RFFocus , the only internet site exclusively serving urban radio and music with the most updates, presents our list of those who we feel are the most influential in the music industry. You may or may not agree with our list but that’s what the comment section is for. This list is based on the CURRENT industry and the impact these people have on it. There is no particular order here. Leave your comments below. Enjoy (Hit “Next” too see each person that we have included)
Cathy Hughes – Founder and Chairperson Radio One and TV One
Urban Radio is probably the most challenging format of music radio to work in. Any of us over 40 have many stories to tell of struggling, driving beat up cars and parking them around the corner from remotes so the listeners would not see that we were making less money than them. Truth be told you have to LOVE urban radio to work in it, even today, but when you will sleep on a bathroom floor with your infant son and wash up in the sink to work in urban radio you MUST be dedicated. Cathy Hughes had a vision and someone was just telling me the other day how she was on a panel at a Jack the Rapper conference many years ago talking about the future of urban radio and ownership and she was disappointed at the response. Those radio people, most of who are probably no longer in the industry, wanted to get to the next party. We here at RFFocus have the greatest respect for Cathy Hughes, her vision, determination and her dream which she has come to realize by being the largest owner of urban radio stations nationwide. What an amazing legacy this woman has and her influence in the industry is undeniable.
Doug Morris – CEO Sony Music Entertainment
Industry legend Doug Morris originally wanted to be a rock and roll songwriter. Morris has been a top executive at all three of the big record companies Sony, Universal and Warner. His accolades are too lengthy for a few paragraphs. Jay Z refers to Morris as and industry boss and others describe him as the president of the entire music industry.
Jay-Z – Industry Entrepreneur, Co-Founder Roc A Fella Records
There’s not a more financially prosperous hip-hop artist than Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. Jay-Z, whose name will go down in hip-hop history as a consensus all-time great, has managed to eclipse his achievements in music with his successes in the boardroom. With an estimated self-worth of almost $500 million, Jay-Z has successfully transitioned from underground emcee to multi-million dollar mogul. By listening to his music and studying his professional career path, there are certain aspects from Jay-Z that we should use as a blueprint. Shawn Carter was raised in Marcy Projects, located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, N.Y. He grew up in a single parent household and was a high school drop-out. For a brief stint, he peddled drugs in the streets to earn money. In regards to his past, he states, “The burden of poverty isn’t just that you don’t have the things you need, it’s the feeling of being embarrassed everyday of your life and you’d do anything to lift that burden.
Barry Weiss – Chairman & CEO of The Island Def Jam Music Group and Universal Republic Records.
Barry Weiss began his career in the industry working side by side with his father Hy Weiss. He graduated from Cornell in 1982 and worked for Jive records building the successful careers of Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync and more. Weiss exited his post at Sony in 2011.
Beyonce – Singer, Writer, Producer, Businesswoman
In addition to selling over 125 million records in her career, Beyonce has found other ways to build her empire, which is presently valued at over $300 million. Knowles has also headlined numerous box office breaking world tours including, the Beyonce Experience and I Am”¦.World Tour that have grossed over $210 million collectively. She most recently announced The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour that embarks in April. Knowles has also successfully ventured into acting with starring roles in the films “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” “The Fighting Temptations,” “Dreamgirls, “The Pink Panther,” and “Cadillac Records.” She will star in the upcoming 3D animated feature, “Epic,” in May. Knowles’ also has a wide range of endorsement deals that include a $50 million partnership with Pepsi, L’Oreal, Nintendo, and various fragrance lines with Tommy Hilfiger. Beyonce has also added filmmaker into her creative artistry and repertoire as she produced and directed the autobiographical documentary, “Life Is But a Dream” for HBO, which premiered on February 16th.
Ronald “Slim” Williams & Bryan “Birdman” – Co CEO’s Cash Money Records and Books
The Williams Brothers are the founders/co-CEOs of Cash Money Records. Since its inception, Cash Money Records has sold over 75 million records. Its line-up boasts chart-topping artists as Lil’ Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Drake, DJ Khaled, and Busta Rhymes. Cash Money Records, which began in 1991, signed its deal with Universal Records seven years later and has been a subsidiary of Universal Music Group ever since. Bryan, a recording artist himself and better known as Birdman or Baby says, “We already dominate hip-hop. Our goal is to dominate all genres of music, because we’re a brand. We just have to keep on grinding.”
Stephen Hill – President Music Programming and Specials-BET Networks
Stephen Hill is a former urban radio Program Director who once worked at WILD in Boston. He was also one of the early producers of the Tom Joyner Morning Show then something amazing happened, something that rarely happens to urban radio people who don’t think or work outside the box, Hill was called to be the Director or Music Programming for MTV then he later moved to BET as the VP of Music Programming where he still works today, producing some of the greatest moments in BET history. Hill is now the President of Music Programming and Specials for BET Networks, a unit of Viacom Inc and the leading provider of entertainment for the African-American audience and consumers of Black culture globally. His 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 (2002-present) and the BET Hip Hop Awards. So many urban radio people are TERRIFIED to leave urban radio… Industry legends like Hill prove it can be done and with great success.
