Last database update: 10/22/17 at 7:59 pm MST
 
 
Home 
 
News & Info 
CA Industry News 
NetNews 
Lefsetz Letter 
Encore Newsletter 
Industry Profile 
News Archives 
 
Search & Connect 
Agents 
Artist Avails 
Box Office 
Celebrities 
Managers 
Record Labels 
Talent Buyers 
Tour Dates 
Tour Promoters 
Venues 
 
The Street 
Box Office Scores 
New Releases 
Events Calendar 
Industry Links 
Billboard Charts 
VitalSigns 
 
Industry Postings 
Agent Postings 
Buyer Postings 
Avails Postings 
Classified 
 
Update Center 
Submit Data 
 
Support Center 
Report Data Errors 
Research Requests 
Technical Support 
Contact Us 
Opt-Out List 
 
Video Demos 

 
 
 
Legend
Email
Exclude this person from RapidAccess Emails
Tour Dates
Details
Non-Exclusive Agency Representation
Historical Tour Dates
   
 
CELEBRITYACCESS

Administration & Sales
Ph: (303) 350-1700
Fax: (303) 339-6877

Data Management & Technical Support
Encore/General Editorial
Ph: (860) 536-5700
Fax: (860) 536-5713

Mailing Address
Post Office Box 817
Stonington, Connecticut 06378-0817

   


CelebrityAccess

Advertisement
  

  Industry Profile




Industry Profile: Benjy Grinberg

— By Larry LeBlanc (CelebrityAccess MediaWire)

This week In the Hot Seat with Benjy Grinberg, CEO of Rostrum Records.

Pittsburgh may only be a speck on America’s music landscape now, but Benjy Grinberg, CEO of Rostrum Records, is hell bent on rapidly overhauling that perspective.

One of the first acts that this 33-year-old dynamo signed for his eight-year old label, Malcolm "Mac Miller" McCormick—a white 19-year old rapper from Pittsburgh—recently made modern-day music industry history when his debut album, “Blue Slide Park,” jumped to #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart with 160,000 copies sold in its first week of release.

It marked the first independently-distributed debut album to reach the coveted #1 position in years. The album was digitally distributed by iTunes and INgrooves with Fontana Distribution handling physical retail sales.

What’s absolutely impressive about this is that Rostrum released the album independently of major label support, and there had been virtually no radio airplay.

Sales were the result of Miller’s towering social media following (over one million Twitter followers) and a mind-bogglingly creative pre–sales strategy that Grinberg worked out with iTunes and INgrooves which engaged fans prior to the release date.

At midnight eastern time on Sept. 26, 2011, Miller took to Ustream to announce that "Blue Slide Park" was now available for pre-order. But there was a shrewd twist. Fans were offered incentives for participating in the pre-order campaign en masse, with rewards released as certain pre-order benchmarks were met—up to and including the release of the album.

Earlier this year, the Pittsburgh Steelers may have lost to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV, but Grinberg had plenty to smile about as Wiz Khalifa’s track “Black and Yellow” jumped to the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was followed by a #2 debut on the Billboard 200 for his third album "Rolling Papers."

Khalifa has had an impressive year in 2011, with two Grammy nods for "Rolling Papers" which was certified “gold” in June. His Twitter account has nearly four million followers.

Founded in 2003, Rostrum Records was launched following Grinberg’s departure from Arista Records after three years there serving as an executive assistant to Antonio "L.A." Reid, then president and CEO.

With a past success with Nitty at the label laying the groundwork for the later breakthroughs of Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller, Grinberg has been able to develop a compelling roster that now also includes Scott Simons, Donora, and Vali Porter.

The label also has the rights to the Top Shelf Studio recordings of Big Daddy Kane, Grand Puba, MC Lyte and others.

How many people work full-time at Rostrum Records?

There is a core of five of us at the label. There are three of us here in Pittsburgh and we have two people in New York. Then we have our extended network of people. A lot of third-party people that we work with. We have day-to-day managers and people who work with us, although they are not technically full-time.

