As one of the most powerful dealmakers in music today, Julie Swidler brings a rare depth of insight and acumen to her role as executive vice president of business affairs and general counsel for Sony Music Entertainment. Repeatedly featured on Billboard’s Women in Music and Power 100 lists, Swidler has been the only Label Executive (and first woman) to receive the Grammy Foundation’s ELI Service Award (in 2016) given to music attorneys for advancing and supporting the music community through service. Swidler oversees the company’s legal, business affairs, and governmental matters on a global level, yet approaches all decision-making with a careful dedication to helping the music industry and its artists to flourish and thrive over the long term.
Since becoming Head of Business Affairs and General Counsel at Sony Music in 2008, Swidler has advised the company’s labels and operating units on everything from strategic digital negotiations and strategy, artist contracts to litigation, and joint venture operations. Building off her instinctive savvy with a passion for mastering the latest issues affecting the music world, she’s played a central role in such major undertakings as Sony Music’s 2013 acquisition of Ultra (a dance label whose roster includes OMI and Steve Aoki) and in the launch of Astronauts Wanted: No Experience Necessary (a millennial-focused content brand and joint venture with former MTV Networks CEO Judy McGrath). Swidler also spent several months in 2015 heading up Sony Music Nashville (the company’s country music branch) as it was transitioning between leadership.
With nearly three decades of experience in the industry, Swidler considers her lifelong love of music to be a guiding force throughout her career. The Long Island native’s earliest music memories include snagging a UK edition of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul from her father after an overseas business trip, and while studying political science at Union College she both DJ-ed for the school’s radio station and ran the campus coffeehouse, where she booked live entertainment. After earning her law degree from New York City’s Cardozo Law School, Swidler worked as a litigation associate in two New York law firms and served as operations counsel for J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, then kicked off her career in the music business by becoming a senior attorney for PolyGram Records.
Eventually rising to Senior Vice President Business & Legal Affairs/Mercury Records during her time at PolyGram — where her personal highlights included serving as lead lawyer for Woodstock ’94 and joining Crosby, Stills & Nash onstage at the festival — Swidler left the company in 1999 to work for Clive Davis as head of business and legal affairs for Arista Records. The following year, she joined Davis and other Arista executives in launching J Records, a joint venture with BMG that had, among its first major releases, the multi-platinum-selling, Grammy Award-winning debut album from Alicia Keys. That endeavor ultimately led to the label’s merging with RCA Records to form the RCA Music Group, where Swidler held the position of Executive Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs.
Through the years, Swidler has navigated an ever-changing industry by matching her shrewdness with an unwavering sensitivity to artist issues, a quality she regards as deeply rooted in her love for music. That sense of understanding also extends to her charity work, including her involvement in Rwanda’s Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (a residential community home to those orphaned during and after the 1994 genocide) and in the UJA-Federation of New York’s Music for Youth initiative. A mother of three, Swidler also serves on the board of the T.J. Martell Foundation, which funds innovative medical research focused on finding cures for leukemia, cancer, and AIDS and in 2004 named Swidler a foundation honoree at its annual Family Day celebration. In addition, Swidler never forgot how her college experience allowed her to expand her love of music and was recently elected to her alma mater Union College’s Board of Trustees.