Shawn Stern didn’t set out to become a Punk Rock Icon. When he - along with his two brothers - created the (now) seminal band Youth Brigade back in 1980, all they really wanted to do was play music and hang with friends. Punk Rock, he quickly realized, was the perfect venue for that lifestyle, “We (could) play music, we don’t have to be really good,… and you could talk about the problems - that really still exist - that (pop music) won’t talk about.”
But Punk Rockers need to eat. So, when the major labels couldn’t care less about distributing BYO’s albums, when club owners didn’t want to book the band, and when promoters wouldn’t return his phone calls - Shawn went DIY. Again with his brother, “This is a family affair,” Shawn cashed in his Bar Mitzvah Bonds (in the process screwing Bank of America) and started his own label - BYO Records.
“It’s not rocket science, We learned early on how businesses work without ever taking a business class, I don't know to me it's just logical.” Suddenly, Shawn was more than Youth Brigades lead singer, he was an entrepreneur, de-facto CEO, and both President and CFO of his own company.
In this episode of 21KHZ, How Shawn Stern managed to run a punk rock label and still keep his soul.