Meet the Real Music Streaming Illuminati
According to some of the deeper reaches of the internet, the Illuminati is a secret society of devil-worshiping billionaires bent on establishing a new world order who, for reasons I don't quite understand, have decided that Rick Ross should join their fold.
This is not that Illuminati. I mean to use the word more like how non-insane people mean it, Illuminati as code for people behind the scenes with the real power who you wouldn't recognize if they were standing next to you in an elevator. For as much time as we spent talking about Jay Z and TIDAL, the truth is he's much more the public face of the company than someone involved in the day to day operations. For as much as someone like Ebro at Hot 97 has become the focus of the "mainstream vs. underground on the radio" debate, Ebro has very little actual control over what music gets played. For as much as we talk about the power of a Drake co-sign, a highlight on Spotify's front page could drive more plays of an album than even a Drizzy tweet - do you know who makes those decisions for Spotify? Exactly.
So much like we did in tracking down the billionaires and CEOs of media conglomerates who really do control the music industry, when I saw Billboard's new Digital Power Players article, it inspired me to also highlight some of the essentially unknown people who really do have the power to put on an artist - just ask Iggy Azalea.
Chief strategy officer/chief content officer, Spotify
There's currently no more powerful player in the streaming space than Spotify. Spotify streams are a huge part of the new influx of platinum albums, a big reason behind Drake's chart dominance with Views, and Blom is the company's driving force. From finally bringing in reluctant artists like Radiohead and Beatles into the streaming age to pushing the company to 100 million active users, Blom's been pulling the strings. Rapping outside a radio station for Kanye is so 2009. In 2016, you should be rapping for this Norwegian guy.
Chief business officer, YouTube
Over the last few weeks artist after artist has been going after YouTube's pay outs for artists (and what they see as YouTube's acceptance of bootleg music uploads), and they have a point. While we rarely mention YouTube in the context of the streaming wars, music is streamed across the site and its app billions of times a day - that's billions, with a "b," and a day, as in 24 hours - and if Kyncl pushed to pay even a fraction of a penny more per stream to artists, or made some sort of other more favorable deal with labels, the results would be immediate and huge.
President, iHeartRadio Worldwide
Rappers love to complain that radio won't play their music, because it won't, and so of course radio DJs and program directors often become the target of their rage. But if you're really looking to get your fire new mixtape some spins, you need to get close to Davis. iHeartMedia, the parent company of iHeartRadio, owns 800 radio stations across the country, and Davis has the ability to put music instantly into millions of ears with a snap of his fingers. If he decided they need to start pushing an indie hip-hop channel, it's done. So forget Ebro, start cozying up to Davis.
While we obviously think of TIDAL as a Jay Z company, Hov's far too busy coordinating albums with Beyonce and dropping four bar verses into Drake songs to actively oversee any company. Enter Toig, TIDAL's latest CEO, who's track record so far has been hit or miss. The ANTI release was a mess, the The Life of Pablo release was a mess, but they ultimately served their purposes, cementing TIDAL as a legit player in the game with over three million subscribers. There's only so much even the almighty Hova can do, TIDAL's success or failure rests far more on Toig's shoulders right now.
Executive VP business and legal affairs, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Brodsky may look like the kind of guy who doesn't know the difference between Ice T and Ice Cube, but as the legal head of one of the largest music publishers, he's done deals that have made rappers more money than they made from their albums. Case in point, Brodsky won a case against Pandora that resulted in millions in payouts and an increased pay out rate, which means that Brodsky's done more for 50 Cent for example, who's signed to Sony/ATV, than even his Effen Vodka deal.
I know they're not nearly as cool and they're not posting pictures of duffel bags full of cash on IG, but those people above, and many more, really do have more influence over which artists break into the mainstream, and how much money they make when they're there, than any co-sign or powerful manager. You can have the hottest song in the world, but if the streaming companies ignore it and you get paid out $.00005 cents for it, it won't matter. You really want to get on, these are the guys you should be tweeting your new mixtape. Good luck...
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.