Jac Holzman Replies

Re: It’s the Money

From: Jac Holzman
Subject: It’s NOT Just the money!

Bob – Elektra was sold/merged for two very specific reasons, and it wasn’t "just for the money.".

First the need for Elektra to have powerhouse distribution. Independent distribs were only marginally effective and this was true for every independent label gaining traction in an environment once hostile toward Indies.

Warner and Atlantic were already part of what was to become the WMG  and  they needed to control their own distribution destiny, to make sure things happened in the field as was intended. This required a distribution mechanism controlled by the labels. Adding Elektra to this consortium guaranteed it’s success. We brought the right amount of extra annual volume to put the WEA distribution unit on a profitable basis almost from its first year! And our catalog, which then included both Nonesuch as well as Elektra, was well differentiated from theirs.

Then there was international, which logically should be managed by us within our own international set up.

From a competitive standpoint in 1970, the distribution system of Columbia was the best out there and many artists were urged to sign with Columbia by management and attorneys, more comfortable with Columbia’s ability to "lay it out there." They wanted fatter sales and bigger pieces for themselves. W-E-A became a valued alternative to Columbia and the unique nature of our labels was so much quicker and more flexible in A&R and deal making.

The second reason was a personal decision. I had built both my labels from a belief that whatever I imagined, I could make happen would, but only if I was totally committed. And, it worked for me and our artists, leading to a decade of unbelievable success. I also knew success wasn’t going to last forever and I wanted to live in Hawaii and take my  break at mid-life and think through to my next direction. But first I had to guarantee the future of Elektra/Nonesuch. The merger with Atlantic and WBR insured that. I now had room to dream and plan.

This led to my technology interest and aspirations which were  to include: Warner Home Video, Warner Cable, MTV, Atari, Pioneer Electronics, Panavision, Cinema Products (Steadicam), etc.

Certainly, the monies I earned from a sale were lovely but not the controlling rationale. I wanted to work, to play in the same band as Ahmet, Gerry, Neshui, Mo and Joe.  Joining this mutually respectful alliance was far more fun than I would have had by myself. And not writing the check out of my own pocket, freed me. My passion and drive never faltered and two of my later signings, Harry Chapin and Queen, were tweezed from the clutches of Columbia. Having proven WEA distribution, wielded by a passionate and committed label head, was hard to resist.

Bob -Keep tilting at the windmills. You help to keep us and the music honest.


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