The 12 Most Powerful People In the Music Industry Right Now

What have you done for the industry lately?  These are the people making the biggest impact on the future of music, right now.

(Update, Tues. morning: Someone suggested (below) that I should’ve put Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, as #1.  It’s a good point… -pr.)


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1. Neil Young.

Founder, Pono.

He made $6.23 million on Kickstarter on a clumsy HD audio concept.  He made people think about mediocre audio fidelity for the first time in a long time.



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2. Tim Cook

CEO, Apple.

Because Apple can and will suck the life out of streaming music, when it chooses to do it.  Just hope you’re acquired or successfully differentiated when iStream starts to take off.

Others to watch in this category: Jeff Bezos, maybe Google.



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3 & 4. Ian Rogers & Jimmy Iovine.

Beats Music.

They have more than a $100 million to play with, and the deepest rolodex of industry, tech, and artist contacts (not to mention AT&T and Muve).  They can spoil Spotify, they can re-arrange the streaming deck.

Others to watch in this category: Axel Dauchez of Deezer, ‘YouTube Music’


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5. Len Blavatnik.

Access Industries.

He’s a billionaire willing to blow money on music stuff.  Which means Blavatnik’s little music projects (Deezer, Warner Music Group, Beats) can drown out your little music projects.

Others to watch in this category: Any billionaire who wants to play, baby!



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6. Tim Westergren.

Co-founder, Pandora.

No, he’s not a nice guy, but he is finishing first.  He’s got a streaming service that is beating Apple, he’s making millions in personal profit a month, and using lots of your music for free.  That’s not nice, but it is powerful.


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7. Jeff Price.

CEO, Audiam.

He never sold Tunecore.  He never got that moment of validation.  But he does know how to raise significant capital, and more importantly, make a lot of noise.  Watch Audiam: they’re figuring stuff out on YouTube, signing marquee artists, and attracting capital.

Others to watch in this category: Brandon Martinez (INDMusic), Rio Caraeff (VEVO).



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8. Lucian Grainge

CEO, Universal Music Group.

Universal Music controls the most important catalog in the world, and they’re drawing as much milk as possible from it.  If you’re doing well, then UMG will raise the price to license its catalog.  If you don’t pay, they can shut you down tomorrow.

Others to watch in this category: Doug Morris (Sony), Stephen Cooper (Warner Music Group), Marty Bandier (Sony/ATV) and anyone else with power over major catalogs. 


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9. Bob Lefsetz.

He has a lot more power than money, but people with both power and money listen to him.  They read his emails, and sometimes, act on them.

Others in this category: Bruce Houghton (Hypebot)


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10. Daniel Ek.

CEO, Spotify.

He hasn’t figured out how to get tens of millions of people to pay for streaming music, and the investors are itching to cash out.  But that doesn’t mean he won’t figure it out.  There’s still enough rope from Goldman Sachs and the gang.

Also worth noting: Sean Parker. 


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11. Michael Rapino.

CEO, Live Nation

He’s the captain of a profitless ship, and a plunderer of his own booty (see above).  But he also spends huge amounts of money to attract the biggest (and most demanding) touring artists, and flatters them, too (just ask Drake).  That is power.

Also in this category: Irving Azoff, Dan Beckerman (AEG), James Dolan (MSG)


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12. The Investors: Fred Wilson, Larry Marcus, You…

Wilson flopped on Turntable, but he’s not afraid to bet on music.  And big ideas happen when big money is involved.  Especially if it’s coming from you (see Pono) or smaller, lower-pressure investors (see Audiam).


59 Responses

  1. Trouble InRiverCity

    Jeff Price, really? He did not invent digital distribution and almost ran TuneCore into the ground.

    • Guile

      He didn’t create digital distro, but he helped give anyone with 10-50$ per single/album per year access to it, and grabbed some decent marketshare in his and Peter’s tenure.

      He didn’t run anything into the ground, but like most people who built a entity with VC gambled, and lost.

      He’s outspoken and didn’t make a lot of friends, but neither did any of the people on this list.

  2. Gorilla Lies

    Cut the lies, DMN.

    Bob Lefsetz has no power. He is paid by Google to lead a couple of bloggers. That’s it. That’s his career.

    He has zero experience in the music industry. He was fired because we was not able to perform simple tasks.

