On January 13, 1958, Billboard Magazine printed an article with the title “Atlantic’s ‘Money Man’ Is A Woman.” The journalist was referring to the legendary Miriam Bienstock, co-founder of Atlantic Records and key label executive from the years of 1947-1964.
In the wake of her passing on March 21, 2015, we take pause to pay tribute to a woman whose business acumen and musical sensibilities helped to shape the record industry of yesterday and today. Her genius was unparalleled as she soared in the professional world during a time when women were denied so many basic civil liberties and social equalities. Her legacy will never be forgotten. May her contributions never be erased from our collective memories.
Miriam Bienstock was born in Brooklyn, New York, on January 4, 1923. She was the child of Russian immigrants of Jewish descent. She attended Erasmus Hall High School and went on to pursue collegiate studies at Brooklyn College. She developed a love for jazz and a passion for music at a young age. After marrying record producer Herb Abramson in 1945, the couple united with Ahmet Ertegun in 1947 to found Atlantic Records.
“I must tell you, Miriam was an important person in keeping discipline at Atlantic Records, and keeping everything on the up-and-up,” Ahmet Ertegun
Bienstock’s innovations, fiscal management and overall administrative knowhow were critical to the success of Atlantic Records during its early years. At the young label start-up, Miriam scouted talent, managed bookkeeping, brokered record distribution deals, and oversaw many other aspects of day-to-day operations. Ahmet Ertegun even once credited her with exposing him to the early recordings of Ray Charles, a gesture that deeply influenced Ertegun’s decision to acquire Charles’ contract from his previous label. In a Billboard article in 1997, Ertegun expressived, “I must tell you, Miriam was an important person in keeping discipline at Atlantic Records, and keeping everything on the up-and-up.”
After many years of success with Atlantic, Bienstock sold her interest in the label in 1964. In the years prior to this, she and Herb Abramson divorced. She then married music publisher Freddy Bienstock and began a new career producing theatrical works for the stage.
In “Atlantic’s ‘Money Man’ Is A Woman,” the author notes that Bienstock was "one of the few women executives in the record industry, a business heretofore noted for its lack of fem talent.” Indeed, Bienstock was a pioneer in many ways, and her achievements helped us reimagine the potential for women in business and executive leadership. She was a trailblazer and one of the reasons why Atlantic Records continues to be a leader in recorded music and artistic excellence. She will forever be in our hearts and a vital part of the Atlantic Records legacy.
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