Last night, we learned the unfortunate news that legendary A&R executive Craig Aaronson had passed away after losing a long fight with cancer.
(Photo: Myriam Santos)
Aaronson was most widely known for doing A&R at Warner Bros. Records, where he really helped blossom the scene as we know it, signing such bands as the Used, My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, Avenged Sevenfold, Against Me! and many, many more. While at Capitol Records, he also played a large role in developing Jimmy Eat World’s career. Many of these prominent musicians took to social media to share their memories of Aaronson.
To pay our respects, the AP editors have dug into the vaults and unearthed Jason Pettigrew’s 2008 profile of Aaronson, taken from our innovators special in AP 238. He appeared in the special alongside other music industry innovators like Warped Tour’s Kevin Lyman, Bad Religion/Epitaph’s Brett Gurewitz and Pete Wentz. Read it below:
COMPANY: Warner Bros. Records (wbr.com)
WHY HE’S AN INNOVATOR: While he was sorting mail at Geffen Records HQ in the mid-’80s, Craig Aaronson used to be the drummer in an outfit called the Freewheelers who, ironically, had just signed to the label. He became interested in the workings of the company’s artist and repertoire (A&R) department, eventually working his way into a talent scout position. He soon left both the band and Geffen for Capitol, where he signed the scene-defining outfit known as Jimmy Eat World. Disillusioned with Capitol’s less-than-stellar treatment of JEW, Aaronson left to go to Grand Royal, where he signed At The Drive In. When GR folded, Aaronson migrated to Warner Bros. where most of his signings—My Chemical Romance, Avenged Sevenfold, Taking Back Sunday, the Used, Glassjaw, Head Automatica, Hot Hot Heat, Against Me!—have taken place in your hearts and hard drives.
PERSONAL MANTRA: “‘Persist, persist and persist.’ That, and ‘Fight for your artist,’ because I do that everyday. I have to convince 300 other people to do the same thing,” admits Aaronson.
BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: His business cards read “Vice-President Of A&R,” but that’s only because “Conduit” would confuse a lot of industry suits. “My goal is to help the artists I work with achieve their dreams,” he says. “When someone from a band I’ve signed says to me, “Dude, it’s all coming true,’ that’s the best feeling possible. My career is working with lots of bands, but bands only have one career. I take that trust seriously and I will always kill for my bands.”
BIGGEST CONTRIBUTION TO THE SCENE: Those who despise Aaronson’s bands will agree when he says he’s done absolutely nothing for the scene. However… “Honestly, I feel I haven’t done anything for it; the artists that I sign have done a lot for it. They are the ones that make differences in people’s lives.”
FIVE YEARS FROM NOW: Sure, Aaronson has a track record that makes him a prime music-industry mover and shaker, destined to be chased a high-powered corporate recruiters for companies who lack his vision. At the end of Aaronson’s day, though, he’d rather be rockin’ a club gig than the corner office. “In five years, I’ll still be supporting the artists I love,” he says in earnest. “When you love what you do, why change anything?” [Jason Pettigrew]