The one guy in the record business I’m going to miss the most:
Stan Cornyn didn’t make music. Rather, the longtime Warner Bros. Records executive made words about music usually with a literary skill and advanced wit that established an industry standard for marketing and branding.
“He was the Socrates of the music business,” music publicist Bob Merlis, a 29-year WBR veteran, tells Billboard. “He was more analytical about it. He was an Ivy League guy in a ‘dese’ and ‘dose’ business, but his philosophy was really transcendent.”
Cornyn, who was an executive vice president with WBR’s creative services department and a senior vice president with the Warner Music Group, died on Tuesday at the age of 81 in Carpinteria, Calif., after a long battle with cancer. Regarded as a legend by his peers, he leaves behind a legacy of clever advertisements and scholarly but not stilted liner notes that scored two Grammy Awards and multiple nominations. Cornyn also penned the revealing 2003 tome Exploding: The Highs, Hits, Hype, Heroes, and Hustlers of the Warner Music Group as well as three genealogy books and two screenplays.
I of course recommend the book:
I’m reading Cornyn’s book … written with Paul Scanlon, and while I knew quite a bit of the backstory, there are still shockers scattered among the pages.
Actually, it was imperative that I read Exploding: if ever there was anyone’s writing style I wanted to absorb and reuse, it was Stan Cornyn’s, the inevitable result of reading dozens of Warner Bros. and Reprise LP liner notes over the years.
In 1998, I got an actual email from Stan Cornyn:
Your page about WB/R’s Loss Leaders was mentioned to me by Billboard’s Gene Sculatti. So, I visited. I became, I recall, #380 of your visitors.
I was pleased that you spelled my name write.
As a point of mild interest to you (why did the series end? was you supposition), it really did just become less popular. The cutting edge had dulled, I’m sure. The fervor was off the vine.
Let me assure you that being read by both Cornyn and Gene Sculatti elicted pure fangirl squee from this then-45-year-old dude.
The Cornyn connection continued for a while, which is where I got the definitive explanation of why those sampler albums were never, ever going to be released on CD. And I always had the feeling that while he wasn’t really looking over my shoulder, he could be summoned if I needed him. More than that, one does not ask from a record-company executive.