Six months after his announced retirement due to illness, former Universal Music Group International chairman Max Hole returned to accept a lifetime achievement award at the annual Music Week Awards.
The music business veteran, whose 40-year career was cut short following a diagnosis of encephalitis, resulting in memory loss, was feted by colleagues and friends Lucian Grainge, Doug Morris, Irving Azoff, Boyd Muir and Scott Borchetta, among others.
In his acceptance speech for the award — dubbed The Strat — Hole recalled some of the favorite moments of his career, like booking The Who at Kent University, starting an indie label at Decca, joining Warners in 1982, then moving on to Universal in 1998 to lead the marketing/A&R teams.
“Doug Morris was our initial head and we became very, very close,” Hole said of Universal. “And Lucian Grainge then took over. I really love them both, they are real friends, even though I have had to retire. Universal is the clear No. 1 record company in the world and Lucian is doing a very good job running an incredible team around the world but [with] Doug Morris, I was sad he left Universal but it has to be said that he is running Sony, and Sony is going up.”
Hole pinpointed UMG’s 2012 acquisition of EMI as a career milestone, which of course put him in the business of the Beatles. “And Lucian and I, boy did we love The Beatles, and it’s amazing to be involved with them 50 years later, incredible.”
He also touched on the changing landscape of the music business, admitting part of his time at Universal were a “tough few years” for the industry as consumers began the shift to streaming.
“We’ve moved very much from the physical business to the digital business, and we’ve really been building some great music over that time – in the last year, the global business grew by more than 3 percent. It’s the first time it has grown for a long time and I think it really is a turning point,” he said.
Read the entire speech here.