Max Lousada has already had an extremely busy week, and it’s only Tuesday.

He was just in Nashville a few days ago, getting dinner with Blake Shelton and Zac Brown Band at the Country Music Awards. From there, he made a quick stop in Los Angeles, going on a hike with longtime friend Zane Lowe and celebrating the release of Silk Sonic’s new album, before an overseas flight for the MTV Europe Music Awards. Then he hopped on another flight to New York City, where he’s now sitting with me for coffee at The Crosby Bar in lower Manhattan.

Today, Lousada has had a full day of meetings, including one with Variety, which just named him the Executive of the Year. Just moments before sitting down with me, he was deep in conversation with famed stage designer Es Devlin, known for her iconic work with artists like Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar. And a few short hours from now, he’ll get back on a plane home to London for more meetings with artists and executives.

Wide-eyed and speaking a mile a minute, he seems completely unfazed by the hectic schedule. Lousada always has busy weeks, after all. As the CEO of Recorded Music for Warner Music Group, he oversees WMG’s global recorded music operations, including a family of labels like Atlantic Records, Warner Records, Elektra Records, and Asylum Records. In the process, he’s helped propel the careers of everyone from Ed Sheeran to Dua Lipa to Roddy Ricch.

So why is one of the most powerful men in music sitting down across from me, ready to speak candidly about an industry that hasn’t always been as transparent as it could be? Well, Lousada isn’t your typical major-label CEO. 

At 48 years old, he’s younger than many of his contemporaries, and he has a reputation for breaking tradition and shaking things up when he needs to. Shortly after taking his current seat in 2017, he made headlines for making major leadership changes. He’s known for taking big swings and closing major deals, like Warner’s freshly announced acquisition of 300 Entertainment, the Kevin Liles-helmed label home to stars like Young Thug and Megan Thee Stallion. Working closely with Warner Music Group CEO Stephen Cooper and a network of ambitious label heads, he’s helping to position WMG as a nimble company that embraces change.

Lousada is aware of the misconceptions that many people have about the music industry, and he knows that some of those problems could be solved with more open communication from high-ranking executives like himself. That philosophy is what led us here on a cold afternoon in mid-November, meeting for a wide-ranging conversation about the state of the music industry, where it’s heading, and how WMG fits into it all.