A BILLBOARD SALUTE: ARISTA 25 - Executive VP/GM Charles Goldstuck: Accelerating The Momentum (Billboard May 13, 2000)


Charles Goldstuck had already spent a decade in the music business, starting with Warner-Chappell Music in 1989, then going to Capitol Records in 1993, when he joined Arista Records as executive VP/GM in early 1998. Yet he knew almost immediately that Arista did business in a considerably different way.

"There were two primary distinctions," he says. "Firstly, Arista's roster was a more broad-based roster, covering a variety of genres," he says. "On top of Arista's mainstream successes, it had a country-music division in Nashville and two very successful joint ventures with LaFace and Bad Boy. Arista also had a vibrant urban division itself, so this was a full-service, integrated label. Secondly, Arista, was virtually an independent company. Clive's entrepreneurial spirit results in his team treating this company as they would if it were their own business. There is an enormous sense of pride in how employees view Arista."


Goldstuck cites Davis' unswerving attention to detail as the significant reason Arista has been so consistently successful for so long. "Arista and its joint-venture labels all possess a very strong belief in only signing quality artists," he says. "We have a very small roster in comparison to the other major labels, even when you add in the rosters of LaFace and Bad Boy.  Our release schedule over the last three years very rarely exceeded 30 releases a year.

"It all starts at the top with Clive," Goldstuck continues. "Every single  release, be it on Arista or an associated label, is important to him, and to every executive and employee here. We pay full attention to getting the most out of every project. We make sure that no stone is left unturned in the process of an artist's development, and that is key. This has been Clive's philosophy, which has permeated this organization for 25 years. That kind of consistent leadership creates an environment that's a key ingredient to long-term success."

This kind of non-stop artist support doesn't come cheaply, but it's a price Arista has been willing to pay-and a mindset that has paid off handsomely.  "When you look at the process of artist development and launching costs in marketing and promotion at the highest level, there's not a label in this business that can take any of the the existing channels for granted,"

Goldstuck says. "Look at the sales environment. The cost of cooperative programs has virtually doubled in the past five years. It costs twice as much to get records well-positioned in front of the consumer. Video and other costs have also escalated. Labels have to find new ways to more effectively market and promote, or it'll be difficult to be efficient.

"At Arista, we look at each project and determine the most effective album launch, and then how to continue working the project to stay in the game for a lengthy period of time," he adds.


"Nurturing resources can work when you focus very carefully on the strengths of each project," Goldstuck continues. "The Internet has become an important new avenue in giving us the ability to communicate directly with consumers and have them experience music directly as opposed to exposure in the blanket fashion of TV and print advertising, radio and MTV. We've worked very hard to be more effective in this arena from a marketing standpoint. This allows us to reach consumers in a more cost-effective and direct way."

The result of their efforts: "Arista has always been a very successful company; however sales have really exploded over the last two years," Goldstuck states. "This company is developing gold, platinum and multi-platinum sales rates that far surpass the typical standards. Our artist-development process is very healthy and really paid off in helping develop a powerful roster. There is Santana, who's heading toward 25 million in sales worldwide; Whitney Houston's "My Love Is Your Love' is at 10 million worldwide; Sarah McLachlan has sold over 10 million albums in the last two years; and Kenny G has done 5 million in the last two years. 

"We've also broken a lot of new artists; Deborah Cox has gone platinum, Monica has sold double-platinum, both Next and LFO have reached platinum, and Angie Stone is heading there. That makes for a very strong roster of established stars and promising new artists."


When asked to cite his favorite success stories of recent times, Goldstuck immediately responds, "How can I not mention Carlos Santana? When Clive signed Carlos and executive-produced the album, we all thought it was spectacular and would be successful, but no one dreamed that it could do 20 million worldwide and counting. The magnitude of his success has been the most pleasant surprise.

"To be honest, radio didn't fully understand what we had here, either, but the more they played "Smooth' and the more reactive the single became, the barriers quickly fell down."


The other major success of late is Whitney Houston, who had to reclaim her unparalleled stature after a long layoff. "This was Whitney's first studio album in almost eight years," Goldstuck says. "We weren't sure who her audience was going to be. So Clive worked with Whitney and various producers, very much in the manner of his work with Carlos. We felt it was a groundbreaking album, but we had to convince the consumer. It was a challenge to reconnect to her audience. "Heartbreak Hotel' put Whitney back on the map in terms of her performing from a studio-album perspective as opposed to a soundtrack perspective. Now, 18 months later, the album is still scanning very strongly, and we're at 3 million in the U.S., on top of the 7 million internationally."

Charles Goldstuck is one of a handful of key executives who have accelerated the phenomenal momentum of Arista records. The bottom line to this 25-year phenomenon goes back to the man who started it all: "Clive Davis creates an environment where serious executives flourish," he says. "There's such a richness in terms of the creative process here, while the commercial process is not sacrificed."



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