Each year, the music industry inevitably loses some of its most influential behind-the-scenes players — corporate executives, agents, managers, songwriters, producers, engineers, lawyers, promoters, visionaries and more who shaped the business in a multitude of ways.
So far in 2023, the industry has lost people like Alba “Albita” Eagan, the public and talent relations executive responsible for launching some of the most important stars in Latin music — from Chayanne to Ricky Martin — and the trailblazing music agent Charles “Chip” Rachlin, who helped foster the careers of legendary acts like Billy Joel and The Beach Boys during his long career.
Also passing away was longtime Billboard columnist and editor Irv Lichtman, who was venerated for his “deep and wide network of sources” in the music publishing business and his “encyclopedic knowledge of music.” The billionaire investor Thomas H. Lee, who was part of a seismic shift in the industry when he teamed up with others to acquire Warner Music from Time Warner in 2004, also left us this year, as did Spanish-language radio personality Polito Vega, who helped usher in the rise of Latin music in the United States over the course of decades.
Perhaps the most notable loss in the year to date was Sire Records co-founder and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Seymour Stein, who signed a laundry list of major acts at the label in the 1980s and ’90s, including Talking Heads, The Cure, The Pretenders, Ice-T and a then-unknown Madonna, whom he famously signed from a hospital bed. “Anyone who knew Seymour knew about his passion for music and his impeccable taste,” Madonna wrote in a tribute to Stein after his passing. “He had an Ear like no other!”
To commemorate those who have passed on, Billboard is highlighting these enterprising, often-unsung individuals, who left a lasting impression across every aspect of the business. In addition to being mourned by their friends and loved ones, all of the people listed below left behind peers, colleagues, artists, mentees and more who were changed in some way by their having been involved in the industry.
Here are the behind-the-scenes players we’ve lost in 2023.
Alba “Albita” Eagan, 69
Veteran public and talent relations executive who was instrumental in launching the careers of Latin stars including Chayanne, Ricky Martin and Juan Gabriel. Read more here.
Longtime radio engineer and consultant who spent most of his career at Cumulus Media Networks, where he rose to become senior vp of broadcast engineering.
Charles “Chip” Rachlin, 73
Trailblazing agent for Billy Joel and The Beach Boys who worked at the Millard Agency and ICM before launching Rachlin Entertainment in the early 1990s. Read more here.
Thomas H. Lee, 78
Billionaire private equity investor who was part of the group that acquired Warner Music from Time Warner in 2004. Read more here.
Polito Vega, 84
Larger-than-life radio personality and longtime program director of New York City’s Spanish-language station WSKQ (Mega 97.9 FM) who was a pivotal player in the rise of Latin music in the United States. Read more here.
Liz Thiels, 78
Public relations executive who co-founded Network Ink, Nashville’s first PR firm specific to the city’s music industry, and served as longtime vp of public relations for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Read more here.
Seymour Stein, 80
Sire Records co-founder and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee who signed major acts including Madonna, Talking Heads, The Pretenders and The Cure. Read more here.
Irv Lichtman, 87
Longtime Billboard editor and columnist who carved out a niche as a music publishing expert. Read more here.