Editorial Analysis: The Phantom Power 100

Billboard magazine has made another attempt at identifying the 100 most powerful people in the music business.  In the February 14, 2015 edition, sandwiched between advertisements for Jimmy Choo and Salvatore Ferragamo was a list of top names from the live entertainment world like Michael Rapino, Irving Azoff, Coran Capshaw, Jay Marciano, Rob Light, and Marc Geiger that unquestionably deserved to be ranked.  But they were mixed in with some head-scratching choices and glaring omissions.

Photo: RGBstock.com/mokra (Marcelo Mokrejs)

And putting them in order of importance is really a useless dick-measuring exercise that proves nothing. The list, if it deserves to exist other than as click-bait, should just be in alphabetical order.

True to its 20th Century roots, the Billboard version of power is overpopulated with record company execs while the 21st Century live business, where today’s music industry money is really generated, is vastly under-represented.  Far too many record company execs, who are only a couple of bad quarters away from unemployment, made the list.

All of this begs the question of what is real power in the music business?  It is probably best defined as the people with money to risk or those that can influence the people who generate it.

If it’s just money, how can you leave off the bizillionares like Phil Anschutz, John Malone, Stan Kroenke, Richard Branson, Sheldon Adelson, Ed Snider, Jim Dolan, Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones or Dan Gilbert that can do pretty much whatever they want because they can fund it themselves.

But let’s focus back on the people who are in the music business trenches every day.  Perhaps the most under-represented group on the Billboard list was booking agents, which only took up six positions in the “Power 100.”  Rob Light will be the first to tell you that his power emanates from the chair he sits in, but there are scores of other CAA agents like Mitch Rose, Emma Banks, Cara Lewis, John Huie and Rod Essig that wield their own major influence in the music business.

The same is true over at WME where Marc Geiger is just the tip of the spear and agents like Rob Beckham, David Levy, Michel Vega and Joel Zimmerman occupy hugely important positions.

Chip Hooper more than deserves the recognition at Paradigm but how can you overlook Marty Diamond, Larry Webman, Lee Anderson, Paul Morris or the agency’s godfathers, Dan Weiner and Fred Bohlander?

Certainly recognizing The Agency Group is important but it seems bizarre not to mention Neil Warnock in the same breath.

Although Dennis Arfa and Tom Windish made the list, no one from ICM, APA, UTA, Monterey International, Billions or any other agency was included.  If you really want power, look at Frank Riley at High Road Touring who magically manages to keep a hundred bands alive on the road while their record companies – if they have one – are piling on the recoupable debt.

Artist managers did occupy 12 slots on the list, but with the exceptions of Azoff and Capshaw and their huge client lists, the power is much more fragmented.  It seems hard to imagine not including Howard Kaufman, Terry McBride or Ken Levitan on the list.  It’s also odd to mention Bradford Cobb without including his partners Steve Jensen and Martin Kirkup.

Attorneys often play a hugely important deal-making role but only three made the list thus making chopped liver out of Don Passman, Howard King and John Frankenheimer to name a few noted barristers.

Concert promoters took up 12 positions on the list but seven of them are affiliated with Live Nation, and three are with AEG, although they somehow overlooked Debra Rathwell, Chuck Morris and the duo of John Meglen and Paul Gongaware.  The last two promoter positions went to Robert Sillerman and Peter Shapiro.

Nederlander, Another Planet, MSG, Bowery Presents and Jam Productions all sold more than 1 million tickets last year but weren’t deemed worthy.  Henry Cardenas, Michael Cohl, Don Fox and the Frank brothers are also among the missing.

Power in the music business is global yet almost no one from outside the U.S. was mentioned.  Can you really talk global power players when you don’t include Barrie Marshall, Paul Dainty, John Giddings, Melvin Benn, Denis Desmond, Roberto Medina, Barry Dickens, Michael Gudinski, Folkert Koopsman, Marek Lieberberg, Simon Moran, Rob Hallett, Stuart Gailbraith, Ignacio Saenz, Michael Chugg, Guillermo Parra or Mr. Udo?

The people in the music business with true power don’t need to refer to a list.  They know who they are and, more importantly, how to get big things done.