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Seymour Stein

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Seymour Stein
Stein in 2013
Seymour Steinbigle

(1942-04-18)April 18, 1942
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedApril 2, 2023(2023-04-02) (aged 80)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Entrepreneur
  • music executive
Children2, including Mandy Stein
AwardsMember of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Seymour Steinbigle (April 18, 1942 – April 2, 2023),[1] known professionally as Seymour Stein, was an American entrepreneur and music executive. He co-founded Sire Records and was vice president of Warner Bros. Records.[2][3] With Sire, Stein signed bands that became central to the new wave era of the 1970s and 1980s, including Talking Heads and The Pretenders; he signed Madonna as well. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.



Stein was born in Brooklyn, New York City.[1] He was Jewish.[4][5] As a 13-year-old high school student, he worked as a clerk at music industry magazine Billboard, assisting head of Billboard charts Tommy Noonan. Together they helped develop the Billboard Hot 100, launched in August 1958.[6]

King Records owner Syd Nathan approached Stein to work for him in Cincinnati, Ohio. Stein's father was skeptical, but King told him "Your son has shellac in his veins. Your son is good for one thing and one thing only, and that's being in the record business. If you don't let him into the music business, he will wind up delivering newspapers for the rest of your life. If you don't want that on your conscience, you will let him come with me for the summer." Stein started work for King, working there for two years as an intern before joining the company in 1961.[6]

Homesick, he returned to New York in 1963 to work for Herb Abramson, but this was short-lived, lasting only three months.[1] He then became an assistant to impresario George Goldner, who had formed Red Bird Records with songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller in 1963.[1]

Working there in the Brill Building, he became friends with FGG Productions record producer Richard Gottehrer. Seeing that relations between Goldner and Lieber and Stoller were fracturing, he decided to start a new venture.[7] He founded Sire Productions in 1966 with Gottehrer, each investing ten thousand dollars into the new company,[8] which led to the formation of Sire Records. That year, Stein had an opportunity to sign Jimi Hendrix, praising him for his original material, but ultimately decided against doing so after witnessing Hendrix smash his guitar on one occasion and argue with his friend, Linda Keith, on successive occasions.[9]

The label initially concentrated on licensing European releases with little success, until Dutch progressive rock band Focus had an international hit with the 1973 single "Hocus Pocus". Gottehrer left the label in 1974 to concentrate on production; Stein then focussed on checking new acts in the New York Clubs and on his wife's recommendation arranged for the Ramones to do a showcase, signing them in 1975. Other signings soon followed including Talking Heads, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, the Pretenders in 1980, and foreign punk acts The Rezillos and The Saints.[1] Stein signed Madonna from his hospital bed after hearing her track "Everybody" in 1982.[10] Other acts signed by Sire include The Replacements, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, The Cure, Ice-T, Ministry, The Undertones, and Echo & the Bunnymen.

Such was Stein's influence in signing and promoting the new wave genre of music that he is sometimes credited with having come up with the name as an alternative to the term "punk", which he found derogatory. Believing the use of the term would mean poor sales for Sire's acts who had frequently played the New York club CBGB, he launched a "Don't Call It Punk" campaign designed to replace the term with "new wave".[11] That term had previously been used to refer to the French New Wave film movement of the 1960s.

Stein was the president of Sire Records as well as vice president of Warner Bros. Records until his announced retirement on July 18, 2018.[12] He had had a marketing and distribution deal from 1976 to 1994 and again from April 2003 until his retirement. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 14, 2005, under the lifetime-achievement category.[7] On June 9, 2016, Stein was honored with the Richmond Hitmaker Award at the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[1]



Stein was the subject of an eponymous song by the Scottish musical group Belle and Sebastian about a failed attempt to sign the group.[1] He was the winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Dance Music Awards in 2010.[13] Ice-T wrote about Stein in his autobiography, stating: "He's cut from that cloth of the old-time music executives like Clive Davis, but he's way more eccentric... Just a little more bizarre, a bit more avant-garde, more of an edgy cat."[14] He wrote that Stein would never edit his musical output, but would sometimes express concerns (e.g. he was against homophobia in rap).[14]

