Steve Barnett (music executive)

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Steve Barnett (Born February 19, 1952 Wolverhampton, England) is the Chairman & CEO of Capitol Music Group.[1]

Early career[edit]

Barnett began his music career as an agent in London in 1970, working for the Bron Agency (Gerry Bron) and dealing with legendary bands such as Colosseum and Uriah Heep. He became an agent for NEMS Enterprises, the company originally formed by legendary Beatles manager Brian Epstein. While there from 1972 to 1974, Barnett represented artists such as Elton John, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. He would briefly manage Rough Diamond in 1977, a short lived British band that featured David Byron (ex Uriah Heep), Dave Clempson (ex Colosseum) and Geoff Britton (ex Wings). In 1980 he became a manager and partner in the UK artist management firm Part Rock, where his clients included AC/DC, Cyndi Lauper, Foreigner, and Gary Moore, among other artists. In 1988 he established Part Rock's U.S. company, Hard to Handle Management, where he served as President.

Epic Records[edit]

Barnett joined Epic Records in 1996 as Senior Vice President International, was named Senior Vice President Worldwide Marketing for the label in 1997, then Executive Vice President/ General Manager in 2001. He was named President of Epic in 2004. At Epic Barnett took a key role in marketing artists including Pearl Jam, Audioslave, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse, Good Charlotte and Natasha Bedingfield.

Columbia Records[edit]

In December 2005 he was named Chairman of Columbia Records, with responsibility for overall management of the label.[2] During his tenure, Columbia's marketshare rose consistently, resulting in a 50% increase in current marketshare between 2009 and 2012 and attaining the #1 slot among all labels in 2011 and 2012.[3]

Barnett has presided over successful campaigns for Adele, Beyoncé, John Mayer, Jack White, The Shins, One Direction, Maxwell, Foster the People, J. Cole, AC/DC, Susan Boyle, soprano prodigy Jackie Evancho and the marketing and release of the Glee soundtracks. He has also overseen critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums by artists including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Celine Dion and Harry Connick Jr.

U.S. sales for Adele's 21 are approaching 10 million, which will mark the first time that an album has reached the RIAA Diamond plateau since Usher's Confessions, which was released in 2004 and Diamond certified in July, 2012.[4]

Barnett was instrumental in bringing AC/DC to Sony Music, where the band achieved the label's biggest first-week sales figure in its history when it sold more than 784,000 copies of Black Ice in 2008.[5] The band has since sold over 38 million albums worldwide.

This period also saw Bob Dylan score back-to-back #1 albums with Modern Times and Together Through Life, as well as Neil Diamond receiving the first #1 album in his career with the release of Home Before Dark. During this time, Barbra Streisand set the record as the only artist to achieve a #1 album in ever decade from the 1960s through the 2000s with her album, Love Is the Answer.

Capitol Music Group[edit]

In November 2012 Barnett became Chairman & CEO of the Capitol Music Group.[1] On April 18 in the Hollywood Reporter, one of Capitol's top artists, Katy Perry, said of Barnett, “It's nice to have a head in there who knows what the f---k they’re doing....He’s an incredible boss.” [6]

In October, 2013, Capitol Music Group was named by Billboard Magazine as the 5th biggest label in terms of overall market share, with the label building on new releases from Arcade Fire, Bastille, Capital Cities, its development of the UK's Emeli Sandé and, as Billboard wrote, "[Capitol's] future belongs to new acts like Tori Kelly and Naughty Boy, gospel breakouts Mandisa and Chris Tomlin, and still-building new albums from career acts Elton John and Rod Stewart.[7]

Barnett broadened the company's portfolio of labels in 2013, inking high-profile deals with greatly-admired creative figures such as T Bone Burnett (Electromagnetic Recordings), and Troy Carter (Atom Factory), as well as a partnership with Arcade Fire for that band's Reflektor album.

In October 2013, it was announced that Beck signed to Capitol Records and plans to release a new album called Morning Phase in February 2014.[8]

On October 29, 2013, Arcade Fire performed 12 songs on top of the Capitol Records building in celebration of the release of their Reflektor album. The show, presented by MTV Iggy and Intel's Music Experiment 2.0, was held for a crowd of contest winners, most clad in their interpretation of the dress code "Be A Reflektor." The show caused shutdowns over several major streets in Hollywood during rush hour, revealing Arcade Fire's sizable power in the music industry.[9]

On January 21, 2014, Barnett announced the signing of Neil Diamond to a long-term recording agreement with Capitol Records. The historic contract united Diamond's complete Columbia, UNI/MCA and Bang catalogues of recorded music for the first time, encompassing the artist's entire body of recorded work.[10]

In July of 2014, Capitol signed Sara Maria Forsberg, better known by her stage name SAARA. She is the first Finnish person to sign to a major American record label, breaking down a barrier in the American music industry. She was noticed by her recent viral videos on YouTube, "What languages sound like to foreigners", "What languages sound like to foreigners pt. 2", and "1 Girl, 14 Genres", which displays her incredible singing ability. In 2015 she released her first single called Ur Cool, and later was featured in the song Vauvoja by fellow Finn Kasmir. She is due to release her debut EP Carved in Ashes, and later a full length album. Steve Bennet later reported the only other artists he had the same confidence with were Sam Smith (read below), and Adele. She currently resides in Hollywood, maintaining duel citizenship in both the United States and Finland.

