Mike Taylor, the U.S.-born music man who forged an outstanding major label career in his adopted homeland, Australia, where he A&R’d Delta Goodrem’s mega-hit album Innocent Eyes, has died following a battle with cancer. He was 54.
“After enduring a long illness, Michael Taylor passed away peacefully on Jan. 11, 2024, in Brewster, New York, surrounded by family and loved ones,” reads a message circulated by family members.
Taylor moved to Sydney, Australia in 2001 when he joined Sony Music as head of A&R for Sony Music. There, Taylor worked on Goodrem’s Innocent Eyes, an album that created history, and cleaned up on the charts – and later, awards ceremonies.
Innocent Eyes logged an unprecedented 29 weeks at No.1 on the ARIA Albums Chart following its release in March 2003, and was declared the highest-selling album award at the ARIA Awards two years running. Delta snagged seven ARIA Awards in 2003, and was the first artist to have five No. 1 singles on the Australian chart from a debut album.
Taylor was rewarded by Sony Music with a stint in the U.S., where he served as senior director with the major’s Epic Records division. Less than two years later, he was back in Sydney, starting what would be a 15-year tenure with Universal Music Australia, which included stints as executive VP, A&R and founding general manager and head of UMA imprint, Island Records Australia.
At UMA, he was instrumental in growing the company’s domestic roster, signing a lineup of stars including Hilltop Hoods, Havana Brown, Baker Boy, Briggs, Clare Bowditch, Shane Nicholson, The McClymonts and Dean Lewis.
In September 2022, Taylor announced plans to leave his post as managing director of UMA, citing personal reasons and to dedicate more time to ongoing treatments.
Earlier in his career, Taylor had A&R stints in the U.S. with Columbia Records and at Madonna’s Maverick Recording Company.
For much of his time Down Under, Taylor’s was the only American accent to be heard at showcases and awards parties.
“I loved it then, and love it now. Living in Sydney is such an enjoyable life style,” he told this reporter in 2013, on his move to Australia. “I grew up in New York and lived in the city for years, so I wanted a change. In terms of the music scene and industry in Australia, I think it’s really vibrant, and punches way above its weight class for its population size.”
Outside of his day-to-day duties, Taylor and Peter Coquillard, now senior manager and head of international, Milk and Honey, established the Bali Songwriting Invitational, a camp where music creators could collaborate in paradise.
“Great songs are the key to success for an artist,” Taylor explained. “Writing in an environment that takes you out of your normal day to day can act be a catalyst to special songs.”
As news of his passing spread through the Australian industry, friends and colleagues remembered Taylor as one of the good guys, passionate about music, loyal to his people.
“Professionally respected and personally admired by everyone in the business,” is how Darren Aboud, COO at Select Music Agency, remembers his friend and former colleague. “He was a joy to work with; he gave so much back and his knowledge about cocktails was only surpassed by his knowledge of music.” Taylor and Aboud were appointed joint managing directors for Universal Music Labels Australia, as part of a restructuring unveiled in 2014. “His five-year fight with cancer was extraordinary,” recounts Aboud. “He was determined to live the best life no matter what he was up against.”
Adrian Wauchope, senior VP commercial at Warner Music Australasia, salutes Taylor as “a legend and a true music man,” while Don Elford, director of global partnerships at ASM Global, remembers Taylor as “the real deal.”
Taylor is survived by his wife Jenny and son Charlie.
His life and career will be celebrated this Saturday, Jan. 20 during a service at St Lawrence O’Toole Church, in Brewster, New York. A party will follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Charlie Taylor’s college fund.