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How rebel ad exec Stan Cornyn turned Warner Bros. into rock’s hottest label

The headline was brutally sincere, studying: “How We Misplaced $35,509 on the ‘album of the yr’ (dammit).” 

The commercial described how Warner Bros. Information had poured an enormous sum of money into selling younger artist Van Dyke Parks and his avant-garde album “Music Cycle,” which had gained raves from critics however bought simply 10,000 copies. 

Showing in Rolling Stone and dozens of underground music newspapers in early 1969, the ad went vast — and raised eyebrows. 

The individual behind it was Stan Cornyn, a publicity author who’d been with the corporate from the start. In addition to a love of music, he had one factor in widespread along with his prospects: He didn’t like conventional promoting. 

“The problem on the time was how do you market music to individuals who don’t imagine music ought to be marketed,” writer Peter Ames Carlin advised The Put up. 

Although Van Dyke Parks won raves from critics, he turned out to be a dud, selling  only 10,000 copies of his album.
Cornyn’s cheeky ad copped to the very fact Warner Bros. misplaced a fortune selling Van Dyke Parks’ album “Music Cycle.”
Michael Ochs Archives

Carlin’s new ebook, “Sonic Increase: The Not possible Rise of Warner Bros. Information, From Hendrix to Fleetwood Mac to Madonna to Prince” (Henry Holt and Firm), out now, chronicles how the corporate did simply that and have become essentially the most profitable file label in “the historical past of rock and roll.” 

Warner Bros. Information was based in 1958, largely as a spot to launch the film studio’s soundtracks. One of many first releases was a group of songs from no-name studio musicians. 

Information promoting chief Cornyn was tasked with making a package deal to promote it. He determined to credit score the album to a mysterious pretend artist named Ira Ironstrings and known as the album “Music for Folks with $3.98 Plus Tax (If Any).” 

On the time, the fledgling Warner Bros. had a minuscule advertising and marketing price range. So the promotions director got here up with an audacious thought. He despatched a telegram to advertising and marketing executives at rival file corporations and ordered them to advertise Ira Ironstrings, signing off on his missive as “The Nationwide Promotions Division.” The workers on the different corporations by no means bothered to verify if Ironstrings was certainly one of their artists, and so they ended up pushing the album for 2 weeks till the scheme was uncovered. 

Alice Cooper helped make Warner Bros. a hit brand after tales of his rock 'n' roll lifestyle gained legendary fame.
Alice Cooper helped make Warner Bros. successful model after tales of his rock ‘n’ roll way of life gained legendary fame.
Ginny Winn/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Photographs

When Warner Bros. moved closely into rock and roll within the 1960s, Cornyn started operating his cheeky print adverts. One for Randy Newman known as out the singer-songwriter’s uncommon voice, studying, “When you get used to it, his voice is actually one thing.” 

“I didn’t assume they have been humorous,” Newman has mentioned, including that it’s unlikely “4 folks purchased the file due to [them].” 

However there’s little question the adverts “planted this concept that there was one thing particular and hip about Warner,” Carlin says. Earlier than lengthy, the corporate’s advertising and marketing division was getting as “a lot fan mail because the artists.” 

In 1969, the corporate launched Round, a “seditious publication and music journal,” Carlin says. Within the first challenge, a pretend categorised ad urged “certified women” to file paternity fits towards the corporate’s “much less lucky artists,” in an effort to draw consideration to them. A later challenge contained a canopy story titled “This Actually Sucks,” that includes the angriest letters from prospects. 

James Taylor praised the record label for giving him the freedom he needed as an artist.
Large-name artists like James Taylor signed with Warner Bros. due to the label’s savvy advertising and marketing.
Getty Photographs

In 1971, Warner Bros. threw a debutante ball for Alice Cooper at LA’s posh Ambassador Resort — with out telling the lodge that Alice was not really a society woman however a tough rock band. The wild celebration was attended by waiters in gorilla fits and a 300-pound stripper, and ended up doing main harm to the lodge. 

“The lodge was livid and stuff received wrecked, but it surely immediately received mammoth quantities of ink and helped catapult Alice Cooper to the highest of the heap,” Carlin says. 

"Sonic Boom: The Impossible Rise of Warner Bros. Records, from Hendrix to Fleetwood Mac to Madonna to Prince"

Finally, Warner Bros. turned successful model. Clients began strolling into file shops asking not for his or her favourite artists, however for no matter was new on the label. Large-name artists have been drawn to it as nicely. 

“That was one of many sudden advantages,” Carlin says. “Peter Asher, who managed James Taylor, had seen these adverts in ‘Rolling Stone.’ By means of the vibe of these adverts, he knew that Warner was going to ‘get’ James Taylor and provides him the liberty to develop into the artist he wanted to develop into.” 

At present, the corporate is house to Neil Younger, Purple Sizzling Chili Peppers, Tom Petty and others. 

“It’s been 30 years since that golden period ended,” the writer says, “however I believe that the DNA of the corporate remains to be there.”

About the author

Tina Sanders

Tina is the mind behind Gruntstuff.com, and she ideated it when she was working for an online magazine company where she used to cover US-based headlines news. She holds a degree in journalism and has more than 4.5 years of experience in an online magazine company. She had the idea while working there but when she was quite sure about starting something on her own, she took the risk and left the job to start Gruntstuff. Since then she added a few team members, and along with them, she creates General US news content on the site.

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