How many of the acts on the label do you manage?

I manage all of them.

Do you also publish them?

I have a joint venture with Sony (Sony/ATV Music Publishing) but we don’t have our artists involved in that. They can do whatever publishing deals that they want to do.

How is it being based in Pittsburgh with a label?

Pittsburgh is a great place. It’s quiet; it’s creative; and it’s cool. I really like it here, although I spend a lot of time on the road. I spend time in New York and L.A. to do business, and I’m on tour with my artists wherever I need to be. Pittsburgh is such a great place. There are some really great writers and producers here; and some great artists come from here, and still live here. (Living here) you come at things with a different perspective. I think that is why we do things a little bit differently. We don’t have to play as many games here. We put our focus into our music, and what we need to do. There’s not a lot of politicking here. We don’t pay much attention to that kind of stuff. We just do our music, and then release it.

Has the music industry missed Pittsburgh’s potential over the years?

I think they are now clearancing it. When I started coming up in the music industry, I was working in New York and, in the back of my mind, I knew that there had to be amazing artists in Pittsburgh that just weren’t getting the attention they needed; or weren’t getting the infrastructure that they needed.

When I started the label, even though I was working in New York, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could find someone from Pittsburgh at some point?” Then, through Chad (Glick,) I ended up meeting Wiz (Khalifa), and then signing him. I ended up moving back to Pittsburgh to work with him. Then I discovered all of these other artists here. Of course, I have nothing to do with Girl Talk (aka Gregg Gillis) though he’s a good friend of ours. There are really good artists here. But I don’t think artists here have ever had the infrastructure or know-how to really break out of Pittsburgh.

[Benjy Grinberg met Wiz Khalifa 18 months after launching Rostrum. Grinberg was living in New York at the time. A friend of his, Chad Glick, had been hanging out in the Pittsburgh studio ID Labs started by his friend E. Dan, and he’d met Khalifa and other local artists there. Glick gave Grinberg a mixtape with different Pittsburgh artists on it. Grinberg was immediately interested in working with the 16-year-old Khalifa.]

You recently had a big opening week for Mac Miller’s debut album, “Blue Slide Park.”

Yeah, we did. I have never been a first week kind of guy but as things were building up it really became a priority for us to really prove what we could do.

It took two months to set up?

Oh yes. Absolutely.

Mac’s "On and On and Beyond" digital EP, released in March (2011) through iTunes, sold 11,000 copies in its first week of release. Yet, “Blue Slide Park” sold 160,000 copies in its first week. You were hoping to sell at least 100,000 copies, right?

When we finished the album, 100,000 was a pipe dream. Mac and I were kidding in the studio saying, “What if we could do 100,000 records?” (in the first week) and we both laughed. It wasn’t really something that we thought would be a reality. It was kind of that playful mentality that we were working under. But then at one point over the summer, I started taking it seriously; saying to myself, “100,000 is my goal.”

As an indie, we have never sold more than…as you said the EP did 11,000 copies. We never have done those numbers as an independent. With this album we were really trying to prove our (marketing) methods; that our way of building an artist is not only capable of building a buzz, but it is also capable of selling units.

So it became my mission. I talked to our (digital) distributor (INgrooves) and I said, “Look, 100,000 is our goal.” While they took me seriously, (their response) was also a little playful, “Yeah right.” I could tell that they thought that it was a very lofty goal as well. But you have to aim high. It would make no sense for us to say that “We really want to sell 20,000 units the first week.” What kind of goal is that? So we really shot high. We ended up surpassing; going way beyond what we thought we were going to do. It was very exciting.

You had to line up so many dominoes to make this work, including with iNgroove, and iTunes. How did you go about doing it?

Well, it started off when I was sitting in my office, and I came up with the idea. I had this goal of 100,000. We wanted Mac’s fans to get the music out as directly, and as early, as possible. We didn’t want the album to leak. I was sort of using those ingredients to come up with an idea of how best to make this a reality. I came up with this pre-order idea where if we got 100,000 people to commit to buying the album—one way or the other—then we would just release it. Then we’d knock down all of the dominoes, right?

