Longtime music promotion executive Justin Fontaine has died, a source close to the family confirmed to Billboard. He was 61.
In a statement obtained by Deane Media Solutions, Fontaine’s widow, Kelly Edwards Fontaine, said, “Justin was my husband for 11 years and the love of my life for 14 years. We chased his dreams throughout his retirement and there was nothing better than seeing him truly happy and thriving.”
“Justin had the best smile, the silliest sense of humor, a sensitive heart and a passion for living life to its fullest,” she continued. “I’m so grateful for the years we had together and I will miss him for the rest of my days.”
Fontaine’s cause of death has not been revealed.
Prior to his retirement, Fontaine rose to senior vp of promotion at Hollywood Records, a role he held for 13 years after being hired at the label in 2000. Fontaine also worked as vp of national promotion at Capitol Records between 1997 and 2000 and served in promotion roles at Sony Work Group, Chaos Recordings, Chrysalis Records, Geffen Records and Mercury Records. He started his career in 1980 at Capitol Records’ Detroit branch as a customer service representative.
Following his retirement in 2013, Fontaine built his dream home in Montana, worked on improving his golf game and rode motorcycles across the U.S. and in Europe. Also an accomplished drummer, he was a noted fan of Rush drummer Neil Peart.
Tributes from Fontaine’s music industry colleagues poured in following news of his death (all via Deane Media Solutions).
Tony Smith, vp of promotion at Hollywood Records: ”Justin and I quickly became friends in Detroit in the early 80’s when we both worked for Capitol. I was lucky to later work with him at Mercury Records and then Hollywood where he hired me. What I remember most about Justin was his tenacity in everything he did and the best times we had were always on the golf course. My family loved Justin and especially my sons who had the chance to really get to know him, hockey talk was common with Red Wings vs. Devils. He was a very generous and caring person and had a quick wit. I will miss him greatly and always keep the memories of the good times we had together.”
Fred Deane, CEO at Deane Media Solutions: “Justin and I were dear professional friends for decades. He would always brighten up a room with that charming smile, and was one of the most affable, charismatic, and approachable label execs in our business. He will be missed, but his memories will remain vibrant in many of our minds.”
Alex Tear, vp of pop music & programming at SiriusXM + Pandora: “Although I hadn’t connected with Justin in years, early on in my Michigan career he always took the time and saw potential in me that I had no confidence with. I will always remember that about him and pay it forward, he was a great guy with an unforgettable smile that will be greatly missed.“
Todd Cavanah, regional vp at Audacy: “Like so many of us that knew Justin, we were introduced through music either on the radio or record side. Justin and I became great friends over the years as he would stay with me at my vacation home on Flathead Lake in Montana. A few years later, he built his retirement home there and we became neighbors. Justin was his happiest golfing, boating, riding jet skis, taking motorcycle trips, and driving his Corvette around the lake. This is the Justin that I will always remember. This is a very sad day for all of us. I miss you buddy.”
Scott Jameson, vp of national content/director of programming at Beasley Media, “Justin was a dear friend. We met in 1986 when I was in Kansas City. We both shared our love of golf and played together often. In 1997 he was the best man at my wedding and later would visit often and hang out with our family. My young son Leo called him ‘Uncle Justin.’ This past Christmas we vacationed in Scottsdale and planned on getting together but he was traveling when we were there. I’m saddened beyond words.”
Bob Cavallo, former president at Hollywood Records (now retired): “Justin was an important contributor to the great turnaround of the Disney Music Group. He developed a highly effective promotion staff at a very difficult time in the marketplace. I enjoyed working with him. We became great friends.”
Ken Benson, former radio programmer and now consultant: “I met Justin when I became the Program Director of WRQN in 1990. He was the local Geffen Detroit rep at the time. I was immediately impressed by his passion for music, his integrity, and his no nonsense style. Our business relationship quickly turned into a friendship that lasted over 30 years.”
Mark Todd, former radio programmer, “I considered Justin one of my very best friends. But that wasn’t an anomaly among those of us he interacted with in radio. It’s interesting that while he remained in contact with his record company peers, many of his ‘after retirement friends’ were actually from radio. I think that speaks volumes about the person and how he conducted himself personally and professionally.”