Billboard‘s 2020 Power List party once again celebrated the top executives in the music business on Thursday night, but this year’s event came with new honors and more honorees than ever before.
For the first time since the event’s inception, the 2020 edition was not ranked — a point that received applause when noted by Billboard editorial director Hannah Karp early in the event. And it also saw two new awards: the inaugural Jay Frank award, which honors a pioneering digital music executive and was named in honor of the late Universal Music Group (UMG) executive who passed away in 2019; and the breakthrough award.
The Jay Frank Award was introduced by Frank’s wife Linda, who presented the honor to UMG vp data and analytics Mitchell Shymansky. “Jay was a very modest guy and never thought of himself as an innovator, and would have been humbled by this,” she said on stage. “I know Jay would be thrilled that his colleague, and more importantly his friend, is the first recipient to receive this award.”
“Jay was a visionary in our field. He saw things differently, which is the true definition of an innovator,” Shymansky said in accepting the award. “But as grateful as I am to be up here tonight, one lesson I learned from Jay is that we don’t succeed alone. This was a team effort on multiple fronts.”
The first-ever breakthrough award then went to Ron Perry, the chairman/CEO of Columbia Records, whose massive success with Lil Nas X in 2019 saw the young artist ride to six Grammy nominations and the longest-running Hot 100 No. 1 single in history with “Old Town Road.” Perry, in his acceptance speech kept things short: “I know my name is on this, but it belongs to Columbia Records.”
The legend Clive Davis then stepped to the podium to introduce the award named after himself to Atlantic Records co-chairs Julie Greenwald and Craig Kallman. “Craig and I are a testament that arranged marriages really do have a happy ending,” Greenwald said to laughs from the crowd. “I do all the housekeeping and Craig gets to do all the cool, sexy stuff. Actually why it works is that we share a single vision: build and maintain a music company that we love.” Kallman thanked Ahmet Ertegun and Doug Morris for acquiring his first company Big Beat Records years ago, which first brought him to Atlantic, and Lyor Cohen for pairing him with Greenwald, calling it “a great piece of matchmaking for which I’m forever grateful.”
The final honors of the evening went to two pillars of UMG: chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge, honored as executive of the decade, and Universal Music Publishing Group chairman/CEO Jody Gerson, honored as executive of the year. “Where did the time go?” Grainge said upon stepping to the microphone. “A decade ago, downloads were our biggest source of digital income. People were claiming that an access model would probably destroy our business. Spotify had yet to launch in the U.S.; Apple, YouTube and Amazon’s subscription services, what were they? What, possibly, could be a TikTok? But for us, some things never change, and that’s our relentless focus on what we hope and what we believe in are great artists and great music and great songs.”
Grainge went on to thank his colleagues and pay tribute to Frank, who he called “a creative leader, innovative, bright and intelligent, and such a nice guy.” And he outlined the four ingredients to success in the music business: great artists, a strong team, a healthy culture and enthusiastic audiences. “You can’t build a music company without those at your core.”
He then introduced “the legendary, talented” Gerson, who in her speech announced that Universal Music Group, on behalf of herself and Grainge, would be donating $50,000 to She Is The Music, an organization aimed at bringing more women into the music industry and on whose board which Gerson serves. She also spoke about the organization’s new partnerships campaign, SITM 12, that “will create radical change for women in music over the next 12 months,” she said. Billboard, Universal, Sony, Warner, Spotify, ASCAP, BMI, Live Nation, YouTube/Google, Facebook/Instagram, Disney, CAA, WME, Paradigm, UTA, Gucci, Friends at Work and the Annenberg Foundation are all on board for the initiative.
“To me, what is most meaningful is that this is a recognition without qualifications: I am being honored not as a female executive, but as an executive,” Gerson said to a big round of applause. “It is my hope that this award will help pave the road for more exceptional and diverse leaders to come. We all deserve to be judged for our merits, regardless of who you are or how you identify.”