Seymour Stein is co-founder and Chairman of Sire Records, one of the world’s most influential record labels and home to some of the most iconic artists in modern music. He has been Sire’s driving visionary and creative force since its origins in the 1960s as an independent label, through its four-decade tenure as part of Warner Music Group. Stein's unique ability to anticipate musical trends, and to discover and sign the greatest artists within those movements, has left an indelible mark on contemporary culture.
Over the years, Sire’s roster has included cutting-edge artists such as Ramones, Talking Heads, The Pretenders, Madonna, Tom Tom Club, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, The Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen, Erasure, The Cult, The Undertones, Madness, The Replacements, Ice-T, k.d. lang, Seal, Everything But The Girl, Aztec Camera, Dinosaur Jr., Wilco, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, Aphex Twin, Spacehog, Regina Spektor, Tegan & Sara and many more. Stein is currently working with Cyndi Lauper, Paul Shaffer and others.
2015 marked Stein’s 50th year in the music business. It was in 1955, when he was just 13 years old, that Stein was granted access to the Billboard archives, where he painstakingly wrote down two decades of charts, while developing his encyclopedic memory of songs. Following his high school graduation, Stein became a full-time member of the Billboard staff. In 1961, he moved to Cincinnati, where he worked for King Records, getting his first experience on the label side of the business. Stein returned to New York two years later to work with George Goldner, who had joined forces with legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to form Red Bird Records, headquartered in the Brill Building.
In 1966, Stein co-founded Sire Productions with producer Richard Gottehrer, and Sire Records was officially launched the following year. Stein had been a devotee of the English music scene since the 1950s, and in its early days Sire released albums by British acts like Climax Blues Band, Renaissance and Barclay James Harvest, as well as Holland’s Focus. Stein also forged an association with British producer Mike Vernon’s Blue Horizon Records, home to Peter Green's original Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack, featuring Christine McVie.
Stein first saw the Ramones in 1975, and as he said, "It was like sticking my hand in a live electric light socket.” The band’s first album was released by Sire in 1976, and four decades later, it remains one of the seminal recordings in rock and roll history. That same year, Sire struck a distribution pact with Warner Bros. Records, and in 1980, Warner Music Group acquired Sire, with Stein becoming an official member of the company’s senior management team.
Stein put New Wave music — a term he coined — on the mainstream map with the likes of Talking Heads and the Pretenders. And in a moment that has become a permanent part of music industry lore, Stein signed a young artist named Madonna while he was in the hospital recuperating from a heart infection. At the same time, Sire released classic pop singles like M's "Pop Muzik," Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" and Modern English's "I Melt With You."
The 50th anniversary of Sire Records will be celebrated in 2017. Stein’s love of music and dedication to the music business remain unparalleled. In 2005, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which he co-founded in 1983, and in 2016, he was honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Today, Seymour continues to be a vital force in the business, as he continues to travel the globe in search of new sounds, new songs and the next generation of musical genius.
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