Money Moves: 10 Music Executives Poised for a Big 2022

·6-min read

A slew of eye-popping catalog sales, the promise of streaming’s expanding reach and proven music-to-screen pivots have made the music industry an increasingly attractive option for investment, financially and in terms of executive talent. Looking ahead to 2022, these 10 players are poised to make noise.

Ethiopia Habtemariam
Chairman and CEO, Motown Records

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Habtemariam’s promotion to the top job at the storied label in March 2021 was a long-deserved acknowledgment of her impact on hip-hop and R&B. That she’s now reporting directly into Universal Music Group chairman Lucian Grainge, who also tasked her with co-heading UMG’s The Task Force for Meaningful Change, reinforces the company’s faith in her leadership. Among her wins: a fruitful alliance with Quality Control Music, which has yielded hits by Lil Baby and City Girls and helped boost Motown market share over the past 18 months. Says Habtemariam: “In addition to a heavy release schedule with new music from Motown’s stars such as Lil Baby, City Girls, Vince Staples, Neyo and newcomers, Smino and Tiana Major9, expect unique global partnerships and activations honoring the labels legacy of supporting the next generation of creatives and entrepreneurs.”

Jay-Z
Founder, Roc Nation; Board member, Tidal; Film producer

As 2021 came to a close, it seemed as if Jay-Z had 99 irons in the fire of moguldom. First up in the new year: whether his collab with Kid Cudi, “Guns Go Bang,” will make the jump from the Oscars’ shortlist to an actual nomination come Feb. 8. Billed as Shawn Carter, Jay-Z was a producer on the “Harder They Fall” film itself, but it remains to be seen just how ambitious his plans are for the 2/J production company he got a trademark for this year. (Best bet: very.) Elsewhere, a Tiffany & Co. ambassadorship (that had him and wife — and possible Oscar competitor — Beyonce going on a “date night” in an October campaign) helped boost his reported net worth from $1 billion to $1.4 billion, per Forbes, alongside sales of his shares in Tidal to Square and his luxury champagne brand.

Michelle Jubelirer
Chair and CEO, Capitol Music Group

You can count on one hand the number of women in chair positions at record companies. The latest to join this elite club is former music lawyer Michelle Jubelirer, who was promoted in December to the top post at CMG, home to 80-year-old Capitol Records, Blue Note and Virgin, among other labels and artist services offerings. Her 10 years at the tower offered a front-row seat to massive successes by Halsey, Sam Smith and Katy Perry, and her first tasks for 2022 include internal promotions and key outside hires and a “reorientation” of the company’s approach to A&R.

Kevin “Coach K” Lee and Pierre “P” Thomas
Co-founders, Quality Control Music

In just eight years, Lee and Thomas have built their Atlanta-based label and music-and-sports management company into a multifaceted empire that has brought the world Migos, Lil Baby, Lil Yachty, City Girls and more and overseas the careers of NFL stars Alvin Kamara and D’Andre Swift, among others. Over the past few months, QC has launched or expanded a film and television division, podcast network and investment division and fortified its staff with key female hires, including president Simone Mitchell.

Kevin Liles
CEO and co-founder, 300 Entertainment

What better way to launch your company’s tenth anniversary than selling it for nearly half a billion dollars? Since Liles, Lyor Cohen, Roger Gold and Todd Moscowitz founded 300 Entertainment in 2012, the company has grown into an indie powerhouse, with Megan Thee Stallion, Young Thug and now Mary J. Blige on its roster. And 300 retains much of that independence now that Warner Music has acquired it for a reported $400 million, with Liles assuming a major CEO role within the company. 300 has kept growing, too, with a new distribution arm (Sparta) and plans for a documentary series — Netflix’s “Race” featuring NASCAR star Bubba Wallace — via 300 Studios.

Ken Meiselas
Partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks partner and head of music

The veteran attorney has long held a seat at the table where deals are negotiated for superstar artists, but his stewardship of Lady Gaga, and her critically acclaimed starring role as Patrizia Reggiani in “House of Gucci,” marked a new career high. She’s not the only client graduating from music to film and television: Meiselas also worked up The Weeknd’s deal with HBO for “The Idol,” for which the artist serves as a creator, writer, executive producer and star.

Merck Mercuriadis
CEO and founder, Hipgnosis Song Management

For better or worse, the one person most responsible for the boom in music catalogs is Mercuriadis, an artist manager (Guns N’ Roses, Elton John, Morrissey) who has turned his focus to “song management” and has spent more than $2 billion acquiring catalogs from superstars like Neil Young, Lindsey Buckingham and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, hitmakers like Jack Antonoff and even the publishing company Big Deal — and the company says it is closing 1 billion [pounds sterling] in deals in 2022. What will Hipgnosis swallow next?

Larry Mestel
CEO, Primary Wave

You bought a song catalog, now what? Mestel, whose company’s acquisitions (which he characterizes as partnerships) include majority ownership of James Brown and Prince’s catalogs as well as those of Whitney Houston, Stevie Nicks, Bob Marley, Burt Bacharach and many more, has 15 years of experience maximizing such assets. Synchronization, musicals, merchandise and NFTs are just some of the revenue buckets Primary Wave identifies. On deck for 2022: a Houston biopic and cosmetics line, a Marley show in Las Vegas, and “10 acquisitions to be announced in the first eight weeks of the year.”

Jason Owen
Founder, Sandbox Entertainment

Recorded music and touring are just pieces of the puzzle for Owen. The Nashville uber-manager is making his biggest move into TV yet as an executive producer of Fox’s “Monarch,” which stars Susan Sarandon and Trace Adkins as country music royalty. On more established turf, management client Kacey Musgraves will be headlining an arena tour, and Dan + Shay open Kenny Chesney’s stadium trek. The label for which he’s co-president, Monument, just had 2021’s biggest country smash with Walker Hayes’ “Fancy Like” and is looking to boost him to a multi-hit-wonder superstar with an album due in January.

Jon Platt
Chairman and CEO, Sony Music Publishing

For Platt, the last six months of 2021 were bookended by two major deals: signing top hitmaker Olivia Rodrigo and acquiring Bruce Springsteen’s interest in his publishing and recorded works. In between, Platt has focused equally on matters of advocacy, which he carries into 2022 via Sony’s “Songwriters Forward” initiative, allowing the dismissal of unrecouped balances for legacy writers signed prior to the year 2000 and still in the red to SMP. With that, Platt has committed to ongoing conversations with songwriters groups (such as the NSAI, SONA and the 100 Percenters) to address key issues affecting songwriters and composers while also advocating for composers of color and female producers via such programs as the USC Screen Scoring Diversity Scholarship and Girls Make Beats. Platt is set to keynote the Music Biz 2022 conference, scheduled for May 10 at the JW Marriott in Nashville.

Pictured (from left): Ken Meiselas, Michelle Jubelirer, Kevin Liles

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