From left: Billboard Associate Publisher (and former Sire recording artist) Tommy Page, Sire Records co-founder Seymour Stein, Billboard editorial director Bill Werde, MIDEM director Bruno Crolot (Photo: MIDEM)
CANNES — Billboard honored Sire Records co-founder Seymour Stein Sunday as the first recipient of its Icon Award, which recognizes the lifetime achievements of industry executives. Stein received the award during a breakfast at Cannes’ Carlton Hotel before an audience that included Stein’s Sire co-founder and longtime friend Richard Gottehrer (now of the Orchard) and other colleagues, friends, family members and industry luminaries.
Among those indebted to Stein is Billboard editorial director Bill Werde, who in his introductory remarks recalled the impact that the Ramones, one of many legendary acts that Stein signed to Sire, had on him as a teenager growing up in Delaware.
See Billboard’s Icon package on Seymour Stein, with a retrospective video featuring Stein, Ice-T, Talking Heads, Tommy Ramone, Clive Davis and others; Stein’s exhaustive Q&A with Billboard’s Ed Christman; a career timeline, Sire chart history and much more.
“The Ramones are really the band the changed my life,” Werde said. “That was my gateway drug…That was the band that took me on my path and got me into cool music and got me into all these things. To some extent, you can blame Seymour for my being here at all. And Seymour, I personally thank you very much for that.”
Among those present was a selection of honorees from Billboard’s just-released Power 100 list — including Warner Music Group chairman/CEO for recorded music Lyor Cohen (No. 14, who shared a table with Stein), U2 manager Paul McGuinness (No. 27, who stopped by just minutes before his l atest headline-grabbing appearance at MIDEM) and Coca-Cola head of global sports and entertainment marketing Emmanuel Seuge (No. 16), who sat next to Spotify’s head of partnerships Gerrit Meier, adding further credence to speculation that an announcement of Coca-Cola’s “strategic partnership” with Spotify is imminent.
Other Power 100 executives in attendance were BMG Rights Management CEO Hartwig Masuch (No. 44), Kobalt Music Group founder/CEO Willard Ahdritz (No. 88) and American Assn. of Independent Music president Rich Bengloff (No. 97).
Presenting Stein with the award was Billboard Associate Publisher — and former Sire recording artist — Tommy Page, who had a no. 1 Hot 100 single in 1990 with “I’ll Be Your Everything.”
Page told the audience about how he first met Stein in 1987 at Nell’s, the Manhattan nightclub where Page had been working as a coat-check attendant. The then-18-year-old Page told the famed executive, “Seymour Stein, I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet you.” To which Stein quipped, “that couldn’t have been too long, kid.” That same night, after hearing his music for the first time, Stein offered Page a record contract.
Tommy Page presents Seymour Stein with the Billboard Icon Award (Photo: 360 Media/Image & Co)
After recording three albums for Sire, Page went on to become a A&R executive and then VP for Top 40 promotion at Warner Bros./Reprise Records, sharing the same assistant with Stein, before joining Billboard last year. “Seymour’s like a father to me, I love him dearly,” Page said.
Also attending were Stein’s daughters Mandy and Samantha Stein Wells, whom Seymour — who began his career at Billboard — thanked in the gracious acceptance speech he delivered after receiving the award.
“I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “Thank you Billboard, not just for today but for taking me in when I was 14 years old, where Paul Ackerman and Tom Noonan first taught me Music Business 101. Thanks to my other great mentors Syd Nathan, Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler and George Goldner for continuing my education. Thank you Richard Gottehrer, co-founder of Sire Records, partners for eight years, friends for life. Thank you MIDEM for rolling out the world of music and putting it all in front of my eyes and ears back in the 1960s. I signed Sire’s first million-selling band, the Dutch band Focus, here in Cannes. They actually kept our doors open for quite a while. Walking the halls of the Palais over the years, we discovered great music: Plastic Bertrand; the great Israeli singer Ofra Haza; my personal favorite was “Scatterlings of Africa” by Juluka, a mixed-race band from South Africa in the last days of apartheid — very, very important.
“Music knows no international boundaries,” he continued. “Look to India, China Russia, Turkey, Indonesia, South Africa and of course Latin America for the future.
Seymour Stein giving an acceptance speech upon receiving his Icon Award (Photo: 360 Media/Image & Co)
“Thank you Lyor Cohen — you’re a force of nature — and Warner Music Group, partners for over 36 years and still going strong. Thanks most of all to the great artists on the Sire roster over the past 45 years, still rolling along with our latest signing, Delta Rae, from North Carolina. Finally, thanks to my daughters Samantha and Mandy and my two granddaughters Dora and Leia for their support. Thanks to all my friends and colleagues for turning out today. Thank you all very, very much.”