Billboard’s 2018 Top Branding Power Players

BILLBOARD | June 18, 2018
By Billboard Staff

Every business, it seems, wants to be part of the music business today. Ride-sharing services, hotel chains, retailers and others have joined longtime industry partners like beverage, credit card and cosmetics companies to harness the emotional power of music in their marketing.

Some $2 billion in revenue reaches the music industry from the branding business annually, with sponsorship spending on music tours, venues and festivals making up about 75 percent of that amount. Fees paid for the use of music in ads, films, games and TV shows, along with endorsement and branding deal payments, account for the balance.

The 72 individuals from the 50-plus companies featured here are at the forefront of marketing with music. They are masterful at linking brands and artists — for the benefit of both.

Russell Wallach, 52
Global president of media and sponsorship, Live Nation
Maureen Ford, 53
President of national and festival sales, Live Nation
Darin Wolf, 50
Executive vp media and sponsorships, Live Nation

Concerts and festivals are the leading source of branding revenue for the music business — and Live Nation dominates the field, connecting an estimated 86 million fans to some 900 brands, according to the company’s most recent annual report. “We want to continue to elevate how brands activate in the music space, how they get engagement, because we touch more live fans than anybody in the world,” says Wallach. Leading a 250-person team, he has shepherded seven consecutive years of growth for the company. That includes a 20 percent increase in festival sponsorship revenue in 2017 — Ford’s area of responsibility — with activations like State Farm’s #HereToHelp lounge at Bonnaroo and the Faster Horses Festival, and the Pepsi Zero Chill House at Lollapalooza. “Lollapalooza was the first music festival that I attended way before [Live Nation] had acquired it,” says Wallach, “and I remember being absolutely mesmerized by how the brands were able to interact with fans.” Ford guided a creative sales team of 30 to ink deals with Anheuser-Busch, Bacardi, Cisco, Red Bull and others. During the past 12 months, she also further diversified Live Nation’s ad and sponsorship footprint with a push into the beauty and fashion sectors. “We had a breakthrough year in that space,” says Ford. For Live Nation’s long-standing partnership with Citi, Wolf oversees the company’s role with the Citi Sound Vault concert series, and during Grammy Week in New York, the program gave Citi cardholders a shot at once-in-a-lifetime intimate performances by The National, Eminem and Childish Gambino. Slim Shady’s underplay at New York’s 1,025-capacity Irving Plaza was a personal coup for Wolf. “He probably hasn’t played a club at that level in a very, very long time,” he says. “You could just see him get excited to be that close to the audience.”

Live Nation’s sponsorship deals included the Pepsi Zero Chill House (bottom right), where A-Trak took a break.
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images
Live Nation’s sponsorship deals included the Pepsi Zero Chill House (bottom right), where A-Trak took a break.

Stew Heathcote, 48
Senior vp global partnerships, AEG
Andrew Klein, 48
Senior vp global partnerships, AEG

“Brands are becoming incredibly sophisticated,” says Klein. “We need to be ahead of the curve and offer the one-stop solution.” For Coachella 2018, that meant negotiating YouTube’s sponsorship and broadcast deal, which set a new record for the most-viewed live music festival on the platform, with 41 million fans tuning in for Beyoncé’s headlining set. Views were up 75 percent over 2017 with special content created for Google Pixel Phone, Google Home and YouTube Music. Heathcote continues to build out brand activations throughout AEG’s portfolio of festivals, including Coachella, where he helped American Express develop an augmented-reality experience for cardholders, as well as mobile-driven single-click purchasing of merchandise around the festival. He also helped create the off-site American Express Platinum House that “had amazing benefits, from artist performances to SoulCycle classes to refresh stations and pop-up shops with food and drinks.”

“Brands are becoming incredibly sophisticated,” says AEG’s Klein (right), with Jennifer Lopez.
Courtesy of AEG Presents
“Brands are becoming incredibly sophisticated,” says AEG’s Klein (right), with Jennifer Lopez.

Ari Avishay, 36
Director of culture and entertainment, Lyft
Austin Schumacher, 34
Head of culture and entertainment, Lyft

Lyft’s customized campaigns for two of music’s hottest stars — Cardi B and Chance the Rapper — shifted perceptions of the company as just a ride-sharing service. Its Round Up and Donate initiative lets passengers round up their fares to the nearest dollar and donate the difference to a charitable cause. To date, the campaign has raised over $5 million. Says Schumacher: “It’s not enough to come up with a good creative idea — brands should tell a story that resonates with both the brand and the artist’s audiences.”

Jennifer Breithaupt*
Global consumer chief marketing officer, Citi

In the past year, Breithaupt launched Welcome What’s Next, a Citi ad campaign that features music by Van Morrison and the Pixies, based on research showing 45 percent of Americans (and 61 percent of millennials) associate their favorite brands with specific songs. Since the campaign’s launch last September, Citi has had a six-point lift in brand preference among consumers exposed to the ads. “The campaign injects emotion into the financial services category,” says Breithaupt, “and inspires consumers to feel optimistic about what’s next.”

Demi Lovato with bassist and Lyft driver Jermaine Walden at Gibson Guitar in Miami, FL.

Deborah Curtis*
Vp global experiences and partnerships, American Express

In 2017, Curtis secured a partnership for American Express with the Austin City Limits Music Festival — adding to a portfolio that includes Coachella and Panorama — to enhance the card member experience through access to the AmEx Card Member Club, an Uber priority lane and more. The result: increased engagement, brand consideration and share of spend. “We want to bring card members closer to cultural moments,” she says, “and introduce our brand to music fans who may not know us. Breaking through the clutter is challenging, but for us, it’s about staying true and putting the fan at the center of the experience.”

Amy Friedlander Hoffman, 47
Head of business development, Uber
Zach Zimmerman, 27
Music and entertainment manager, Uber

Hoffman has guided Uber’s deals with AEG, Superfly and C3 Presents, which have made it one of the largest brands at music festivals, according to ESP Sponsorship Report. “It’s about elevating the fan experience and building on it with storytelling,” she says. In January, Uber’s Road to Success ad campaign paired best new artist Grammy nominees Khalid and Lil Uzi Vert with real-life Uber drivers (who also happened to be aspiring musicians) in spots that reached 20 million viewers. “We’re cementing Uber as a key player in the music industry,” says Zimmerman.

Ciara attends the 2017 Billboard Women in Music on Nov 30, 2017 in Los Angeles.

Pablo Henderson, 44
Senior global director of brand marketing, W Hotels Worldwide

Henderson has made music a larger part of the W experience, with such exclusives as a video series with St. Vincent (which generated 20 million total views, a chunk of them on YouTube), Sound Suites (recording studios within the hotels) and the Next Up partnership with Billboard to support emerging acts like Sofi Tukker. “Our guests count on us to introduce them to what’s new and next,” says Henderson. “It should be brands’ responsibility to introduce the sounds of the future to their consumers.”

Marcel Marcondes, 42
U.S. chief marketing officer, Anheuser-Busch InBev

Marcondes played a part in Post Malone hugging a fan in an inflatable dinosaur costume — part of a Bud Light “Friendship Test” spot in April to promote the rapper’s Dive Bar Tour and Bud Light. (A livestream of the stunt drew 3 million viewers.) “That’s the perfect combination — relevant artist with a true connection,” says Marcondes. “We’ve evolved our marketing approach to make sure our brands have cultural relevance, are meeting the needs of consumers and, most importantly, being part of their conversations — not disrupting them.”

Raja Rajamannar, 56
Chief marketing and communications officer, Mastercard

While sponsoring festivals, hosting intimate artist performances and backing music’s biggest awards shows, in 2018, Mastercard also kicked off its Start Something Priceless campaign with a music video featuring SZA and other musicians who had overcome obstacles to pursue their dreams. Rajamannar says his team is “doing well by doing good.” Business is up, feedback is effusive, and, in March, social media monitoring company Brandwatch ranked Mastercard among the top 10 “most pleasing” brands — the only credit card firm in the bunch.

Luke Wood*
President, Beats by Dr. Dre

Apple executive and Beats by Dr. Dre co-founder Jimmy Iovine praises Wood as the rare executive who speaks “both languages” — creativity and technology. Under Wood’s leadership, Beats in the past year has launched the Beats Studio3 Wireless headphones and struck brand-boosting deals with Jack White’s Third Man Records, fashion company Balmain, the LINE Friends characters (from the message app LINE) and the 2018 Winter Olympics. The Beats campaign Above the Noise featured athletes including Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn, Kevin Rolland and the Nigerian bobsled team.

From left: Wood with Beats by Dr. Dre co-founders Iovine and Dr. Dre at the Beats Store in New York in 2012.
Kevin Mazur/WireImage
From left: Wood with Beats by Dr. Dre co-founders Iovine and Dr. Dre at the Beats Store in New York in 2012.

Marcie Allen, 44
President, MAC Presents

Gross numbers for MAC Presents’ deals are up 40 percent in the past year (the firm does not report dollar amounts) as Allen, now partnered with Cara Lewis Group, has paired Taylor Bennett with Urban Outfitters and Express, brought Eminem’s first show in four years to Citi Sound Vault and oversaw a just-announced global Hollister campaign with an antibullying theme, featuring Khalid, in 500 stores worldwide. “Retail is becoming the new media,” says Allen. The biggest issue facing the industry, she says, are music/brand partnerships that lack authenticity. “That hurts the whole industry.”

“Retail is becoming the new media,” says Allen (center), with Khalid (left) and Hollister Marketing vp/executive creative director Matt Montgomery.
Joe Scarnici
“Retail is becoming the new media,” says Allen (center), with Khalid (left) and Hollister Marketing vp/executive creative director Matt Montgomery.

