Mo Ostin, the music govt who helped remodel Warner Bros. Information into some of the admired music labels on the planet and who earned respect and lasting allegiance from musicians from Los Angeles to London for his artist-friendly philosophy, died on Sunday. He was 95.
His loss of life was confirmed by a number of sources near the chief. The reason for loss of life was age-related.
Throughout his 31-year profession at Warner Bros., Ostin advocated for adjustments that will assist the then-small document label problem and finally outpace trade leaders through the ’60s and ’70s, an period of adventuresome and ranging musical kinds. From Frank Sinatra to Jimi Hendrix to Prince, Ostin coaxed all kinds of musicians to the label, after which gave them the elbow room they wanted to be inventive.
However within the late Nineteen Nineties, when downloads changed precise information and piracy reduce into trade margins, Ostin chafed underneath the rising company tradition at Warner Bros. and walked away, solely to workforce up a yr later with former rival David Geffen at DreamWorks and return as a dominant determine within the recording trade.
“Unlike other executives we talked to, Mo seemed genuinely interested in our music,” Mike Mills, the previous bass participant with R.E.M., instructed The Occasions. “But the best thing about him was that he seemed honest. So we trusted him and it paid off — in spades.”
He was born Morris Meyer Ostrofsky on March 27, 1927, in New York Metropolis, to immigrant dad and mom who’d fled Russia through the revolution. Ostin was 13 when he and his household, together with his youthful brother Gerald, moved to Los Angeles and opened a tiny produce market close to the Fairfax Theatre.
Ostin attended Fairfax Excessive College after which UCLA, the place he earned a level in economics. He attended UCLA Regulation College however dropped out to help his spouse, Evelyn, and his younger son.
A childhood neighbor, Irving Grankz, led him within the path of music. Grankz’s brother, Norman, owned Clef Information, whose secure of jazz stars included Charlie Parker, Depend Basie and Duke Ellington. Earlier than lengthy, Ostin — who modified his final title as a result of folks appeared to hit upon Ostrofsky — was the corporate’s controller.
Within the late Nineteen Fifties, Sinatra tried to purchase Verve Information, which had taken over Clef. The label finally bought out to MGM Information, and Sinatra determined to start out his personal recording label, Reprise Information, and requested Ostin to steer his new enterprise.
By 1963, Sinatra bought his firm to movie mogul Jack Warner. Ostin, partnered with Warner Bros. Information, helped deliver on vital acts, together with British rock band the Kinks, which he personally signed on. The band’s success — six prime 40 U.S. singles — motivated him to pursue the rock style. Artists corresponding to Jimi Hendrix, Neil Younger, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, R.E.M., Madonna, Paul Simon, Speaking Heads and the Crimson Scorching Chili Peppers adopted.
He instructed Billboard journal years after he retired that he trusted Prince so implicitly that he usually wouldn’t hear the music he was engaged on till the musician got here into his workplace and performed the completed product, usually singing alongside as Ostin listened.
“The thing you’ve got to learn is trust your instincts,” Ostin mentioned in a December 1994 interview with The Occasions’ Robert Hilburn and Chuck Philips, the primary formal one he granted throughout his three-decade profession on the firm.
Ostin, who was named CEO and chairman of Warner Bros. Information within the ’70s, had a status for avoiding interviews; it took years of requests and lobbying from mates to get him to even comply with the one assembly with The Occasions. In the course of the interview, he admitted that avoiding the media was “a personal hang-up” and that to him, “The artist is the person who should be in the foreground.”
His perspective towards constructing an artist-oriented firm — a philosophy formed by his time working with Sinatra — was why many artists remained loyal to Ostin. He instructed The Occasions that he believed the enterprise was about freedom and artistic management.
“Part of our hallmark has always been to work with controversial artists, artists who were on the edge, artists who people thought were weird,” Ostin instructed The Occasions.
However by the mid-Nineteen Nineties, Ostin mentioned Warner Bros. Information had turn into a special firm than the one he had groomed. When requested to chop his payroll, Ostin balked.
“Yeah, we might have been able to slash some overhead and make a little bit more money. You can always do that if you’re a penny-pincher,” Ostin mentioned.
Warner Bros. begged him to remain, providing him a three-year extension. However Ostin had had sufficient. Simon and Younger have been among the many artists who stood by his facet because the feud grew to become public.
“It was the toughest thing I’ve ever been through in the business — and it shook me to the core,” Ostin mentioned.
However his time away was short-lived.
In October 1995, Ostin confirmed he was becoming a member of the newly based document firm partnership DreamWorks SKG, began by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, whom Ostin had competed with fiercely however whose admiration he had additionally earned. Ostin’s son Michael and longtime colleague Lenny Waronker, each former Warner Bros. File executives, joined him.
“The idea of starting over from scratch, of doing something fresh, of redefining my life at this stage of my career is very appealing to me,” Ostin instructed The Occasions.
Whereas he headed DreamWorks SKG, the corporate signed on skills like Nelly Furtado, Papa Roach and Jimmy Eat World earlier than it bought to Common Music Group’s Interscope Information in 2004. Ostin retired quickly after.
In 2003, Ostin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Corridor of Fame, the place he was launched by Younger and Simon.
“A record exec who knows music is more than a business” is how the corridor of fame described him. “He encourages creativity and risk-taking and knows a future star when he hears one.”
In 2006, Ostin was awarded the President’s Advantage Award from the Recording Academy at its Grammy Salute to Trade Icons for his contribution to shaping the trendy music trade.
In 2018, Ostin was acknowledged and given an award for his lengthy and profitable profession through the seventeenth Silverlake Conservatory of Music gala. That night time, Anthony Kiedis, co-founder of the music faculty, mentioned of Ostin: “Mo is beyond historically important to this world. … It was because he loved music. It was his giving heart that cared about music that inspired us to want to make great records and enabled us to want to start this school.”
A longtime L.A. philanthropist, Ostin and his spouse donated almost $25 million to UCLA. Two of their largest contributions embrace $10 million for the Evelyn and Mo Ostin Music Heart and $10 million towards the Mo Ostin Basketball Heart. At UCLA, he served on the board of the College of the Arts and Structure and the Herb Alpert College of Music. At USC, he served on the Thornton College of Music’s Board of Councilors, an advisory panel to the varsity’s administration.
Ostin is survived by his son Michael. Sons Kenny and Randy died in 2004 and 2013, respectively; his spouse, Evelyn, died in 2005.