Cameron Strang Remembers Stan Cornyn, Famed Record Industry Ad Man

Courtesy Photo
Stan Cornyn of Warner Bros. Records.

Stan Cornyn, the revered ad man and writer of both piercing liner notes and Exploding: The Highs, Hits, Hype, Heroes, and Hustlers of the Warner Music Group, was a definitive force at Warner Music Group, where he helped define the label's public "persona," a concept that didn't really exist before his time. "The whole idea of the label having a personality was Stan's doing," industry veteran Bob Merlis told Billboard yesterday (May 12), the day that Cornyn passed away after a long battle with cancer.

In addition to Merlis, former WBR head Joe Smith and Sire Records founder Seymour Stein, current Warner Bros. Records and Warner/Chappel chairman and CEO Cameron Strang today remembers the late legend in a memo, which you can read in full below.

Dear Colleagues, 

You may have heard the very sad news that legendary Warner Bros. Records executive Stan Cornyn passed away Monday at the age of 81. Stan started working at WBR at the label’s inception in 1958 as editorial manager, rising to EVP and the company’s #2 exec under Mo Ostin. In 1982, he moved to Warner Music Group as SVP, and he later became Founder/CEO of Warner New Media until retiring from the company in 1992.

Known as the “King of Liner Notes,” Stan won back-to-back Grammy Awards in 1965 and 1966 for penning the notes to Frank Sinatra’s September Of My Years and Sinatra At The Sands. But his greatest influence on the history of WBR came when, as Director of Creative Services, he virtually single-handedly crafted the company’s public image, reflecting WBR’s eclectic, artist-centric culture through his groundbreaking advertising, marketing, and publicity campaigns.

As Stan said, “From the start, I knew I didn’t want to write the kind of ads that everyone else was writing in the record business… My way was to do something different: some white space, a catchy headline, a couple of paragraphs, a small photograph, some wit, all the while embracing the artist… The attitude of these ads was such that many people believed that Warner/Reprise was more interested in great music than great profits. Actually, we wanted both. But the ads accentuated the former and over time, the company’s reputation with the hip music-buying crowd was very positive.”

Stan created ads that were funny, subtle, cool, and very much reflective of the times -- such as the classic one for Randy Newman with the headline, “Once you get used to it, his voice is really something.” He also launched the pioneering in-house newsletters, Circular and Wax Paper, as well as the acclaimed Loss Leader promo series of album samplers. Following his retirement, Stan wrote the book Exploding: The Highs, Hits, Hype, Heroes, and Hustlers of the Warner Music Group

Stan was a great character of tremendous creativity, humor, and vision. Above all, he loved and embraced this company and its artists. Warner Bros. wouldn’t be the label it is today without him. He will be greatly missed. 



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