Bruce Flohr, 51
Founding partner, GreenLight/Live Nation Studios
chief strategy officer/executive vp creative, Red Light Management

Dominic Sandifer, 49
President/founding partner, GreenLight/Live Nation Studios

GreenLight’s work to rebrand the Hutton Hotel in Nashville as a creative hub reached fruition last December after a two-and-a-half-year, multimillion-dollar project with the opening of a pair of writers’ rooms designed by Dierks Bentley and Ryan Tedder, a new performance venue called Analog and artist-friendly amenities like “putting tour-bus parking in back of the hotel with plug-ins for generators or fresh water,” says Flohr. The project, he reports, has drawn 360 million-plus media impressions. Working with GreenLight’s parent company, Live Nation, Sandifer guided Music Happens Here, a multitiered partnership involving Hilton hotels, Spotify and the Grammy Awards, that included access to exclusive performances for Hilton Honors members. “Hilton has a very rich history in music — the first Grammys were at a Hilton — and we used that to create a robust program that allowed consumers to jump in at various stages of the story,” says Sandifer.

Nathan Hanks, 44

Co-Founder/CEO, Music Audience Exchange

Online ads are lucky if they get a 2 percent audience engagement, says Hanks, who co-founded Music Audience Exchange (MAX) in 2014 with business partner Carlos Diaz. In the past year, MAX delivered 12 percent engagement across 500 million advertising impressions for brands including Coors Light, Ford, McDonald’s and Dr Pepper. MAX’s proprietary platform matches brands with emerging artists and creates customized content across multiple channels: streaming, social, video and live. “New models need to … enhance, not interrupt, the fan experience,” says Hanks.

Jeremy Holley, 40
Partner, FlyteVu
Laura Hutfless, 36
Partner, FlyteVu

FlyteVu’s work with Cracker Barrel on its music-driven marketing not only led to Dolly Parton rerecording her 1973 classic “Jolene” with Pentatonix, but also a 2017 Grammy Award for their performance, “the first time a brand ever put together a moment that led to a Grammy win,” says Holley. Connected to acts including Zac Brown Band, The Chainsmokers, Keith Urban and HAIM, Holley and Hutfless have delivered for clients including Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Victoria’s Secret Pink, American Red Cross and social connection app Bumble. The app’s principals “understood that to grow, they had to be integrated into the pop culture conversation,” says Hutfless.

Sherry Jhawar, 39
Co-founder/co-CEO, Blended Strategy Group
Allison Statter, 38
Co-founder/co-CEO, Blended Strategy Group

As Jhawar and Statter’s brand and talent integration company marks its third anniversary in July, their pairing of Jennifer Hudson with American Family Insurance stands out for its emotional impact. “They filmed in her hometown of Chicago and surprised fans and her high school music teacher,” says Statter. Jhawar brought emerging artist Justine Skye to cosmetics company Nudestix for the firm’s first music partnership, resulting in 38 million media impressions for the brand and a successful album launch for Skye. Statter notes that while clients like Gwen Stefaniand Jon Bon Jovi compete with social media influencers for brand attention, “one of the things that is tried and true is music placement and musicians participating in brand advertisements.”

Zev Norotsky, 39
Founder/CEO, ENTER

Norotsky’s experiential agency ENTER turned in its strongest year to date, boasting marquee live-event campaigns with Khalid for Forever 21, Halsey for YSL Beauty and Charli XCX for Lucky Brand. He will also oversee brand partnerships with the Loveloud Foundation, which was founded by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds and provides support to LGBTQ youth: “If we can help just one kid struggling to understand their sexuality and their place in this world, and [show them] that they aren’t alone,” says Norotzky, “then we have done our job.”

Carlene Rowe, 40

Director of sports and entertainment, Conill

Rowe worked at Budweiser with Pitbull and Vicente Fernández until 2016, when she joined Conill, which bills itself as the nation’s first Latino marketing agency. Conill has “seen an increase in Hispanic engagement programs grow by 213 percent” since 2014, notes Rowe. The agency’s 2017 campaign featured a virtual-reality video of Wisin traveling in a Toyota Camry to Telemundo’s Latin American Music Awards. “You’ve seen a growth of brands really engaging the Latino consumer,” says Rowe, “because that’s where the growth is happening.”

Elena Sotomayor, 46
Executive vp experiential marketing, CMN

As the lead marketing officer for the nation’s biggest Latin-music concert promotion company, Sotomayor negotiates deals that amplify live performances with multiple digital strategies. Moments from Bad Bunny’s upcoming tour, for example, will live as branded content on YouTube network Mitu. Beyond Latin, Sotomayor and her team extended a partnership between the Harder brand of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and the film Deadpool 2 with pop-up dive bars around the country. “Digital and social has changed our sponsorship game,” she says, “and we have to be creative with how we bring brands onboard.”

David Aussenberg, 34
Music brand partnerships agent, Creative Artists Agency

Aussenberg and CAA’s branding team helped bring in over 300 deals for their artist clients in 2017, including Niall Horan’s global Bose brand ambassadorship and Leon Bridges’ partnership with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which helped him sell out two nights at Radio City Music Hall in New York. “We used Chase’s marketing power to help sell a boatload of tickets that will directly impact [his] future touring career,” says Aussenberg. Aside from Bridges, Chase also is a CAA “brand consulting client,” notes Aussenberg. “With an amazing roster of clients that we have, there’s always something for everyone.”

