Mo Austin, legendary CEO of Warner Bros. Information, died at 95 – Billboard

Mo AustinThe legendary label govt who guided Warner Brothers Information by a storied time of each inventive and industrial success for over 30 years died in his sleep on July 31 on the age of 95.

Austin, who signed and/or labored with such bands as The Kinks, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, REM, Randy Newman and plenty of extra, was “one of many best report holders of all time and the chief architect of the fashionable music enterprise,” mentioned Tom Corsonco-chairman and COO of Warner Information and Aaron Bay-Shackco-chairman and CEO of Warner Information, in a joint assertion.

“For Mo, it has at all times been about serving to artists understand their imaginative and prescient first,” their assertion continues. “One of many key figures within the evolution of the Warner Music Group within the Nineteen Sixties, Mo ushered in a golden period of revolutionary culture-changing artistry for Warner/Reprise Information. For the following three a long time on the label, he remained a tireless champion of artistic freedom, each for the expertise he nurtured and for the individuals who labored for him. Mo has lived a rare life doing what he loves and will probably be drastically missed by your entire trade he helped create, in addition to the numerous artists and colleagues he impressed to be their finest. On behalf of all Warner workers, we wish to thank Moe for all he has performed and for his inspiring perception in our vivid future. We lengthen our condolences to his household throughout this tough time.”

Austin, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Corridor of Fame in 2003 and obtained a Recording Academy Trustees Award in 2017, was born Morris Meyer Ostrofsky in New York Metropolis and moved to Los Angeles, attending Fairfax Excessive College and the College of California at Los Angeles. After beginning his profession at Verve Information, Frank Sinatra employed Austin to handle his Reprise Information in 1960. Three years later, Warner Bros. Information purchased Reprise and Austin rapidly caught on to the pop zeitgeist by signing with The Kinks. Quickly after, he introduced Hendrix, Mitchell and Neil Younger to the label.

Austin turned president of Warner Bros. Information in 1970, operating the Warner and Reprise imprints till he stepped down as chairman/CEO in 1994. his tenures together with Van Halen, Bonnie Wright, James Taylor, B-52, Paul Simon, ZZ High, George Benson, Don Henley, Tom Petty, Inexperienced Day, Van Dyke Parks, Dire Straits, Chaka Khan and famously , Prince, who signed to the label in 1977.

Though Prince left the label in 1996, accusing him of being a “slave”, and solely returned in 2014, Austin thought of Prince a genius, evaluating him to Sinatra in a 2016 Billboard interview after Prince’s loss of life. He recalled the primary time he heard Prince, and the way the perspective of Warner Bros. artists — and a considerate supply — led Prince to decide on the label: “Our head of promotion [at the time], Russ Tiret, obtained a demo from our Minnesota promoter, Owen Husney, who later turned Prince’s supervisor. We have been completely amazed and needed to signal him instantly. There was loads of competitors as a result of different folks knew about him – A&M and Columbia tried to signal him and the competitors obtained very excessive. However A&M needed his publishing home, and he did not wish to give it up, so he gave them up. Columbia solely gave him a two-LP deal, so we thought we might give him a three-LP deal as a result of we consider in him a lot. Additionally, as a result of we appreciated the artists, he signed a contract with us.”

Many artists remained near Austin for many years, even after he left Warner Brothers, together with Pink Scorching Chili Peppers’ Flea, who paid tribute on Instagram: “Mo Austin was an actual gentleman. He was sincere, variety and liked. I’m so grateful that he was part of my life; his tales, his humor, his love for his work, he’s the best particular person I’ve ever met within the music enterprise. He made me really feel valued, understood and welcome after I was a confused child with quite a bit to develop as much as.”

Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar added a touch upon Flea’s Instagram: “Signed one of many best artists of all time with nothing however love and respect for Mo Austin… Flea’s great publish.”

