In the mid-2000s I worked on the periphery of the music industry, but it was there that I learned something that would stick with me: “The music business is all about relationships,” an executive I worked with said with great seriousness. At the time I thought it was a bit of MBA-speak – one of those aphorisms ready to be enshrined by the motivational posters known as Successories. But the more I observed the business’s doings – both as a trade-publication reader and a consumer of new music – that piece of advice both resonated and helped me figure out why certain patterns kept emerging.
It echoed in my mind, too, as I pored over Billboard’s 2015 Power 100, a list of the most powerful people in the music business as deemed by the trade publication. There’s a new name at No 1 this year: Lucian Grainge, the chairman and CEO of music’s behemoth Universal Music Group. The reasons that he’s atop the list are pretty unimpeachable: his labels were responsible for four of 2014’s biggest breakthrough artists (5 Seconds Of Summer, Iggy Azalea, Ariana Grande and Sam Smith); Universal’s distribution arms brought to market seven of the year’s top 10 albums, including Taylor Swift’s blockbuster 1989; and Universal gobbled up 38.7% of market share during 2014.