Kerri Fox-Metoyer*
Vp music strategy and partnerships, Agency for the Performing Arts

Fox-Metoyer, a veteran of Sony and The Walt Disney Company, has helped lead APA’s music branding team to a 29 percent increase in deals over the past year. (APA does not report dollar amounts for its deals.) Based in Nashville, she says her proudest achievement was partnering Craig Morgan with Operation Finally Home, a national nonprofit that provides mortgage-free homes to veterans and their families. She’s pressing brands to focus more on the 40-plus fan. “We are actively educating [them] on how to develop a music strategy for these consumers,” she says.

Craig Morgan and Friends Team Up for 'Billy's Place'

Miles Gidaly, 31
Agent, commercials department, WME
Shari Lewin, 32
Partner, commercials department, WME

“Advertising is the economy of attention,” says Gidaly, “and more and more of these musicians have year-round attention on them.” Gidaly has leveraged that attention into deals for A$AP Ferg as Jimmy Choo’s first male Style Diaries talent. Lewin’s savvy led to Reba McEntire’s ads as KFC’s first female Colonel Sanders, which collected over 1 billion social media impressions. She also paired Brad Paisley with Nationwide for TV spots and teamed Chris Young with Aflac to help raise $100,000 for the ACM Lifting Lives foundation.

Carol Goll, 44
Partner/head of global branded entertainment, ICM Partners

Goll’s pairing of Busta Rhymes with Doritos Blaze and Mountain Dew resulted in a Super Bowl ad that 72.6 million viewers saw on TV, according to analytics company She also teamed Solange with Calvin Klein for the brand’s revived My Calvins campaign and partnered Lil Yachty with AXE Gold. For corporate client Jaguar Land Rover, “we are growing their music marketing platform,” she says.

Stephanie Miles*
Executive vp brand partnerships, Paradigm Talent Agency
Joe Rosenberg, 35
Executive vp brand partnerships, Paradigm Talent Agency

At their first meeting, Miles learned that Halsey does her own makeup for every photo shoot (including her Billboard covers), which sparked a partnership with YSL Beauty. She also has paired Imagine Dragons with Chinese automaker NIO and Sia with Google. “To make the best partnerships possible,” says Miles, “it takes a lot of time, effort and care, so I feel like every single deal is an accomplishment.” Rosenberg cites deals for Gucci Mane with Swisher Sweets, Run the Jewels with car2go and SOB X RBE with Adidas as evidence of the ability of his team to be “nimble and entrepreneurial.”

“You pick up ‘famous’ body language,” says Halsey, photographed Feb. 11 at The Love Shack in Brooklyn. “It comes from knowing you’re  the most successful woman in the room.”  Styling by Karen Levitt.  Halsey wears a  Versus dress, Chanel earrings, Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh jacket and Giuseppe Zanotti sneakers.

Toni Wallace, 37
Head of music brand partnerships, United Talent Agency

Joining UTA in early 2017 (after running West Coast brand partnerships for Columbia Records), Wallace closed over 70 artist and brand partnerships during her first year and has already surpassed that number in 2018. Her brand alliances include X Ambassadors and Bud Light, and Facebook comedy series #IMomSoHard and Yoplait, which resulted in a 40-city tour and digital campaign with over 120 million video views across platforms.

Pat Corcoran, 28
Manager, Chance the Rapper
Founder, Haight Brand

Chance the Rapper, 25

Corcoran and Chance negotiated a first-of-its-kind apparel deal for the Chance 3 New Era Cap, forgoing the traditional upfront payout and later royalties. Working with baseball cap/lifestyle brand New Era, Chance instead took a risk on the project by buying the hats outright. After his own retail promotions, he moved “several hundred thousand” units, says Corcoran, making it one of the most popular for New Era in 2017. “To this day, the only way you can get a 3 hat is by going to a Chance the Rapper show or by visiting Chance’s website.”

Chance the Rapper (left) helped move “several hundred thousand” custom-branded hats, says Corcoran.
Rachel Bires
Chance the Rapper (left) helped move “several hundred thousand” custom-branded hats, says Corcoran.

Jules Ferree, 35
Head of brand partnerships, SB Projects

While continuing to guide branding deals for SB Projects clients including Justin Bieber (who has tie-ins with three telecommunication firms worldwide), Ferree tapped her brand relationships last September to help organize Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief, which has raised over $64 million for charities helping victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. “We had no more than 14 days [of lead time],” recalls Ferree of the benefit, which was staged in four cities with performances by Stevie Wonder, Usher, Blake Shelton, Dave Matthews, Demi Lovato, Brad Paisley and others, as well as appeals from over two dozen celebrities. “It was a herculean effort to secure significant corporate sponsorships to provide funding for the event to happen,” says Ferree, who recruited Apple, Verizon, PayPal and other companies for the benefit.