    Don’t believe me, go search for his CV.

  3. Paul Resnikoff

    I’m surprised that Paul Resnikoff is not on this list.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      That’s kind of you to think of me like that.

      • Paul Lanning

        What a load of shit. Boy did I ever get let off at the right stop. Know who counts? Musicians and fans. Not this slimy crew of rich self-serving exploiters or anybody else resembling them. PS–Lefsetz may shoot from left field a good deal of the time, but he knows what’s up.

        • Farley

          OK, maybe they are slimy etc., but they ARE good looking, each better looking than the last one you saw.

  4. Rikki

    Sorry guys I think MySpace was the best place to find really obscure music…and full albums…make playlists and to advertise my DJ business….i did get quite a few gigs made lots of friends….

  5. jw

    The #1 most important person in the music industry, & has been for the last 15 years, is the consumer.

    The problem with the music industry, & the reason the industry has been collapsing, is because these executives think that the industry is about themselves, & they’re trying to shoehorn consumers into their ideas.

    Daniel Ek has been in touch with the consumer for a while now, it’ll be great if he can cut through the noise in the U.S. before he runs out of money. Spotify isn’t perfect, but the latest UI updates are awesome. Iovine is all about himself, he’s about convincing people they need his product, but I feel like it’s more a reflection of his ideas than it is a reflection of pre-existing consumer behavior. Sticking Beats at 3/4 is a joke. I’ve had an account since day one but I’ve hardly touched it. Plus, if you want to listen to the Beatles, you need local playback, which means Spotify.

    The further an individual is removed from the consumer, the further down this list they should be. That puts Ek, Westergren, & Cook at the top of the list, though Cook is no Jobs, as if that needs to be said. Neil Young is up there, too, & I don’t know what’s clumsy about Pono.

  6. Anonymous

    You gotta be joking…

    Eric Schmidt’s on top. Pirate Bay’s next. No one else matters.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      You’re right. Google is the most powerful. I should have put Eric Schmidt #1.

  7. Faza (TCM)

    Honest question: is there any verifiable evidence of Bob Lefsetz’s supposed influence that I don’t know about?

    See, I keep seeing him crop up in lists like these and few places else, really. Where are the best-selling books? Where are the speaking circuit tours? Hell, I can just about recall reading about him appearing at one music conference – maybe two – where one would think that the 9th most influential man in the music industry would be appearing at pretty much all the major ones. It’s not like he’s got a business to run, or something like that.

    The more I keep seeing his name, the more I believe that his supposed influence is very much an informed ability – something that exists purely in the media. Even here, his position is based on little more than hearsay: someone reads the Lefsetz Letter, someone acts upon what Bob writes. Who are these people? How do we know that they do, in fact, do all those things?

    Everyone else on the list is making a noticeable mark on the industry as it evolves. We see their influence all around us. Bob’s just a pundit. Nothing wrong with that – someone has to think the abstract thoughts. However, as pundits go, Bob’s not Seth Godin, Chris Anderson or even Kevin Kelly. He strikes me more as the kooky dude who’s been speaking on the street corner for decades, that everyone knows and that may on occasion make for some light conversation amongst friends, but that nobody actually takes seriously.

    • GGG

      Well, I think you’re mostly right. Though, his email reaches an absurd amount of people, so THAT has value and “influence.” And through doing that for years, he’s built up the ability to meet with all sorts of people and get everyone’s spin on things. So I feel like people treat him as the guy that can sort of talk to anyone to gain insight/info.

      But yea, not sure how many people industry people actually act on his advice.

    • agraham

      My biggest issue with Lefsetz is that he constantly contradicts himself while also speaking about market issues and technology that he has a weak grasp of…and then shoots out a bunch of obvious observations that have no depth or nuance to them. An example, in 2009 he wrote:

      “But if the rights holders can see that you entice first with free, we’re gonna have a revolution.  Because free on the desktop leads to paid mobile.”

      Has this happened yet? Has the freemium model proven itself out? I’ve been watching that concept for years and have yet to see any proof to it. I’ve seen a lot of tech companies in that model who have closed shop. Even some of the most powerful and best solutions in the world who try that model (Dropbox) have great difficulty with the up-sell.