Austin managed Warner Bros. from a brownwood multistory constructing known as the Ski Lodge in Burbank. He turned it right into a artistic paradise, the place artists typically dropped by and performed new music. “Ricky Lee Jones got here in with a guitar and performed about two and a half songs and that was sufficient to make her really feel nice.” Lenny WaronkerVP of A&R at Warner Brothers, recalled in 2019 Billboard oral historical past of the constructing earlier than Warner Bros. moved to downtown Los Angeles. “I believe it was simply Ted Templeman and I. It was straightforward. Van Dyke Parks got here into my workplace earlier than his first album when he was working with Brian Wilson. He had his personal issues, and for me it was superb when he sat on the piano … though it might have been in an previous constructing. Sooner or later when Russ Titelman and I put out Ricky Lee Jones’ first report [in 1979], we had a gathering together with her at Russ’ workplace, which was subsequent to mine, and she or he had a brand new association thought for “Chuck E. in Love,” which was principally to sluggish it down. It gave him an actual perspective.”

After Jake HoltzmanElektra Information turned a part of Warner Bros.-Seven Arts (following Warner Brothers Information and Atlantic Information), based by Austin, Holtzman and Atlantic. Ahmet in addition to Nesuhi Ertegun helped type WEA, a world distribution system that dealt with their releases and dealt with distribution in-house.

Up to date of Austin, Chief Artistic Officer of Sony Music Leisure. Clive Davis, remembers him as a fierce rival, however a more in-depth good friend. “Mo Austin was considered one of a form. And the corporate he led was fairly distinctive in its particular administration and, in fact, within the depth of artistry that has influenced modern music and tradition so deeply and so traditionally,” he mentioned in an announcement. “Sure, he and I competed in opposition to one another for a few years, however my friendship with him prolonged to our households and I’ll at all times cherish our very shut relationship.”

The leaders of the era after Austin keep in mind him as an influential drive. YouTube/Google International Head of Music Lior Cohenwho served as chairman of Warner Music Group from 2004 to 2012. Billboard“The excellent news is that he lived an unimaginable life. He was a beautiful husband, father and lived a wholesome musical life. My coronary heart goes out to Michael and his household. Let’s rejoice his life by listening to the numerous artists he supported. We must always all be as fortunate as Mo!!

“Mo was an awesome mentor,” mentioned Chairman/CEO of Common Music Group. Lucian Grange in an announcement. “He lived by a set of values ​​that taught me quite a bit in enterprise, the way to be a frontrunner, and in life. My respect for him as a frontrunner and household man was boundless. His “aptitude” for expertise was legendary, however he was additionally an unimaginable hyperlink between folks; one thing that’s sorely missing in enterprise—and the world—at the moment. My deepest condolences to Michael and your entire household.”

“There’ll at all times be just one Mo Austin and all of us stand on his shoulders and profit from his unimaginable exploits,” Hipgnosis co-founder Merck Mercuriades wrote on Instagram. “It is very onerous to not name him Warner Information the best label of all time. From @sinatra to @neilyoungarchives an unimaginable one who has influenced the careers of many legends. None of us can contact the hem of our garments at the moment. With like to Michael and the Austin household.”

Max Lusada, CEO of Warner Recorded Music, added: “In an age the place artistic entrepreneurs are revered, we rejoice Mo Austin as a trailblazer who wrote a algorithm for others to comply with. Warner Music Group and Warner Information wouldn’t exist with out his ardour, imaginative and prescient and intelligence. Not solely did he assist create one of many world’s best music firms, he additionally impressed a tradition primarily based on braveness and ingenuity. Mo noticed artists for who they are surely and gave them the area and help to completely understand their originality. Our condolences [Mo’s son] Michael and the entire Austin household. Mo was a legend and will probably be drastically missed.”

After leaving Warner Bros. Austin remained busy, together with co-founding and heading the DreamWorks SKG music division from 1996 to 2004. He later served as a guide and board member of music faculties at his alma mater, UCLA, and likewise on the College of Southern California. In 2011, he donated $10 million to UCLA for a brand new facility known as the Evelyn and Mo Austin Music Middle.

Austin’s spouse, Evelyn, and his two sons, Randy and Kenny, predeceased him. He’s survived by his son Michael.

Maybe essentially the most acceptable tribute to Austin’s understated type comes from former Warner Brothers govt Stan Cornyn, who praised Austin throughout his Rock Corridor induction for trusting the folks he employed to work his magic below him: “Mo was nice. So good, he by no means informed any of us the way to do our job.”

Assist with this story was offered by Dan Rys.

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