Zac Brown Band

Matt Ferrigno, 34
Vp partnerships, Maverick Management

Now in his third year with Guy Oseary’s Maverick Management, Ferrigno finalized MAC Cosmetics’ biggest artist branding deal to date with Nicki Minaj. (Terms of the deal were not disclosed.) “She was so excited because she grew up wearing MAC, which made the collaboration feel authentic,” says Ferrigno. With a roster of 50-plus artists and some of the top managers under the Maverick brand, Ferrigno has an opportunity to collaborate on dream projects. In 2017, he secured G-Eazy a spot on the Bud Light Dive Bar Tour, previously headlined by John Mayer and Lady Gaga. “We livestreamed the show and debuted ‘Him & I,’ ” G-Eazy’s No. 1 Mainstream Top 40 hit with Halsey.

Lil Wayne manager Cortez Bryant, NFL vp media talent management Galen Gordon, Lil Wayne, Matthew Ferrigno, Kareem White, Talent Producer at ESPN
Courtesy of Maverick
Lil Wayne manager Cortez Bryant, NFL vp media talent management Galen Gordon, Lil Wayne, Matthew Ferrigno, Kareem White, Talent Producer at ESPN

Matt Ringel, 48
Executive vp, Red Light Management
Managing partner, New Era Media and Marketing

Ringel tallied 150 branding deals in 2017, with this year already beating that pace. “Every year, it has been growing,” says Ringel, whose clients include MarshmelloBastille, Dierks Bentley, Maren Morris and Jordan Fisher. Bentley is headed for a particularly big 2018 with multiple partnerships (5-hour Energy, Pepsi, Twisted Tea, Flag & Anthem and Citi) and a new Labor Day weekend festival in Colorado. “There’s a growing realization that music-based marketing can be used in an array of objectives — it’s just a matter of demographics, time of year and method of communication,” says Ringel. “Music is so flexible in a way that working with something like the NBA might be a little more structured and limited. The sky’s really the limit for what we do.”

Michael Yormark, 51
President/chief of branding and strategy, Roc Nation

As DJ Khaled welcomed his son, Asahd, in October 2016, the rapper-producer sought a healthier lifestyle and turned to his management company, Roc Nation, to help make it happen. That led to Khaled serving as the social media ambassador for Weight Watchers’ WW Freestyle campaign, during which the DJ documented healthy habits that made him drop 26 pounds — and, says Roc Nation’s Yormark, saw Weight Watchers’ stock price balloon 56 percent in just five weeks. Similar branding savvy is behind the long-running multipronged Puma collaboration with Rihanna that has grown to include Big Sean, Yo Gotti and a sponsorship for JAY-Z’s 4:44 Tour over the past year. “We’re not in the business of just doing transactions,” says Yormark. “We’re in the business of creating long-term partnerships that are sustainable over time, that ultimately will help our artist as much as the artist will help that brand.”

Tim Castelli, 50
President of national sales, marketing and partnerships, iHeartMedia

“More brands are waking up to the power of radio’s connection to consumers,” says Castelli. He points to such radio campaigns as Artist vs. Fan for Google Home Mini and Label Defiers for ZICO Coconut Water — featuring artists such as Halsey and Nick Jonas — that have reached millions of listeners, resulting in double-digit increases in brand awareness and intent to purchase, he reports. “Even brands that historically have not been big radio advertisers now see a huge opportunity.”

Rich Frankel, 63
Global creative director, Spotify

Frankel, who began his career designing album covers at A&M Records, came full circle in 2017 with an audiovisual project for Spotify that helped Ken Burns (a former college buddy) promote his Vietnam War documentary to a younger generation. “The way we consume music, and the way Spotify delivers it, is one-to-one, not as a single wave as it did in the ’60s and ’70s,” says Frankel. To start a wave, Frankel and his team created Echoes of Vietnam, a multimedia Spotify playlist that garnered 350 million impressions and 3 million streaming minutes on behalf of project sponsor Bank of America.

Erika Leone, 33
Global marketing director, SoundCloud

In March, Leone helped SoundCloud launch its first multiplatform advertising campaign. First on SoundCloud featured stories of 10 creators who got their start on the streaming site, promoting SoundCloud as an artist’s first home, “a foundational place where they can build their careers,” says Leone. Featured acts are showing an average boost of 70 percent in track plays on the platform, reports SoundCloud, while the service has had a 10 percent increase in followers on social media in recent year-to-year tracking.

Ryan Redington, 37
Director, Amazon Music

In April, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos revealed for the first time that over 100 million customers worldwide subscribe to Amazon Prime. Tens of millions of those customers are also using Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited, which sponsored Garth Brooks’ 2017 tour, CMA Fan Fest and a popular activation with JetBlue at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport — all partnerships led by Redington and Amazon head of brand marketing Josh Fein. Redington is bullish on the future of products like Alexa and Echo for driving further music consumption. “Voice is our differentiation,” he says, “and we’re leading the way.”