We would sell 100,000, the album wouldn’t leak and the fans would get the album as quickly as possible.

I went to INgroove and said, “I have this idea. What would happen if we got 100,000 people to pre-order the album, and whenever we get that 100,000 we could just pre-release it?” They came back and said, “Apple doesn’t do that. You have to have a distinct release date, and you can’t move it.” I said, “They are Apple. They can do whatever they want to do. If they want to change the release date, they can change the release date.” It is not like they couldn’t work that out. So we had this little challenge (with iTunes) in terms of the regular way of doing (a release). It took a number of weeks of going back-and-forth with Apple. Some different ideas were thrown around. We essentially settled on what was our original idea, and they went with it. It was really great.

How much physical did the album sell via Fontana Distribution?

We shipped 172,000 (units) and I think we did about 40,000 some the first week and another 15,000 the following week.

This is the first release from Rostrum without a major label affiliation. You have said that you had no plans to go to a major label with it. Will that be the same for future releases on your label?

We treat each project as its own entity; its own thing. We take each artist and we…I am now working with an urban pop female singer Vali. We are developing her album right now. When we are ready with it, I might say, “This might be a thing to team up with a major for.” Partner up with them to get their radio (support) behind it. To get some of the things that the majors are great at doing.

Majors have the clout necessary for pop music; whereas you probably don’t need them as much on rap or hip hop releases.

Well, yes (that’s true). We are very attuned to the urban side of things. We have been living in that world for awhile, and we know how to maneuver within it a little bit better. With a pop crossover artist or singer, it is definitely more necessary to have a big radio push to rely on (promotional and marketing) things that the majors are better at than we are. That is not to say that we can’t release projects on our own but we are doing things with each of our artists that is best for them and their careers. So with this (Mac Miller) album, I wasn’t out to prove anything (by not going with a major). I was just out to do what is best for this artist. Mac is very independent-minded. He, more than anyone, didn’t want to go to a major or even consider it. He really wanted to do it on his own.

Mac had been releasing music on his own before signing with you as well.

Yeah, he had a couple of mixtapes. He was very excited, and motivated by us doing this together on our own and not to point his success toward, “You signed with this (label) person. That’s why you are successful.” He wanted to be successful, and prove that that he could do it on his own. For his next album, there is no reason for us to go to a major label. It’s not that we are anti-major label. Maybe we will or maybe we won’t go to a major label. A major is going to have to give us a really good reason for Mac to go to them when we’re selling a lot on our own.

If we only sell a fraction of the units that we would on a major, the economics of the situation is so drastically different. Mac is making so much more money than if he was on a major.

You certainly leveraged the video "Frick Park Market" on YouTube along with exposure on Facebook to garner initial interest in Mac’s album.

Absolutely. What we are good at, and what we have always been good at, is using the various social media—Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Using one to push the other. It goes back to when to Wiz was one of the first artists to do Ustream and Twitter together and really promote each of them at the same time. It got a lot more people to watch Ustream. (Social network awareness) really comes from the artist. Both Wiz and Mac are incredibly adept at all of the various internet outlets and using media a different way. We have learned a lot from them. We also help them to facilitate what they do, and we support what they do. But it all comes back to the artist, and their ingenuity.

[The video for “Blue Slide Park’s” first single "Frick Park Market" rolled out in Aug. (2011). It quickly attained 2.8 million YouTube views, helping concurrently to raise Mac Miller’s profile views from 50,000 to 104,000 views, week-to-week while his Facebook fans leaped from 44,000 to 100,000 new fans added, week-to-week, adding to his current overall total of 1,582, 045 fans. The "Frick Park Market" video on YouTube has now been viewed 13,270,000 times.]

All of Mac’s YouTube videos have incredibly high viewing numbers. How did that happen?

