Yesterday, Billboard unveiled their “Billboard’s 2019 Women In Music Top Executives” and we will be spotlighting the black female executives who made the list, whose resumes speak volumes to their contribution to the business.
These women are reshaping what it means to be a leader in the music and they are a proof that there is a place for women, especially women of color, in positions of power.
- Sylvia Rhone
Chairman/CEO, Epic Records
Sylvia Rhone has quite a different path to become the president of Epic Records. The Harlem-born and raised queen has always had a love for music and would even attend shows at the Apollo Theatre to see performances by some of the greats like Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.
Before joining the music industry, Rhone was a graduate of the Wharton School of Business and entered a program for international management at Banker’s Trust, but when she was sent home for wearing pants to work (this literally happened), Rhone never went back, she told Billboard.
Rhone took a job as a secretary for Alan Lott, the Vice President of Buddah Records, before joining Atlantic Records as the Northeast regional promotions manager in 1981. By 1988, Rhone became the senior VP of the black music division, working with people like EnVogue and Brandy.
Rhone continued to work her way up and is now seated in the president’s chair at Epic Records overseeing artists like DJ Khaled, 21 Savage and Future.
She also has hope for the future of the industry and stated, “Aspiring female executives will be able to find their place in this music ecosystem — and change the world.”
- Ethiopia Habtemariam, The president of Motown Record
Ethiopia Habtemariam has been working in the music industry since she was a 14-year-old intern at LaFace Records in Atlanta. After turning that job into a full-time position right out of high school, the wunderkind shot straight to the top. Now, at 39, as the executive vice president of Capitol Music Group and the president of Motown Records, she is one of the most powerful women in music. Habtemariam is respected for her ear (with an impressive roster of signed artists like Justin Bieber, Ciara, and J. Cole, Tiwa Savage, Migos and others as well as the soundtrack to the film Queen & Slim.
Her Advice for Next-Gen Women: “Roll up the sleeves. Do the work. Do your research. Study the business. It’s not just about standing up next to an artist or showing up at an event. Show your value by having an opinion and doing what’s necessary to make an impact.”
- Melissa Thomas
Senior vp international marketing, Columbia Records, Epic Records
Melisa Thomas is the Senior Vice President, Columbia Records and Epic Records at Sony Music Entertainment. With Over a decade experience in marketing & promotions experience in the music industry both in the UK & the US with an in-depth knowledge of global markets. Currently develop and execute international campaign strategies for +/- 50 countries around the world including US, Canada, European territories & South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Japan & Latin America.
Areas of expertise include TV platform, pop & urban artists as well as brand partnerships. Roster has included but not limited to Beyoncé, A$AP Rocky, D’Angelo, J. Cole, Miguel, DeJ Loaf, Pitbull, Joey Bada$$, Tinashe, Future, Travi$ Scott, Sade, Mark Ronson, Coca-Cola & W Hotels.
- Traci Adams
Executive vp promotion, Epic Records
Traci Adams is an undeniably a powerhouse in promotion. She began her music industry career as an intern for LaFace Records in Atlanta while attending Savannah State University. Upon graduating, she earned her first job at WFUN St. Louis as programming assistant, then music director in 2001. In 2003, she relocated to Chicago, D.C. and then New York with Island Def Jam Records initially as a regional before being upped to national director of promotion in 2008. During her stint there, she helped earn top-charting records for Rihanna, Ne-Yo, Kanye West, Rick Ross, The-Dream, Big Sean, Ludacrisand Young Jeezy, among others.
Senior vp marketing, 300 Entertainment
Rayna Bass is the Senior Vp, Marketing at 300 entertainment. She was promoted in January to lead the all-women marketing department at 300, with a focus on breaking down traditional genres that pigeonhole artists. She has also helped deliver a run of No. 1s this year across a variety of charts for artists like Young Thug (Billboard 200), Highly Suspect (Mainstream Rock), Cheat Codes(Dance/Mix Show Airplay) and Megan Thee Stallion (Rhythmic).
