By Chuck Crisafulli
It goes without saying that most GRAMMY Week events are notable for the amount of star power they bring together. However, at Hollywood's stylish Redbury hotel on Feb. 7, it was the power rather than the stars that got the attention. A celebration of Billboard magazine's second annual Power 100 listing convened some of the biggest movers, shakers and tastemakers in the music industry to sip champagne, nosh on skewered shrimp, and — ever so coolly — check out their rankings in the new issue.
Last year, the Power 100 list was something of a sneak release, appearing without much fanfare. This year, the Power 100 party officially became a part of GRAMMY Week, with the event at the Redbury co-sponsored by Billboard and The Recording Academy. Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow (and Power 100 listee at No. 56) was on hand to help christen this inaugural event, and also to congratulate Billboard on its recent redesign ("They've always been the bible of our industry, and it's not easy to rewrite the bible ...").
In opening remarks, Billboard Editorial Director Bill Werde pointed out that when the list was assembled last year, a running joke was that the magazine should get the 100 heavyweights together in one room and then show them the list. Well, that's basically what this cocktail reception was: the most powerful people in the music business standing together under the same heat lamps in the hotel's second-floor courtyard. (The rankings had been made public the day before, and if anybody was upset about where they fell on the list, they didn't let it show.)
Werde also joked about the pressures of creating a list of power brokers who likely all think they belong at No.1. He claimed he received 271 lobbying emails and one suggestion that he would need a new boss.
This year's list literally runs from "A" (Anya Grundmann of NPR) to "Z" (Zach Horowitz, Chairman/CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group), or — to be more numerically accurate — from No. 1 (Lucian Grainge, chairman of Universal Music Group) to No. 100 (Roland Swenson, co-founder of South By Southwest). Grainge was on hand to accept an award for his list-topping status, and he echoed an idea Werde had put forth — that there's a new, positive energy in the music business.
"There are many more opportunities than threats," said Grainge, "and it's up to us to recognize that."
Werde presented the magazine's first-ever Music Visionary Award to the man with the "Golden Ears" — Clive Davis — and announced that from now on the award would be named in Davis' honor. Davis seemed truly touched, and humbly told the crowd of top executives that, unlike so many of them, he had not set out on his own now-legendary music career with particular drive and passion.
"I got into the music business almost by happenstance," said Davis. "A lot of luck goes into everything that happens in this industry, and that was certainly true in my case."
If one is lucky enough to make it onto the Billboard Power 100 list, there are definite perks. In addition to the champagne, shrimp, gourmet sliders, and complimentary copies of Billboard, all listees in attendance went home with a brand-new specially engraved Power 100 iPad.