Sony Music U.S. Latin President Discusses Labels, Artists

“Labels will continue to exist as long as they continue to evolve,” Nir Seroussi ’96 told the Berklee student and faculty audience during his recent visit to the college.
Dave Green

Students recently packed the David Friend Recital Hall to catch some music business wisdom from Nir Seroussi '96, president of Sony Music U.S. Latin. Seroussi came to Berklee's campus to deliver the keynote for the 23rd annual James G. Zafris Lecture for Music Business/Management. The artist roster that Seroussi oversees in his role at Sony includes international music legends Chayanne, Gloria Estefan, Enrique Iglesias, Julio Iglesias, and Ricky Martin, among others.

Don Gorder, chair of the Music Business/Management Department, moderated the interview with Seroussi. Before they explored the theme of artists and labels reinventing their relationships, Seroussi spoke about his experience as a Berklee student and music business/management major.

“Believe me, a lot of the things that you're learning you're not going to grasp until you leave,” Seroussi told the audience. “Looking back, I can really identify the moments that defined me.” He stressed the importance of creating a network with people he met at Berklee. “I still work with a lot of the folks from back in the day,” he stated.

Seroussi discussed his career path as well. “Working in music publishing got me into song plugging because it's the most fun and the most dramatic,” he said. “By doing that I developed A&R skills—you figure out the psychology behind what the artist is going to like and who are the players, because it's all about the song. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's all about the music, and that led me to understanding what hit-making is all about.

“I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing the way I'm doing it had I not been through the core music training at Berklee. It gave me the framework for songwriting and understanding the studio and arranging. It seeded that link that I have with artists—that connection with the artist at the music level is priceless.”

Speaking of his success as president at Sony Music U.S. Latin, Seroussi said, “I'm a bit unorthodox because I work in different areas. What I enjoy the most—still—is the A&R side. That proximity to the artist is really my favorite part.

“If you start with the music and focus on the artist, everything else is going to come,” Seroussi said. The new [way of thinking] is 'Don't lose the passion, because that has to be there, but act responsibly.' There's a lot to be learned from the past, but you have to be looking toward the future.”

Addressing the lecture's main theme, Seroussi told the crowd, “Labels will continue to exist as long as they continue to evolve, and as long as they focus on how they can become a better partner for the artist. Period.

“It's not about whether [it will] be all independent or major labels,” Seroussi said. “They need to coexist. [Major labels] are not always going to be the solution, but I look back over the last four or five years and it's like one big family. We have this unprecedented roster, and it's not like we went out and bought these artists. It came from, 'How do we become better?'

“We're kind of lucky,” Seroussi said. “We've been able to change and we're no longer dependent on the traditional areas of revenue. When something becomes unsustainable, you have to get off your high horse and think of another way to make things work.”