Mo Ostin, who served as a top executive at Warner-Reprise Records for over three decades between the ’60s and ’90s, has died at the age of 95.
Ostin’s death was confirmed by Warner Records co-chairmen, CEO Aaron Bay-Schuck and COO Tom Corson, who wrote that the music industry figure passed away in his sleep on Sunday (July 31) from natural causes.
“Mo was one of the greatest record men of all time, and a prime architect of the modern music business. For Mo, it was always first and foremost about helping artists realize their vision,” Bay-Shuck and Corson said.
“One of the pivotal figures in the evolution of Warner Music Group, in the 1960s Mo ushered Warner/Reprise Records into a golden era of revolutionary, culture-shifting artistry. Over his next three decades at the label, he remained a tireless champion of creative freedom, both for the talent he nurtured and the people who worked for him,” they added.
“Mo lived an extraordinary life doing what he loved, and he will be deeply missed throughout the industry he helped create, and by the countless artists and colleagues whom he inspired to be their best selves.”
— Warner Records (@warnerrecords) August 1, 2022
Born in New York in 1927, Morris Meyer Ostrofsky began his career in the mid-1950s at Verve Records as a controller, before being hired by Frank Sinatra to manage Reprise Records in 1960.
Ostin moved into a larger executive position after Reprise was bought out by Warner Bros. three years later, signing The Kinks and Jimi Hendrix to the label in the 1960s. Over the following decades, Warner-Reprise became a who’s who of talented artists. Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Tom Petty, Paul Simon, Van Halen, Prince, The Who, Red Hot Chili Peppers and more were all part of its roster at one time or another.
In 1970, Ostin became president of Warner-Reprise. He took the role of chairman/CEO two years later, continuing the position until his departure from the company in 1994. A year later, he joined DreamWorks Records, where he remained for almost a decade, before returning to Warner Bros. Records as a consultant in 2006.
Ostin’s contribution to the music industry was recognised in 2003, when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Young, Simon and Lorne Michaels. Three years later, the Recording Academy honoured him with an Icon Award.
Following news of his death, figures from throughout the industry have paid tribute to Ostin. Warner Music Group’s CEO of recorded music, Max Lousada, called Ostin “as a pioneer who wrote the rulebook for others to follow” in a statement.
“Warner Music Group and Warner Records wouldn’t exist without his passion, vision, and intelligence. He not only helped build one of the world’s greatest music companies, but he inspired a culture driven by bravery and ingenuity. Mo saw artists for who they really were and gave them the space and support to fully realize their originality.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea remembered Ostin as “the greatest person I ever met in the music business”, adding that the executive made him feel “valued, understood and welcome when I was a confused kid with a lot of growing up to do”. Scott Booker, manager for the Flaming Lips (who signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1990) called Ostin “a visionary” who “shaped so much of what I love in this world”.
The last time we ran into Mo Ostin was at the Jersey Boys broadway show. He seemed very proud of what the Lips had accomplished. He was a visionary and shaped so much of what I love in this world. R.I.P. https://t.co/fNTrqxu4Zf
— Scott Booker (@ScottDBooker) August 1, 2022
Mo Ostin deeply inspired Tom as chairman of Warner Brothers Music division and was responsible for the creation of Wildflowers and the Traveling Wilburys, among many other seminal musical endeavors. God bless Mo. One of the truly good ones. Our thoughts are with his family today. pic.twitter.com/SaLYtYQWY3
— Tom Petty (@tompetty) August 1, 2022
RIP to Mo Ostin what amazing times we had thank you for all the knowledge you passed on and the contributions from jimi hendrix to prince.. neva Be another https://t.co/53ym9lAv2F
— QTip (@QtipTheAbstract) August 1, 2022
So odd my last post was of dear
Evelyn Ostin & today I heard that Mo Ostin, one of the greatest record executives of all time, passed away last
night. You will be missed Mo, condolences to Michael & the
Ostin girls. Now you are with Evelyn. May you forever rest together in peace. pic.twitter.com/cZ6KjjT0Qx
— carolebayersager (@CaroleBSager) August 1, 2022