Seymour Stein, the founder of legendary music label Sire and the man behind hit-making artists such as Madonna, The Ramones, Talking Heads, and more, is a true icon in the industry. Despite not being a musician himself, his sharp ears and ability to recognize talent has led to the discovery and success of some of the biggest names in music.
In August 2022, the Chinese version of Stein’s autobiography, “My Life in Music,” was published in China and quickly sparked a musical frenzy throughout the country. Renowned music promoter Jimi Wang and Wuhan-based musician Yu Yong Li were responsible for introducing the book to China and have been touring the country for an exhibition of the book, inviting local musicians to perform classic songs mentioned in the book.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, large-scale music performances were limited in 2022, but the nationwide tour of “Hearing the Genius” was able to successfully complete nine city stops and gain intense media attention. However, the tour was temporarily suspended in December due to another outbreak of the virus in China. But now, the tour is set to relaunch in March with an exclusive interview with Jimi Wang and Yu Yong Li. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about the man behind some of the most influential music of our time.
How was the book “Siren Song: My Life in Music” introduced to China?
J&Y: We wrote to Seymour, the author, hoping to introduce the book to China after it was published in Europe and the United States. He agreed, and it took four years for the book to finally be published in China due to translation, the pandemic, and approval processes. Despite the long wait, it was worth it.
From the media, it seems that the book has been more influential in China than in the United States and Europe. Why is this?
J&Y: The situation in China is unique. In the early 1990s, many European and American record companies overproduced records or cassettes and disposed of them by cutting or drilling holes. They were then exported to China as plastic waste. This was a common way for young, music-loving Chinese to access rock and pop music as there was no internet or licensed records available. Seymour’s record label, Sire, was particularly popular and had a big impact on people’s feelings and memories, which is why the book has been so well received in China.
How is the tour going? How many cities have you visited?
J&Y: The tour began in August and our first event in Beijing was very popular. Bookstores in many cities invited us to visit, and we went to nine cities. However, due to the pandemic and prevention and control measures, the number of people at each event was limited. Our campaign became a hot spot, but in December, the policy changed and we had to suspend the events due to a sudden outbreak of the virus. We hope to continue the tour after the situation improves and plan to visit 20 cities across China.
Your tour is very creative, as you play the songs mentioned in the book during your events. Is this interesting?
J&Y: Yes, it is an interesting plan. Our translator, Yu, is a guitarist and suggested using a concert format to promote the musical autobiography. It’s like a Tiny Desk concert. We also hold our events in bookstores, which creates a wonderful combination of music and culture. Many Chinese music critics have praised our activities as creative, and we collaborate with local musicians in each city, which adds to the excitement.
You have published the Chinese version of Seymour’s autobiography and are holding a tour in China. Can you comment on Seymour?
J&Y: Seymour is a great legend. He developed an independent record label into a world-famous music label and has brought countless music treasures to the world, changing the trend of world pop music. But most importantly, he advocates for the spirit of inheritance for future generations. His zealotry and dedication are an inspiration to everyone in the music industry.
Is there any plan for the tour to expand to other countries in Asia or around the world?
J&Y: Currently, we are focusing on completing the tour in China and promoting the book to more people in the country. However, we have received inquiries from publishers and bookstores in other Asian countries, and we are considering the possibility of expanding the tour to other regions in the future. We believe that Seymour’s story and the music he brought to the world has a universal appeal, and we would love to share it with more people around the globe. But right now, our main focus is China and we will see what the future holds.