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JAY FRANK: A GREAT MIND, A GREATER FRIEND
A Remembrance by Holly Gleason

Innovator. Iconoclast. Author. Programmer. Husband. Father. Friend. Lover of questionable music.

Jay Frank was all those things, and so much more. A brilliant mind, a dark sense of humor, the ability to hold contrary opinions—without ever disparaging those who didn’t see what his future-forward vision clearly recognized—defined the man, who passed Sunday at the age of 47, after a suddenly accelerating battle with cancer. The devoted husband of Linda and loving father of daughter Alex, Jay had spent his last few months close to home, with family and friends.

As Senior Vice President of Global Streaming Marketing for UMG, the Livingston, N.J.-born executive was renowned throughout the industry for his eclecticism, insight and trend-sensing, combined with an ability to harness algorithms. Jay—who had previously founded the singles-driven music-subscription service DigSin—helped create what has become the standard for curated music discovery. His books, Futurehit.DNA and Hack Your Hit, incrementally broke down the formulas and strategies to maximize hit potential, explaining how to market across social media platforms for the greatest possible impact.

Yet, for all his measurable success, what truly marked Jay’s time in the music business was his ability to bring out the best in others, recognize previously unseen opportunities and build on innovations already in place. Spotted by Les Garland, he was tapped as Sr. Music Director at The Box before moving to Yahoo Music as VP of Music Strategy and Label Relations, where he would eventually grow the site’s monthly numbers by 25 million.

Veteran programming executive Brian Philips, recognizing Jay’s ability to color beyond the lines, tapped him as SVP of Music Strategy for CMT: Country Music Television/MTV Networks in 2007. That job brought Jay to Nashville, where he became a quiet force who preferred to facilitate the music rather than posing for photo ops.

During Jay’s years in Nashville, his expertise attracted global attention. He spoke on music technology, coming shifts in music delivery and consumer trends at the New Music Seminar, MIDEM, South by Southwest, the S.F. Music Tech Summit, Canadian Music Week, ASCAP Expo, the Digital Music Forum, MusExpo, CMJ and the Mobile Entertainment Summit. A recognized industry leader, he served on the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, Leadership Music and the Academy of Country Music.

Jay and Alex with Katy Perry; with Taylor Swift; with Todd Hensley and Niall Horan; with Justin Bieber and Brian Philips

His breadth of knowledge and curiosity, sense of global connectedness and recognition of future trends made Jay the perfect choice to head UMG’s streaming offensive. Spotlighting playlisting years before it became ubiquitous, with a deep understanding of the power of curation, Jay expanded Universal’s reach, building its platforms while influencing key playlisters around the world.

Sir Lucian Grainge acknowledged as much in his tribute. “Jay leaves an immense legacy,” the UMG chief offered. “He was a creative and tireless leader who made significant contributions to the evolution of our global marketing efforts. Many of the ways we market our artists and their music in the streaming era stems from Jay’s innovative work. But more than anything else, Jay was a loving father and husband. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will miss him dearly.”

“Jay knew,” said Philips. “He had a mind unlike any I’ve ever encountered. He told me years ago the day was coming where we would send written messages on our phones, and that music sampling would supersede every other means of discovery. His incredible curiosity showed him things the rest of us wouldn’t dream of.”

The Wall Street Journal concurred, noting that this visionary “mapped out shifts wrought by the digital age and offered songwriters advice on everything from tempos to titles that might make their tunes more bankable.”

Just as importantly, Jay applied his deep thinking to the people he worked with. His mentorship challenged and inspired many, allowing people to recognize their unseen strengths and tap into them.

Jay was always happier on the edges, and his own taste leaned toward music most wouldn’t consider cool—the first dance at his wedding was to Air Supply. But at the same time, he was a highly sophisticated individual whose inventive social strategy broke countless songs and artists through the logjam during the course of his singular career.

For a man who eschewed attention, the love Jay showed others was profound—and in his final weeks, it was quietly returned.

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