It is honestly a mystery to me. Mac has always been a very visual artist, and he has teamed up with director Ian Wolfson (who goes by the moniker Rex Arrow) and they create these amazing visuals together. They were working together before Mac and I were working together. The quality of the videos, and Mac’s personality that comes out in these videos, has always been very attractive to people. It has always been a big driver for him.

But still, 38 million views for his “Donald Trump” video is bizarre.

I know. It’s crazy. It’s really crazy. As much as I can say that the visuals are great and he’s got a great personality and whatever, there is still something so special going on that is creating this kind of virality with the videos that is inexplicable. I can tell you, “He has 38 million views on this one video because we did this or we did that.” It’s because people love the song. People love passing it off to each other and doing different things. And fans are used to discovering Mac’s music through his videos. It is just amazing. It is just inexplicable how this has gotten to this level. There is kind of a direct relationship between Mac and his fans that has created this YouTube sensation.

Donald Trump himself issued a video blog talking about the video.

It was one of the most surreal moments in my career seeing Donald Trump talking about my artist. It was amazing.

[On Dec. 5, 2001 Donald Trump gave the song another shout out while appearing on Fox News. In a goofy moment, he called Mac Miller “a young Eminem.”]

Wiz Khalifa was your first artist to have a strong touring career. In 2010, he did 130 shows. How did that aspect of his career develop?

We worked with Wiz for a couple of years before signing him with Warner Brothers which didn’t work out. Even back then, we always pushed Wiz to do shows. We always thought that it was important. First, it was regional and then we started taking off with an album called “Show and Prove” (2006) and then we started doing more independent things. Then we signed with Warner Bros. That whole episode happened.

When we got off Warner Bros. (in 2009) I said to myself, “Wiz is an indie rock band and that is how we need to see him. He needs to do what a rock band does. Let’s hit the road. Let’s release a lot of music; do lots of shows; and let’s connect with these fans. We don’t have a lot of money so we have to do this the old school way.”

That’s how we treated him.

Of course, Wiz is a rapper and an amazing artist but, mentality wise, I wanted to look at him differently and to develop him differently than other people would develop an urban artist. So that is why we took the approach of, “Let’s not look at Wiz as a rapper; let’s look at Wiz as a rock artist. Let’s do all of this touring. Let’s do all of these different things that rappers don’t usually do.”

I think the way we moshed everything together that we created a new paradigm for how to develop an urban artist.

[When veteran hip-hop agent Peter Schwartz of The Agency Group first checked out Wiz Khalifa in 2009, he sensed that the young Pittsburgh rapper was breaking out of the urban genre. The show at New York's Highline Ballroom was sold out by the time the doors opened "and obviously that got my attention," Schwartz recalled to Billboard’s Ray Waddell (Billboard, Jan. 06, 2011 issue).]

Mac has been touring heavily this year.

By the end of 2011, he will have done over 200 shows this year. Peter Schwartz books him as well. Mac does amazing shows. He’s been on tour since January. He started the tour; he took off about six weeks to make the album; and then went right back on tour. He did a month in Europe. He doesn’t finish until December 10th.

Your label is almost eight years old. What changes have there been in the touring market for urban artists? At one point, it was difficult to tour rap or hip hop artists unless they were grouped together. Rap is over 30 years old, but it’s only been in the past five years that the touring market has embraced new acts in the genre.

I agree. I think that it’s partially (because of) the mentality of the younger generation of rappers. I think that the paradigm now is that an urban artist has to do shows. They have to concentrate not only on their records. It used to be that urban artists would make records and they would get out (on the road), but touring was more of an afterthought. It was, “Oh, we have a huge record on radio. We should probably tour.” But touring is another revenue stream and another way to connect with fans. Over the past four or five years, it has become the norm that in order to connect with fans initially—because a lot of these artists can’t get on the radio, and don’t get do all of these other commercial things—…so it’s like, “Let’s tour. We can do that.”

