Music’s New Leaders Represent Bebe Rexha, Meghan Trainor, Shawn Mendes, More

From First Access to Full Stop, Pulse to Paradigm, the biz's up and comers march to their own Big Beat.

Hollywood New Leaders Music
Michael Buckner/Variety

Each year Variety’s New Leaders feature profiles the most prominent up-and-comers in the entertainment business. To determine this year’s worthies, Variety looked across disciplines, from television, digital, music and film, to law and finance, as well as content creators. They were proposed by their bosses and peers who have worked with them and seen their rise. All are age 40 or under, and Variety has measured them by the progress of their career trajectories: do they take calculated risks? How fast have they risen in their companies? Are they innovative and employ solutions to problems that are creative? As part of the salute to the qualities that keep the town humming, filmmaker/producer Travis Knight, who founded Laika Studios and is finishing up the anticipated “Bumblebee” for Paramount, as well as Variety‘s 10 Assistants to Watch along with the New Leaders will be recognized Oct. 17 at an event in West Hollywood.

Music’s New Leaders in 2018 include managers for pop stars Meghan Trainor and Bebe Rexha, publishing and A&R executives and the booking agent for Shawn Mendes and Halsey. Read their profiles below.

Tommy Bruce
Manager, Full Stop Management; 31

With the Eagles, Travis Scott, Sara Bareilles and Christina Aguilera among their clients, Full Stop has a full house… which helps explain why the two and a half years since he and Jeffrey Azoff left CAA to start their company “seem like 25.” They started out “on Jeffrey’s kitchen table at his old house, running a small operation with one client” — Harry Styles being that not-so-modest lone signee — then added dozens more last year upon merging with firms run by Brandon Creed and Jeffrey’s father, Irving. One of their hottest clients, Meghan Trainor, is finishing her third album “as we speak; she goes in in the morning and has a new song every night.” Now running a 35-person office, he and Azoff have a “yin/yang” partnership. Says Bruce, “Jeffrey grew up in rock and roll and is much cooler than I am, and I live and die by a pop vocal. My first concert was the Spice Girls! So we really bring two different perspectives — but the same work ethic.” (Chris Willman)

Ashley Calhoun
VP A&R, Pulse Music Group, 27

This Virginia Beach, Va., native grew up around local talents like Pharrell Williams, Timbaland and Missy Elliot. After moving to L.A. to study at The Recording School, Calhoun worked a series of internships until landing at Pulse. Today, one of her clients, Starrah, is responsible for such huge hits as Camila Cabello’s “Havana,” Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B’s “Girls Like You” and Halsey’s “Now or Never,” helping the 10-year-old indie music publisher achieve a 205% revenue increase in 2017. “I really like to see what the creatives can do on their own and help guide it from there,” says Calhoun of her hands-off approach. “I’ll make sure everything is on track and the vibe in the studio is good.” (Roy Trakin)

Matt Galle
Paradigm Talent Agency, 40

The Norwood, Mass., native started The Kenmore Agency with Matt Pike in Boston before moving to Paradigm 10 years ago. There, he helped develop the touring careers of Bruno Mars and Kesha before taking on Shawn Mendes, Gucci Mane and Halsey as clients. He’s also nurtured newcomers like Lauv (currently opening for Ed Sheeran’s stadium tour) and boy band Why Don’t We. Recent additions to Galle’s roster includes Missy Elliott, Machine Gun Kelly, Suicideboy$ and Hayley Kiyoko. Simultaneous to his career as an agent, Galle launched his own label, Photo Finish Records, in 2006, scoring a No. 1 hit with 3OH!3’s “Don’t Trust Me.” Says Galle: “When you’re speaking to artists and their teams, they need to feel like you’re someone they can trust with their careers.” (Roy Trakin)

Adam Mersel
Manager, First Access Entertainment, 27

You could say Mersel meeting his main client Bebe Rexha was meant to be, but in reality, the Los Angeles native willed it to happen. Following a crash course in A&R, courtesy of Mike Caren at APG, and full immersion into management working at CAM, the firm founded by Jordan Feldstein, Mersel recognized the songwriting talents of Rexha and followed her from show-to-show until she gave him a shot. He then brought the budding pop star to First Access, the multi-faceted entertainment company founded by Sarah Stennett, and the pairing paid off big time — Rexha’s “Meant to Be,” featuring Florida Georgia Line, was a bonafide hit, as was her collaboration with G-Eazy (“Me, Myself and I”) and “I’m a Mess.” “We both had something to prove,” says Mersel of his bond with Rexha. “Failure was not an option for either of us.” (Shirley Halperin)

Gina Tucci
GM of Big Beat Records and VP of A&R for Atlantic Records, 36

It’s one thing to work for a hard-driving executive like Atlantic co-chairman Craig Kallman — it’s another to take over Big Beat, the label he founded when he was 21. But as GM, Tucci has powered the relaunched imprint into one of the biggest dance-music labels in the business, with a roster that includes David Guetta, Skrillex, Clean Bandit, Robin Schulz, Galantis, Knife Party, Cash Cash, Rudimental and Chromeo. The 36-year-old (who is also a VP of A&R at Atlantic) oversees a staff of 15, A&R’ed the just-released Knocks album and was closely involved in the signings of new artists Ekali and Whethan. (Jem Aswad)

(Pictured from left: Gina Tucci, Ashley Calhoun, Tommy Bruce and Adam Mersel)