Jim Swindel, a longtime presence in the music industry as a respected sales and marketing executive, died with family by his side late Saturday (Aug. 31) at Mills Peninsula Hospital in Burlingame, Calif., after a battle with Lewy Body Dementia. He was 69. Swindel’s passing was announced by his wife, Randi, who thanked well-wishers “for your love and support over these past months.”
A towering figure, literally, at well over six feet tall, Swindel, from Portland, Oregon, kicked off his music industry career in the mid 1970’s working with MCA and then PolyGram before landing a job with A&M Records in the late 1970s as a marketing manager. It was during that time that he met Randi, then a manager at a Tower Records in Fresno, Calif. (She would later be elevated to a regional manager at the iconic record chain, and the couple asked Tower founder Russ Solomon to be their first child’s godfather.)
After A&M, he joined Island in 1984 as vp marketing and sales before heading to Virgin three years later as senior vp/GM.
In 1992, Swindel left Virgin to join Quincy Jones‘ Qwest Records, where as president he directed the WMG imprint’s daily operations and handled all aspects of sales an marketing. He jumped over to Arista Records in 1996, taking on the position of senior vp of sales and joint venture operations.
From 1999 until 2001, Swindel left the label grind and served as president and chief marketing officer at Amplified Entertainment, a leading outlet for delivering streamed and downloadable promotional music. While there — his time coincided with the rise of Napster — he worked with labels like Zomba to push streaming promotions for artists including ’N Sync and Britney Spears.
“I think the labels are recognizing that if you don’t make the stuff available, people are going to find ways to get it anyway,” he told Billboard, perhaps presciently. “So make it available, and make it easy for the consumer to get it through you.”
After Amplified, Swindel served as executive vp marketing and sales, for ARTISTdirect Records. There, he was responsible for all aspects of product marketing, including creative, packaging, advertising and public relations. In July 2004, he moved to Gibson Guitars for an 8-month stint as evp, global entertainment relations. From July 2006 on he was partner and founder of Marvelous Media, described on his LinkedIn page as a content company that “entertains children without ‘talking down’ to them.”
During a music career that spanned four decades, Swindel left his mark on many co-workers, colleageus and competitors, some of whom remembered Swindel with great fondness in public Facebook postings over the last few days. Those include former sales and marketing executive Earl Jordan, who wrote, “Jim’s business talent, his radiant transparent personality and ability to make people feel comfortable around him made him a natural leader.”
Meanwhile, Russ Bach, former head of EMI’s music distribution company, CEMA, recalled Swindel as “one of the great executives of the record business,” while one of his former co-workers, former Virgin head of sales BJ Lobermann said, “Jim needed to be that tall in order to carry all of that wit, charm and good will, which he did so well.”
Finally, former MCA president, Jay Boberg, acknowledged Swindel as “a mentor from my first days as A&M College rep who gracefully and artfully played that essential role in my life through the last visit this Spring. Jim created a wonderful family — Randi and the boys first — but all of us lucky enough to be in his circle.”
Swindel is survived by his wife, Randi, and their children Dan and Joe, who is married to Megan, the parents of his grand daugthers, Jackie and Lucy; as well as his brother Mark Swindel and his sister Ann Allen. A celebration of Swindel’s life will take place Oct. 20 from 2 p.m.-6 p.m. at the Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94114. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations in his memory may be sent to caregiver.org/donate or brainsupportnetwork.org/donate.
“For all his wonderfulness, knowing Jim has always been a two-for-one reward, because his Better Half Randi is an equally inspirational human with depth of heart and wisdom, and she set her own great example as a music industry professional,” commented Geoff Mayfield, former director of charts at Billboard, on Instagram. “While the world feels a little emptier for his too-soon loss, it’s a far better place for him having lived among us.”
Ed Christman contributed to this article.