On July 24, 2014, Capitol signing Sam Smith made U.S. pop music history when his debut album In the Lonely Hour sold more copies in its first week of release - 166,000 - than any other debut album by a UK male artist in the 23-year history of Soundscan. The album entered the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart at #2.[11]

Capitol Recording artists 5 Seconds Of Summer became the first Australian artists to enter the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart at #1 with its first full-length album on July 30, 2014. The band's self-titled debut album sold 259,000 copies in its first week of release, achieving the third largest weekly sales tally of the year, to date.[12]

On December 5, 2014, Capitol Music Group artists and recordings received 44 Grammy nominations for 2015, including multiple nominations for Sam Smith (6 nominations including Album Of The Year for In the Lonely Hour and Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year for "Stay with Me"), Beck (4 nominations, including Album Of The Year and Best Rock Album for Morning Phase), Ryan Adams (3 nominations, including Best Rock Album for 2014's Ryan Adams), Rosanne Cash (3 nominations, including Best Americana Album for The River & the Thread), Robert Glasper Experiment (2 nominations including Best R&B Album for Black Radio 2) and Katy Perry (2 nominations, including Best Pop Vocal Album for Prism).[13]

On January 9, 2015, it was announced by Billboard Magazine that Capitol Music Group ranked #2 in Industry Market Share plus TEA for the 2014 calendar (7.91%), as tracked by Nielsen SoundScan.[14] It marked the company's highest such ranking in decades, and highlighted CMG's successful turnaround over the previous 24 months since the company was purchased by Universal Music Group in 2012 as part of its acquisition of EMI. In 2012, Nielsen Soundscan had ranked CMG at #5 with 6.61%, and the company's leap to #2 quantified a growth in market share of 20%. According to the Los Angeles Times, a key part of that improvement has been Barnett's eye toward the future, as Capitol scored the top two of biggest breakout artists of the year: British singer-songwriter Sam Smith and Australian band 5 Seconds of Summer.[15]

On February 8, 2015, Capitol Music Group artists won 12 Grammy Awards, marking the first time in Grammy history that one label swept the big four categories: Album Of The Year (for Beck's Morning Phase) and Record Of The Year (Sam Smith's "Stay With Me"), Song Of The Year ("Stay With Me") and Best New Artist (Sam Smith). Beck also received a Grammy for Best Rock Album (Morning Phase), while Sam Smith won his fourth Grammy in the category of Best Pop Vocal Album (In The Lonely Hour). Blue Note recording artist Rosanne Cash won Best Americana Album forThe River & the Thread, plus Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song for "A Feather's Not A Bird." Additional CMG artists to win Grammys included Robert Glasper, who was awarded a statue for Best Traditional R&B Performance for "Jesus Children" from his Black Radio 2 album, and Smokie Norful, who won Best Gospel Performance for "No Greater Love." The 57th Annual Grammy Awards telecast featured performances by numerous CMG artists, including Beck, Annie Lennox, Katy Perry and Sam Smith.

Capitol Records Tower[edit]

In December, 2013, Barnett completed a year-long renovation of the Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood, California. "This is probably the greatest entertainment office in the world, so why wouldn't you make it look great?" Barnett said of the formerly drab gray floors stacked with dated file cabinets and clunky doors. Today, all 13 stories feature glass. "I want it to be open," he adds. "I want people to see that we're here, so there's lots of glass and light."[16]

Universal Music Group Chairman Lucian Grange commented on the building's renovation and the company's turnaround, "When we acquired Capitol, we made a commitment -- both to the artist community and to the industry -- that we would revive this once-great label," he says. "We committed to reverse its years of suffering from under-investment; to provide it the kind of leadership it needs and deserves. Looking at Capitol today, I am enormously proud to see what Steve and his team are doing to return this iconic company to its prior greatness. ... The building is buzzing."[16]


  1. ^ a b Steve Barnett to lead Capitol Music Group
  2. ^ "Steve Barnett Named Chairman, Columbia Records". FMQB. Dec 2, 2005. Retrieved Oct 23, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Columbia COO Steve Barnett in Line to Head Up Universal's New Capitol Label Group: Source". Billboard Magazine. Oct 5, 2012. Retrieved Oct 23, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Albums Can Top 10 Million In Sales, Eventually". USA Today. July 18, 2012. Retrieved Oct 23, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Sony's Barnett Gets His Due". New York Post. December 2, 2009. Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved Oct 23, 2012. 
  6. ^ Katy Perry on Her 'Schizophrenic' New Album, Humble Start: 'It Was Stripping or The Matrix'
  7. ^ Hammp, Andrew (October 29, 2013). "Q4 Label Special: Capitol's Steve Barnett, Greg Thompson Reflect on First Year Under Universal, Returning to 'the Tower'". Billboard Magazine. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Zemler, Emily (October 30, 2013). "Arcade Fire Rocks From the Top of Capitol Records". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  10. ^ Staff, Billboard (January 20, 2014). "Neil Diamond Signs With Capitol Records (Exclusive)". Billboardbiz. 
  11. ^ Forman, Olivia (June 25, 2014). "Sam Smith Sings His Way To U.S. Sales Record". Spin. 
  12. ^ Grein, Paul (July 30, 2014). "Chart Watch: 10 Facts About 5 Seconds Of Summer". Yahoo News. 
  13. ^ "57th Annual GRAMMY Awards Nominees". December 5, 2014. 
  14. ^ Christman, Ed (January 9, 2015). "Music In 2014". Billboard Magazine. 
  15. ^ Lewis, Randy (February 3, 2015). "A Revitalized Capitol Records Forges A New Path Forward". Los Angeles Times. 
  16. ^ a b Halperin, Shirley. "Inside Capitol Records' Newly Redesigned Digs (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Capitol Music Group
November 2012-present
Succeeded by