Born March 30, 1940, in Brooklyn, NY. Married; three children. Education: Attended Adelphi University, Long Island, NY. Addresses: Record company--EMI Records Group North America, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, 42nd Floor, New York, NY 10104.

Music industry mogul Charles Koppelman didn't always have a popular philosophy. Starting as a musician in the late 1950s, Koppelman always believed in the music side of the music business, when many of his contemporaries focused on the business. His direction and determination made him one of the most powerful men in music.

Koppelman joined the band Ivy Three while he attended Adelphi University in Long Island, New York. With his friend and future business partner, Don Rubin, the Ivy Three wrote and recorded the song "Yogi," about the cartoon bear. In 1960 the Ivy Three's "Yogi" reached the Top Ten on the Billboard charts, and Koppelman and Rubin entered the music business.

Koppelman landed a job previewing songs by aspiring songwriters for Aldon Music Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Don Kirshner. Koppelman and Rubin also joined the company's impressive songwriting staff, which included Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil. When Kirshner noticed Koppelman had a track record for picking winners, he promoted Koppelman to director of his publishing company. Columbia Pictures bought Aldon Music, and as a result, Koppelman became the director of the new company--Screen Gems/Columbia Music.

In 1965 Koppelman and Rubin left Columbia Music to form their own entertainment company called Koppelman/Rubin Associates. The two college buddies ignited the careers of artists like the Lovin' Spoonful, the Turtles, Bobby Darin, and many others. Three years later, Commonwealth United purchased Koppelman/Rubin Associates, and the two executives stayed on to run the music division. During the early 1970s, Koppelman moved on to CBS Records and held numerous positions, including Vice President/National Director of A&R (artists and repertoire). While heading the A&R division, Koppelman signed many successful acts, including Billy Joel, Dave Mason, Janis Ian, Journey, and Phoebe Snow.

By the middle of the decade, Koppelman had stepped up to Vice President/General Manager of worldwide publishing for CBS Records. Then in 1975, he decided to once again break out on his own to form the Entertainment Company with attorney Martin Bandier and New York real estate developer and Bandier's father-in-law, Sam LeFrak. The multifaceted organization independently administered and promoted song catalogs and produced music artists. At the Entertainment Company, Koppelman cultivated top musicians like Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Diana Ross, the Four Tops, and Cher. "His production company, based in New York, is the darling of the recording business," Billboard reported of Koppelman's Entertainment Company, "custom tailoring songs and records to produce hits for its clients."

By 1981 the Entertainment Company had grown into a production company with its own staff of producers and 20 in-house songwriters. Koppelman and Bandier partnered with record companies in putting together packages, or they signed artists directly to their company to place them with a record company. Then, in 1984, they purchased the Combine Music catalog of 25,000 country songs.

Koppelman and Bandier continued to pursue new artists during this time of expansion. They published Gregory Abbot's Number One hit song "Shake You Down," and signed then-unknown Tracy Chapman. Koppelman and Bandier took on a new partner in 1986--financier and carpet and furniture magnate, Stephen C. Swid. They formed the partnership as part of a plan to purchase the interests of CBS Songs, Inc.

On October 24, 1986, the new partnership, named SBK Entertainment World, Inc., bought the 250,000 titles owned by CBS Songs for $125 million, the highest price ever paid for a music publishing setup. SBK also developed into the largest independent music publisher in the world. Koppelman and SBK published and played a major role in the success of artists like Michael Bolton, Robbie Robertson, New Kids on the Block, Ice House, Al B. Sure!, and Eric B. & Rakim.

Three years later, SBK sold the company, including all of its music publishing interests, to EMI Music for about $300 million. As part of the deal, Koppelman and Bandier formed a partnership with EMI Music Worldwide to create their own record label, SBK Records. EMI put up $15 million in seed money, while Koppelman and Bandier invested $10 million. In addition, Koppelman took the positions of Chairman and CEO of the new label and Chairman of EMI Music Publishing. Bandier received the posts of President and Chief Operating Officer of SBK Records and Vice Chairman of EMI Music Publishing. SBK Entertainment also purchased a film company called Cinecom, which Stephen Swid managed. SBK Records opened their doors in June of 1989.

While Koppelman led EMI Music Publishing, the company won many industry awards, including publisher of the year honors, bestowed by both the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Incorporated (BMI). Koppelman received the 1990 Abe Olman Publishers Award through the Songwriters Hall of Fame. And only one year after they started the company, SBK Records received their first platinum album with Technotronic's Pump Up the Jam. SBK Records went on to sign successful new artists like Jesus Jones, Wilson Phillips, and Vanilla Ice. On April 27, 1991, Koppelman earned an award for his achievements outside of music--the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the T. J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer, and AIDS Research.

