Sire Records co-founder Seymour Stein — who signed and released albums by Madonna, the Ramones, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, the Smiths, the Pretenders, and many others — will be leaving Warner Music Group after four decades with the company, it was announced Wednesday. The announcement was made in tandem with Stein receiving the Recording Academy’s Trustees Award on Saturday night at the organization’s Special Merit Awards ceremony and tribute concert in Los Angeles. Last year, Rani Hancock was named president of Sire, which was acquired by Warner in 1978, and will helm the label going forward.
“I’ve enjoyed much of my time at Warner’s, but in truth I long for my indie roots and the greater independence that I experienced back in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s,” Stein (pictured above with David Byrne and Madonna) said in making the announcement. “So the time has come to move on to the next phase of my career, leaving Sire in the hands of Rani Hancock, whom I sincerely wish all the luck in the world. I’m very proud that Sire was named the #15 label of the past 100 years in a major poll conducted by Variety earlier this year. I trust that it will continue to be a place where great songs and great artists will live for many years to come.”
Stein also referenced his recently released autobiography “Siren Song,” a detailed chronicle of his 50 years in the industry (read an excerpt here). “Writing and promoting my autobiography, ‘Siren Song,’ along with the news of my Grammy Award, brought a flood of memories from my earliest days at Sire right up to the present,” he continued. “I was very fortunate during my youth to learn from so many great indie label people, like Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun and Jerry Wexler at Atlantic, and my greatest mentor, Syd Nathan at King Records. I went on to work with so many other great indies around the world as Sire grew to become the legendary brand it is today. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all the amazing artists – far too many to name – who have called Sire home over the years.
“Rest assured, I intend to remain active, and I’ll be back in action again soon. I’m looking forward to the future and continuing to develop new artists in the music business that I love so much.”
The Trustees Award was presented to Stein by singer and author Henry Rollins, who said, “Seymour is the ultimate visionary indie, hearts & minds music executive of all time. His unquenchable passion has made the world a better, more open, free and cool place for almost six decades… Seymour, thank you for being the kind of record man that makes music history.” Past recipients have included legendary music executives such as Ahmet Ertegun, Nesuhi Ertegun, Jac Holzman, Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, Mo Ostin, Chris Blackwell, Clive Davis, and many others.