Posted by Erica Ramon
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Benjy Grinberg, founder of Rostrum Records. It’s an admirable thing to start your own business, but even more impressive to make it successful. Well, Benjy has done just that. After exiting Arista under the stalwart, LA Reid, Benjy has grown his label from apartment to office building with artists like Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller. Read on to gain some insight and a positive perspective on what it’s like to run a label in today’s industry and get a taste of who Benjy is.
When evaluating artists, what do you consider to be the top 3 things that make them standout?
Charisma, drive, and raw talent.
It seems that today, industry execs are becoming celebrities in their own right, what do you think of that and do you think it plays an important part in our business?
I actually think that was more of a fad in the 90s and early 2000s. You had people like Puff, Dame, JD, etc. blurring the line between executive/artist/producer/celebrity. Today I find that people are sticking more to one lane (with obvious exceptions on tv, etc). I’d much rather let my artists get the shine. Celebrity aside, I think the more credible and known an executive becomes within the industry, the more strings he/she can pull for their artists.
How do you think your experience working with LA Reid prepared you for Rostrum? And by the way, what is a Rostrum?
My time with Mr. Reid was a very important growth period for me. I essentially went from graduating college to being in the center of the music universe. Arista at the time was incredibly successful. We had Pink, Usher, Avril Lavigne, Outkast, Toni Braxton, etc. We were on fire! Being able to spend every day and night with Mr. Reid was a ridiculously valuable experience. He trusted me with a lot of responsibilities and gave me room to develop as a music executive. I’ll always be grateful for that. A “rostrum” is a raised platform or podium from which you speak to the public. When starting my company, I wanted artists to feel that by signing to my label they would get their chance to express themselves to the masses.
Historically speaking, labels have been seen as somewhat of a take on a “bank,” for lack of a better word. With CD sales far less than ever before, how has Rostrum shifted the focus to make this label a player?
We’re involved across the board with our artists, providing management, marketing, new media, and merch services. A modern-day label has to be much more advanced than its predecessors. The company has to be smart, nimble, and stay ahead of the curve. The best way to do that is to LISTEN TO YOUR ARTISTS. They know more than you give them credit for. But labeling music companies as “banks” really misses the point of what an active, intuitive record company can do for an artist.
What is your vice?
Chocolate chip cookies.
Who haven’t you worked with yet that you would like to?
I love my artists and I love my team at Rostrum. We’re a tight-knit group and we work very hard. I’m sure there are undiscovered artists and up-and-coming music executives that would fit in well as we continue to grow. I look forward to meeting and working with them one day soon.
What keeps it fresh for you?
My close relationship with my artists. As they continue to grow, I grow. As they experience new things, I experience them as well. I love learning and I always strive for a better understanding of the world. Additionally, innovation is very exciting for me. I feel that young companies like ours are starting trends and breaking new ground for artists to come.
What haven’t you done yet that is on your list?
I need to get Barry Manilow and my mom in the same room. And I need to make sure there are cameras to capture the moment. It would be amazing.
If you weren’t in the music business what else would you be doing?
I would still be an entrepreneur. I would be running some other business that I had started. Creation is what drives me. But music is my love, my soul. It’s very important to me.
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