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SB Projects President Allison Kaye on Why Scooter Braun Has Felt ‘Misunderstood’ and Signing ‘Superstar’ The Kid Laroi

Allison Kaye
Courtesy of Matt Sayles/Allison

An executive at Scooter Braun’s SB Projects since its founding in 2007, Allison Kaye has helped to shape the careers of superstars like Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande — and has been by Braun’s side through all the ups and downs of the ever-evolving music industry.

Now president of SBP and a partner in Ithaca Holdings — Braun’s media company that just sold for $1 billion — Kaye is one of the most powerful executives in the business, shepherding both the company’s music and non-music ventures, which now include film, TV, philanthropy and technology.

Kaye sat down with Variety to discuss her experience working with Variety’s Music Mogul of the Year for over a decade.

How have you seen Scooter change in the last 10 years?

I think that Scooter has changed a lot. A decade ago, how the outside world saw him, which was obviously always overblown and exaggerated, was like a Svengali. There was this impression that Scooter controlled our artists or was a control freak. Even from the outside perspective, I think there is a changed view of him where he very much empowers our artists, who are viewed not as industry players anymore — or whatever people want to call it — but are some of the best creators on earth. And that starts with Scooter and the way that he has conversations with our clients. I think that Scooter has also gained a lot of security over the last 10 years. He always knew from day one what he was going to do, so there was sort of a chip on his shoulder. But it’s what pushed him. I think that what people once saw as arrogance was never arrogance, but people appreciate his accomplishments now.

How would you describe him as a boss and a leader?

I think he’s grown into a leader. Scooter maybe started as a boss. What’s been special about Scooter is that he’s put the time into learning how to be a leader over the 15 years that I’ve worked with him. I don’t know many people in his position who have done the things that he has done, who would take the time to share the credit to empower his staff. There are not many managers that have an executive staff. He’s learned how to create a family-first environment at work that people want to be a part of.

During the Taylor Swift dust-up, were you concerned about Scooter’s well-being?

I wasn’t concerned about him. Scooter very much cares about what people think about him, which is a great thing. It’s better than being indifferent to the people around you. But he felt really misunderstood, and he was taking heat from her for things that he had nothing to do with. It’s a very hard thing for him. The whole world was misconstruing it because fans were being weaponized and stats were being, in my opinion, a little bit twisted.

Your staff is 70 percent female, is that correct? When was gender parity achieved at SBP, and who was behind it?

Yes, about 70 percent. It was probably four years ago or maybe a little bit before that. I like when I can teach another woman to do the job, so I make an effort to do it always. But I think we’ve really just hired the best people for the job, and they turned out to be women. Scooter takes a lot of pride in it. I think it’s something he was probably more mindful of — I didn’t even realize it was happening until it was done. He definitely had an eye for it.

In what other areas was Scooter ahead of the curve?

The most illustrative story is when Billboard first put Scooter on the “30 Under 30” list, he called everyone on the list, saying, “We’re all about to do things, let’s be friends.” In your 20s, when you get put on a list for the first time, having the cognizance to not be arrogant about it but instead to reach out to all those people… is a testament to Scooter, and he hasn’t stopped being that person. He’s always looking around at what’s coming next, striving to learn about it and becoming a leader in it.

Scooter mentioned that you were over the moon about signing the Kid Laroi. What did you see in him, and why is he an important addition to the SBP roster?

I’m really excited about signing him. The music excites me. He’s bound to be a superstar if it’s done right. He’s compared to Justin [Bieber] a lot, but sonically and personality wise, they’re very different. And so I think the idea of everyone thinking that these kids are so similar, and being able to show the world that they are two different things, but they’re both amazing, is exciting to me.