Noah Assad is Billboard’s 2021 Latin Power Players executive of the year. To read this year’s Latin Power Players list in its entirety, click here.
Last September, in the thick of the pandemic, Bad Bunny livestreamed a performance from atop a flatbed truck decked out like a subway car that meandered through the streets of New York, thrilling fans and puzzling pedestrians all the way from Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx, to the Harlem Hospital Center. Over 10 million viewers watched the Univision-produced show stream on its Uforia platform, as well as Bad Bunny’s YouTube channel. And like so many things Bad Bunny does — including surprise-releasing albums — the spectacle came with little warning, capturing the sense of spontaneity and fun that are central to the chart-topping artist’s appeal.
That approach has been the hallmark of Bad Bunny’s manager, Noah Assad, since they started working together in 2016. “Our day-to-day is we go eat, we share, we laugh, and, all of a sudden, we go into work mode,” says Assad, 31. “We brainstorm, and if the idea comes, it comes. We take everything a day at a time. We don’t treat it as rocket science.”
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This nonchalant demeanor belies the meticulous planning that goes into pulling off their vision — and the unimpeachable results. In the past two years, Bad Bunny has become the most successful Latin artist in the world and Spotify’s 2020 most streamed artist globally in any language. He was Billboard’s top Latin artist of the year, according to MRC Data, and last December, El Último Tour del Mundo became the first all-Spanish album to top the Billboard 200 in the chart’s 63-year history. Prior to that, the highest-charting Spanish album was his YHLQMDLG, which debuted at No. 2 in March 2020.
“The No. 1 with an album 100% in Spanish meant everything to me,” says Assad. “Like my grandmother says, ‘It makes my heart sing.’ And what people don’t know is that my friend Bunny, when he’s in love with a vision, he’s in love with a vision. His vision was to release [YHLQMDLG] on Feb. 29, a leap year” — even though dropping the record that Saturday, instead of the standard Friday release, meant missing out on a day of streaming during MRC Data’s tracking week and, Assad believes, ultimately cost him the No. 1 spot at the time.
Bad Bunny’s success goes well beyond streaming, though. His 2022 tour sold over 600,000 tickets during its first week of sales in April, generating $64 million to $84 million in revenue, Billboard estimates, and becoming the fastest-selling since Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s joint On the Run II tour in 2018. Meanwhile, Assad has grown Rimas Entertainment, the company he founded in 2014 with José “Junior” Carabaño, from a small but profitable YouTube network that distributed and marketed music videos to what he describes as “the first one-stop shop created in the post-streaming era.”
Rimas, which Assad says has grown to roughly 100 employees globally, serves as a full-fledged label, publisher, manager and booker with a roster that includes Bad Bunny, Arcángel, Tommy Torres and reggaetón duo Jowell y Randy, as well as highly regarded newcomers Mora and Eladio Carrión. He credits his success to being a good team player. “We collaborate with a lot of people very well,” he says. “We work with everybody — with major labels, independent labels. We are always coexisting and helping each other out. That helps us as a label and as a company, and it helps everyone else, too.”
In 2021, he signed Karol G as a management client via his newly launched Habibi management firm — Assad’s father is Lebanese, and the name means “my love” in Arabic — making the Universal Music star the first artist he manages who is not signed to Rimas. Assad also struck a global distribution deal with longtime partner The Orchard, which includes the launch of Sonar, a new label dedicated to distributing young, indie partners; Assad and The Orchard are currently scouting talent across Latin America and Europe.
“My artists all have the same DNA: They’re not looking sideways or comparing themselves to someone else,” says Assad. “It’s ‘This is my vision, this is what I need.’ My new philosophy is [to be] their friend. I do everything possible to accomplish their vision, to maximize, to monetize. I do 30% of the job, but the artist has to come up with the other piece. If an artist gives 100%, we’re at 130%. There’s always potential to grow and to develop.”