Perspectives

College Radio: Many Hits, No Wonder

My AU soundtrack: Steve Greenberg, SIS/BA ’82

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A stack of cassette tapes
  • “Girls Talk,” Dave Edmunds
  • “Romeo’s Tune,” Steve Forbert
  • “Mama Used to Say,” Junior, Tee Scott
  • “A Message to You Rudy,” The Specials
  • “Houston El Mover,” Joe King Carrasco
  • “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,” Grandmaster Flash
  • “Let Me Be Your Angel,” Stacy Lattisaw
  • “Up the Junction,” Squeeze
  • “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” The Rubinoos
  • “Good Times,” Chic
  • “Double Dutch Bus,” Frankie Smith
  • “Oliver’s Army,” Elvis Costello and the Attractions
  • “She’s a Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked),” Carl Carlton
  • “Do You Remember Rock ’n’ Roll Radio?” Ramones
  • “People Who Died,” The Jim Carroll Band
  • “Back in Your Life,” Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
  • “Genius of Love,” Tom Tom Club
  • “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight,” The Jam
  • “Yesterday’s Love,” Any Trouble
  • “Take Your Time (Do It Right),” The S.O.S. Band

In 2000, shortly after executives at London Records laughed at him, Steve Greenberg let the dogs out.

“They said it was the stupidest record they’d ever heard,” Greenberg says of the single from the Baha Men, the junkanoo group he had signed years earlier. “I just thought they were wrong.” A Grammy and 3.5 million records sold proved him right.

The S-Curve Records founder has made a career on making hits. He signed Hanson as head of A&R at Mercury and the Jonas Brothers as president of Columbia. At S-Curve—a Disney Music Group partner since 2021—the former AU Student Government president and host of “Stevie G’s Slumber Party” on WAMU has sustained a doggedly successful run. From Fountains of Wayne and We the Kings—signed by Steve Yegelwel, CAS/BA ’84—to Joss Stone, Andy Grammer, and AJR (a group Greenberg manages), S-Curve has built a reputation on helping build the careers of new and different sounds.

“I’m thinking from the perspective of the audience all the time, and the whole philosophy of the label is that if we like [a sound] and we think that we can convince other people to like it if they get to hear it, then we sign it. But we have to like it first ourselves and we don’t chase after trends,” Greenberg says. “When you’re right about that kind of stuff and you A. help an artist who has a unique vision become successful and B. introduce the world to some music that they might not have heard otherwise, it’s really satisfying.”

As a kid growing up in Queens, Greenberg worked around the expense of buying new records like many: by purchasing cassettes and recording his favorite pop and R&B songs as they played on the radio. Decades later, it’s his own label that continues to sustain itself by winning over the airwaves: from “Stacy’s Mom” (2003) to “Check Yes, Juliet” (2007) to “Keep Your Head Up” (2011) to “Honey, I’m Good,” (2014) to “Bang!” (2020).

“The cash flow in the music business is harsh, and to do it as an indie is actually really hard,” he says. “The only reason we’ve managed to survive all these years is because we seem to always have a hit.”

Over a 35-year career, the question has not been when or whether Greenberg will find his next one. With artist rosters as deep as he’s built them at S-Curve and elsewhere, it’s simply, “Who? Who? Who? Who? Who?”

Tune in to Greenberg’s mix on Spotify.