The music industry is mourning the loss of colorful character and ace negotiator Steven Propas, who died suddenly of heart failure on August 2 at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital. He was 63.
By all accounts, Propas, who operated Propas International Rights Management and Propas Management Corp., was still doing business last week. His colleague and long-time friend Dominique Zgarka called him the "most important international music and DVD negotiator," but his impact dates back to a time when there were no DVDs.
In the 70s, he and Neill Dixon, who now owns Canadian Music Week, started Dixon Propas Management that led to their creation of Solid Gold Records in 1979. The label had enormous success over the next six years, with such artists as Chilliwack, The Good Brothers, the Headpins and Toronto. Propas still ran the catalogue.
"Sadly, no time to say goodbye Steve," Neill Dixon told Billboard in an email, "but I will always cherish the memories of our many successful and youthful fun-filled years together as partners and friends. Thank you Steve for your never ending enthusiasm, good humor, friendship, generosity, and the most incredible work ethic in the biz. I will miss you greatly."
Propas was also importer and exporter for Koch International (Creed, Steve Miller Band, Smashing Pumpkins), traveling the world cutting deals as the company's senior vice-president, and still worked closely with Entertainment One (E1), as the company is now called.
"Steve held the world in his palm and was the consummate deal maker," said Michael Koch, E1 CEO, in an email. "His drive and passion for our business was unique and nobody could keep up with him. He never rested, except for now. Steve will be sorely missed by us and the entire entertainment community."
Propas also represented the DVD concert series DC3 Music Group (Chickenfoot, Creed, Godsmack), Soundstage (Sheryl Crow, Jewel), and the hip-hop label SMC Music. He handled international negotiations for Randy Bachman, represented Swollen Members, and represented RZA through a network of indie distributors and marketing firms.
"We'd been back and forth lately on a few things," Matt Smallwood, MapleMusic Recordings and Fontana North Distribution's general manager, told Billboard. "We had a really nice chat about a week and a half ago, I guess that says a lot about him, as he would take the time with people - business and non-business stuff. He was a very kind and caring human being and will be missed by many."
Propas is survived by his wife, Monica, and children, Michal and Debora. A funeral service will be held on Friday, August 5th at 1:00 p.m. from Steeles Memorial Chapel, 350 Steeles Ave. West. Internment will occur at Bathurst Lawn Memorial Park, First Narayever Section. Shiva will be observed at his home (1407 Mount Pleasant Rd.) Donations may be made in Steven's memory to the Jordan Propas Camp Fund c/o UJA Federation 416-631-5833.
Music industry tributes to Steven Propas:
"Steve and I have been friends and close business associates for over three decades. I can't remember a week where he didn't call me to talk about business deals he was working on, following up on deals he offered me, offering me new deals and always asking me about my family and bringing me up on his family's [especially his children's] most recent exploits. Steve was a legend and will leave an enormous void at every conference from now to infinity. A very sad day for all his friends and for the entire entertainment industry worldwide."
- Dominique Zgarka E1 North America's senior vice-president, product development
"Steve Propas hired me in August of 2000 to work for KOCH Records in New York. I had the pleasure of having him as a boss for over 2 years. He was well connected, respected and very generous. He taught many things during my career and I will miss him dearly."
-Catonia Whalen, director of international marketing, EMI Music
"Steve's mark in music was assured, and his passion with working on projects like Solid Gold, Steve Miller Band, The Smashing Pumpkins and Creed was always a learning experience. He knew it all - the business, the people, the deals. I got to spend a lot of time with him in June for our annual eOne Music convention and he was mapping out release schedules for the year and beyond. It was an honour to work with him for the last decade and a half and will be missed dearly. One of the most colourful characters around. I loved hearing his first-hand stories of people I only got to read about, and he was a huge part of what makes this industry so great, so different, and unlike any other industry out there."
- Eric Alper, director of media relations and label acquisitions , E1 Music
"Saddened to hear of the passing of Steve Propas, a long time vet of the Canadian music biz." - Bob Roper, president, The Bob Roper Company and former VP, SRO Management and A&R director, WEA Records Canada
"Shocked & saddened to learn that Steve Propas died. I met him through the OMDC's mentorship program; he became a valued friend. One of the things that impressed me the most about Steve was his ability to see the big picture--his was bigger than anybody's. He was a man who took risks, loved life, & loved his family. He always knew the best way to go about doing things, and he never stopped talking. I will miss his kindness, generosity, & above all, his excellent rock+roll stories. RIP, my friend."
- Shauna de Cartier, owner, Six Shooter Records
"Very sad to learn that music industry colleague Steve Propas has passed away at the age of 63. Steve managed a number of big-name Canadian artists, but also co-founded Solid Gold Records, home of Toronto, the Headpins, Chilliwack, the Good Brothers, Mental as Anything and more."
- Kevin Shea, former VP of promotions and publicity for Attic Records,