It has become a way of building themselves up as artists and giving them the opportunity to connect with fans and to build a fan base. There has been, I believe, a transition over the past number of years toward that. Wiz, Kid Cudi, Drake and other performers who have focused on that right from the beginning have helped open the door for everybody else to do the same thing.

As the outlets changed for video, touring began to grow in importance for new acts. Touring now represents credibility.

Absolutely, it represents credibility. As well, today it’s all about an artist having a direct conversation with their fans. That’s where all of the social media comes in and touring is the ultimate extension of that. Through Twitter, artists can talk to their fans every day. They can post videos on YouTube. They can post things on Facebook. Fans these days expect that sort of connection with the artist.

Back in the day when I was growing up in the ‘80s, I watched MTV religiously. That is basically all that I would watch when I was a kid. I would watch all of these heavy metal bands and Michael Jackson and whatever it was. I had no idea what the artists did on a day-to-day basis. I didn’t know what they were having for lunch. I didn’t know all these intimate things about them.

People today expect to know what their favorite artist is doing every single day. So that conversation between the artist and the fan has really changed. It has gone from having all of the big media—from having radio and seeing your video on MTV and all these sorts of things—to a much more intimate conversation where fans know a lot more about their favorite artist. There’s this insight that fans are now really used to. Touring is now the most intimate part of all of that (engagement) layer. Fans can actually see artists and touch them. I think that fans recognize that there’s all this media everywhere. They can watch a million videos a day on YouTube or on their phone or whatever. But to actually see the artist in person and get that energy…I think that people (in the music industry) are recognizing that kind of real connection is really necessary.

Social media and mixtapes provide a career continuity that wasn’t there before with many artists. For fans, an artist is really never away.

There really is no break in the conversation and when there is it’s, “Why isn’t Wiz tweeting today?” It’s now at that macro level now where something is expected at all times. As a manager, the challenge is how to maintain that conversation but not overexpose your artists.

At what point is there a burnout?

Exactly. And how do you create the mystery that is still necessary (for stardom). You still have to have some kind of mystery with the artist. There has to be something that fans don’t know. There has to be something to continue to discover. That’s what keeps the whole thing interesting.

So (managers and artists) walk that fine line of always needing to have more content; always needing to have more conversations (with fans); yet keeping it interesting. It is just like having a long conversation with someone. After awhile, you run out of things to say or you start finding that person not as interesting as you did in the first five minutes of conversation. If we are going to create this new long conversation (for artists), we have to keep thinking of incredible topics to talk about.

You signed Scott Simons in 2005. What’s happening with him?

I signed Scott as part of a band called the Argument from West Virginia. We had some mutual friends, and I had seen them play a number of times. I really liked them so we started working together. The band broke up after about a year and Scott became a solo artist. We released a few EPs and a few singles. His cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” was a highlight of that. Now Scott has moved to L.A. He’s an incredible songwriter and he has been writing songs for a lot of other people. He just formed a new band with Dani Buncher, who is an incredible drummer. The band is going to be called Team Mate. We are mixing the project right now. It will be in early 2012 when we come out with it. I’m really excited about that.

When you were studying International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania were you doing anything in the music industry?

I interned at WXPN (member-supported radio at the University of Pennsylvania). During the summer I worked at Interscope in my junior year. I came out to L.A. after my junior year and worked as an intern for them in ’99.

Why did you want to be in the music business?

Growing up, I had always been a big music fan. Anytime that I got allowance money, I would spend it on 45s. The local record store, National Record Mart, had three 45s for $5. I loved going there. That was my favorite place to go. I would buy everything. I would also sit by the radio and wait for my favorite song to come on and I would tape it so I could listen to it when I wanted to. I was always into music and I followed it. But being from Pittsburgh, (I knew that) people in the music industry are not from Pittsburgh—in my mind. You just think of (the music industry) as this really cool thing. The possibility of doing something in the industry is not really in your mind because no one from here does that.

