Malcolm Campbell, a longtime publishing executive for national music publications including SPIN, Blender, the Fader and Rolling Stone, died on April 29 at his home in City Island, New York. Campbell, 61, had been battling a recurrence of pancreatic cancer that had first been identified the previous year.
“With heavy hearts, we announce the loss of our beloved Malcolm Campbell, who passed away peacefully at home on April 29th, 2021 at 10 pm,” read an update on the GoFundMe page set up by friends of Campbell’s on behalf of his wife Charlene to help pay for medical bills. “He was surrounded by his family and CC, his loyal dog by his side,” the note continued. “There are no words to describe the devastation that is felt by all. Malcolm impacted the lives of countless individuals, friends, and family.”
A beloved industry figure with a bearlike frame and a larger-than-life personality — a byproduct of his Tennessee-by-way-of Scotland roots — Campbell is warmly remembered by friends, family, and colleagues for his “huge heart,” “magical ability to connect with others,” and “unquenchable thirst for spreading fun and good cheer,” as experienced by the many who knew Campbell from the legendary events he helped host at South By Southwest and other industry conferences. As the online fundraiser noted, “Malcolm always ratcheted up every experience to 11.”
A native of Johnson City, Tenn., Campbell graduated from Wofford College in South Carolina and started his career in 1987 at Chicago ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding as an account executive who, according to his own LinkedIn profile, “was the best Male Account Executive to ever work on a pantyhose account. … However, management saw my potential with malted beverages and moved me over to the Coors account.”
In 1991, he began what would become a three-decade run working on the business and sales side of iconic music magazines, joining SPIN (then a print publication) as a midwest sales manager and moving up to associate publisher and eventually publisher within nine years. Based in New York City, Campbell grew the title’s business through an ownership change to reach circulation peaks in the 1990s. Of his experience building and nurturing a national sales team at SPIN, Campbell wrote on LinkedIn simply, “We kicked ass.”
“Malcolm had the same passion whether he was in a boardroom or a barroom, although I know he preferred the latter,” says Dan O’Conor, a longtime friend who worked on Campbell’s SPIN sales team for 14 years. “He was a decorated sales exec in an industry with a reputation for being cutthroat, but always remained a true Southern gentleman.”
Campbell moved to competitor Blender magazine in Feb. 2001 as the Dennis Publishing-owned title launched that year to much fanfare and landed on AdAge’s “Hot List.” Campbell served as publisher for nearly four years before returning to SPIN for another five-year stint as publisher, from 2006 to 2011.
Hip music and culture brand The Fader followed in 2013, where Campbell spent six years as VP, sales and brand partnerships.
“We’ve lost a legend,” says Andy Cohn, a 16-year veteran of The Fader before departing as president and publisher in 2019. “Malcolm was my first boss in publishing at SPIN, and I was lucky enough to have him work with me at the Fader for many years, and countless adventures together. Malcolm taught me how to appreciate every moment, personally and professionally, and never take anything for granted. The world will be a lot less fun without him.”
In Jan. 2019, Campbell took the position of executive director of corporate sales, east coast, for PMC/Penske Media, the corporate parent of Variety, where he led a team whose portfolio included Rolling Stone, WWD, Indiewire, SheKnows and Robb Report.
Campbell is survived by a son, Ian, and daughter, Chandler, and wife Charlene.