Stephen Swid, Music Publishing Titan Who Helped Turn Around SESAC, Dies at 78

Stephen Swid, a music executive who helped turn SESAC into a major contender in the world of performing rights organizations alongside BMI and ASCAP, died Sunday at 78.

Swid was also famous as the “S” in SBK Entertainment, a music publishing company that he, Martin Bandier and Charles Koppelman (the “B” and “K,” respectively) formed in the late 1980s out of the ashes of CBS Songs, then sold just a couple of years later.

The New York Times reported that the cause of death was complications of frontotemporal degeneration.

SESAC was founded in 1930 as the second performing rights org in the U.S., but was barely a blip on the radar in comparison to ASCAP and BMI until Swid, Freddie Gershon and Ira Smith purchased it in 1993 for a mere $15 million. In the years that followed, the company became a contender by signing up some of the biggest songwriting names in the world, including Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond. Although it still ranks behind the other two PROs in volume, the writers it represents include such hitmakers as Adele, Charli XCX and Blanco Brown. In recent years, SESAC has made converts of veterans like R.E.M., Ric Ocasek and David Crosby as well.

Swid retired as SESAC’s chairman in 2013 after 21 years at the helm, at which point it had grown to control about 8 percent of the U.S. market. It was sold in 2017 for $1.2 billion.

Prior to his involvement in the music business, Swid was a founder of the investment partnership Swid Investors and was co-chairman/co-CEO of the design firm Knoll International. Later he moved into the world of print publications as the chairman/CEO of Spin magazine during some of its peak years, in 1989-97, and served the same role with the academic publishing company Westview Press.

Swid was involved philanthropically with many arts organizations in New York, including the Guggenheim Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Municipal Art Society. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

More Music

  • Member of South Korean Girl Group

    Korean Pop Star Sulli Dies at 25

    Korean pop star Sulli was found dead at her home near Seoul on Monday. She was 25. Her manager found her body and alerted the police. The manager reported that the star, whose real name was Choi Jin-ri, suffered from depression, and police said that they were working on the assumption that she had died [...]

  • Jay Frank

    Jay Frank, UMG Senior VP and Digital Music Veteran, Dies at 47

    Universal Music executive and digital music veteran Jay Frank died Sunday after a battle with cancer. He was 47. UMG chief Lucian Grainge remembered him in a message sent to the company. “Dear Colleagues,” it reads. “I’m deeply saddened to tell you that our colleague and friend Jay Frank has passed after a recurrence of [...]

  • Boomtown Rats Feature Doc Launches From

    Boomtown Rats Feature Doc Launches From New Music Banner BeyondTNC (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bob Geldof and the re-formed Boomtown Rats will talk about their legendary punk band in a new feature doc, “Boomtown.” It is one of the first two films from a new music producer-distributor that has been formed by Beyond Entertainment and TNC Media – BeyondTNC. BeyondTNC will be launching “Boomtown” to international buyers in Cannes, [...]

  • Zedd

    DJ Zedd Banned From China After Liking 'South Park' Tweet

    Zedd has been “permanently banned” from China after the German DJ liked a tweet from the “South Park” Twitter account. Zedd, whose real name is Anton Zaslavski, announced the news via his own Twitter account: “I just got permanently banned from China because I liked a @SouthPark tweet,” he wrote. I just got permanently banned [...]

  • Kim Gordon album art

    Album Review: Kim Gordon's 'No Home Record'

    The line between art and artifice is one that Kim Gordon has explored throughout her four-decade career, first as cofounder of Sonic Youth and more recently as a visual artist, memoirist, fashion designer, actress, and one-half of the experimental duo Body/Head. When we’re perusing a corporately designed bauble or experience, are we genuinely imagining the [...]

  • Dana Walden Awkwafina Chaka Khan Mariah

    Variety's Power of Women Celebrates Honorees' Voices and Activism

    When Jennifer Aniston was 11, she was casually dismissed from the dinner table by a parental figure “because I ‘didn’t have anything interesting to add to the conversation.’” That belittlement has stayed with the “Friends” and “The Morning Show” star through to adulthood, prompting her to muse at Variety‘s Power of Women luncheon on the messages [...]

  • Neil Young

    Film News Roundup: Neil Young Documentary 'Mountaintop' Set for Release

    In today’s film news roundup, Neil Young’s “Mountaintop” is coming, AMC replaces its CFO, Bob Weinstein is starting anew, and Ed Begley, Jr. and David Koechner join “Reboot Camp.” MUSIC DOCUMENTARY Abramorama is partnering with Shakey Pictures and Reprise / Warner Records to release the Neil Young documentary “Mountaintop.” The movie, which chronicles the making [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content