Clive Calder: the silent music billionaire

Rumour has it he still loves watching cricket at The Wanderers Stadium, and that his mom still lives in Orange Grove. This is Clive Calder we are talking about, referred to as one of the ‘Big Clives’ in the music biz, the other being Clive Davis, over the years the head honcho of a number of record labels and arguably the man who turned both Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys into stars.

Clive was raised in Jozi, with his primary instrument being guitar. Urban legend has it that he used to read tax tables before he went to bed at night, looking for a way to legally avoid tax, not evade it.

Rumour also has it that he was instrumental in organising gigs for upcoming artists in the townships in the 70s, but around the time of the Soweto Riots in 1976 he left the country, settling in the UK, where he formed Zomba Records (named after a town in Zambia). He was connected to super-producer Mutt Lange, Shania Twain’s ex-husband, who also left South Africa in the 70s, headed for the UK. By the early 80s he had founded the American arm of the record label, known as Jive Records, and enjoyed significant success with Billy Ocean.

But it was in the late 90s when his genius – and his superb timing – really came to the fore. Working with Max Martin, a Swedish record producer and songwriter, his record label churned out a string of hits written for three acts that he had signed at the time – Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync. All were huge, and their sales peaked at the crest of the music’s industry’s rise. Just before the global phenomenon of the Internet and music downloads hit in the very late 90s and early 2000s, Clive Calder sold the record label for over £2 billion, and walked away from the music industry just before it all came crashing down. His timing could not have been better.

Reports are that he relocated to the Bahamas for tax purposes, but he still maintains a presence in London – and Johannesburg, by all accounts.
Calder’s success is testimony to the entrepreneurial spirit of South Africa, and its inherent love of music.

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Blogger Rob Rodell is a singer-songwriter, performing music artist, music business lecturer and singing teacher. Rodell was nominated for a South African Music Award (SAMA) for his album A Cappella Christmas. Between 2009 and 2011 he was the head of music business education at the Soul Candi Institute of Music, which is linked to the Soul Candi record label. His hit House track Could This Be Love done in conjunction with DJ Shimza and Cuebur, received extensive airplay on both YFM and Metro FM, and was released through Soul Candi on various compilation albums, selling in excess of 10,000 copies and giving it ‘gold’ status as a single. Rodell completed his licentiate in singing through Rockschool and passed it with distinction, becoming the first person in the world to do the qualification. He is currently busy with his Bachelor of Music (BMus) degree.

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