Personal life and death


Stein was married to the music promoter and real estate executive Linda Stein (1945–2007) and together the couple had two daughters. They divorced, on amicable terms, in the late 1970s.[15] Stein never remarried. He revealed he was gay in 2017. Filmmaker Mandy Stein is his daughter. Stein's elder daughter, Samantha, died as a result of brain cancer in 2013, at the age of 40.[16] Stein published his autobiography, Siren Song: My Life in Music, in 2018.[17]

Stein died of cancer at home in Los Angeles on April 2, 2023, aged 80.[18][19]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Seymour Stein, Sire Co-Founder Who Signed Madonna and Ramones, Dies at 80". Variety. April 2, 2023. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  2. ^ Billboard Staff (August 5, 2013). "CBGB Fest Announces Seymour Stein as Icon Award Winner, Van Toffler To Give Keynote (Exclusive)". Billboard. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  3. ^ Kessler, Dana (July 25, 2013). "The Legendary Seymour Stein: Seymour Stein, Record Company Man Who Signed The Ramones and Madonna". Tablet. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  4. ^ "Seymour Stein, Jewish record mogul who signed Madonna, Talking Heads, dies at 80". The Times of Israel. April 3, 2023. Retrieved April 8, 2023. As he details in his 2018 autobiography, Stein's father became closer to Orthodox Judaism in his 30s and 40s, regularly bringing his family to a nearby synagogue, where he was a vice president. Stein wrote that his father stopped by the synagogue at 6 a.m. before working in Manhattan's Garment District and then again after work on his way home every day.
  5. ^ Kessler, Dana (July 25, 2013). "Seymour Stein, Record Company Man Who Signed the Ramones and Madonna". Tablet Magazine. I love Israel. I'm very Jewish, I'm very proud of it. I wear it like a badge. I'm not really Orthodox but I'm a very strong believer in Judaism and Jewish tradition. It's deep, deep in my heart. I believe very strongly in God.
  6. ^ a b "Seymour Stein: Shellac in His Veins". Billboard. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  7. ^ a b "Seymour Stein: 'Music replaced every other thing that was important to me'". Music Week. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  8. ^ "Personality Clash: Seymour Stein Vs Tim Dellow | Clash Music Exclusive General". Clashmusic. November 9, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
  9. ^ Cross, Charles R. (August 8, 2006). Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix. New York: Hachette Books. ISBN 9781401382810.
  10. ^ "Madonna Pays Tribute to Seymour Stein: 'He Changed and Shaped My World'". Billboard. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  11. ^ Cateforis, Theo (2013). The Grove Dictionary of American Music (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0195314281.
  12. ^ "Seymour Stein Is Leaving Warner Music and Sire Records, the Label He Launched 51 Years Ago". Billboard.
  13. ^ "25th Annual International Dance Music Awards Winners". TheUntz. March 26, 2010. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  14. ^ a b Marrow, Tracy; Century, Douglas (2011). "Six in the Mornin'". Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption – from South Central to Hollywood. Random House. pp. 99–105. ISBN 978-0-345-52328-0.
  15. ^ Lambert, Bruce (November 1, 2007). "Real Estate Agent Found Slain in 5th Ave. Home". The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  16. ^ Christman, Ed (June 13, 2018). "Seymour Stein On His New Autobiography & Why the Music Industry Should Pay More Tribute to Its Past". Billboard.
  17. ^ Stace, Wesley (June 14, 2018). "'Siren Song' Review: An Ear for What Was Next". The Wall Street Journal.
  18. ^ Sisario, Ben. "Seymour Stein, Record Industry Giant Who Signed Madonna, Dies at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved April 2, 2023.
  19. ^ "Seymour Stein obituary". The Times. London. April 3, 2023. Retrieved April 3, 2023.