LA Reid – Chairman and CEO of Epic Records
Antonio “L.A.” Reid, the current Chairman and CEO of Epic Records has had an unparalleled career in the music industry for almost 44 years. The 56 year-old record executive, songwriter, and producer, whose net worth is in excess of $300 million knows the blueprint to success. If we were to follow the evolution of Reid’s career Upon leaving Island/Def Jam, Reid specifically asked Sony Music Chairman, Doug Morris to head Epic Records. Reid had always admired Epic Records for being the home of the late Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross. His mission is to turn the company back around into the recording powerhouse that it once was in the 80″²s.
Jimmy Iovine – Chairman, Interscope Geffen-A&M, Co-Founder, Beats by Dr. Dre
Iovine co-founded Interscope Records in 1990 and has been the chairman since its inception. He has been instrumental to the careers of such renowned artists as Lady Gaga, Eminem, 50 Cent, the Black Eyed Peas and U2. Jimmy, who just celebrated his 60th birthday last week, began as a recording engineer and music producer. Iovine has also found success as a filmmaker, as he’s produced such blockbuster features as 8 Mile and Get Rich or Die Tryin’. In addition to music, he has also collaborated with super producer, Dr. Dre, another artist on the Interscope roster to start Beats by Dr. Dre brand, a line of successful headphones and more. Iovine also serves as a mentor on FOX’s hit TV show “American Idol.” Jimmy Iovine Explains His $60 Million Music Plan in the video
Simon Cowell – Co-Owner Syco
Simon’s story is so incredibly inspirational. Several years ago, he was living with his mother and was down to his last $7 when he came up with the idea for Idol. In 2007, he earned an estimated $72 million in income from his various projects. $45 million from “American Idol” (2002), $15 million from “Britain’s Got Talent” (2007) and “The X Factor” (2004), and $12 million from his record label. Some of the winners on Idol broke the decades old industry mold for young, beautiful, thin and model type female singers. Gone are the days, thanks for Idol, of heavy women only being photographed from the shoulders up.
Lucian Grainge – CEO Universal Music Group
Grainge is the Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group since 2011. Prior to this appointment, Grange held the posts of chairman of UMG – UK and UMG International. Grainge’s background includes stints as an A&R and publishing executive. One of Lucian’s biggest assets was his vision of integrating music globally through digital expansion. During his tenure within the UMG conglomerate, he has fostered deals with Apple, Virgin Media, Spotify, and Rdio.
Ne-Yo – Compound Label, Singer, Writer, Producer and SVP of A&R of Motown
Ne-Yo, whose name is taken from the character in the Matrix, got his biggest break after writing the smash hit for Mario “Let me Love You.” Since then he has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the industry going from writer to singer to producer to his own label and now the SVP of A&R for Motown. He has written hit songs for many of today’s top artists including Beyonce.
In January 2012, Ne-Yo along with his label imprint Compound Entertainment moved from Def Jam Recordings to Motown Records.He was then appointed Senior Vice President of A&R of Motown, where he serves as a producer and mentor to the label’s artists, as well as seeking out and signing new talent to the label.
Doc Wynter – VP Urban Programming, iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) Media
Doc Wynter is one of the most respected executives in the music and radio industry. He has worked for iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) Media for 24 years which is quite impressive for anyone working in urban radio. Wynter is an expert on programming and he brilliantly communicates his knowledge of it with a great ease. Anyone who has a conversation with him about the industry will walk away with a greater knowledge.
Monte and Avery Lipman CEO and COO UMG Republic Records
The Lipman Brothers presently serve as President/CEO and of COO respectively for UMG’s Republic Records. The dynamic duo created Republic in 1995, which was acquired by UMG five years later. The Lipman’s developed and broke such now renowned acts as Colbie Cailat, Amy Winehouse, Jack Johnson, and Taylor Swift. Last year, Republic Records became the distributor for hip-hop powerhouse, Cash Money Records. In 2011, Lipman’s established a partnership between Republic Records and NBC’s singing competition show, “The Voice.”
Julie Greenwald – COO Atlantic Records
Greenwald presently serves as chairman/COO of Atlantic Records. Greenwald epitomizes the phrase “Cream always rises to the top.” After starting out as Def Jam head, Lyor Cohen’s personal assistant, she eventually rose to EVP of the company ten years later. When Cohen was named North American Chairman of Warner Music Group in an act of loyalty, he immediately appointed Greenwald to chair Atlantic Records. Greenwald says the key to her success is that “I have unwavering belief in my artists. I’m constantly thinking about what our artists need. I want to give them the best opportunity to be seen and heard by the tastemakers. We’re constantly evolving as a company. That’s how I model myself.”
