Before the Biebz, Scooter Braun almost got a foothold in 'the Facebook'
The former Emory student and Buckhead party promoter revealed his starmaking social media techniques
Atlanta probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Scooter Braun. He tends to draw closer associations to the Biebz and Yeezy nowadays. But the guy who discovered a Canadian kid on YouTube and turned him into a household name was once an Emory University student promoting Buckhead parties and getting his industry feet wet working for Jermaine Dupri. Braun recently sat in Charlie Rose's dark room, where they discussed how he came to be the manager and shaper of Justin Bieber's storied career as well as current co-manager of Kanye West.
Yet it's the names he almost partnered with that reveal the most about the path his own career has taken. Take Mark Zuckerberg. When "the Facebook" was still in its infancy and Emory was one of the schools included in its earliest expansion, Braun had the foresight to reach out to Zuckerberg via email. They had some exchanges, but ultimately it wasn't to be. His approach to entertainment, however, has been entirely shaped by the power of social media.
Even when his best tool of outreach was the classic campus flier:
Charlie Rose: So, you were a party planner in Atlanta.
Scooter Braun: Yes, I was a — I was a kid who was walking by some nightclubs. And didn't like that, you know, I didn't have enough money to really party. And I walked by a nightclub. It was called Chaos in Buckhead. And I stopped and I said, you know, if I can get some people here next week, would you give me, you know, any money. And I had really never gone to nightclubs before and the guy said, sure, how many people can you get? I said I don't know, 800. He looked at me like I was crazy. And I went to Kinkos, made flyers, you know, hit the whole campus. 800 people came the next week and the next thing you know, I was a party promoter. So, and that kind of led into everything else.
Though he never mentions his old boss Dupri by name, he does talk about how his decision to leave So So Def Records — where he worked his way up to VP — was based largely on the fact that his boss didn't quite get his "ideas about social media." It's interesting to think about in hindsight, considering Dupri's current focus on tech and the Global 14 social media site he started several years ago. Braun went on to use a very raw, under-produced approach to content creation that turned Bieber into the first viral megastar. Braun's unlikely rise as an industry power player out of Atlanta was covered in the pages of CL for his first cover story, "Scooter Braun is the Hustla," 10 years ago.
"A hustla is somebody that doesn't take no for an answer; somebody who has a vision and a goal and works to realize it; somebody who works his ass off to make it happen," he said at the time.
Today he sounds a little less conceited and a lot more grounded as a husband and father. But he still seems to have his sights set on what's next. Besides being a heavy investor in tech startups such as Uber and Spotify, he had some instructive things to say about content creation and curation and how those things will continue to shape the landscape and attract audiences:
Scooter Braun: ... I think over time we're going to see truth rise, great creation rise, curation rise to the top. But I think that there won't be anymore opinions blocking great creation. I think that's what's most exciting for me. That anyone who is a great creator, could be a kid sitting in his apartment in Louisville right now.
Charlie Rose: There is a way to find an audience and there's a way for an audience to find you.
Scooter Braun: Completely. I mean, I've done it with my artists, I've been able to put stuff online that has reached every single country around the world. And I've been able to break countries before I even get there. And I've been able to find great creators to work with my clients because I'm able to go online and see stuff that I might have never even known that person in New Zealand existed. You know, and it's a beautiful, beautiful thing. But I think that we're going to see so much. This next generation can go through content so quickly. And I think that what we are going to see over the next 10 to 20 years is people are going to want more and more quality. Now there is a misconception about what quality means. People think oh, you mean better cameras or, you know, better this. No, it's the quality of the content, whether it's raw, or whether it's highly produced.