EP 53: Steve Stoute of United Masters on Pharrell, Jay-Z, leadership and hustle and more

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Steve Stoute has lead multiple lives: from getting fired at a young age to re-inventing himself managing some of the most famous artists in the world to now running one of the most impactful companies in music, he has done it all – and had a front row seat to some of the most interesting people in culture.

In this wildly entertaining conversation (see his story on Ben Horowitz…or asking me about pro-wrestling), we cover everything from some of his formational stories to the similarities between the titans of music and tech to a lot more.


Section Titles

  • Steve’s Background – 00:00

  • Getting Fired – 03:12

  • The Birth of United Masters – 07:25

  • Pharell’s secret – 11:33

  • Taking the long view in relationships (between artists and managers) – 15:45

  • Ben Horowitz Grill Story – 18:57

  • Steve’s Hustle and Grind – 23:44

  • Bridging the Gap Between Tech and Culture – 28:34

  • Legacy – 32:01

  • Sriram’s favorite in-person pro wrestling match- 35:01

Article/Book Links

Notable Quotes

  • “My perspective was that culture was more important than demography. And it was very hard to explain that to the media at large back in 2004. It’s still an uphill climb now, but that was the premise of Translation, to translate culture for Fortune 500 companies.”

  • “The artists that are the most successful work the hardest. It is a universal truth. And when I say work hard, I mean work hard like you guys know what work hard means. Like the engineer that’s working 17 hour days or the founder who’s working 17 hour days. It’s the same level of work.”

  • “The pursuit of excellence, the passion for doing what they do supersedes any financial reward. They’re trying to make a mark. They’re building a legacy, but they’re not doing it for that. They don’t know how to stop. They don’t know how to stop learning. They’re culturally curious. They wanna expand.”

  • “I didn’t understand why they were getting rid of the black music department. And I didn’t get a chance to really understand, if I got fired because I was a poor performer, when you’re a poor performer, you know it’s just a matter of time before you get caught. You know that. I mean, you’re not stunned you got fired. You’ve been getting away with murder for a while and someone caught you. But when they say they’re going to get rid of the black music department and you’re like, I don’t understand that.”

  • “I almost convinced myself every day that it was my, I made my career, my entrepreneurial effort. Like I was doing it for me. And just changing it from doing it for the company to doing it for me was very important to motivate me daily.”

  • “I believe very seriously that your ability to tolerate change will separate you as a winner or you as a loser, period. And if you are not willing to accept the change which comes with the rise and importance of culture or the dominance and the scale that technology provides, you will be on the losing side of that.”

  • “It’s the person who understands how to bridge that gap and build a company that knows how to build and bridge that gap, where you can have writers and people who move culture next to product people and engineering people who are gonna shape the roadmap and then inform one another. That’s going to be what’s gonna disrupt and build tomorrow’s companies, in my opinion.”

  • “As an entrepreneur, I believe that your job is to look under every single rock. Because you never know where it’s going to be at. You never know where magic is going to be. You never know when it’s going to take place. And the meticulous nature of going through that process over and over again is what gives you the perseverance to go through the ups and the downs of what it takes to build a company.”

  • “My whole thing is giving everything I have to my God given talent and not cheating that.”

  • “It’s not a financial goal. It’s not a… What United Masters becomes, as long as it becomes the most that it could be, because I gave it my all, then I’m happy about that. So, I don’t want to be ambiguous with my answer, but it really is about effort against my talent that I, you know, was a gift from God.”