- Phylicia Fant
Co-head of urban music, Columbia Records
Phylicia Fant has established herself as a preeminent executive in the entertainment industry. She was previously SVP of Media & Strategic Development for Warner Bros. Records where she envisioned, enacted, and executed high-profile and innovative media campaigns for a myriad of award-winning, multiplatinum, and influential artists. Past campaigns included Jason Derulo, Prince, Andra Day, Drake’s OVO Sound, Bebe Rexha, Lil Pump, Marshmello, Saweetie, Gallant, YFN Lucci, Wu-Tang, Maybach Music Group, Nile Rodgers, Kimbra, Nico & Vinz, Theophilus London, Common, Cher, Gary Clark Jr., Lianne La Havas, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and more. Transcending the scope of traditional media, she illuminated the intersection between her projects across film, television, fashion, nightlife, hospitality, charity, politics, and sports.
Phylicia also worked with diverse marquee acts such as Prince, Amy Whinehouse, Lindsay Lohan, JoJo, 3 Doors Down, Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Qtip, Akon, Kelly Rowland, Mya, Swizz Beatz, Kid Cudi, and Michael Bolton, to name a few.
- Natina Nimene
Senior vp urban promotion, Def Jam Recordings
Nimene has worked at the record company for seven years and held her recent position since 2016 after spending two years as national director. She used to work at Virgin Records as mid-Atlantic promotion manager, where she worked with her current boss, Rodney Shealey. She is considered instrumental in brokering a profile between Kanye West and Charlamagne Tha God, plus worked with artists like Jhene Aiko, Toni Braxton and Logic.
GM/senior vp urban A&R, Atlantic Records
Lanre Gaba, the General Manager/Senior Vice President of Urban A&R for Atlantic Records, will receive the Label Executive of the Year Award. Gaba has been instrumental in the development of legendary artists during her 20-year career in music, including Lizzo and Cardi B, inspiring generations of women in the process. Lanre Gaba, a 20-year industry veteran, was honored by the RIAA with the label executive of the year award in September for playing a crucial role in the superstardom of artists like Lizzo and Cardi B.
- Jeanine McLean Williams
President, MBK Entertainment
As head of the MBK Entertainment team that’s working with H.E.R., Williams helped the R&B singer-songwriter launch her inaugural Lights On Festival in September. The event at the 14,000-capacity Concord Pavilion outside San Francisco sold out in an hour and netted a seven-figure profit.
President/CEO, Femme it Forward, Live Nation
A strategist, power-negotiator and dealmaker, Heather Lowery is the Vice President of Talent & Touring at Live Nation Urban, where she develops events, festivals, platforms, and strategic partnerships across the Hip-Hop, R&B, and Gospel genres. At LNU, Heather curates talent and helps oversee successful platforms including the RapCaviar Live series in partnership with Spotify, Broccoli City Music Festival, (largest urban festival in Washington D.C.), Kirk Franklin’s Exodus Music & Arts Festival, Summer Block Party, Holiday Jam, and A Night of Symphonic Hip-Hop. She is the founder of a female-led music and entertainment platform Femme It Forward which has produced 20 all-female concerts and panel sessions. Launched under the Live Nation Urban banner
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There is great purpose behind your passion. Pursue it with everything you have. When hurdles come, when times get rough, when you’ve reached your breaking point and feel like giving up, I want you to remember that you have to go through the fire to get to the gold. Without your tests, there’s no testimony. —————-//// So honored to be one of @billboard’s #BBWomenInMusic of 2019! Thanks @billboard and congrats to all the fierce Femmes on the list. #FemmeItForward #HeatherG0LD
- Amani Duncan
Senior vp music, MTV
Since taking on her current role in 2017, Duncan has seen year-over-year spikes for songs performed during the MTV Video Music Awards. (Overall ratings for the show itself in 2019 were flat despite a 6% rise in ratings for the 25-54 demographic.) The 2019 show resulted in a 74% increase in song sales and a 12% increase in streams the week of Aug. 23
- Connie Orlando
Executive vp specials, music programming and music strategy, BET Networks
Three years after Orlando was named BET’s executive vp/head of programming, she was promoted to her current title in October. In that time, she has led BET to a near double-digit upswing in growth, with this year’s BET Hip Hop Awards raking in 1.3 million viewers, up over 9% year over year, according to the company. “When I began, there was a dearth of women, and few of those held key positions,” she says