Redington (right) in Nashville in February with (from left) Kurt Johnson, Country Radio Seminar board president and Townsquare Media senior vp; Jason Aldean; Jimmie Allen; Jordan Davis; and Brooks.
Getty Images/CRS
Redington (right) in Nashville in February with (from left) Kurt Johnson, Country Radio Seminar board president and Townsquare Media senior vp; Jason Aldean; Jimmie Allen; Jordan Davis; and Brooks.

John Trimble, 54
Chief revenue officer, Pandora

Pandora’s launch of Premium Access, which offers its 75 million monthly users an on-demand experience after viewing a 15-second advertisement from clients like T-Mobile, helped the service reach nearly $1.5 billion in total annual revenue. “Brands are always challenging us for ways to get closer to their target audience,” says Trimble. “Audio is experiencing a renaissance and is becoming a prevalent and expected means of brand advertising. Phones have driven that. Broadcast radio is certainly important, but digital is where brands want to be.”

Tom Eaton, 48
Senior vp music for advertising, Universal Music Publishing Group
Mandy Gabriel, 33
Senior director of music for advertising, Universal Music Publishing Group
Tom Foster, 38
Head of film and tv, Universal Music Publishing Group U.K.

At the 2018 Super Bowl, Eaton earned MVP honors for UMPG with synchs in 14 spots, from the classic (Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” for NBC) to the fresh (Dardust’s “Lost and Found” for Hyundai). He and his team followed up with 10 placements during the Grammy telecast and five for the Winter Olympics. Gabriel boosted brands while spotlighting emerging bands like Spain’s Sexy Zebras, which answered the call for T-Mobile, while newcomer Xenia Pax blasted to nearly 1.7 million YouTube views with an Adidas spot featuring her track “Bang Bang.” Foster’s recent wins include securing synch deals for British songwriter Steve Mac with BBC, Vodafone and Sony BRAVIA. The placement of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” — co-written by Mac — in an ad for British retailer Marks & Spencer was one of 2017’s most Shazamed spots in the United Kingdom. Says Gabriel: “The biggest issue that both brands and music companies face is breaking through the noise.”

Brian Monaco, 46
President/global chief marketing officer, Sony/ATV Music Publishing

For a fifth consecutive year, Monaco and his team at Sony/ATV placed more music (and music stars) in Super Bowl ads than anyone else — 17 licenses in 2018 alone, including Queen’s “We Will Rock You” for Chrysler, Cardi B for Amazon and Alicia Keys for the Olympics. “People are always Shazamming throughout the game,” he says. “You see streaming movement immediately — something you don’t get on other platforms throughout the year.”

Monaco (left) with Sony/ATV songwriter Pharrell Williams.
Courtesy of Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Monaco (left) with Sony/ATV songwriter Pharrell Williams.

Marty Silverstone, 41
Partner/senior vp creative/head of sync, Primary Wave Music

“A key feature of many of the songs we license is that they have a story arc,” says Silverstone, whose team paired Bobby Hebb’s classic “Sunny” with a high-profile bleak-to-bliss spot for job-search engine Indeed during the Academy Awards. Primary Wave also presents the work of “pivotal icons,” Silverstone calls them, such as Bob Marley, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard and Smokey Robinson, whose “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” was remade in 2017 for a trailer for Fox TV’s Empire.

Andrew Kahn, 36
Founder/music supervisor, Good Ear Music Supervision

When The Gap was getting ready to revive its iconic white-background, music-heavy advertising style from the late ’90s, Kahn and his boutique synch-licensing firm got the call to pair Cher and Future on a cover of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People” and Janelle Monáe singing Freddie Scott’s “You Got What I Need.” The well-received Gap spots were just two of the 64 commercials Good Ear Music helped synch for brands including Intuit, Samsung and Toyota in 2017, paying out over $8 million in revenue. “Music is such a powerful tool that more and more brands are coming to this avenue,” says Kahn.

Mike Ladman, 31
Music supervisor, Droga5

As music supervisor at an agency with clients ranging from Under Armour to the Grammy Awards, Ladman in 2017 oversaw a trio of successful, eclectic synchs for Google’s Pixel 2 campaign — including a license from New York subway band Too Many Zooz and another by Mr Jukes, featuring late soul singer Charles Bradley. The former generated the most Spotify streams in a single day for Too Many Zooz, while the latter caused a 2,116 percent spike in Shazams for the Mr Jukes track. “I’m very proud to have been able to successfully wrangle such diverse talent and merge them with such classic music to help connect people through a product designed to do just that,” says Ladman.

Josh Rabinowitz, 53
Executive vp/director of music, Grey Group Townhouse, WPP

Whether it’s supermodels lip-syncing to Dua Lipa’s “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” for Revlon or Vince Staples dropping an original verse for Marriott, Rabinowitz and his staff of six music supervisors at WPP’s Townhouse have been part of some of the most creative uses of music by brands in the past year. “We’re paying a lot of people in the music business, which is hard to do,” says Rabinowitz, whose team doled out more than eight figures in synch revenue to songwriters and musicians thanks to over 500 placements in the past 12 months.

