Julie Greenwald has long been determined to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Once upon a time – back when she was sure she’d end up a political lobbyist or human rights lawyer – that meant working in soup kitchens in New Orleans or educating underprivileged kids as part of the ‘Teach For America’ program.
Since meeting Lyor Cohen in 1992, though, she’s channeled this advocacy for human decency (and refusal to be cowed by dodgy odds) towards the music business.
It’s writ large in the devoted manner in which she talks about her artists and her staff at Atlantic Records, who are celebrating a golden year in 2016.
And it’s literally writ large in her New York corner office – where, on the far wall from her desk, hangs a large canvas from local artist Michael Scoggins.
There, spelled out in repeated schoolboy scrawl, you’ll find the affirmation with which Greenwald vanquishes the dark personality pitfalls of the entertainment industry:
‘I’m still a good person. I’m still a good person. I’m still a good person…’
2016 marks Greenwald’s 12th year running Atlantic in tandem with A&R supremo – and Ahmet Ertegun protégé – Craig Kallman.
It’s been one for the history books.
Although Greenwald protests that she and Kallman (pictured) never look at market share figures, her bosses – Warner CEO Steve Cooper and owner Len Blavatnik – must like what they see.
Atlantic is the only label in the US this year to have had four albums across Gold & Platinum certified by the RIAA (Kevin Gates – Islah; Suicide Squad OST; Charlie Puth – Nine-Track Mind; and Panic! At The Disco – Death Of A Bachelor).
It’s also had more singles certified by the RIAA in 2016 than any of its competitors.
In addition, Atlantic’s got a big interest in the 2017 Grammys, with 18 nominations across acts such as Twenty One Pilots (Record Of The Year; Best Rock Performance; Best Rock Song; Best Pop Duo/Group Performance), Panic! At The Disco (Best Rock Album) and surprise Album Of the Year nominee Sturgill Simpson.
The blend of A&R specialist Kallman – intrepid discoverer, meticulous refiner – and marketing/promo specialist Greenwald – strategic loudspeaker, unapologetic champion – is paying dividends.
If you’d have visited the Elka pharmacy in upstate New York in the mid-’90s, you wouldn’t have been able to duck your reflection.
Julie Greenwald’s parents (“Catskills Jews”) spent their professional lives running medical retail outlets.
They were understandably apprehensive when Greenwald jacked in her political aspirations to work with Lyor Cohen – first at Rush Management and then Def Jam.
To reassure her folks this professional dalliance wasn’t without merit, Greenwald began sending Gold and Platinum discs home in the post – from Redman to Jay Z, Method Man and DMX.
One-by-one, they proudly began decorating Elka’s walls.
“I came home to visit my parents and Lyor had just given me a numerical pager,” Greenwald recalls of her early months in the music business.
“I put it on the table and my father says to me: ‘What’s that?’ I said: ‘Oh it’s my beeper – I have to be accessible 24 hours a day.’
“He says: ‘Daughter, there’s only two types of people that carry beepers: doctors and drug dealers. And I know I didn’t send you to medical school…’”
Greenwald found a kindred spirit in Lyor Cohen.
She initially worked a summer job as his assistant, before joining Def Jam’s promotions department – and executing an instant impact.
“Def Jam was incredibly chaotic at that time,” says Greenwald. “I saw an opportunity to make it more efficient. I programmed the fax machine so with one button you could hit every radio station. I also wrote a proposal covering why we should get computers; literally everyone was still writing reports on typewriters.”
Before long, Greenwald had climbed to GM of Def Jam’s promotions department, and, by 1994, was heading up marketing at the label.
She says her and Cohen made an “incredible pair” – but it wasn’t a relationship without some heavily audible run-ins.
“A lot of people were scared of Lyor but I wasn’t,” says Greenwald. “I loved his energy.
“We would get into crazy arguments – we didn’t hold back. Neither of us wanted to spend money on something that would end up getting shelved. We would go down swinging!”
She adds: “I was 22 years old and learning about hip-hop music and artist development from the guy who was the road manager for Run DMC and The Beastie Boys. Best teacher ever.”
reenwald stayed loyal to Cohen throughout Def Jam’s transition into Universal/Polygram, where she eventually rose to President of Island / EVP of the Island Def Jam Music Group in 2002.
Two years later, she followed her mentor out of Universal to Warner Music Group, where she was named President of Atlantic Records.
Greenwald spearheaded a genuinely pioneering online-first strategy at the company, which became the first major label to cross the threshold of 50% digital revenue.
In 2006, Greenwald was named co-Chairman/COO of Atlantic, which has broken acts under her and Craig Kallman’s guidance including Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Wiz Khalifa, Trey Songz, Flo Rida, James Blunt and Cee Lo Green.
This article was found on musicbusniessworldwide.com