Jay Brown – Co Founder Roc Nation
Brown is the co-founder/president of Roc Nation, a joint venture between Jay-Z and Live Nation. Brown describes the Roc Nation business model as a multi-faceted, versatile company that provides merchandise, touring, publishing, artist/producer management, and recorded music. “Our company provides services from every stream,” Brown insists. Artists that are within the Roc Nation stable include J. Cole, Willow Smith, Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Wale.
Irving Azoff – Chairman/CEO of Live Nation Entertainment
Azoff presently represents such renowned recording artists as New Edition, Seal, Christina Aguilera, Van Halen, REO Speedwagon, Neil Diamond, the Eagles, and Steely Dan. He most recent held the title of chairman/CEO of Live Nation Entertainment, the largest ticketing and concert promoting company in the music business, until his resignation in December 2012. Prior to heading Live Nation, Azoff was chairman/CEO of Ticketmaster Entertainment. This role was secured by Ticketmaster’s acquiring of Frontline Management, a company that Azoff also founded. Other acts that Irving managed during his career include Journey, Fleetwood Mac, and Kenny Chesney. Azoff is also presently on the board of iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) Communications.
Jay Stevens – SVP of Content, Radio One
Steven’s career started nearly 30 years go where he worked at several stations after graduating from Brockport State University majoring in Broadcast Communications. He programmed WPGC in Washington for16 years which lead to his promotion of VP o Programming for CBS Urban Stations. He was then recruited as Sr. VP Programming Content for Radio One, his current position. Radio One Inc is the nation’s largest radio broadcasting company that targets African American and urban listeners. Jay currently oversees 53 Radio Stations in 15 of the Top 53 African-American Markets.
Swenson, Black, Barbaro, and Meyers are the founding partners of the South By Southwest music, film, and interactive festival. The annual convention, which takes place in Austin, Texas every March, has been a valuable platform to expose and break new bands, emerging technologies, and independent films. Swenson, Black, and Barbaro, who were all with the Austin Chronicle newspaper along with booking agent, Louis Meyers organized the very first South By Southwest conference in 1987. Since then, the festival has grown to having 2,200 different bands perform in more than 100 SxSW sanctioned venues over a 10 day period. Such artists as John Mayer, James Blunt, and Hanson first received national attention by appearing at SxSW. The documentary, Undefeated, which went onto win an Oscar gained a distribution deal also during a screening at SxSW.
Hogan has been president and CEO of iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) Entertainment for the past decade. The successful chain reaches 238 million monthly listeners through the 850 radio stations that it owns. Arbitron ratings also indicate that iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) stations have the top audience share in the largest eight markets in the country. Since the emergence of digital technology, many now question the impact of radio. However, Hogan, who remains dedicated to the medium says, “Radio is our history and foundation upon which we will grow our company moving forward.”
World Star Hip Hop
Lee ‘Q’ O’Denat has come up with an ingenious way to captivate fans that extend beyond Hip Hop culture. He himself was a Hollis, Queens based hip hop fan and a dropout in high school and he calls himself a “Haitian ghetto nerd.” The site’s heavily based hip hop content is often coupled with label premiere videos and ads that are dominated by hip hop artists. There are few rap artists that don’t know about the site.
Some label the site a “Shock” site because there are often videos of fights, strippers, violence and porn (on their adult site )and most often not mentioned there are also incredibly inspirational videos. Police in several states also credit the site with helping them to solve crimes and arrest suspects who often want their videos on the site bad enough to film their crimes. World Star has a HUGE cult-like following that often yell out “World Star” while filming various incidents taking place on their cell phones in various parts of the country. The site gets 1.1 million unique visits a day and was created in 2005. World Star is considered the top site to break hip hop records.
Ek is the co-founder/CEO of Spotify, the digital commercial music streaming service. Ek along with partner Martin Lorentzon launched Spotify in 2008 and since then has availability in the United States and 12 European markets including France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Spotify has over 10 million users globally with 2.5 million paying subscribers. Its objective is quite simple. Spotify’s goal is to stop music piracy. “Our role is about getting the lost generation into paying for music again,” says Ek.
Platt is president of creative for North America at Warner/Chappell Publishing. During his illustrious career, “Big Jon,” as he’s affectionately called throughout the industry has managed to get Drake, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Usher, Ludacris, and Kanye West to sign on the dotted line. Platt became part of the EMI Publishing family in 1995 and remained with the company for 17 years. He began as a creative manager and ascended the corporate ladder to president of North America, Creative EMI Publishing. At Warner/Chappell, Platt wants to restore the back-in-the-day music company philosophy. He says, “I want the spirit to be like how it used to be. When the mailroom guy or the assistant bringing you the next hot songwriter.”
Will Glaser, Jon Kraft, and Tim Westergen
This trio is responsible for creating Pandora, the internet radio service. Pandora, which launched in 2000, has grown to 150 million users and generated $275 million in revenue last year. Pandora’s diverse musical library has a million songs from over 100,000 recording artists. Pandora, which is presently valued at over $2 billion dollars, also lists Pandora Podcast and Google TV compatibility as two of its many prominent features.