Scooter Braun Burns Ships, Not Bridges

By Diana Brown

May 28, 2019

6th Annual Save The Children Illumination Gala - Inside

Scooter Braun, a true marketing genius who discovered Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, sat down with iHeartMedia’s CEO and chairman Bob Pittman to talk about the power of passion and the future of the music business in this episode of Math & Magic.

Scooter Braun isn’t a guy who does things halfway. By the time he was 19, he was already a well-known party promoter in Atlanta, arranging after-parties for Ludacris and on a first-name basis with Jermaine Dupri. At 20, he was named Executive Director of Marketing for So So Def Records. Not long after, he started his own marketing venture that included artist representation and a record label. Perhaps best known for discovering teen pop icon Justin Bieber on YouTube, Scooter rose to prominence partly because music executives at the time didn’t consider MySpace and YouTube to be a viable metric of success when discovering new artists. Scooter pointed to this as an example of how an executive can get in their own way: “If you're not taking the time to look at something because you've already created a narrative in your head, you're missing out on opportunity."

For Scooter, opportunities seemed easy to spot - he hasn’t had too many missteps in his career, which not only includes discovering some of today’s hottest recording artists, but also recognizing the potential in startups like the Uber rideshare service. He attributes his luck to one quality: passion, or what he calls a "burn the ships mentality." “What do I mean by burn the ships? It's you arrive on the shores of your enemy, the general's safe, the only way you go home to your family is if you take the ships of your enemies. There is no retreat. Burn the ships. When you meet an entrepreneur who has a burn the ships mentality, it doesn't matter what they're starting, they will pivot and move until they figure it out… and I think, when you see people with that kind of passion, when you see the people with that kind of drive, get on board and hold on tight."

He isn’t just a taker, though - Scooter is famous for his philanthropy, which includes work with his younger brother’s charity Pencils of Promise, his wife Yael Cohen Braun's charity F**k Cancer, and granting more wishes for the Make-a-Wish Foundation than any other organization. It’s simple enough to Scooter, who said, "I just think it's so crazy what's happened in my life that the idea that you don't share and give back is absurd. What is the point of continually pouring water into one glass? It's going to overflow and just make a mess. You have to pour the water into other glasses before you make the mess."

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Get the full scoop on Scooter’s relationship with his father, what superpower he’d choose over any other, and how he got his unusual name, in this podcast.

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