      I think Bob’s general appeal to people is that for those that skew younger…they like seeing an oldster who agrees with them…but the issue every emerging artists or existing artist should take to heart is that Lefsetz doesn’t get paid to solve any issues within the music or tech industries because he has no track record…he makes his money by telling people what they want to hear which is fuck the system…all hail the new system…oh wait…fuck that system too…

      As far as his being a powerful person in the industry…he may have a lot of followers and people who share his tidbits, but I don’t see him actually doing anything in the music industry or any actual clout he possesses to make something happen.

  8. Foster Hagey

    What no Robert Pittman? I’m feeling like the CEO of Clear Channel has more power than Jeff Price.

    Also what about the SoundCloud guys?

  9. Helios

    I am looking for Bob Lefsetz’s bio. Can anyone point to it online? Why is it kept so secret? Surely his experience is not in Area 51?

  10. blahblahblah

    Okay, I’ll take the bait. Neil Young and His Little Pono at #1?? If that’s true, then the current state of the music business is worse off than any of us thought.

  11. David

    Neil Young did not ‘make $6.23 million on Kickstarter’. A company founded by Neil Young has obtained pledges of $6.23 million. The great majority of those pledges are payments for a Pono player, usually at a substantial discount from the expected retail price of $400 to the general public. I would guess that the Kickstarter campaign was budgeted to break even at the target level of pledges, so in exceeding the target it has probably made a profit, but how big a profit, and how much of it goes to Neil Young, is quite unknown.

  12. See BS

    This list says more (in a bad way) about its author than it does the music business. All white men, US-focused.

    Maria Pallante is now running the US Copyright Office; she should make the list for her work on rewriting copyright laws. There are plenty of women who could join her on the list.

    Eric Baptiste is a global leader in music rights and their administration, with both SOCAN and CISAC. How does he fail to make the list? David Israelite? Irving Azoff?

    And how do you do this list without Scott Borchetta from Big Machine? Others talk about collecting the money he is already banking in his radio deals and others.

    Jeff Price? Seriously? His inclusion on the list destroys the list’s credibility. It is laughable.

    What a sad reflection this is on its author, whose vision is apparently neither global nor inclusive. A real shame. So poorly done that it raises questions about the future of Digital Music News; we can and should shun this foolishness.

    • CrackedAzz

      Does Jeff Price still think Paul Resnikoff has Asperger’s? I guess when you really need someone the truth doesn’t matter.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      I feel like I need to make this into a top 100 list!

  13. zog


    We haven’t stopped laughing PLEASE ! Who the ???? wrote this , Leftsetz you have to be kidding

    What’s missing on this list is the acts, artist that get people listening to music again these are deal makers except for LEFTSETZ who wrote off Taylor Swift and others and lives in the 70 s poor choice .

    Where’s Michele Anthony or a half dozen other women who are the brains behind these guys ?

    Thanks again for a great laugh!!!

  14. SayWhat?

    This list is obviously written by someone who has never worked in the day to day music industry. Bob Lefetz is a total joke sweet blog bro….

    1) Corn Capshaw (manages over 200 artists via red light management, partner in Bonaroo/outside lands, etc via Star Presents, Green Light connects brands to artists and just simply makes it rain by being the largest five guys franchisee in the south east)
    2) Susan CEO of YouTube
    3) The Canadians
    – Jay Mariciano: COO AEG Entertainment
    – Michael Rapino CEO LiveNation
    – Michael Cohl: the stones are still touring and Rapino used to work for him
    4) The Bowery Present Crew: Michael Swier / JOMO / Glancy (want your band to play the east coast better hope your agent is tight with these guys)
    5) The C3 Crew: Charles Attal, Charlie Jones and Charlie Walker (want to play ACL / Lollpalooza / or the South East better hope your agent is tight with Houston Powell)
    6) Mac Presents (Want an endorsement deal get to know Marcy Allen)
    7) Ari Emanuel (Head of WME and on the board of LiveNation)
    8) Rob Light (Head CAA Music: they will get your on dancing with the stars / The Voice / American Idol etc)
    9) Bob Sillerman (SFX Entertainment: If your an EDM promoter this is the chance of lifetime to cash out and get paid in SFX stock just hope the price doesn’t drop anymore you also get the chance to work with your long rival that you have always hated = LiveNation EDM 2.0)
    10) Bob Pittman (CEO Clear Channel: people are still listening to radio but for how much longer………)
    11) I will give you Len Blavatnik (has invested in Spotify and Deezer hes hedging his bets)

    Honorable Mentions: Irving Azoff (Busy taking JD and the Straight Shot to new heights while getting paid a ton to do it) / The Labels they have gotten really good at suing people / The Streaming Services

    • On The Cob

      Hahahaha….If I didn’t know him personally, this might not be so funny. It’s Coran Capshaw, NOT Corn.

