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How A Pair Of Sunglasses From ‘Men In Black’ Led Steve Stoute To Ditch His Job As A Music Executive, With A $2.5M Salary, For The Advertising Industry

The 1997 film “Men In Black” was instrumental in elevating former Sony Executive Steve Stoute to a new realm.

However, it was his learned lessons from his involvement with the film soundtrack that caused him to pivot into a new career path.

Between 1990 and 1999, Stoute stamped the title of Sony Music Entertainment’s president of urban music, The Creators Blueprint reports. He played a role in the careers of artists, including singer Mariah Carey, Nas, and even actor and rapper Will Smith, whose solo music career would skyrocket following the release of his first single “Men In Black.” The track topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart and he won a Grammy award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1997, according to Pop Sugar.

The movie would not only go on to make its mark in cinema and music, but it would leave an impact in the realm of business. During an interview with former NFL player  Shannon Sharpe on his podcast “Club Shay Shay,” Stoute recalled a scene showing Smith, who plays James Darrell Edwards III (Agent J), wearing a pair of Ray-Ban glasses. A small advertising agency at the time handled the placement of the glasses in the film, eventually profiting from the surge in product sales spurred by the movie.

“Will was a movie star, and we made Men in Black, and the song went crazy. It changed his music career,” Stoute said on “Club Shay Shay.” “But the thing about this that was nuts is that the album sold 10 million, but the glasses sold more, and we never got paid from the glasses and the small advertising agency that did the product placement for the glasses.”

He later added, “Will Smith was selling those glasses. He didn’t get paid from the glasses either. When Will Smith said, ‘I make this look good,’ those glasses was gone.”

Stoute began to note the power of the dollar in advertising, which would prompt his pivot from the music business into the sector over a three-year period. By this time, he had transitioned from Sony Music Entertainment to Interscope Geffen A&M, where he served as the president of the urban music division and executive vice president, according to the Shadow League.

“I’m like if the music could sell all these glasses, imagine what I could do if I left the music business and focused on the product,” he mentioned on “Club Shay Shay.”

Stoute said goodbye to a $2.5 million salary at Interscope Geffen A&M in his late twenties to work with the very agency that profited from the “Men In Black” movie. According to the interview, he told Sharpe he was offered a 25% stake in the agency and a $150,000 salary, and he accepted.

What’s more, Stoute says he also earned significant gains after the company sold for nine figures within two years.

“I’m gonna leave the record business, $2.5 million, all of the perks that come with it, who you are, the rooms you walk in, everything that comes with that, to go work in an agency where I don’t know anybody,” he explained on “Club Shay Shay.” “I really don’t even know the business. I just know that one aspect of the business, and I’m like, ‘If I don’t make that bet on myself now, and I’m 28 years old, 29 years old, when would I ever do it? When I have a family, when I have kids, I’ll never make that bet.’”

He added, “I made that bet. We sold that agency within two years for $190 million. I was rich as f-ck at about 31.”



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