Ryan Allingham, 33
Vp brand partnerships, Capitol Music Group
Brian Nolan, 37
Senior vp, seventeenfifty, Capitol Music Group

Allingham steered Jeep to Halsey, whose Astralwerks single “Bad at Love” was featured in the automaker’s “Release Your Renegade” ad — a rare instance, he says, “that an in-cycle single timed so well with the launch of a major campaign.” Following its advertising exposure, “Bad at Love” reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. And, notes Allingham, “Halsey’s first car was a Jeep.” At Capitol’s brand partnership and synch licensing division, seventeenfifty, Nolan scored a slam-dunk deal with the NBA for Migos, getting the trio’s “Stir Fry” in heavy rotation on Turner Sports in February as the official track of NBA All-Star Weekend. A campaign launch party at the Capitol Records Tower also offered exposure for brands including Finish Line, Under Armour, Beats by Dr. Dre and Cycle Media.

Alla Benyatov*
Senior vp brand partnerships, Epic Records

Benyatov has helped secure over 50 branding deals for Epic artists in the past 12 months, resulting in “several hundred million media impressions,” she says. And while partnerships for established stars are a priority, she also enjoys finding opportunities for rising acts like Jidenna or Jessie James Decker. “I love the challenge of getting [brands] excited about someone new and then seeing it pay off,” she says. “I’ve found it useful to introduce artists to brands very early on and arrange deals that include sponsorships for album-release events, music-video product placements and listening parties.”

Ron Broitman, 49
Executive vp/head of synchronization, Warner/Chappell Music, Warner Music Group

In a role that has bridged both music publishing and recording synchs since 2013, Broitman and his colleagues issued 10,000 licenses in 2017. He’s particularly proud of the placement of Portugal. The Man’s propulsive “Feel It Still,” which led Apple’s iPad Pro campaign, topped the Billboard-Clios Music Top TV Commercials chart, powered by Shazam, and also has been used by vitaminwater and YouTube TV. “They’re synch darlings,” says Broitman of the band.

Joi Brown*
Senior vp marketing, brand partnerships, Atlantic Records
Camille Hackney*
Executive vp brand partnerships and commercial licensing, Atlantic Records
Head of global brand partnerships council, Warner Music Group

“The volume of deals has really increased over the past 12 months,” says Hackney, “which might be a function of [our] being at the No. 1 label with a lot of hot artists.” Among those artists is Janelle Monáe, whose two-year collaboration with Belvedere Vodka led to the March debut of a short film series on YouTube titled A Beautiful Future. Brown urges artists to think about their social media posts like a lifestyle magazine, displaying their “natural fit” with brands. That approach led to K. Michelle, a Tennessee native, landing a deal for her own Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails flavor, Southern Peach. Brown says it’s “a significant accomplishment” for an African-American woman.

Claudia Butzky*
Senior vp global brand partnerships, RCA

The Philadelphia Eagles took home the trophy at the 2018 Super Bowl, and RCA’s Butzky scored her own victories on game day. “Having booked two artists on the Super Bowl — P!nk doing the [national] anthem and Justin [Timberlake for] halftime — was definitely a lifelong dream for me,” she says of the NFL placements. After the “wardrobe malfunction” that marred Timberlake’s 2004 Super Bowl appearance with Janet Jackson, the NFL’s decision to re-embrace the performer “was a crazy win for us,” says Butzky, who adds, “I think we started the NFL conversation [to bring Timberlake back] five years ago.”

Mauro Deceglie, 46
Senior vp brand partnerships, Island Records
Eric Wong, 42
Executive vp/GM, Island Records

Wong oversaw branding wins for Island act Bon Jovi (Lyft, Google), newcomers Jack & Jack (Samsung) and Fall Out Boy, which starred in, and supplied music for, Gameloft’s Asphalt 8 racing game. DeCeglie parlayed a one-off Demi Lovato video product placement deal with Jaguar Land Rover into a larger partnership with the label that included sponsored Lovato house parties and product placements in music videos for singles from Bon Jovi and Nick Jonas.

Lori Feldman*
Executive vp strategic marketing, Warner Bros. Records
Liz Lewis*
Vp creative synch, advertising and -gaming, Warner Bros. Records

Feldman, who will serve as jury president for the music competition at the Cannes Entertainment Lions (June 18-22), partnered Jason Derulo with Coca-Cola to write and record the brand’s anthem, “Colors,” for the FIFA World Cup this summer. Over 20 localized versions of the song will appear in ads in 209 countries. “It’s a massive endeavor,” says Feldman, “and we’re really just getting started with it.” Lewis made the unusual move of securing use of Dua Lipa’s “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” in a Revlon campaign before the ad was filmed so models could lip-synch to the track, which reached No. 5 on the Billboard-Clios Music Top TV Commercials chart, powered by Shazam.