      • Peter

        There are a lot of women out there and not a word about musicians , except Young.

        • Agreed

          This list is using the word power incorrectly. These people have and are influencing the way music is being consumed, but as was already pointed out, it’s really a list of white men who managed or invented new delivery and distribution systems for audio or talk about or comment on the future of the industry and people consume what they say (though they may not listen).

          Put Beyoncé, Lorde or Adele in a room with any of them for five minutes and have them start a sentence with ‘I want…’ And you’ll notice that whatever power they have kind of melts.

          There are two powerful parties in the music industry right now – if we define power as the ability to influence the world to get exactly what you want when you want it. 1. Artists (including their teams) – power rises with ability to break through the noise and maintain and serve fans. 2. Consumers – you can have music any way you want any time at any price. That sounds like power to me.

          We’re all having the wrong conversation fighting over delivery mechanisms and pennies and not talking about accurate data reporting and smarter career management of both our retailers (including streaming) and artists.

          Until the conversation changes, these lists will be full of white men and also mean rather little to what’s happening on the ground.

  15. Danwriter

    This list is delusional. Lefsetz? The Fake Bob Lefsetz Twitter account is far more insightful.
    And no reference to Robert Sillerman? The guy who founded Live Nation and collateralized EDM?
    No Scott Borchetta but yes to Neil Young?
    Seriously. Delusional.

  16. R.P.

    This is why you suck because you have no idea what you are talking about. You equate power to money and position rather than influence. I wouldn’t call any of these men the most powerful in the music industry, not by light years.

    Give us news, not subjective opinions.

  17. Willis

    I think the list is a good list, provided that the title of the article is changed to “The 12 Most Suckiest People in the ‘Music’ Industry”

  18. Insider No. 43

    If you guys actually knew who in the music business reads Lefsetz and the influence he has on them, you wouldn’t be making such a gripe about him being on this list.

  19. yeah right

    anyone taking their cues from Bob Lefsetz needs their head examining.

  20. Vinnie Bagadonuts

    You were better off doing a “12 Sexiest Music Industry Executives” list.

  21. JR

    The funny thing is, all of these guys are exploiting music. Not one of them has found a way to actually create a thriving ecosystem for music. Using their names and leveraging their fame for money and or ego.

  22. Bruce Houghton

    Paul – Thanks for the honorable mention.

    Bruce Houghton / Hypebot

  23. toobad

    Lefsetz list is better..

    1. Michael Rapino

    He writes the checks. And in the twenty first century, it’s all about money.

    It’s not how many albums you sell, but how many tickets. The live business rules. Live Nation is the dominant player. Sure, anybody can write a check once, but if you want to tour the world, more than your local market, chances are you’re going to come in contact with Live Nation. Build your relationships.

    Furthermore, Rapino controls Artist Nation, i.e. the acts. Did this make him overpay for the Miley Cyrus tour, since she’s a client? I’ll let you decide.

    Rapino worked his way up from the bottom, he’s a survivor. He put the knife in Barry Diller and Michael Cohl. If you don’t think Rapino is a formidable competitor, you’re too busy reading the trades instead of knowing the people who control this business.

    And it is a people business.

    And the key is to interact with and know as many people as possible.

    2. Jay Marciano


    That’s the essence of the live business. People are so focused on the flash of recordings that they don’t know who’s really in control.

    Marciano worked his way up from local promoter to Universal Concerts to House of Blues to MSG to AEG Europe to his present role as majordomo of AEG.

    And everybody loves him.

    Live Nation is run on fear. AEG is a family.

    Live Nation is Walmart. AEG is Costco.

    AEG is a multifarious company. From its Concerts West division with Meglen and Gongaware, Las Vegas and the Stones, to Paul Tollett and Coachella. And it’s constantly expanding, it’s got a stake in China.

    It’s a two horse race. Live Nation and AEG. They all know each other. A good number have worked for both.

