-chief, to the massively popular video-sharing platform last year. As in her previous role, Craft — who also works with the Weeknd’s Black Hxouse incubator program and on the board of anti-racism body the Black Academy — finds herself “shining a spotlight on trendsetters and innovators.” Her mission? “To help anyone be their authentic selves.”

Lucy Dickins

Co-head, music, WME

U.K.

Dickins comes from a British music-biz dynasty (her grandfather founded the New Musical Express, her father formed the agency ITB, her brother manages Adele), who became co-head of WME’s music group within a year of joining the agency. WME has focused on non-touring opportunities and new signings, the latter including Shakira and Charlie Puth; Dua Lipa’s ticketed livestreaming concert “Studio 2054” drew an audience of more than 5 million. “We discovered a hidden silver lining during this time, which was how much everyone has leaned in and showed support across all our departments.”

Pauline Duarte

Director, head of Epic Records France

France

Duarte smashed a glass ceiling when chosen to head up Epic’s French launch last year, becoming the first female exec to run a rap label in the country. “I have faith in meritocracy, and I’m really proud that being both the child of immigrants and from a diverse background can nevertheless lead to a successful position in the industry,” she says. In her first few months at the Sony subsidiary, she’s already recruited a diverse staff and powered breakthroughs for rappers Ronisia, Gazo and Frenetik. “My ultimate ambition is to make Epic the No. 1 label in France.”

Dua Lipa

Recording artist

U.K.

To say the least British-Albanian singer Dua Lipa’s success over the past year beat the odds: Her long-awaited sophomore album, “Future Nostalgia,” is a disco-esque party album that arrived late last March, when almost no one was going to discos or felt much like partying. Yet it was one of the smash successes of the year, with several singles from it racking up hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify alone, and one, the triple-platinum “Don’t Start Now,” surpassing 1.25 billion. Already a superstar in Europe and her native U.K., the album is rapidly making her one in the U.S.: The two-time Grammy winner is up for six more at the 2021 awards.

Manuela Wurm

Head of global editorial music strategy, Spotify

Germany

Music curation is a serious business for Wurm. Last year, she swiftly adapted to the pandemic by launching Spotify’s “At Home” hub, and she also oversees the Global Curation Groups program that helps keep the worldwide market-leader ahead of the pack. “It’s a huge responsibility and great privilege,” she says. “We facilitate the sacred connection between artists and fans with our mission statement in mind — enabling creators to live off their art.” She helps Spotify reach more of those creators than ever, with editorial strategies “tailor-made” for its ever-expanding list of international launches. “Our goal is to drive music culture by driving discovery and supporting diversity,” she says.

Up Next: Nomcebo Zikode

Recording artist

South Africa

Zikode spent 15 years as a backup singer in the South African music industry, all but giving up hopes of stardom. Then she got a call from the DJ and producer Master KG to record the vocals for his new single, “Jerusalema.” Her uplifting vocals would spend 2020 circling the globe, as the track — and its accompanying dance challenge — became a worldwide phenomenon, and one of the few bright spots in a year marked by the pandemic.

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