“He’s a beautiful human being. I’ve hitched my wagon to him my entire career… My contract is tied to his: if he leaves, I leave. Period.”
On any other given occasion, the headline of this story could, and possibly should, have been the following: Did Jay Z just confirm he and Roc Nation are leaving Warner/Chappell to join Jon Platt at Sony/ATV?
Because last night at the City Of Hope gala in Los Angeles – honoring outgoing Warner/Chappell boss Platt with the prestigious Spirit Of Life award – that’s essentially what occurred.
But what also occurred was far more important than any music industry tittle-tattle could ever hope to be: a huge amount of money (approximately $6.5m, we hear) was raised for City Of Hope, a cancer-fighting research and medical facility of which Platt said “they don’t know the meaning of the word impossible… it’s more than a hospital, it’s a family”.
Both touching and jaw-dropping tributes were paid to Platt on his big night. The former was epitomized by a humbled and mega-respectful speech about Platt by Jay Z (aka Shawn Carter); the latter was epitomized by Carter’s wife, Beyoncé, whose show-stopping performance left the sold-out Barker Hanger in Santa Monica universally (small ‘u’) wowed.
“Most people in the music business are led by their ego. Jon Platt is led by his heart.”
“This man is a CEO and Chairman,” said Jay Z of Platt, who first signed him back in 1997. “He’s worked his way there. We all know the story: a Denver DJ with the Jheri curls. [Now] he’s the highest-ranking black executive in any global [music] company. He’s the Obama of the music industry.”
Jay Z’s comment about “where he goes, I go” left a room partly stuffed with Warner Music Group execs gasping as well as clapping.
But, in the end, the widespread deference and affection in the room for Platt proved to be the biggest takeaway.
Beyoncé summed it up: “Most people in the music business are led by their ego. Jon Platt is led by his heart.”
In-between Jay Z’s address and Beyoncé’s performance came Platt’s own speech.
Teasingly invited on stage by Carter as “the artist formerly known as Big Jon”, Platt didn’t waste any time in telling his friend exactly what he thought of him.
“To Jay: for more than 20 years, your genius, your friendship, and your loyalty has helped define me in this industry,” said Platt.
“From the bottom of my heart, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be on this stage tonight if you hadn’t come into my life. Thank you for everything.”
There were largely three themes to Platt’s address on his big night: (i) The work of City Of Hope; (ii) Those friends, colleagues and family members who’d helped him get into the position he’s now in – which will see him become CEO and Chairman of Sony/ATV early next year; and (iii) Diversity and inclusion in the music business – not merely for the sake of diversity and inclusion, but for the betterment of the industry and the people in it.
“I began to think about how I could use this opportunity to share this spotlight with so many other people. I’d be able to share it with the culture that has supported and nurtured me,” said Platt. “I’d also be able to shine a light on a generation of executives I’ve grown up with in this industry, who are more than ready and willing to contribute to something bigger than ourselves.”
He added: “It was very important to me, if I was going to do this, that we had to do it my way; meaning, I’m not going to be the only brother in this room – I’m bringing all my friends with me. And it was important to me it was black tie, because I wanted you to to see us at our best.
“As an African-American CEO, I proudly embrace the responsibility to lend a helping hand to people of color.”
“Take a look around this room, completely sold out! I want you to remember what happens when you make a point to not exclude anybody – and actually include everybody.”
He later commented: “As an African-American CEO, I proudly embrace the responsibility to lend a helping hand to people of color who are coming up in this industry, as well as to represent my friends and colleagues who are already doing good in this game.”
He specifically name-checked the likes of Roc Nation’s Jay Brown, Motown’s Ethiopia Habtemariam, Apple’s Larry Jackson, Universal’s Jeff Harleston, Epic’s Sylvia Rhone, RCA’s Mark Pitts plus Quality Control’s Coach K and Pee.
“We’re much more than just athletes and entertainers,” said Platt.
Platt lavished praise on City Of Hope, which has personal significance for the executive: as well as its efforts fighting cancer and HIV/AIDS, the not-for-profit has taken a leading role in the fight against Type 1 Diabetes, which affects Platt’s own teenage son, Jonathan.
“At a time in our country when so much is broken, it’s important that we focus on those who are doing great in the world; people who devote their lives to fixing what ills us, people saving lives,” said Platt of City Of Hope.
“At a time in our country when so much is broken, it’s important that we focus on those who are doing great in the world.”
There was also special praise for Platt’s wife, Angie, in addition to those “songwriters who represent diversity in all of its forms – as you continue to prove every day that genius does not discriminate”.
Luminaries like Dr. Dre, Derek Fisher, Tiffany Haddish, Quincy Jones, Wiz Khalifa, Rita Ora, Bebe Rexha, Kelly Rowland, Timbaland, Justin Tranter, and Usher were in attendance.
Platt’s star-studded celebration, which kicked off with performances by Mary Mary and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, culminated with the City Of Hope’s first-ever after-party, deejayed by Jermaine Dupri.
Durpri was amongst those music business figures highlighted by Platt for having played a key role in his career to date. These names also included Chuck D, Steve Prudholme, Jody Gerson, Roger Faxon, Steve Cooper, Len Blavatnik and Martin Bandier.
“Thank you for giving me the greatest gift you can ever give anybody: the opportunity to fail,” said Platt to his mentors and employers. “I made mistakes in my career, but each of those mistakes were valuable.”
Platt also took a moment to tell Venture and Sussex Records legend, Clarence Avant, that he was “the closet thing to a father I ever had”.
“I dreamed of running the largest music publishing company in the world one day.”
He then recalled his early years as a DJ in Denver, and attending a university event where Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs was speaking.
“Puff said something which resonated with me: ‘Don’t be afraid to close your eyes and dream, then open your eyes to see it.'”
Platt explained that, having been hired by Gerson at EMI Music Publishing and seen A&R success at the company, his ambitions began to broaden.
“One day I saw Newsweek magazine, and on the cover it said ‘The New Black Power’. Pictured on there were [Time Warner exec] Dick Parsons, [Merrill Lynch exec] Stan O’Neill and [American Express exec] Kenneth Chenault. And I said, I want to be that. I dreamed of being a CEO.
“Then, I got bold in my dreams, and I’ll admit it to you tonight: I dreamed of running the largest music publishing company in the world one day. And a few weeks ago, I opened my eyes, and I could see it.”
Platt, whose big night was presented by Pharrell Williams, starts in that job in March 2019.
You can expect his superstar friends – not least Hova – to be amongst the first calls he makes after landing in the hotseat.Music Business Worldwide