Billboard's 2021 Top Business Managers
Written by Billboard Staff | 2/22/2021
Touring income plummeted. The value of song catalogs soared. Government loans flowed fast. And these money men and women held it all together for their superstar clients
The music industry's leading business managers serve as financial advisers, tax accountants and fiscal therapists for artists and executives alike — and they have long preached the importance of saving for a rainy day. But what if the storm lasts for a year?
In 2020, as revenue from live touring halted, traditional recording sessions ceased and marketing meetings moved to Zoom, the roles of business managers became more crucial than ever. “This year has been a bit of a roller coaster,” says Sally Velazquez, owner of Empower Business Management.
Business managers helped their clients financially survive the pandemic by revising cash flow projections, focusing on long-term plans and exploring new revenue sources, including song catalog sales in a red-hot market. When necessary, they applied for government aid available under the CARES Act and subsequent legislation — “a gigantic fire drill,” says veteran money manager Bill Vuylsteke.
Other events of the past year, including protests against racial injustice, have prompted some to review their investment choices. (Widely popular index funds invest in publicly traded companies, including private prison firms linked to mass incarceration and systemic racism.) Funds guided instead by environmental, social and governance principles drew record investments in 2020, according to the financial firm Morningstar. “Our clients have definitely taken an increased role in deciding how their monies are invested,” says Peggy Stephens of Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group. What hasn’t changed is the essential need for constant connection between artists or executive clients and those who manage their money. Says Belva Anakwenze of Abacus Financial Business Management: “We shifted our client-facing approach and communicated with clients in new ways — even having meetings in my home driveway.”
Co-owners, Business Management LAB
Louis Barajas, 59, and Angie Barajas, 57, became essential financial counselors to their clients — Yandel, Nicky Jam, Camilo and Gerardo Ortiz, among others — who relied on the husband-and-wife team to help outline cash flow strategies to survive the pandemic. “Our team of over 20 employees worked ferociously all year to get our clients PPP loans and work on new budgets,” says Louis. Knowing that clients weren’t touring, his team also used the time to “tie financial loose ends,” he adds, working on estate and retirement plans and getting life and health insurance in place.
New Income Sources Clients Tapped: “Advances on publishing deals, catalog sales and business/marketing opportunities. A lot of our clients, with a lot of time on their hands, were very entrepreneurial and did a lot of investing in real estate and the stock market. We saw some of their investment portfolios grow 20% to 60%.” —Louis Barajas