Later in 1991, Koppelman and Bandier sold their 50 percent share of SBK Records to EMI Music, making EMI the sole owner of the label. EMI Music then decided to consolidate its operations and formed EMI Records Group North America. Koppelman was subsequently appointed Chairman and CEO.

When Capitol-EMI's CEO Joe Smith decided to leave his position in March of 1993, Koppelman became responsible for the North American operations of Angel/EMI Classics/Virgin Classics, Blue Note Records, Capitol Records, EMI Latin, EMI Music Canada, EMI Records (EMI/Chrysalis/SBK), I.R.S., and Liberty Records. He also oversees the group's recording studios, manufacturing, and distribution in North America. Koppelman publicly stated his mission for the company in the Los Angeles Times: "to make EMI the No. 1 record corporation in the world by 1998." During the first two years of his post, EMI experienced the success of such artists as Duran Duran, Bonnie Raitt, Blind Melon, and Eternal, also the Barrio Boyzz and Jon Secada. Koppelman played an integral role in the reunion of singer Frank Sinatra with Capitol Records, which spawned the five-million-selling album Duets.

Koppelman told Chuck Phillips in the Los Angeles Times, "No matter what anybody says, all that matters to me is the music. What people forget is our business starts with the music. If you have the belief in your gut about a song and artist, you have to have the nerve to stand behind the thing, to stay the course." Koppelman summed up his career in an interview with Thom Duffy in Musician. "When I listen to the radio, I hear more songs that I've been involved with than anyone," he explained. "I've just rattled off number ones. Classics. Appeal to everybody, little kids, adults. Everybody. You know what my image is? Hits."

by Sonya Shelton

Charles Koppelman's Career

Member of band Ivy Three until 1961; Aldon Music, songwriter and director, 1961-64; Screen Gems/Columbia Music, director, 1964-65; Koppelman/Rubin Associates, cofounder and partner, 1965-68; Commonwealth United, music division head, 1968-70; CBS Records Group, vice president/national director of A&R and vice president/general manager of worldwide publishing, c. 1970-75; Entertainment Company, cofounder and CEO, 1975-86; SBK Entertainment World, Inc., cofounder, 1986-89, Chairman/CEO, 1989-91; EMI Music Publishing, Chairman, 1989-91; three-label consolidation of EMI Records Group North America, Chairman/CEO, 1991-93; EMI Records Group North America, Chairman/CEO, 1993--.

Charles Koppelman's Awards

Under Koppelman's leadership, EMI Music Publishing was named publisher of the year by American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and Broadcast Music, Incorporated, c. 1990; Abe Olman Publishers Award from Songwriters Hall of Fame, 1990; Humanitarian of the Year Award from T. J. Martell Foundation of Leukemia, Cancer, and AIDS Research, 1991; Distinguished Achievement Award from Yeshiva University, 1992.

Further Reading


Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 13 years ago

Mr. Koppelman, I recently found a presentation folder for the Magicians, provided by Koppelman-Rubin Associates. Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon, I have been able to identify as being part of the band, but the two other names-Steve Gillette and Don Kerr, are not the tow that I have found linked with the band. I do however have 4 pictures provided in the folder, one of them is autographed by Alan, Garry, Don and Steve. Were Don and Steve initially in the group and later replaed? Hope you can satisfy my curiosity. Jacque L. Oberbeck

over 14 years ago

I hope our past is history. You were right, I was wrong. After many years in a non related business, I have returned to my songwriting. Please check out some of my compositions at Regards, Steven Eisenberg

over 15 years ago

Dear Charlie, Not having seen you in years, I am very proud of where your career has taken you. I walked in to your office at 1650 Bway the day you opened your doors with Donald. I started working for you immediately and it was a great time in my life. I don't know how to get hold of you, but I did want to send my condolences to you and your family. I am living in LA now and a grandmother of two. Life is good! Take care Carol

almost 16 years ago

What an amazing career/Blessed w/ many talents,smart,& dedicated & a man who believed in helping MANY people, not just in music, but also others. He deserves all success & Blessings. This may be my ONLY CHANCE to Thank him for long-ago intervention & support that changed my family's & my own journey in this life! May God continue to bless Charles Koppelman & his loved ones.