After ‘Bang’-Up Job With AJR, Industry Vet Steve Greenberg Brings S-Curve Records to Disney Music Group
Veteran label exec, S-Curve Records founder and noted pop historian Steve Greenberg will re-launch the label, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, at Disney Music Group. Andy Grammer is the first artist under the new partnership and will release a new single, “Lease On Life,” on June 28.
Said Greenberg: “We’re absolutely thrilled to launch this new chapter of the S-Curve. We’ve had nine platinum hits working with their pop promotion staff over the past six years, and I think our new, deeper partnership with DMG is going to lead to exciting things.”
The announcement follows the conclusion of Greenberg’s deal with BMG in March on “amicable” terms, leaving behind an artist roster that includes red-hot alterna-pop group AJR — which he still manages — along with Duran Duran, Tom Jones, Leslie Odom Jr., Joss Stone, Maxi Priest, We the Kings, Netta and Swamp Dogg, among others. Greenberg originally sold his S-Curve record label and publishing company to BMG Rights Management back in 2015.
With AJR’s current success (“Bang!” has registered 2.7 million song project units to date on the strength of ore than 400 million streams, per Alpha Data Music), Greenberg has solidified his reputation for knowing a little something about sibling harmonies. When the band’s three brothers – native New Yorkers Jack, Ryan and Adam Brett Met – came to Crush Music’s Jonathan Daniel (Green Day, Weezer, Sia) looking for help, the manager immediately thought of Greenberg, knowing his track record. Greenberg discovered and produced the first Jonas Brothers album during a short run as president at Columbia Records. He also guided Hanson to a worldwide hit with 1997’s breakout “Mmmbop” while head of A&R at Mercury Records. Greenberg first launched S-Curve in 2000 with the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out,” which won a Grammy for best dance recording, solidifying its place in the label ecosystem. The indie scored several prestigious and commercial hits, including Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” and soul singer Joss Stone’s first two albums.
In the case of AJR, two of the Met brothers were attending Columbia University, wiling away the classes in the back of the room randomly tweeting famous singers with a song, “I’m Ready,” whose hook was sampled from the SpongeBob SquarePants catch phrase. To their astonishment, Sia responded saying she loved the recording and wanted to meet them. The group gathered at a New York hotel for brunch before she sent them to meet her manager, Crush’s Daniel.
“They had already made the rounds of all the record labels, who were telling them ‘I’m Ready’ wasn’t a hit, they should write with professionals, that sort of thing,” Greenberg tells Variety. But when AJR first played “I’m Ready” for Greenberg, he advised them to put it out exactly as it was, not to change a thing — and oh, by the way, he’d like to manage them. “They were in shock because nobody had told them that,” says Greenberg. “We put out the record and signed to Warner Bros. It started to blow up.”
Eventually signing them to S-Curve, Greenberg refocused the group from a pop trio into an alternative mainstay with a series of Top 10 singles. One of his proudest accomplishments was breaking the band at alternative, no easy task for a group perceived as Top 40. Ironically, “Bang!” from this year’s cheeky smash “OK Orchestra,” has returned AJR to the Top 40 format. The track was also named best rock song at the recent Billboard Music Awards, where they also performed.
Of the band’s live show, Greenberg adds: “It’s very theatrical — a hybrid between a Broadway musical, a rock concert and the ‘Blue Man Group.’”
With the Jonas Brothers experiencing a career renaissance over the past few years, Greenberg remembers discovering a solo demo by Nick, a former Broadway performer with shows like “Les Miserables” and “Beauty and the Beast” under his belt, back in 2005.
Greenberg didn’t much like the recording, but was impressed with his voice, and when he found out he had two older brothers, Steve went to work, using his experience with the Hansons to form what he thought could be a neo-punk garage band along the lines of the Ramones with Nick, Joe and Kevin.
Greenberg co-produced an album, releasing the lead single, “Mandy,” which sparked some interest on MTV’s daytime show “TRL,” while the siblings hit the road playing with Jesse McCartney and the Veronicas. Despite that, Sony kept postponing the album, in part because of Greenberg’s subsequent departure as president. When it finally came out, the limited release sold around 40,000 copies and the boys ended up leaving Columbia to sign with Disney’s Hollywood Records in the fall of 2006.
The rest is history, something that Greenberg, a Grammy-winner in 2019 for best liner notes for his essay in the “Stax ’68: A Memphis Story” boxed set, is an expert in. During the pandemic, he recorded 12 episodes of the iHeartRadio podcast “Speed of Sound,” which he describes as “an extremely deep dive into pop music topics such as the Twist, the rise and fall of ‘70s disco, the return of teen-pop in the ‘90s, Beatlemania, “The Monster Mash,” and, in the only nod to his personal background, the story of “Who Let the Dogs Out.”
“Want to hear something funny?” he asks. “I happen to be one of three brothers, too. Though we do also have a sister.” Steve Greenberg can now say he’s part of yet another family, the one at Disney Music Group.
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