Mercury Records Co-Founder Irwin Steinberg Dies at 94
Irwin Steinberg, a former music executive who was one of the co-founders of Mercury Records and eventually served as chairman and CEO of PolyGram Records for three decades, has passed away at the age of 94.
Founded in 1945, Mercury moved aggressively against the major labels of the era, using fast, cutting-edge manufacturing technology to make distribution inroads while employing a promotional strategy that included a heavy emphasis on jukebox presence. By the early '60s, the company had a host of subsidiary labels; in 1962, the company was sold to an affiliate of Philips.
During the post-Philips years, Mercury was the label and/or distribution home to a number of major rock acts; the company served as the U.S. imprint for Peter Gabriel, Motorhead and the Moody Blues, and helped break the Scorpions and John Mellencamp, among others.
Mercury would eventually be folded into the PolyGram family of labels, where Steinberg ascended unto the CEO position. After retiring from the company in the '80s, Steinberg started a long association with the Columbia College of the Arts, where he developed a graduate curriculum in the music business and taught for two decades. The school presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.
Later in his career, Steinberg proved continually forward-thinking, starting a consulting firm, the IHS Corporation, and working with a list of digital music firms; he was a board member at the Center for Digital Art, and worked as the Chairman and Company Director for MusicMaker.
Steinberg is survived by his wife Dominique, their three children and four grandchildren and a large extended family. As his obituary notes, he is "remembered for his great spirit, intellect, wit, love of golf, passion for politics and education, capacity to nurture long-lasting personal and professional relationships, and love of all things Chicago."
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