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Fall 2019

“I look for artists who don’t have a plan B.”

Jody Gerson wields enormous influence in the entertainment industry as chairman and CEO of UPMG. By Jacob Arnold

Image: Rainer Hosch/Trunk Archive

Jody Gerson wields enormous influence in the entertainment industry. She has overseen the signings and publishing-contract extensions of songwriters Rosalía, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Elton John, Post Malone, Prince, Quavo, Carly Simon, Bruce Springsteen, SZA, Jack White and many others. “In the music business, you’re defined by the success of the talent you find,” explains Gerson ’83, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif. “And in turn, my relationships with talent are what led me to this job at UMPG.”

Music publishing companies administer the copyrights of artists’ compositions, collecting royalties when recordings are sold or streamed and when songs are performed live or licensed for film and television (also known as sync). “I look for artists whose music and influence will make an impact on global culture,” she says, “someone who doesn’t have a plan B.”

Gerson, who grew up watching Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin at the Philadelphia nightclubs owned by her family, majored in communication studies at Northwestern. She began her career in music publishing at Chappell, then joined EMI, where she signed Alicia Keys and Norah Jones. In 2008 Gerson became co-president of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, where her first signing was the then-unknown Lady Gaga.

In 2015 Gerson became the first woman to be named CEO of a major music publishing company. She has transformed UPMG into a billion-dollar–plus company, and its revenue has increased 40%.

Last year Gerson, along with Grammy winner Keys and two other music industry veterans, co-founded the nonprofit She Is The Music to increase the number of women working in the business. “We champion equality, inclusivity and opportunity for women in our industry,” she says. Its programs — all-female songwriting camps, a global database of women creators and a mentorship program to educate and develop the next generation — are “all focused on moving the needle to change the numbers.”

“In my role, it’s really important to help other women achieve this kind of success,” Gerson told Billboard in 2018. “Being the only one is not OK anymore. I won’t be satisfied until there are more of us.”

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