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Manhattan, New York
|Alma mater||Brown University|
|Occupation||Founder of Big Beat Records
Chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records
|Employer||Atlantic Records 1991-present
Current (Chairman & CEO)
Craig Kallman is an American businessman and former DJ. He is currently the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Atlantic Records. His music career began in the 1980s as a DJ in Manhattan. He is the founder of Big Beat Records, an independent label he founded in 1987. The label was purchased by Atlantic Records, where he has worked since 1991 after the acquisition, becoming its CEO in 2005.
Early life and education
Kallman was born in Manhattan, New York in 1965. His father had an eclectic record collection that exposed Kallman to a wide range of music. Kallman began collecting records at an early age, traveling from record store to record store in New York, something that became a weekend routine even until today. He attended high school at Trinity School before moving on to Brown University. He pursued a liberal arts degree and graduated magna cum laude in 1987. He had plans to enroll in Harvard Business School but decided to pursue a career in the music industry.
1980s, DJ career and Big Beat Records
Kallman's music career began while he was still in high school. He worked in Columbia Records' dance department and was DJing at nightclubs in New York City, striking a deal with his father to DJ on weeknights as long as he maintained honors in school. From the early to mid-1980s, he held several DJ residencies including at Danceteria, Area, and The Palladium. During his time at Brown, he was a representative for CBS Records, and programmed urban and rock specialty shows for WBRU-FM. He began working for Factory Records after graduation. He also spent time at Billboard Magazine working in its charts department while performing as a resident DJat such clubs as The Tunnel and Mars spinning records from his extensive record collection.
In 1987, Kallman formed his own independent record label, Big Beat Records out of his bedroom with the label’s first artist, Taravhonty. He distributed this first single, "Join Hands" out of a supermarket shopping cart personally selling over 5,000 copies to independent local record stores. For the second release, "The Party" by Kraze, Kallman sold the records out of the trunk of his father’s car driving throughout the Northeast and distributed the single throughout the rest of the U.S. by shipping records to all the independent Mom and Pop record stores. Soon after Kallman was traveling throughout Europe licensing the single to independent companies in each country and “The Party” became an international hit, selling over 250,000 copies.
Big Beat Records was purchased by Atlantic Records in 1991, with artists being absorbed into the Atlantic label in 1998. Big Beat's artists included Lil' Kim (under the Big Beat label with The Notorious B.I.G. called Undeas), Changing Faces, Robin S., Junior Mafia, Artifacts, Jomanda, Double X Posse, Inner Circle, The Bucketheads, Jay Williams, and Quad City DJs.
1991-present (Atlantic Records)
Kallman first began working at Atlantic Records in 1991, when the label acquired Big Beat as a dance and rap imprint. Upon joining Atlantic, Kallman established his A&R credentials by signing, developing and A&R-ing a number of major artists, including P.O.D., Aaliyah, Brandy, and Timbaland.
Kallman became the Co-President of Atlantic Records in 2002. One of his accomplishments as Co-President was establishing an alliance with VP Records, an independent dancehall and reggae record label. The first collaboration between labels was Sean Paul's album Dutty Rock, which sold six million copies and won a Grammy. He was also responsible for bringing Shinedown and T.I. into the Atlantic label.
Kallman was named Chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records Group in 2005. This was after the sale of Atlantic's parent company, Warner Music Group, to Time Warner. During his time as CEO, Kallman has been responsible for signing notable artists that have included Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Death Cab For Cutie, Trey Songz, Flo Rida, Zac Brown Band, Gnarls Barkley, B.o.B, Janelle Monáe, Wiz Khalifa, Halestorm, Hunter Hayes, Fitz and the Tantrums, Charlie Puth, Sturgill Simpson, and War on Drugs. He also revived Atlantic Nashville, the country imprint of the record group.
Kallman was responsible for extending Atlantic's reach into the film soundtrack industry. During his time at Atlantic, some of the most notable soundtracks include Space Jam, Twilight series and the Furious 7 soundtrack. Furious 7 contained the No. 1 single See You Again by Wiz Khalifa, which broke the record for most streams on Spotify with 24 hours with 4 million. Kallman is also credited with co-writing and producing the 2008 Grammy-winning song Daydreamin' by Lupe Fiasco. He is also the producer of the 2015 documentary, 808, which showcases the use of the Roland TR-808 drum machine.
In 2010, Craig re-launched his Big Beat label, signing artists such as Skrillex, Icona Pop, Chromeo, and Martin Solveig. The same year, he signed the soundtrack for the musical Hamilton to Atlantic. It debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, the highest entrance for a cast recording since 1963. It also debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Cast Albums chart and No. 3 on Billboard’s Top Rap Albums chart, marking the first time that a cast album had ever appeared on the Rap charts.
Kallman is considered an avid record collector, having more than 750,000 vinyl records in his collection. His collection also includes 150,000 vintage music posters, flyers, badges and various memorabilia, 100,000 compact discs and 1,000 vintage rock and soul T-shirts.
Awards and recognition
Kallman has received numerous awards throughout his career. In 1998 he was named to Crain's New York list of 40 Under 40. At the time he was 32 years old and the Executive Vice President of Atlantic Records. From 2012 to 2015, he has been named to the Billboard Power 100 which is a list of the most powerful record executives. He was also recognized by the UJA-Federation as the Music Visionary of the Year in 2010. Rolling Stone also named him one of the 50 Most Important People in EDM.
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