Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Seymour Stein Out at Warner Music After 51 Years, The Man Who Gave Us Madonna, the Ramones, Pretenders, Talking Heads


Legendary and beloved music man Seymour Stein is out at Warner Music after 51 years.

Seymour is a record business legend, still working as an international talent scout for Warner and their ADA collection of indie labels. He’s always been there. He started Sire Records 51 years ago, and brought the world Madonna, The Ramones, Pretenders, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Seal, so many others, as well my favorite– the great one off single, Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plan Pour Moi?”

The news that he’s leaving comes as a shock since Stein was just honored two nights ago in Los Angeles for his Special Merit Grammy Award. A story about his tribute was just posted to the Warner Music Group website. He’s also just published a bestselling memoir called, “Siren Song: My Life in Music.” It’s full of juicy tidbits from his earliest days, like when he ran the charts at Billboard magazine.

But this is where we are in the music business.

Like Clive Davis, Seymour Stein is the last of the great record execs, music mavens of all time. He carved out a place for himself when he launched Sire, one of the few dependable labels within the shaky Warner Music Group. He survived the 1995-96 flip when Warner was sold to business killer Edgar Bronfman, Jr. And he survived again when Bronfman finally cashed out and sold to Len Blavatnik’s ACCESS Group. (I’m surprised, frankly, that Blavatnik is letting Stein exit.)

But Warner Music is a shell of its old self even when it’s trying to rebound. The heyday is over. Stein said in his exit statement today that he was eager to get back to his “indie roots.”

He said: “I was very fortunate during my youth to learn from so many great indie label people, like Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun and Jerry Wexler at Atlantic, and my greatest mentor, Syd Nathan at King Records,” said Stein in his announcement. “I went on to work with so many other great indies around the world as Sire grew to become the legendary brand it is today. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all the amazing artists — far too many to name — who have called Sire home over the years.”

Stein has also been one of the few stabilizing voices at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, especially since the death of Ahmet Ertegun. Seymour has constantly stood up for early influencers, side man, R&B acts that Jann Wenner has ignored.

I am eager to hear Seymour’s next move. He’s young as springtime and one of the few connections to the industry’s heyday. Viva Seymour Stein!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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