own their own record label, production company, artist management business, or law firm. And, collectively and individually, they wield significantly more clout. For example, a new inductee is Richard D. Parsons, CEO of AOL Time Warner, the media leviathan that owns, among other things, Warner Bros. and New Line studios, Elecktra Records, TNT and TBS networks, and Six Flags amusement parks.
But despite the progress shown on our register, African Americans still have a way to go to get their deserved slice of the power pie. The statistics speak volumes: There are no black studio chiefs and only one black CEO of an entertainment network — billionaire Robert Johnson who presides over Viacom’s Black Entertainment Television (BET). And there are literally a handful of black agents who negotiate significant deals at major talent agencies such as International Creative Management (ICM).
Our list of power brokers offer the best hope for diversifying the industry’s upper ranks and changing the world of entertainment.
— Research: Hyacinth Carbon, Tykisha Lundy & Sophia Rose. Additional reporting: Siobhan Benet, Sonja Brown & Chana Garcia.
SELECTION CRITERIA FOR THETOP 50 BLACK POWER BROKERS IN ENTERTAINMENT
- Those chosen have the ability to develop content, negotiate and sign off on deals, oversee the production process, control budgets, and hire and fire talent.
- They have the ability to green-light projects or influence the process at the highest level, as well as exercise creative and financial control of their projects.
- They are responsible for the bottom line of their project or company.
- Their creative products and services are consistently in demand from the top brass at major television and film studios or record companies.
- They are entrepreneurs who own production companies and record labels and have been given the best terms as it relates to joint ventures or distribution agreements.
- They are power brokers with proven track records and significant influence throughout their industry.
Title: Principal, Avant Garde Publishing, Interior Records
Why He’s Powerful: He is called “The Godfather” for a reason. Industry insiders say there are only a handful of people who have mentored and groomed as many careers as Avant. It was his deal-making prowess and business acumen that enabled producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to cut lucrative music publishing and production deals. Avant was also instrumental in helping Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds create LaFace Records (which has since been folded into Arista), and he counseled Motown’s management team about restructuring its operations when he served as chairman from 1993 to 1998. Although he’s in semiretirement, the entrepreneur who conducts business in sweat suits and sneakers, still serves as consigliere to emerging artists as well as industry power brokers. The Godfather still has much juice.
Career Track: A superb deal maker, Avant negotiated the first joint venture between an African American artist and a major record company in the late ’60s. By 1971, he formed his own outfit, Sussex Records, and signed popular artists such as Bill Withers, Dennis Coffey, and The Presidents. The label became so successful it was ranked among the BE 100S. Shortly