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I've Negotiated High-Pressure, Multi-Million-Dollar Deals for Artists Like Bruno Mars and Enrique Iglesias — Here's the Strategy That Always Helps Me Win Lylette Pizarro, founder and co-managing partner of Influence Media Partners, reveals what it takes to succeed in the dynamic music industry and beyond.

By Amanda Breen Edited by Jessica Thomas

Key Takeaways

  • Prior to founding Influence Media, Pizarro had extensive experience collaborating with leading artists, record labels, music companies and brands.
  • These days, she continues to navigate high-stakes deals that benefit artists and investors — including a recent partnership with global icon Enrique Iglesias.
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This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Lylette Pizarro, founder and co-managing partner of Influence Media Partners, a New York-headquartered music and entertainment company "whose mission is to transform the music space by partnering with artists, songwriters and creative executives to steward legacy works and build future brand value." In 2022, Pizarro secured a $750 million fund backed by BlackRock, Inc. and Warner Music Group to invest in music IP from artists with global reach. Pizarro has built deep partnerships with artists and songwriters over the course of her career, working with Bruno Mars, Future, Blake Shelton and more. Last December, Influence announced a major partnership deal with Enrique Iglesias that involves establishing the name, image and likeness ("NIL") opportunities for the artist and amplifying his extensive music catalog.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Influence Media Partners. Lylette Pizarro.

Before I founded Influence Media Partners, I spent a great deal of time at a marketing agency forming partnerships with leading artists, record labels, music companies and brands. I love the work and finding the right partners — whether Apple, PepsiCo or LVMH. As I did that work, I noticed a white space; the music rights marketplace started to shift, and while everyone approached it from a financial or publishing angle, I had a different point of view: Can we partner with leading artists, songwriters and entrepreneurs? Can we help them continue to ignite culture today and future-proof their legacy for tomorrow?

We wanted to partner with artists who were very much still on the ground, making music, touring and engaging with their fans. We thought if we could partner with them around protecting their legacy, IP and catalog, we could go back out and find new ways to ignite their fans through partnerships, whether it's advertising, film or television, or other ways to engage and drive new opportunities for them. Of course, when it comes to navigating these major deals, it's one thing to write a strategy, and it's another to execute a strategy.

Related: Selling Song Catalogs Is a Billion-Dollar Business Now. But One Pending Sale — Called the 'Ultimate Partnership Betrayal' — Is Tearing an Iconic 1970s Pop Duo Apart.

It was a fairly big ambition. Would we be able to find partners to believe in us and help support us in acquiring these rights and artist partnerships? And would some of these leading artists allow us to partner with them and be part of their bench? Enrique Iglesias, who's obviously a very accomplished Latin icon, allowed us to work with him and his team on his image and likeness rights. When I reflect back — and we're on deal five of the image and likeness and starting to build out opportunities — it's so incredibly important and thrilling to see this come to life. It's a privilege and an honor to work with artists, period. We have to deliver value for both our artists and investors, of course.

When it comes to approaching these deals and partnerships, it's so important to make sure that an artist or a songwriter really understands our value proposition and how we want to work with them: that they value partnership — that's critical as this marketplace continues to get more and more competitive. It's about leading with trust and having a common sense of what's important. A common challenge in the music business is problem-solving under pressure.

You have to be able to do that, and I think about the comparison in terms of sports or other performances. For example, if a player on a team gets hurt during the season, the game will go on; if the lead in a Broadway show gets sick, the understudy will take over, and the show will go on. It's a bit different with music. There's not always an equal replacement. Tours and releases shift, and being able to meet both sides of the partnership within those dynamics isn't always easy. It doesn't always go as planned.

Related: Katy Perry Sells Music Catalog For Hundreds of Millions — More Than Justin Bieber and Bob Dylan

There's a deal that still remains really close to my heart. My client at the time was a consumer product company. The CEO of this company — who is one of the leading CEOs of the world — has a nonprofit that is very close to their heart, and we needed to deliver some type of entertainment asset in the summer. But the challenge was that they didn't have the budget at the time, and we had some media assets, but we had to figure out a way to deliver for this nonprofit without a budget.

My internal team at RPM at the time was like, "There's no way we can do this. There's just no way." And I've always been of the mantra, If there's a will, there's a way. It's a fantastic nonprofit organization; there are these media assets, and maybe there are other [valuable] things that we can offer. So I ended up going to market and asking movie studios and record labels if we could find a way to partner. Ultimately, I came across something I didn't even imagine, but again, I was willing and open to look. So I ended up forming a partnership involving one of the biggest pop artists at the time who had a film that was important to them with that film studio. And we delivered an amazing show for this nonprofit organization for thousands of folks. We got it solved because we all came together.

When you see a challenge like that, I can't stress enough how important it is to be willing to be at the face of it, where it may seem really tough. Just spend a moment and try to think it through is there another way I can solve this? It may look impossible, but is there something else that I can deliver on?

Related: Nelly Is 'Shaking a Tailfeather' All the Way to the Bank. Rapper Sells Half of His Song Catalog for $50 Million.

Starting a business and raising capital in the dynamic music industry can be really challenging, so finding ways to unwind and prioritize wellness has been so important. My family is the center of my world. My daughter is an avid dancer and performer, and my son is obsessed with basketball, so being there for both of them, being the volunteer mom and supporting both organizations, whether it's the dance troupe or the basketball team — I love it. I'm "Ms. Lylette" to all the kids. I also enjoy yoga, and working with executive coaches and therapists has been incredibly valuable.

For entrepreneurs hoping to make their mark on the music industry — and I say this all the time — it's so important to know what your superpower is. If you are a brilliant writer, or if you really understand audiences, or if you have a keen sense of creativity, know your superpower and lean in and do the work to add value. This is a transformative, growing business, and if you're in the arts of any form, it is a privilege to support the arts. However you can add your superpower to the mix to add value, there will be a winning proposition. There is no shortage of need to make the business stronger and better, and so however you can do that, I encourage it.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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