Joel Oberstein, the president of Almighty Music Marketing, died Friday. He was 50.
Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis four years ago, Oberstein died from complications of West Nile Virus. M.S. and steroid treatments to fight the disease had weakened his immune system to the point that he was unable to fight off WNV.
A music lover since childhood, Oberstein played in three Los Angeles bands while launching his career at the Los Angeles area-based Tempo Records chain, where he eventually rose to GM.
While at Tempo, he worked alongside Mike Inez, who went on to play with Ozzy Osbourne and join Alice in Chains; and Todd Sullivan and Benjie Gordon, who later became successful A&R executives at Geffen and Columbia Records, respectively. "He was a wonderful source of knowledge for all of us," Inez said. "He liked to turn us on to new music and expound on the importance of older artists, too."
He also did stints at Atlantic Records, where he met his future wife, Melissa Gould, and Right Between the Acts, an innovative company that promoted new releases between sets at concerts started by Evan Saxon, now president of D&E Entertainment.
Oberstein eventually hooked up with Clark Benson, an entrepreneur known for the eCrush and Ranker Websites, to form Almighty/Isis. The 18-year-old company, which continues to thrive, started out specializing in listening station programs in hundreds of independent record stores.
Oberstein, along with industry vet Craig Rosen and, later, Vince Hans, spearheaded expansions into other areas of music marketing, including the Almighty Retail Database, and its weekly New Releases Now email blasts and Website.
Even in the darkest days of independent retail, Oberstein was a champion of the stores and worked tirelessly to bridge the gap between the labels and the retailers who shared his passion for discovering new music and bringing attention to unappreciated classics.
Along the way, he made friends in all sectors of the music business. As longtime industry professional and Oberstein friend Dan Perloff puts it, "People are 50-50 with me. Half of the people like me, half of the people don't, but everyone loved Joel."
Oberstein is survived by his wife, Melissa, and daughter, Sophie. Donations in his honor can be made to the M.S. general research fund at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles.