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Going Far From A&R

COVER STORY

February 09, 1997|Steve Hochman | Steve Hochman writes about pop music for Calendar

Guy Oseary's rocket ride to the upper strata of the music industry puts him in the very select company of executives whose successes in A&R (artists and repertoire) work--which involves everything from talent scout duties to counseling acts on their artistic choices--earned them dramatic career advancement.

Here are five of the most prominent.

Sean "Puffy" Combs: At just 26, Combs is a star as a performer and as a producer of top hip-hop and R&B acts TLC and Mary J. Blige. As head of the Arista-funded Bad Boy label, the home of Notorious B.I.G., Combs is notorious himself for his much-publicized rivalry with Suge Knight's Death Row company. Combs started in the early '90s as an intern for MCA's Uptown label, where he is credited for breaking both Blige and Jodeci. He also manages Blige and rapper LL Cool J, which makes him a multiple threat, surpassed in the current R&B market perhaps only by writer-artist-producer-executive Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.

Michael Goldstone: "Goldie," 38, a veteran of marketing and promotion at several companies, rose to the A&R elite at Epic Records when he signed Pearl Jam, which had formed from the ashes of the Seattle group Mother Love Bone, which he had signed while at Mercury in the late '80s. At Epic, his signings also included Rage Against the Machine. Late last year, Goldstone was snapped up by DreamWorks, which values him enough to have made him a partner in the much-watched venture alongside former Warner Bros. Records top figures Mo Ostin (one of the most respected executives in music business history), Lenny Waronker and Michael Ostin.

Tom Whalley: After successful stints at Warner Bros. Records and Capitol Records (where, as head of A&R, he signed Crowded House and worked closely with Bonnie Raitt, among others), Whalley was one of the first hirings at Interscope when the company started in 1990. He led the charge for Nine Inch Nails and made the deals for then-unknown rapper-actor Tupac Shakur, Helmet, Primus, 4 Non Blondes and the Wallflowers. Last year, company founders Ted Field and Jimmy Iovine named him president.

Mark Williams: The Georgia native, 37, was instrumental in signing R.E.M. at I.R.S. Records in the early '80s. Later, as an A&R executive at Virgin, he signed the Smashing Pumpkins. Last year, he joined forces with former Pumpkins manager Andy Gershon and R.E.M. producer Scott Litt to head the new Outpost label, funded and distributed by Geffen Records. The trio quickly won a bidding war for coveted Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden; took over responsibility for the Chicago band Veruca Salt, whose second album is due from Outpost next week; and recently set up a deal with L.A.-based techno label City of Angels, home of prized act Crystal Method.

Tom Zutaut: His signing of Guns N' Roses at Geffen Records set the standard for the second half of the '80s and, along with recruiting Enya, gave Zutaut, 38, tremendous career momentum. Though his highest-profile '90s signing at Geffen--the Stone Roses--never quite translated from English sensation to American hit, he remained a respected and looked-to figure in A&R circles and last year opened shop with his own label, the Enclave, financed by EMI. The company has emerged in recent months with promising releases from English female punk band Fluffy and American folk-rockers September 67.

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