An Hour With ‘The Kanye West Of Managers’: Scooter Braun

The third day of MIDEM saw Shirley Halperin, executive editor music at Variety, interview manager icon Scooter Braun, who, at the age of 36, received MIDEM’s first lifetime achievement award.
The half-hour session got expanded to an hour, because Braun, by his own admission, loves to break rules. It turned out to be an hour filled with wisdom.
MIDEM 2018
Gideon Gottfried
– MIDEM 2018
Scooter Braun speaks from the heart
Braun said, he preferred it when people didn’t believe in him. “It sounds commonplace now if you said, YouTube is a really great way to break an artist, but when I did it the first time [with Justin Bieber], 66 million views made him the second-largest music artist in all of YouTube. And every record label said no, because they said, ‘that is a YouTube artist, that’s not a real artist.'”
“I like it when people are disrespectful to my ideas, because it charges me up to work harder. So now, when we have an idea, and people are like, ‘that sounds good,’ I don’t really know what to do.”
He added that he was “very humbled by all of it,” but that is was also “very surreal. There’s some people in this room, I saw David Zedeck earlier. I mean, David met me when I was a young guy. Scott Manson, my COO, is here, he’s known me since college. And to be on the other side of the world, and have a packed room with people standing at the back, is something that’s incredibly humbling, because I still see myself as this kid in Atlanta slipping a tape to the DJ.”
Of course, the One Love Manchester benefit concert was addressed, “perhaps the most star-studded benefit concert to come together in record time,” according to Halperin. It wasn’t the only benefit concert Braun was involved in.
There was “Hand in Hand” to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, “March For Our Lives,” which followed the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. “What’s in it for you?” Halperin wanted to know.
“My mom, my whole life, set the standard on giving,” he replied. “She would have us work in a soup kitchen every Christmas. Even on Hanukah, it’s eight days, and four days we got presents, and four days we had to pick a charity as a family to give to.
“When I started throwing parties when I was 19, she said, ‘I don’t understand what you’re doing, but one in every four parties you should give for charity, so I did that throughout my whole promoting career. I’m a firm believer in you don’t get blessings unless you give em.
“It’s like a glass of water, and for some reason the big man upstairs keeps on pouring water in my glass, and if I don’t pour it in other glasses it overflows and makes a mess.
“Anyone who says they make their own luck is an asshole.”
Braun revealed a couple of details surrounding the One Love Manchester concert people may not know about. For example, that all artists involved paid for their own flights.
“When I asked Ariana to do that, it was an unfair ask. She had just seen her fans die, and for me to put that burden on her that quick, was incredibly selfish and unfair of me to do. The fact that a couple of days passed, and then she called me and said: ‘if I don’t do something these people died in vain, and I’m not who I claim to be.’
“The fact that she took on the burden of carrying that show, and coming back two weeks later as a 23-year old woman … she’s my hero.”
Once Ariana Grande had confirmed her participation, he called up Justin Bieber, and after that Katy Perry. The next to come in was Coldplay‘s Chris Martin, “probably the most important,” according to Braun, because “he helped me understand the sensibilities of the people of Manchester.”
Marcus Mumford, of Mumford & Sons, who opened the concert had never before publicly performed without his band.
Braun recalled rehearsing in London the day before the show, which was the day of the London Bridge attack. It made him reconsider doing the concert, especially because some people had already doubted his plans to stage a benefit show so close to the Manchester Attack.
He revealed visiting all the families of the deceased together with Grande to get their blessing. And shortly after the London Bridge attack, text messages from artists confirming their participation in Manchester.
Braun also wanted to highlight the importance ofManchester United Football Club legend Michael Carrick in making the benefit concert happen. There was a tribute game in his honour scheduled the same day, Braun wanted to stage the concert, which had already sold 65,000 tickets for his tribute game. 
The decision makers involved, including Manchester United’s legendary coach Sir Alex Ferguson, said the tribute game couldn’t be moved, but Carrick made it happen.
When the conversation moved on to Kanye West, Braun said: “I always get nervous about explaining Kanye, because only Kanye can explain Kanye.”
Braun addressed the brief two-week split with his most prolific client, saying it didn’t happen out of ill will, but he didn’t say what exactly made them talk again. Braun said West hated the word manager, as did Braun himself, which is why they got along well.
“There’s not a malicious bone in his body. And I can tell you from working with him that he is a true genius. Who knows how long it will last this time,” he half-joked, before adding: “Just to be clear: I disagree with things that he says. And I tell him. And we have very long, intelligent conversations about those disagreements, and most of the time the things that he says that upset people, isn’t even what he means.
“Will he probably do stuff in the future to piss me off? Yeah, but you don’t get into this business hoping that every artist is going to live up to the expectation you have for them. If you do that you’re going to be headed towards a lot of disappointment.”
“That’s for every young executive out there. If you go into this business thinking that artists are going to reciprocate the amount of energy you put into them, get the hell out of the business right now.”
“It’s the same way you love people. You don´t love them hoping that they love you back the same way. You love them, because it’s the right thing to do to love that person.”
“Don´t get your self-worth out of what this business gets back to you. We’ve got way too much suicide in this business, because too many executives, artists, managers, find their self-worth in this.”
“This is not real. This is a privilege, this is fun, this is a very cool business. But it isn’t your reality. Your family, your friends, that’s your self-worth.
Braun also addressed the many 7-track albums released recently, including Kanye West’s Ye, Pusha T’s Daytona and now Kids See Ghost with Kid Cudi, revealing that it had been West’s idea. He explained that people increasingly questioned the point of an album in the digital age, where they had access to all the music in the world at a far lower cost than in the physical age. 
“What you choose to possess and what you choose to listen to are two different things, and the new generation doesn’t have to make that choice,” he said, adding that “the fun part is, we don’t know what the hell this business is going to be. What we do know is, we need to get these labels to change how they structure contracts, so we can be as creative as we want to be, but get fair compensation.”
Braun revealed another conversation with West: “He one time looked at me, I don’t know, maybe eight, nine months ago, and said, ‘Look, I’m going to tell you something, and it’s a really big compliment, and I just want you to understand what this means.’
“I go: ‘what is it?’ And he goes: ‘I think you’re the Kanye West of managers.’” 
Braun also opened up about Justin Bieber, saying, “he deserves the credit. If anybody has dealt with depression or substance abuse or anything like that, you know that no-one else can change that situation. That’s a decision that comes from that person.”
“He made a decision to change and put in the work. As far as what’s next for him? I’m hoping to get him back into the studio.”
“He’s really just growing up, he’s enjoying life, he’s found god, he’s walking around without security, because he’s fighting for normalcy, he’s being a human.”
Braun pointed out that no-one out of the seven billion people on the planet has experienced what it’s like to be the most googled person across the planet during their adolescence.
“I’m sure we’re going to make another great album,” he said.
Daring to look into the future Braun said that, “the next generation is a global, genre-defying generation. They just like music. Because we could only acquire so much music, we were influenced by the music that was in front of us. This next generation get all music, so their taste is coming from all types of music. So, I think, the opportunity as an international artist is greater now than it’s ever been before.”
When asked about his family, Braun said: “There´s a difference between being present and being present. Being home, turn your phone off, be with the kids. I consider myself a very good husband, and a very good father, and [my wife] still beats me up. And that means I married well. Because she doesn’t give a shit about what I do for a living. She wants me and our family to be a family.”
“To me, getting home for bath time is really important. One of my interns asked me: what would make you quit? And I said, if I thought I was loosing them, I’d stop.”