At last week’s (Jan. 20-23) iHeartMedia Music Summit in Burbank, Calif., label heads presented the titular multi-platform giant iHeartMedia (radio ownership/TV events/iHeartRadio app) with their upcoming projects that are predicted to score commercial success in 2015. Kanye West also took the stage to introduce “FourFiveSeconds,” his new collab with Rihanna and Paul McCartney, which bounds onto the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 54 this week and looks set to soar on the chart next week, following a full first week of sales.
Among the speakers at the four-day gathering was Scooter Braun, manager of Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Rixton and Carly Rae Jepsen, among others, owner of School Boy Records and Raymond-Braun Media Group and a two-time Billboard cover star. Following the confab, Braun chatted with Billboard about the value of the event, what new music Bieber and Jepsen have on the way and a very personal milestone that he’s looking forward to celebrating soon.
What was the vibe of being at the iHeartMedia Music Summit?
It was an honor to be in that room. Just seeing all the people, many of whom have made big decisions on records that I’ve been involved with. They’ve changed the lives of those artists. They’ve changed my life. It meant a lot to me be to be able to get up on that stage.
How do you view radio’s influence in 2015?
I think all platforms are important. Buying music is important. Playing live is still very important. And, radio is still significantly important. You look at [Billboard‘s Digital Songs] chart and [so many] of those records in the top 10 have been influenced by the power of radio. We can stream all we want, but we still need tastemakers. We don’t have all the time in our day to sit around and scrounge for music — well, I do; I work in the business — and decide what we like and don’t like. People still want influencers, people [to whom they] can say, “Hey, I trust you. I choose to listen to this station. Tell me what you like.” Then, I’ll decide if I like it.
Can you give us any more details about Kanye West’s presentation at the Summit, besides what Billboard has reported (including West’s embrace of radio, his sharing of private exchanges between himself and Paul McCartney and his premiering, from his laptop, his, McCartney and Rihanna’s new collab, “FourFiveSeconds”)?
There wasn’t one specific thing … just his storytelling, [including about] being in the studio with McCartney and the influence that Talib Kweli had on him. He was so charismatic. And the passion he has for music — he was breaking out into song multiple times. You could feel that energy. He was honest. It was refreshing and it was fun. He had us all smiling. You felt like you were experiencing something special. At the end, Kanye was so good that my intern walked over and hugged me and said, “Thank you, this was the best day of my life.”
Two of your acts that were well-received at the summit include a new artist, Who Is Fancy (“Goodbye”), and Capitol’s Tori Kelly (“Nobody Love”). Any others that stood out?
Carly Rae Jepsen. Her new single is coming in March. I told her that she couldn’t come out with anything unless it was on the level of “Call Me Maybe.” And, now we have a new one that is on that level. Plus, Rixton‘s “Hotel Ceiling.” We also had a great presentation on Ariana [Grande] and [gave thanks] for how much she’s gotten played in the past year.
And, Tori, I’m really excited for and the album she’s written with Max Martin. If you don’t let the world hear her sing, you’re doing the world a disservice. She’s that good. The notes she hits are ridiculous.
Then, I had a couple private meetings about what we’re about to do with Justin [Bieber].
Feel free to share some of the details of those meetings …
Um … he’s been in the studio with Rick Rubin for the last two weeks now. The vibe has been spectacular. We’re coming this year.
One other artist that you work with is Glee‘s Amber Riley. Any news of an album from her? Her powerful voice has become so familiar for more than five years now, thanks to the show.
She’s finishing [the final season of Glee] now. But, she’s been recording in the meantime. When the show is done she’s really going to get things going. There are a couple other TV and movie opportunities for her, as well. I actually want her to do a Christmas album. Oh, and she has the biggest heart in the world.
What else are you excited about for this year?
Being a father, very soon.
Boy or girl?
… I can’t say. I’m not breaking that news here!