They don’t accomplish ’em like Jac Holzman anymore. Maybe they never did.
While music admiral are agog to cast their firms “technology companies” these days, Holzman, 89, is already several laps ahead. Afterwards co-founding Elektra Annal in his abode allowance in 1950 afresh bringing the characterization into Kinney National (now Warner Music Group) in a $10 actor accord in 1970 — and signing and developing acts including The Doors, Love, Judy Collins, Tim Buckley, and The Stooges on the way — Holzman began spearheading Warner’s abstracts in the tech world.
He helped barrage both the CD architecture and home video, and sat on the lath of Atari, which revolutionized home ball in 1977 with the Atari 2600 bold console. He additionally set up the pilot affairs that became MTV, and captivated controlling roles at Pioneer Electronics and Panavision.
This ages marks 70 years aback Holzman started Elektra. As the adept industry maven, who rarely gives interviews, apparatus up for a host of ceremony celebrations, I bent up with him about the best acquaint he’s abstruse throughout his career.
The aboriginal anthology appear on Elektra in 1950 was New Songs by the folk artisan John Gruen. Holzman apprenticed up 500 copies of the LP, but awash beneath than a division of this number.
“It was a mess, and I was actual discouraged,” Holzman says. “The repertoire wasn’t right, and I didn’t apperceive how to affix it with people.”
By 1957, Elektra had racked up a debt of $90,000 (worth about $830,000 in today’s dollars). The characterization clawed its way out of that bearings with its aboriginal above successes including a brace of albums from Theodore Bikel, but by the aboriginal 1960s, Holzman begin himself accepting annoyed of the folk scene, ache afterwards article new.
Determined not to assurance an artisan he wasn’t amorous about, but additionally bent to accumulate Elektra afloat, in 1964 Holzman launched the “Authentic Complete Effects” series. A 13-volume accumulating of albums, the LPs independent a deluge of made-for-broadcast sounds including Car Skid, Tractor, and Train Through Tunnel. The annal were a huge hit with radio networks and generated about $1.5 actor for Elektra all told.
“We bare to break alive, but additionally not almanac what we didn’t accept in,” Holzman says. “We were cat-and-mouse for the abutting thing, and I was abrading my arch as to what to do in the meantime. One day, I came home from the appointment and there on the television there was a car crash. It hit me: Let’s do complete effects.”
After years of uncertainty, the “Authentic Complete Effects” albums rendered Elektra financially secure: “It meant I could do what I consistently capital to do: be very, actual accurate about the artists I signed.”
A beginning singer-songwriter arena erupted in the 1960s, arch to Elektra signing the brand of Judy Collins, Tom Rush, Tim Buckley, Phil Ochs and, in 1970, Carly Simon. “I would say to artists, I’m not signing you to do one almanac and bandy you away,” recalls Holzman. “We’ll do up to three albums, and see area we are… I capital my artists to feel comfortable. I capital them to acquaint me if they disagreed with me about something.”
There are, though, limits. Holzman says Delaney Bramlett of duo Delaney & Bonnie already accurately threatened to annihilate him aback Bramlett’s ancestor couldn’t locate the singer-songwriter’s new anthology in a retail abundance abreast his Texas home.
“I said, you don’t accept to bother,” recalls Holzman. “I’m absolution you as of now.” He adds: “That’s how you handle that situation. [Bramlett] fabricated a admirable album. But you aloof don’t appetite those bodies on the characterization because they will ruin it for everybody. We capital to accept annihilation but a affable atmosphere.”
Many of Holzman’s artists clearly accepted that atmosphere. Judy Collins, the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter who helped ascertain Leonard Cohen, says of Holzman today: “Jac accurate artists in a way that would accord them abundance and affirmation, and over time Elektra would become a anchorage to dozens of able and accomplished people.”
When Holzman alloyed Elektra into Warner in 1970, alone cyberbanking about bisected of the $10 actor accord (before tax), he had escape on his mind.
“When I was 19 years old, I saw a cine alleged Holiday with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn,” he says. “It was the adventure of a guy who came from the added ancillary of the tracks, but got advantageous in a banking transaction, and absitively [he] would booty a vacation in midlife. That ashore with me as a acceptable idea: to accept your retirement in your backward 30s, aboriginal 40s, aback you can still move around, and do what you appetite to do.”
He adds: “I had begin Hawaii and absitively I capital to alive there. But I bare to get a home for Elektra, and the accustomed abode was with Warner and Atlantic.”
Holzman did absolutely retire to his self-built abode in Hawaii in 1973 — but afresh alternate to Warner as Chief Technologist beneath bang-up Steve Ross. “I did actual little music alert while I was in Hawaii,” he admits. “I don’t apperceive why that was. I spent added time reading.”
He alternate to Warner refreshed. Today, Holzman charcoal a trusted adviser to Warner’s chief leadership, aloof as he has in anniversary of the accomplished four decades.
“Now you’re activity to apprehend the complete of a man crying,” Holzman says, aback I accession a claimed point of abashing — why Elektra active Queen for the US in the aboriginal 1970s but doesn’t assume to represent the band’s adept rights anymore.
Holzman says Bob Krasnow, who ran Elektra beneath Warner actual auspiciously from 1983 to 1994, was never a fan of Queen, and acquainted them to be base of Holzman’s acclaimed label. In the mid-Eighties, Krasnow agreed a accord with the band’s manager, John Reid, to advertise Queen aback their Elektra rights. The way Holzman tells it, the bandage paid Elektra $1 million, but Reid had already agilely lined up a $10 actor accord for the archive with Hollywood Annal — anon profiting to the tune of $9 million.
Today, in the deathwatch of the Bohemian Rhapsody movie, Queen are by far the better artisan from the 1970s and 1980s on all-around alive services. According to the IFPI, Queen were the world’s fifth better artisan in agreement of all-around recorded music revenues aftermost year.
Krasnow “thought Elektra was aloof great,” says Holzman, “and he was actual acceptable at Elektra — he best acceptable artists.” But the Queen kerfuffle was such a aberration that “I could never allocution to him again,” Holzman says.
Krasnow died in 2016, dubbed the “revitalizer of Elektra Records” by the New York Times.
Above all else, is there one affair — one aureate bidding — that Holzman would accord himself if he attempt aback 70 years and batten to the adolescent man ambience up Elektra in his dorm?
“Be abiding of yourself,” Holzman says. “And, alike aback you’re not, pretend you’re appropriate and move forward.”
Tim Ingham is the architect and administrator of Music Business Worldwide, which has serviced the all-around industry with news, analysis, and jobs aback 2015. He writes a account cavalcade for Rolling Stone.
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