Jennifer Frommer*
Senior vp creative agency, Columbia Records

Artists’ relationships are key “when devising branding partnerships,” says Frommer, explaining why she’s excited about Jack White’s decision in May to allow use of his new track “Over and Over and Over” in a FIFA World Cup spot for Fox Sports. “Jack seldom, if ever, lends his incredible music to branding opportunities, but the creative was so compelling and subject nature aligned so well that we were able to make it happen.”

Nicole Karpas, 25
Director of brand partnerships and strategic marketing, Def Jam

Arriving at Def Jam in May 2017 from a brand partnership coordinator role at Republic Records, Karpas has been spearheading a yearlong partnership with Patrón Tequila. A recent Def Jam-owned NBA All-Star Weekend event offered high-profile visibility for the brand, along with Essential Water, Xbox and Heineken. 2 Chainz also performed and announced his upcoming album, Rap or Go, to the league there. Says Karpas: “It’s really important to preserve authenticity while engaging in brand partnerships. I’m extremely protective of the positioning of my artists.”

Kerri Mackar, 33
Senior vp brand partnerships, Republic Records

Since joining Republic last September, Mackar has applied her marketing experience from music media (BillboardRolling Stone) to the label’s A-list artists. One month before Post Malone’s beerbongs & bentleys set a U.S. one-week streaming record for an album (431.3 million on-demand audio streams of its songs in the week ending April 27, according to Nielsen Music), Mackar helped the beer-swilling rapper’s April 4 Nashville club gig reach over 3 million livestream viewers through Bud Light’s Dive Bar Tour series, the beer brand’s “biggest music program,” she says. Announcing the album’s release date during the livestream “definitely paid off,” she says. Post Malone is only the fourth artist chosen for the Dive Bar Tour series, after G-Eazy, John Mayer and Lady Gaga.

Mackar (left) with Post Malone.
Kristin Gladney
Mackar (left) with Post Malone.

Cebele Marquez, 47
Senior director of business development, Sony Music Entertainment, U.S. Latin

Marquez works with her Sony counterparts in other territories to secure brand partnerships for the label’s Latin roster, including highly visible deals for Nicky Jam, who became the first Latin artist to partner with Sony Electronics in a multiyear global campaign. Nicky Jam was also the face of a Pandora Music Premium service launch campaign and the Spanish airline Air Europa — which painted an “X” on one of its jets to promote Nicky Jam’s new single with J Balvin. (The song has reached No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart.) “The way we deliver the message — in an effective, clutter-free manner — is as important as the collaboration itself,” says Marquez.

Naomi McMahon, 35
Senior vp/head of strategic marketing and partnerships, Universal Music Group and Brands
Olivier Robert-Murphy, 57
Global head of new business, Universal Music Group
Mike Tunnicliffe, 57
Executive vp/head, Universal Music Group and Brands

Robert-Murphy reports that UMG’s branding team engineered over 800 artist-brand partnerships worldwide in 2017, including pairing Dubai Tourism with Imagine Dragons for their “Thunder” video (which has logged more than 750 million global YouTube views). “The world of brands and agencies is transforming,” says the London-based executive. “Only authentic and meaningful relationships between artists and brands truly engage consumers.” The day before Jonas Blue released the video for his single “Mama” in May 2017, he performed for the first time in Hong Kong as part of a UMG-American Airlines partnership, driving worldwide YouTube views of the song to 440 million-plus. “He has a huge fan base in Asia,” says McMahon. “It allowed American to showcase their global market in a way that brought value to the artist.” Since Tunnicliffe joined UMG in 2014, the company has tripled corporate partnerships. “Nobody else has this team,” he says.

Daniel Sena*
Head of strategic marketing, Interscope Records

Starbucks, Hallmark, Verizon, Marriott, Jeep — all are among the top brands that have partnered with Interscope in the past 12 months, thanks to Sena’s efforts. Imagine Dragons’ songs, including “Whatever It Takes,” have been tapped for Jeep spots. And Verizon’s campaign “had six of our artists from all sorts of different genres, including Rae Sremmurd, X Ambassadors, Daya, Kali Uchis, Rich the Kid and Skylar Grey. I’m really proud of that one,” he says.

Contributors: Rich Appel, Steve Baltin, Dave Brooks, Dean Budnick, William Chipps, Leila Cobo, Adrienne Gaffney, Gary Graff, Andrew Hampp, Hannah Karp, Steve Knopper, Carl Lamarre, Kerri Mason, Matt Medved, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Paula Parisi, Chris Payne, Alex Pham, Dan Rys, Richard Smirke, Eric Spitznagel, Colin Stutz, Andrew Unterberger, Deborah Wilker, Nick Williams

Methodology: Branding Power Players were chosen by editors weighing a variety of factors, including but not limited to such metrics as chart performance, touring grosses and ticket sales, social media impressions, and radio and TV audiences reached; company growth; career trajectory; reputation among peers; and overall impact in the music marketing industry during the past 12 months.

This article originally appeared in the June 15 issue of Billboard.