2 Minutes With … Jesse Kirshbaum, Music Marketer, Talent Agent and Dealmaker

On CRWN and music artists evolving into CDs

Jesse, founder of Nue Agency, is an entrepreneur, talent agent, author, executive producer and dealmaker. He focuses on entertainment, technology and brand marketing. Jesse has extensive experience securing talent for concerts, tours and endorsements for clients and brand partners worldwide. 

In 2021, he was hired as the CMO of Dreamstage, a music livestreaming company. He also teaches at American University, writes and curates the weekly entertainment newsletter Beats + Bytes, and regularly appears on platforms such as Cheddar, Yahoo Finance and Nasdaq.

We spent two minutes with Jesse to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations and recent work he's admired.

Jesse, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in The People's Republic of Brooklyn and currently reside in Miami. 

Your earliest musical memory.

Being mesmerized by Michael Jackson's Thriller and attempting to breakdance to "Beat It." But I truly fell in love with music in high school when a friend made a mixtape to celebrate me getting my driver's license, and that put me onto hip-hop. I never looked back.

Your favorite bands/musicians today.

My go-to top 5 of all time are: Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, Puff Daddy and the Family, Jay-Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rakim. However, I'm obsessed with new music, and in a world where there is a non-stop flow, my go-to is New Music Friday on Spotify.

One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on. 

One project that I loved was co-creating and executive producing the hit interview series CRWN With Elliott Wilson. Elliott and I were looking to do something together, and when we created CRWN, it took the game by storm. Our pilot launched at SXSW with Kendrick Lamar. The first episode was with Tyler, The Creator, and we could barely get a venue to let us host it. We had to do it at midnight in NYC at the old Highline Ballroom. Paul Rosenberg brought in one of IAC's companies to shoot it. I got some good friends at Mountain Dew to cover expenses. We sold out in an hour and after the show, J Cole's team called to do an interview. Then Drake wanted to do the next one. We've done 47 interviews so far and amassed quite a catalog of epic moments. 

A recent project you're proud of.

We produced a campaign for Keurig's collaboration with McDonald's called "McCafé at Home." This harnesses the power of music and musicians as the ultimate influencers, particularly when forging relationships with new consumers in niche cultural markets. The brand wanted to reach Latin-American coffee drinkers in a meaningful and authentic way. Choosing to engage reggaeton artist Lunay to tell the brand story was a unique approach. They won big with Gen Z, bicultural and Hispanic consumers through an innovative activation, strategically overlapping with Hispanic Heritage Month and National Coffee Day.

Lunay chose to create original content in a recording studio, his home away from home. The campaign demonstrated seamless and organic integration of the product, as coffee is provided in studios to help fuel the creative process. Original content initiatives in Spanish showcased on Lunay's Instagram provided a fun, engaging forum for fans. Immersed in the excitement of bringing the content to life, and of his own accord, Lunay decided to premiere a clip of his upcoming single as part of the campaign. Utilizing music and the story of how Lunay creates his art provided differentiation from other influencer campaigns. That resonates with fans.

One thing about how the music world is evolving that you're excited about.

Artists are evolving to new roles as creative directors. These days, you'll find artists in the inner workings of a brand's DNA, helping to define the vision of some of the biggest companies in the world. Dre & Beats, Yeezy, Fenty x Rihanna—these brands were founded, owned and developed by artists, and they have generated much more money than those superstars' record releases. The future will feature more artists owning their IP, masters and brands. It's no longer about endorsements. It's about real partnerships and using music's reach to launch brands.  

Someone else's work, in music or beyond, that you admired lately.

I'm a big fan of celebrity agencies. From Donald Glover's Bose commercial and Issa Rae's agency to Ryan Reynolds. These are catalysts for change in the industry.

It's important to take a moment to highlight the partnership of Kendrick Lamar, Dave Free and the pgLang team. In a world where we are swamped by emails, social media and the social graph, it's nice to see a partnership that takes a phone back to its essence: for calls! This is the basic utility of technology in its simplest form. A phone focused on person-to-person communication will help lead to more meaningful relationships.This minimalist Phone for Humans is a statement piece and savvy new-product collaboration that helps remind us how brilliant and in tune Kendrick and his team are. 

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

I've been obsessed with Rick Rubin's The Creative Act. With all of the hits Rick has had, I think this will be his most impactful work, helping to define his legacy. To complement this book he has a fantastic podcast. One of the best episodes was the "Tetragrammaton With Ian Rogers and Rick Rubi." If you care about the intersection of music, technology and culture, this is a worthwhile listen. When Ian was working with the Beastie Boys, he knew hip-hop was destined to be a global phenomenon, but never would have predicted that the Canadian kid in the wheelchair from Degrassi would be the biggest rapper in the world. When he subsequently worked in Silicon Valley with Yahoo! Music and Topspin, Ian knew digital music was going to be a big thing, but never would have thought a Swedish company that incubated out of Europe would become a driving force. Now that he works in blockchain as chief experience officer at Ledger, he's certain that the ideals of Web3 are going to be realized; it's just a matter of when. Still, he's quick to admit he has no idea what will make this next era of transactions truly connect.

An artist you admire outside the world of music.

I'm a huge fan of the multidisciplinary artist JR. He knows how to highlight social injustice with his breathtaking art. His work feels relatable but also so powerful. He knows how to make his work stand for something, and some of the stunts he pulls off are mindboggling. His technique, passion, relatability, style and message resonate with me. Fun fact: last year at Art Basel, JR did a cityscape of Miami that included my image. One day my mug will be hanging in a museum. It was a dream. 

Your favorite fictional character.

I'm a big fan of Mighty Mouse. He was able to punch way above his weight. Even though he was a little mouse, his might and vigor could help save the world. 

Someone worth following in social media.

I love what former music manager turned NBA entrepreneur Rich Kleiman and his client Kevin Durant are building with The Boardroom. They are at the epicenter of sports, culture, entertainment and technology. It's a fun spin on the business of culture pertaining to sports from an insider's perspective. 

Your main strength as a marketer/creative.

I think of myself as a partnerships wizard who understands how to create revenue while applying deep strategy. My relationships and marketing prowess connect the dots across multiple industries and cultural pillars.

Your biggest weakness.

I'm a sucker for treats and free snacks. A meeting without refreshments should be an email. 

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music business.

I'd love to be a stage and film actor. It's so fun to be on stage and in front of the camera. I'm also fascinated by Wall Street, arbitrage and investing. But nothing is better than being in the business of music. 

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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