Private Music

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Private Music is an American independent record label, founded in 1984 by pop/experimental musician Peter Baumann, as a "home for instrumental music." Initially signing such artists as Yanni, Suzanne Ciani, Patrick O'Hearn, Leo Kottke, and Baumann's former bandmates, Tangerine Dream, the record label specialized in original music, including new-age music, but made a sharp turn to mainstream niches, with signings of Taj Mahal, Ringo Starr, Etta James, A.J. Croce, and many more. Its releases were distributed by then-emerging BMG (the label's earliest recordings having been distributed by RCA), which bought Private Music in 1996.

In 1989, Baumann hired veteran Warner Bros. Records‘ music executive Ron Goldstein, as Private Music’s President & CEO. Goldstein moved the offices from New York City to Los Angeles, hiring Karen Johnson, a former publicist for U2, Tony Bennett and Warner Bros. Records' projects (Madonna, Ice-T, Linda Ronstadt, Van Dyke Parks), and others, to expand the label’s image. Baumann recruited the well-respected, mainstream A&R executive Jamie Cohen (also a painter), in demand at the time for his work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Visual image was important to Goldstein who handpicked exquisite art director Melanie Penny, previously of Virgin Records and Warner Bros. Records, as VP, Creative Services, through the life of Private Music. Private Music emphasized its "artist re-development" efforts, supporting such eclectic veteran-artist signings as Taj Mahal, Ringo Starr, Etta James, Jennifer Warnes, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Toots Thielemans, Jimmy Witherspoon, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Eliza Gilkyson, Joy Askew, The Pahinui Brothers and Kenny Rankin, while expanding the catalogs of Yanni, Leo Kottke, Andy Summers and Ravi Shankar, with strong "debut support" for A.J. Croce, Susan Werner, and more. An international marketing department was added, helmed by longtime Sony Music executive JP Bommel.

Private Music's recordings earned multiple Grammy Awards and nominations -- including Etta James' first career win, in 1994, for best jazz vocal performance on “Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday,” her debut of three albums on the label. Private's roster achieved high recognition on national television. Numerous artist appearances included interviews and performances on the Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Arsenio Hall Show, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, CNN, Entertainment Tonight, MTV, VH1, E! Entertainment Television, and many more. The label's recordings by Grammy winner Taj Mahal (produced by John Porter), spawned the Grammy winning Phantom Blues Band which continues as a mainstay in blues recordings and concerts. With its increasing influence in blues and roots music, and at the peak of its performance in record sales, Private Music also entered into a joint venture with House of Blues‘ record label, featuring such artists as Cissy Houston and John Mooney.

In 2001, Private Music became part of the short-lived Arista Associated Labels which also included Windham Hill; by 2004, after Sony and BMG merged, the label's releases switched to RCA. Currently, no reissues are scheduled. Like its mentor (Warner Bros. Records), Private Music's business model leaves an example for indie artists who exemplify (Goldstein's A&R criteria of) "quality and excellence." Following his Private Music tenure, Goldstein served as President and CEO of the Verve Music Group label at Universal Music Group, in New York City. Karen Johnson directs KJPR Publicity and Artist Relations in Los Angeles. Sadly, Jamie Cohen and Melanie Penny passed in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Selected discography[edit]

Carlos Alomar
  • Dream Generator (1988)
Suzanne Ciani
  • Seven Waves (1982)*
  • The Velocity of Love (1986)*
  • Neverland (1988)
  • History of My Heart (1989)
  • Pianissimo (1990)
  • Hotel Luna (1991)
  • The Private Music of Suzanne Ciani (1992, compilation)
  • *Seven Waves was originally released on Finnadar in 1982 and The Velocity of Love was released on RCA Skylark in 1986. Ciani owns the rights and released these through Private Music during her tenure there.
Michael Colina
  • Rituals
  • Shadow of Urbano
A. J. Croce
The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Eliza Gilkyson
  • Through the Looking Glass (1992)
Philip Glass
Jerry Goodman
  • On the Future of Aviation (1985)
  • Ariel (1986)
  • It's Alive (1987, live)
Miles Goodman and various artists
Mike Gordon
Dan Hartman
Nona Hendryx
  • Skin Diver (1989)
James Newton Howard
  • Promised Land (1985, soundtrack)
Lucia Hwong
  • House of Sleeping Beauties (1985)
  • Secret Luminescence (1987)
Etta James
Eddie Jobson
Leo Kottke
Kate & Anna McGarrigle
The Necks
Patrick O'Hearn
  • Ancient Dreams (1985)
  • Between Two Worlds (1987)
  • Rivers Gonna Rise (1988)
  • Eldorado (1989)
  • Mix-Up (1990, remixes)
  • Indigo (1991)
  • The Private Music of Patrick O'Hearn (1992, compilation)
  • A Windham Hill Retrospective (1997)[a]
Phil Perry
  • One Heart One Love (1998) Peak 82163
  • My Book of Love (2000) Peak 82181
Kenny Rankin
Leon Redbone
  • Christmas Island (1987)
  • Sugar (1990)
  • Up a Lazy River (1992)
  • The Odd Get Even (1990)
Ravi Shankar
  • Tana Mana (1987)
  • Inside the Kremlin (1988)
  • Passages (1990, with Philip Glass)
  • Bridges: Best of Private Music Recordings (2001, compilation)
  • The Essential Ravi Shankar (compilation)*
  • * contains recordings from Columbia and Private Music
Ringo Starr
Andy Summers
  • Mysterious Barricades (1988)
  • The Golden Wire (1989)
  • Charming Snakes (1990)
  • World Gone Strange (1991)
Taj Mahal
Tangerine Dream
John Tesh
  • Tour de France (1988)
  • Tour de France... The Early Years (1990)
Toots Thielemans
  • East Coast West Coast (1994)
  • Brasilian Essence (2007)
Chris Thomas
  • 21st Century Blues...from da hood
David Van Tieghem
Kristen Vigard
Jennifer Warnes
Susan Werner
Dan Zanes
  • Cool Down Time (1995)
Various (samplers)
  • Piano One (1985)
  • The World of Private Music, Vol. 1 (1986)
  • The World of Private Music, Vol. 2
  • The Private Music Sampler 1988 (1988)
  • The Private Music Sampler, Vol. 4
  • The Private Music Sampler, Vol. 5
  • Piano Two (1990)
  • Polar Shift (1991)

In 1986 Private Music released a collection of 5 music videos on VHS videocassette in the US. The collection features collage images for the five songs: "On the Future of Aviation" by Jerry Goodman, "Beauty In Darkness" by Patrick O'Hearn, "Memories of Vienna" by Eddie Jobson, "Water Garden" by Sanford Ponder, and "Dragon Dance" by Lucia Hwong—all were artists on the PM label at the time. The collection was released on laserdisc only in Japan in 1986 (Private Music LD SM048-3085)


  1. ^ BMG absorbed Private Music into Windham Hill; the label did not re-issue O'Hearn's releases


  1. ^ Miles, Barry; Badman, Keith, ed. (2001). The Beatles Diary After the Break-Up: 1970-2001 (reprint ed.). London: Music Sales Group. ISBN 9780711983076. 

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