Irving Azoff is, quite simply, a giant of the US music and entertainment industries.
For one thing, he’s run two major record labels: MCA – one of the biggest labels of the 1980s – and later his own Giant Records, a JV with Warner Music Group.
It says everything about Azoff’s influence that these two stints in Record Label Land are, if anything, a footnote in a multi-decade career that has largely centered on live music and artist management.
As of 2023, he is CEO of The Azoff Company, a Los Angeles-based conglomerate that describes itself as a “privately held media and entertainment company dedicated to investing in positively disruptive businesses that put artists and fans first”.
The Azoff’s Company’s portfolio includes:
- Full Stop Management, which Azoff runs alongside his son, Jeffrey Azoff. Clients of the firm include the likes of Harry Styles, John Mayer, the Eagles, Lizzo, Jon Bon Jovi, Cardi B and Gwen Stefani;
- Global Music Rights, a collection and licensing society, launched in 2013, that has represented the rights of songwriters including Drake, Bruce Springsteen, Bruno Mars, the Eagles, and Smokey Robinson;
- Oak View Group, a company focused on the sports and entertainment venue industry that’s deployed multiple billions of dollars to build new music venues around the globe;
- Iconic Artists Group, an acquisitive company operating in the world of songwriter/artist rights, as well as talent name and likeness.
In addition, the Azoff Company has a consultancy relationship with the Madison Square Garden Company with respect to the Forum, the MSG Sphere initiative and other ventures.
Irving Azoff: Career history at Geffen-Roberts Management, MCA, Giant Records
Where to start? Irving Azoff’s career ultimately all began in Danville, Illinois, where he was born on December 12, 1947.
Azoff began promoting and booking bands while studying at Danville High School and then later at the University of Illinois.
His first management client was REO Speedwagon, followed by Dan Fogelberg. As Azoff’s music biz career grew in stature, in 1972 he relocated to Los Angeles.
There, Azoff took a job as a booking agent at Jerry Heller’s Heller-Fischel Agency, before David Geffen hired Azoff at Geffen-Roberts Management – where Azoff began a lifelong professional relationship with the Eagles.
Azoff then left Geffen-Roberts in 1974 and launched his own management company, Front Line Management.
In addition to The Eagles, Front Line’s roster included acts like REO Speedwagon, Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs, and Jimmy Buffet.
During the 1980s, Azoff tried his hand at running a record label – very successfully.
From 1983 to 1989, Azoff became Chairman of MCA Music Entertainment Group. After he joined the company, MCA dropped 41 of its 46 acts and began re-building its roster.
By the time of Azoff’s departure from the label, according to the Washington Post (via Billboard data) MCA had risen to the No.2 record company in the USA, with a roster that boasted names such as Bobby Brown, Elton John, Boston, Tiffany, Jody Watley, New Edition, Pebbles and Fine Young Cannibals.
Azoff left MCA to launch Giant Records in tandem with Warner Music Group in 1990. Giant signed an array of established and emerging artists including MC Hammer, Jade, Lord Finesse, Big Car, Steely Dan, Warren Zevon, Chicago, Deep Purple, Brian Wilson, and Kenny Rogers.
Giant also released the soundtrack album for the film New Jack City, selling 16 million copies worldwide.
Azoff departed Giant later in the 1990s to return his focus on artist management at Front Line, where his clients included The Eagles, Steely Dan, Seal, and Christina Aguilera.
Irving Azoff: Career history at Live Nation
Irving Azoff continued to be extraordinarily successful as an independent artist manager until October 2008, when ticketing and marketing colossus Ticketmaster announced it was to acquire Azoff’s Front Line Management Group.
Consequently, Azoff became CEO of Front Line, as well as CEO of Ticketmaster.
He played a prominent role in the $2.5 billion-valued merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation in 2010, after which Azoff was named Chairman of Live Nation – while still running the Front Line management company – in February 2011.
“My job here is done… I’m looking forward to returning to the entrepreneurial world and continuing to work with all my friends and colleagues at Live Nation.”
Irving Azoff, speaking in December 2012 when quitting Live Nation
Azoff quit his role at Live Nation in December 2012, stating: “After successfully overseeing the integration of Live Nation and Ticketmaster over the past two years, my job here is done. We put together the leading company across concert promotion, ticketing, sponsorship and artist management and delivered the great results promised by the merger.
“I especially enjoyed my time with my partner [Live Nation CEO] Michael Rapino, and he has demonstrated the ability to lead this company from now on. I’m looking forward to returning to the entrepreneurial world and continuing to work with all my friends and colleagues at Live Nation.”
Irving Azoff: Career history post-Live Nation
Since leaving Live Nation in 2013, Irving Azoff has launched and built various business interests under the auspices of what is now known as The Azoff Company.
The most pivotal moment for that firm over the past decade was the 2018 announcement that Azoff was acquiring the 50% stake in the business that he didn’t already own.
The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) sold Azoff Music Management this 50% stake in The Azoff Company (then called Azoff MSG Entertainment) for USD $125 million.
The Azoff Company continues to act as an advisor to MSG, where Irving Azoff formerly acted as Chairman and CEO of MSG Entertainment.
Irving Azoff: Professional philosophy
In November 2020, Irving Azoff was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In a speech given to celebrate the occasion, which took place at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Azoff said: “When I was growing up in Illinois, my parents thought I was headed for a career in medicine. As useful as that would be right now, the moment music got a-hold of me, it never let go.
“I’m so lucky to have had a front-row seat to watch my favorite artists on and off the stage for nearly five decades now. These icons became a part of my family and my very best friends: Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Dan Fogelberg, Stevie Nicks, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. You started it all. Three of you are no longer with us in person, but you’re always with me in spirit.
“My mantra since day one has been: Do what’s right for the artists and, in turn, that decision will be right for you.”
“My mantra since day one has been: Do what’s right for the artists and, in turn, that decision will be right for you. I can honestly say that strategy hasn’t failed me once.
“No one has taught me more about the importance of protecting artists’ rights than Don Henley.
“We’ve reached a crossroads in the music business today. It’s time for rules to be broken, but they won’t break themselves.
“We’ve reached a crossroads in the music business today. It’s time for rules to be broken, but they won’t break themselves.”
“If you were a young artist or executive watching this today, and I can give you any advice, it’s be brave. Own as much as you can, depend on no one but yourself, protect intellectual property at all costs. Take the long road. Fear nothing and no one.
“I promise you it will pay off.”
In an address to his family, Azoff added: “My wife, Shelly, you’re my partner in crime. I love you more than anything plain and simple. None of this exists without you.
“To my kids and grandkids – Jay, Alison, Jeffrey, Cameron, Rich, Sidney, Riley, and Dylan – I’m so proud of you all. Thank you for not being the f**k-ups your mother and I worried you could be!
“Since partnering with my son Jeffrey working with and breaking new artists [at Full Stop Management] has offered some of the most exciting moments in my career.
“Look at it this way. We could have had real jobs!”Music Business Worldwide