I was a really big music fan, but it didn’t click for me that I could participate in it or play a role in it until I was in college after my sophomore year when I was doing odds and ends working in New York City, just living there for the summer when I was 19 or 20. While I was there, it really clicked for me that I could work in music. I could play a role in music. Once I had that realization or revelation in my head, I was off to the races. I read every music industry book that there was. I did every internship that I could get my hands on. The day after I graduated at college, I moved to New York without a job, to find a job in music.

What did your parents think about that?

My parents were always very supportive. I’m the third child. My oldest brother is a mergers and acquisitions attorney in Los Angeles, and my middle brother is an investment banker in New York, so it was okay for me to expand that. To my parents credit, they were always very supportive of me. They always believed in me much more than they had any right to.

You were 22 when you moved to New York to live.

No money. For the first couple of weeks, I lived on my brother’s sofa. Then I got a job working for Digital Club Network which is one of first online web casting sites for live concerts. I think I was making $22,000 a year which in New York is not enough to get by at all. I was living on the upper west side with three or four people. It wasn’t too bad. We each had a little bedroom, and we made it work. I was only there for three or four months before I got job my job with L.A. (Antonio "L.A." Reid).

How did you connect with L.A. Reid?

I didn’t know L.A. or anyone who knew L.A. I had had limited internships with different (companies) but I didn’t know that many people in the music industry at the time. I was walking down the street one night in Manhattan, and I ran into a girl I knew in school. She was with a friend of hers. I told them I wanted to work at a record company. Her friend said that she was temping at Arista for the next couple of days. I got her email address, and I sent her my resume and said, “just give it to whomever you are working for.” She was working for (senior VP) Karen Clark who was L.A.’s right arm woman at the time. She looked at my resume and she called me in. She had a position open in her department. I went in for five interviews.

One night I got a call from her saying that she wanted to recommend me for a different job. “It’s with the president?” I said, ”You mean L.A. Reid, president?” because he had just taken over from Clive Davis. I had known his name since I was a little kid because I followed these things. I had been listening for years to all of the music that he was producing from (the Whispers’ 1987 hit) “Rock Steady” to the Boys, whatever it was. She said, “I think you’d make a great assistant. He’s looking for a new assistant.” That’s how I got into his office. I went for an interview with his then assistant who liked me, and had me come back in.

[In 2000, Antonio "L.A." Reid succeeded Clive Davis at Arista Records; becoming CEO and President of Arista. Reid, brought the company great success by signing artists such as P!nk, Ciara and Avril Lavigne, whose debut album ‘Let Go’ sold six million copies in the U.S. Also Usher completed production on his hit 2004 album “Confessions,” which sold 10 million units in the U.S.]

You also later met with L.A.

It was a short meeting. I was sitting in his office and he came in. We talked for only a few minutes. He said, “This is what I would expect of you. And tell me a little bit about yourself.” We talked for about five or eight minutes and he said, “We’ll in touch.”

In my mind, I was like “I am in L.A. Reid’s office. I’m not leaving that easily.” So I said, “I’m here now. Is there anything I can help you with right now?” He looked at me really strange like, “I can’t believe you have said this.” He said that he had to write a letter to one of the presidents of one of the other record companies. I grabbed a pen and a pad, and he gave me some notes. I went into another room. I didn’t have a computer so I wrote on the letter out on the pad. I had written an 80-page thesis (while in university) so writing a letter wasn’t too tough. I wrote it in five minutes. I showed it to the assistant. She said, “Wow. This sounds like LA.” She said “Hold on,” and she went into L.A.’s office and was there for about 15 minutes. Then they came out and said, “You have the job.”

How long did you work for L.A.?

I worked for him 2 1/2 years. I was there from 2000 to 2003. I started off as a second assistant. Then the main assistant left after nine months and I became what I’d call the executive assistant. I was the one who did all of the meetings. I would sit in all of the meetings and take notes. I would do all of his music charts for him. I kept all of the music (in his office) in order. I did all sorts of things for him. We had another assistant that did the scheduling and the dinners—more of the secretarial stuff.

