You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

At 10-Years, Cherrytree Label Continues to Bear Fruit

If anyone can lay claim to the notion that the music industry’s premature death is highly exaggerated, it’s Martin Kierszenbaum, CEO and president of Cherrytree Records.

“It’s the shorthand message that is spinning around right now,” he says. “I am a songwriter and a musician. That is how I grew up. I refuse to accept that the intellectual property (musicians) create is just going to be given up for free as some sort of loss leader.”

As the label begins its 10-year celebration, Cherrytree can take credit for 31 Grammy nominations, 51 international No. 1 singles, an ongoing parade of placements in film, TV and advertising and a staggering 33 million albums sold worldwide. From mainstream superstars such as Sting and Lady Gaga, to more left-of-center hitmakers like Feist, Far East Movement, and LMFAO, Cherrytree has benefitted from the leadership of Kierszenbaum, who understands the creative process from the inside out.

Begun as an artist-haven boutique label, under the Interscope/Universal umbrella in 2005 with the blessing of Jimmy Iovine, Cherrytree has grown into one of the industry’s premiere 360 operations. It includes a full-service record company, management firm and publishing house.

“Cherrytree is a convergence of a place in time and also my taste, shaped by my upbringing, which involved moving around the world a lot,” says Kierszenbaum, the son of research scientists. He gravitated toward music, studying piano from age 8.
After college, he worked as a publicist, first for Warner Bros. Records, then with A&M, where he moved into A&R. It was there where he began his 25-year relationship with Sting. When Interscope took over A&M, Kierszenbaum began working with Eminem, Gwen Stefani, Nelly Furtado, Soundgarden and the Black Eyed Peas. Eventually he was encouraged by Iovine to start Cherrytree (the name is the German-Polish translation of his last name), where he brought Sting over in 2007.

Today, Kierszenbaum views Sting as “a mentor and a very good friend,” and credits him with teaching to encourage the artists on Cherrytree to develop their creative urges, no matter how un-commercial they may appear at the onset. He points to “Songs From the Labyrinth,” an album of 17th-century lute compositions Sting insisted on making that went to No. 1 on the classical charts and sold platinum.

“People will be listening to his music for the next 50 to 100 years, or more,” Kierszenbaum says of Sting.
“In the end, if he wants to make a Kentucky clogging record, we’re gonna make it. That’s kind of the way I am with all the artists on my label.”

Adds Sting: “My fans have come to expect the unexpected. I feel blessed for that, because for me, the essence of music is the element of surprise — a principle that Martin very much shares and fortunately, has encouraged throughout the 25 years we’ve worked together.”

In terms of a larger strategy, Kierszenbaum made music synchronization of its artists into national ads, TV shows and feature films a priority. He has seen the label’s sales skyrocket using this approach with Ellie Goulding, Robyn, Far East Movement, LMFAO and Feist, whose “1234” went platinum after the video was incorporated into an Apple Nano TV spot.

“That was the shot heard round the world,” says Kierszenbaum. “They integrated our own video for ‘1234’ into the spot. They had never done that before, but they felt she was one of the artists that was about to break, and Apple wanted to be associated with that, as opposed to an act that was already ubiquitous.”

He credits Andrea Ruffalo, Cherrytree’s g.m. and head of music synchronizations, as the driving force in this area. Her efforts resulted in placements for new Cherrytree artists on the “50 Shades of Grey” soundtrack and in the upcoming Melissa McCarthy film, “Spy.”

The career of Lady Gaga — who left Cherrytree to sign with Interscope proper, though she remains close to Kierszenbaum — didn’t take off until after Cherrytree broke her in Sweden. “In the beginning it was difficult,” he recalls. “People said she sounded too European; too disco. I remember all those things because I have scars from them.” Her first two albums resulted in 21 million in sales.

“Martin’s musicality as a writer and producer; his international awareness and believing that music no matter the genre has to come from a real place and culture is what has the strongest impact on the artists and label,” says Far East Movement’s Kev Nish, whose “Like a G6” went to No. 1, aided by Cherrytree’s innovative marketing strategy.

In the meantime, Kierszenbaum will continue signing and developing artists that push the pop music envelope.
“We don’t do focus groups,” he says. “We infiltrate the nooks and crannies; identifying subsets of culture and seeing if we can help amplify something that is heading in that direction anyway. We do that with our antenna. Our decisions are made by instinct and experience.”

More Music

  • Jussie Smollett court

    Jussie Smollett's Attorneys Say He Was Victim of Police 'Spectacle'

    Jussie Smollett’s legal team issued a defiant statement on Thursday night, saying the “Empire” actor feels betrayed by the justice system and hinting at a political motive for his prosecution. Smollett was arrested early Thursday on a felony charge of filing a false police report. He was released after a court hearing on $100,000 bond, [...]

  • Best Score Nominee Alexandre Desplat Is

    Best Score Nominee Alexandre Desplat to Skip Oscar Ceremony

    Best score nominee Alexandre Desplat will be unable to attend Sunday’s Oscar ceremonies because of recent throat surgery, a rep for the composer confirms. The French native, already a two-time Oscar winner (for 2014’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” and 2017’s “The Shape of Water”), is nominated this year for his Japanese-flavored score for Wes Anderson’s “Isle [...]

  • Credit: Photo by Adela Loconte/REX/Shutterstock (9788964b)Gary

    Gary Clark Jr. Finds the Right Words, as Well as Solos, on New Album

    From the scorched earth rock and anti-racist (and anti-Trump-ian) howl of its title tune to the pounding country-blues of “The Governor,” with its cynical take on social justice issues, Gary Clark Jr.’s third studio effort, “This Land,” does what none of the 35-year-old singer-guitarist’s albums have in the past: it puts his mouth where his [...]

  • Heather Parry Live Nation

    Heather Parry Fired From Live Nation Productions

    Live Nation Entertainment announced Thursday that Heather Parry will leave the company following a Variety investigation into allegations of workplace bullying. Parry ran Live Nation Productions, the TV and film arm of the touring conglomerate, for three years. In December, Variety reported that Live Nation’s human resources department had been repeatedly warned that Parry was [...]

  • Maxine Waters

    Maxine Waters Reacts to Jussie Smollett Arrest: 'I Would Be Disappointed' if It's a Hoax

    Maxine Waters said she “would be disappointed” if it’s proven that her friend Jussie Smollett staged his own attack. Speaking with Variety‘s Marc Malkin on Thursday at Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Awards, the U.S. representative from California said, “If in fact it’s a hoax, of course I would be disappointed.” Smollett faces one felony [...]

  • Beck House

    Beck Lists Updated Vintage Traditional in Los Feliz (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mononymically known indie music iconoclast Beck, who took home his sixth and seventh Grammys earlier this year for his 13th studio album (“Colors”), has put one of the three homes he and wife Marisa Ribisi own along the same, gated street in a coveted neighborhood of L.A.’s Los Feliz area for $2.45 million. The couple [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content