During their talk at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival on Monday, Ariana Grande/ Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun, Raised in Space cofounder Shara Senderoff and Island Recording artist Jessie Reyez spoke about how their artists, their artistry and their businesses have coped during the pandemic and what the prospects look like for the return to live touring that is still on the distant horizon.
But the most attention-getting comments came from Braun when he was asked by the moderator, “In this time of financial uncertainty, what stability are you seeing in the music business?” As he often does, Braun went in, calling on major company heads to forego their own salaries, as he has, in order to avoid layoffs, furloughs or firings due to the pandemic.
“This is what I get emotional about, this is what I get really annoyed by,” he said. “I am in a very fortunate position: our company is really big now, but I distinctly remember paying for pizza with spare change.
“I have not furloughed or laid off anyone during COVID — and that doesn’t mean that I might not have to do that in the future. We don’t know if touring is going to come back next summer. Things could get harder and harder and harder for a company that has a large management arm like we do. But I get paid really well and my belief is: the heads of these companies should be docking their own pay before they start furloughing people and firing people.
“I don’t understand how someone in my position,” he continued, pausing for a moment. “I could get uncomfortable if I lose my salary, but someone else is going to be devastated if they lose theirs. So I challenge pretty much everyone running a large corporation out there to dock your own pay to zero, if you have to, for a year, then avoid firing people in this time. I’m seeing too many of my peers in the music industry do the opposite, and it’s been incredibly frustrating to watch.
“And we’re fortunate,” he continued, referring to his own companies. “We’re well diversiified, I’m happy we have a lot of different things going on, but we took a hit this year: We had a bunch of major tours going and they’re not happening now.
“It’s bullsh–, honestly, for anyone who knows that their mortgage is good for the next year, or even can afford a mortgage, let alone rent, to be saying that they need to let people go so they can keep their lifestyle. We stand on the backs of these people and I think now is the time to step up.
“We did that day one,” he concluded, “and told our company that no one’s gonna be let go, and this is how we’re gonna do it. I put my salary to zero and I challenged the senior staff to do the same and they all agreed. Our staff stepped up and found other ways to make money for their acts because they didn’t have to think about their rent the next day – suddenly they had security in their jobs and they started to do incredible things.
“It annoys me because some of us in the music industry living are really crazy lifestyles, and it’s just not the time.”