Irwin Steinberg, one of the “leading lights in record company management, ” according to Chuck Suber of Downbeat, passed away of heart failure at the age of 94. Steinberg was from a business background, and was a master at the financial side of arts management. He grew up on the West Side of Chicago and earned a business degree from the University of Chicago. After serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II, he got a job handling the accounting at Mercury record company and worked his way up to President, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
Irwin Steinberg would often be dressed in a conservative suit while dealing with artists who had long scraggly hair and tattoos. Mike Gromley, who was head of public relations for Mercury in the 1970s said, “The photo showed the two worlds had to deal with each other. Most artists I knew had a pretty good feeling for him.”
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Mercury eventually became part of Polygram in the 1970s, and Steinberg took the role as president. Mike Bone, who worked with Steinberg at Mercury, said, “He was not caught up in the show business side of the record business. He straddled both worlds and was a businessman first and foremost.” Following his career as a music management, Steinberg did consulting and taught at Columbia. In addition, he started a project called MusicMaker which made it possible for people to order custom CDs long before the days of iTunes.