    They both write the checks. They’re the key to your survival.

    3. Lucian Grainge

    Wasn’t Universal supposed to fold after Doug Morris left?

    Grainge is a swashbuckler. He slimmed Universal and continued to have hits, and it is a hit business. Major labels have had a remarkable resurgence. Unlike Mr. Morris, Grainge has many years ahead of him. It’s his record business, the rest of us just live in it.

    4. Daniel Ek

    Rail against Spotify, but that demonstrates how behind the times you are. Spotify doesn’t care about you, it cares about its competitors…YouTube, Rdio, Deezer, Beats… Only one will survive, and Spotify is so well-positioned the game is almost over, the only company that can compete is Google, but Sergey and Larry’s company can’t shoot straight, they get it wrong time and again. Unlike Apple, which insists on getting it right, Google releases me-too product marketed poorly. But with YouTube they have a head start.

    As for Beats… Its best option is to gain headway in the U.S. and force a merger with Spotify, this is not the headphone business, with the rest of the industry sleeping. This is not a marketing game so much as an investment game. Look at how many countries Spotify is in, the scale. Spotify is a poor marketer, who even knows it’s got chips in devices, but while you were lamenting payouts, Spotify invested. All that hogwash about it being unprofitable… Look at the cell phone and cable industries. You invest and invest and invest and then you dominate and rake in cash seemingly forever.

    As for streaming revenues, read this recent story from Ethan Smith in the “Wall Street Journal”:

    “Dollar-and-Cents Secrets of Music Streaming-Staying Power Is More Important Than Bursting on the Scene”:

    That’s right, while you were busy forwarding that inane Iron Maiden propaganda, about touring where the pirates are (pirates are everywhere, but they mean less every day), the business journal of record, behind a paywall, gave facts and figures, instead of hyped conjecture.

    Yup, while you believed the web was democratic, and anybody could play and survive, it turned into the rest of the society, comprised of winners and losers. The rich go to good schools and rule the world and pay for information, the poor watch the flat screen and keep praying, believing if they just do their affirmations, they will be rich too. The joke’s on them!

    5. Independent Concert Promoters

    Whether it be Don Fox’s Beaver Productions, the C3 guys, SFX or JAM, they’ve all got checkbooks, they’re all open to opportunities, they too have money, they’re not as powerful as Live Nation and AEG, but they dwarf the power of any independent label. They spend cash every day. And, except for SFX, it’s their money. So they market and do their best to get it back.

  24. TiZako

    Love him or loathe him but Simon Cowell probably generated more money from music in the last 12 months than all of these put together (perhaps even if you include the venture capital). Perhaps he didn’t make the list because he is British. Yes I do include the commercial dross he continues to pump out as music no matter how much it grates.

  25. Fred Smith

    Bob Lefsetz on this list is as big of a joke as he is himself. He is the definition of blow hard. I’m not sure why everyone thinks his opinion matters so much – he is factually wrong so much of the time. Plus, he is just an asshole. He is a grumpy old man who thinks Google and Amazon and Facebook are the only things in life that matter and if you aren’t in the “mass market” you don’t matter. What he is clueless about is that hundreds and hundreds of smaller brands make tons of money and have really satisfied customers.
    He lives in the cobwebs of his own bizarre mind. He is 90% full of shit, and 10% entertaining…
    He is mostly an historian, and he researches things most of us have forgotten, so that makes his nostalgia interesting. But, you can not find a single person who actually likes this guy. He is just a shit disturber.

    • Lane Dunlop

      I like him. We need more shit disturbers in the music business.

  26. Wow

    Look at all the haters hating …. Sorry your crappy band didn’t get signed. Maybe you should take Lefsetz’s advice and get back to the shed.

    • joanned

      isnt it amazing how much influence Lefsetz has had on this post? about 90% of the comments worth.

  27. Anonymous

    According to Time magazine, Beyoncé is the most influential person in the world after her streaming boycott.

  28. loss leader

    Interesting comments on Bob, It’s interesting how he doesn’t write up anything negative on the people who take him out to lunch…Since Lucian paid for his lunch there has not been one negative blog post about Uni….

  29. Selektion Music

    could anyone reading this please checkout @selektionmusic on facebook/instagram/twitter and soundcloud please! Would be much apprecited!