The access must have been great with you being a newcomer to the industry.

It was unbelievable. I was a newbie in the music industry and I got thrown in the deep end in an amazing way. Arista was incredibly hot at that time. We had hits all over the place. Here I am sitting next to the president of the company and really having a lot responsibly drawn on myself. I have a warm spot in my heart for L.A. because he took me in and he really gave me the opportunity to grow by being around him, and experiencing everything; by being able to watch him operate.

Avril Lavigne broke while you were at Arista.

Avril was the first artist that I got to see go from being totally unknown to being a humongous star. When I worked for L.A., Arista had all of these huge artists. We had Toni Braxton, TLC, Whitney Houston, and Usher. They had already been stars by the time that I was working for L.A. Avril was the first (artist) that I met in the office. She was just a girl who could sing who had been brought in. During the course of my time there, I got to see her go from being unknown to extremely famous. She was the first artist I got to see go from zero to 60 (mph). It was really interesting.

[Avril Lavigne’s signing with Arista came about when the label’s then A&R rep Ken Krongard visited a New York studio where she was writing. He was so impressed with her that he returned with L.A. Reid. After she sang several songs, Reid offered to sign her. Global shipments of Lavigne's debut, “Let Go” reached 10 million units after its worldwide release by Arista in 2002, including five million units in the U.S.]

On the Friday you were at Arista with 200 other employees. On Monday, you were launching in your apartment on your own launching Rostrum Records. Quite a contrast.

It was unbelievable. It was one of the craziest experiences in my professional career. It was literally Friday to Monday. Friday was my last day. They had a little party for me in the office. On Monday, I was sitting there by myself and saying, “Do something. “

You didn’t then know what the label would be about?

I had been working on the Top Shelf (catalog) a little bit. I was writing music as well. When I left Arista it was to start the label, and I would have a little more time to get better at writing and producing music. But quickly the label started taking off and the songwriting and producing had to take a backstreet to focusing on the projects that I was working on.

[In 1988, the recording studio Top Shelf, located in the basement of an East Village brownstone in Manhattan, was looted during the Tompkins Square Park Riot. Recordings by many artists were lost. Eventually, Rostrum Records acquired many of these recordings and has since begun issuing them.]

How did you acquire the rights to the Top Shelf catalog?

Top Shelf was the first project that I began working on. I worked on it with Chris Lytwyn and Fab 5 Freddy. We still haven’t released (the catalog) properly yet. We released a Top Shelf (compilation) album in Japan in 2006. We were talking to a couple of TV outlets and a couple of media companies about doing something bigger in the U.S. Like creating a TV show around it, and getting all of these old school rappers together and doing something new. Everywhere we went down, it ended up being a dead end, however. As well, we were more focused on Wiz. The more immediate (projects) happened because old school recordings, they are still going to be old school recordings whether we had released them in 2007 or 2010 or whenever. We had to stay focused on whatever was on hand.

Did people return your phone calls once you left Arista?

One of the important things for me when starting Rostrum was that I wanted to truly do it (be successful) on my own. So I never went to L.A. and asked him for a favor. Out of respect, I would send something to him first and tell him that I was working on this artist and that I was going to start shopping them soon. “So if you have any interest let me know.”

You obviously have respect and love for him.

I wanted to make sure that at no time he’d be able to say, “Why didn’t you play this for me? We have this relationship and you went somewhere else?” So I always played stuff for him first. I never wanted to ask him for favors. I wanted to prove that I could do something on my own. That’s how I’ve always done things.

Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide.


Top of page
Pricing Enroll Contact Us Advertise With Us
Please let us know if you find information that is incorrect or missing.
CelebrityAccess/EventWire is best viewed at a minimum screen resolution of 1024 x 768
Website Use Agreement
© 1998-2017 Gen-Den Corporation. All rights reserved.
CelebrityAccess® is a service mark of Gen-Den Corporation.
Privacy Policy