In early September it was revealed that Jeff Castelaz was parting ways with Silver Lake's Dangerbird Records, the independent label he co-founded about 10 years ago. Today, Castelaz officially joins the ranks of the major label community, as Warner Music Group is set to unveil that Castelaz has been named the president of Elektra Records.
Castelaz at Dangerbird helped foster the careers of local artists such as the Silversun Pickups, Fitz and the Tantrums, and Sea Wolf, among others, and oversaw the day-to-day operations of the label. At Elektra, a free-standing label within Warner's Atlantic Records Group, Castelaz will inherit a roster of artists that includes Bruno Mars, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Ed Sheeran and Cee Lo Green, among others.
"We've accomplished a lot with Silversun Pickups, Sea Wolf, and Fitz and the Tantrums," Castelaz told Pop & Hiss of his time at Dangerbird. "We've taken artists from the far left and brought them to the center of culture. I'm very proud of that. It's a real honor to have people put their art in your hands. At Elektra, there's a whole neighborhood of artists there who will be counting on me for that same thing, whether it's Charlotte Gainsbourg or Cee Lo or Marina and the Diamonds."
Castelaz co-founded Dangerbird with Peter Walker, who continues to oversee the label. Dangerbird arrived at mainstream success with Grammy-nominated rock act the Silversun Pickups and, more recently, the vintage-tinged soulful pop of Fitz and the Tantrums. It's expected that Fitz and the Tantrums will be following Castelaz to Elektra, but Castelaz declined to discuss the band's status.
"We're literally just announcing my arrival at Elektra," he said. "We're not commenting on any deals yet."
Castelaz is jumping to a major label at a time when many are doing the opposite and independent labels are finding major-label-like success. This week Mumford & Sons topped the chart with 600,000 albums sold for independent label Glassnote Records, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Even Dangerbird has signed former major label artists such as Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora, Ben Lee and Liam Gallagher's Beady Eyes.
When asked if the move to a major label reflected any change of heart on operating an independent label, Castelaz said: "No, I would never even have thought of that. I'm simply excited to be given an opportunity to step into the top position at a deeply meaningful label. This is a label that generations of people have grown up listening to."
Elektra Records was founded in 1950 by Jac Holzman and over the years has been home to the likes of the MC5, the Doors, Joni Mitchell and Queen. Elektra was merged with Atlantic in 2004 and relaunched as a stand-alone label in 2009. Castelaz will report to Craig Kallman and Julie Greenwald, who oversee Atlantic Records.
An artist manager before he co-founded Dangerbird, Castelaz said he was approached by Kallman and Greenwald to take the reins of Elektra.
"They asked if I would like to bring the spirit and the action plan that I've had with my own record label to bear under the Elektra Records banner," Castelaz said. "Truth be told it was an absolute surprise that the topic came up. As the words crossed their lips, I immediately felt like this could be a wonderful opportunity for me."
As to why he was willing to leave the independent community, Castelaz said, "I started to feel that after 20-plus years as an indie music dude -- I was a manager since I was 18 and I started the label 10 years ago -- I've accomplished a lot of my goals in the record company space."
Castelaz said he will continue to maintain his management roster at Cast Management, which currently includes the Dropkick Murphys and record producers Tony Hoffer, Justin Meldal-Johnsen and Jacquire King. He also oversees charitable organization the Pablove Foundation, which aims to help fund pediatric cancer research.
Most recently, Elektra was overseen by A&R executive Mike Caren and Fueled by Ramen founder John Janick. Caren remains with Warner Music Group as president of A&R and Janick is taking a leadership role with Interscope Records.