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Skateboarding and Bieber Fever: Tony Hawk & Scooter Braun on the Power of Media | Google Zeitgeist

Skateboarding and Bieber Fever: Tony Hawk & Scooter Braun on the Power of Media | Google Zeitgeist

>>Sal Masekela: What do you do for a living?
>>Tony Hawk: I ride skateboards mostly, yeah.>>Sal Masekela: Right, right. That’s a cool
job.>>Tony Hawk: Yeah.
>>Sal Masekela: And it has worked out pretty good, a little bit, I think.
>>Tony Hawk: Some days are good.>>Sal Masekela: Some days are better.
And, Scooter, you — you’re responsible for a movement that has changed the world called
“Bieber fever.” Even forced me to — I have the fever. We’ll talk a little bit about that
later, but I actually have the fever. Thank you.
>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: You’re welcome.>>Sal Masekela: I will let you go first, Scooter.
Tell me a little bit about how you got to this place.
>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: I played basketball growing up. And I went to — I found out that
a 5’11” Jew with a jump shot isn’t going to make it to the NBA.
>>Sal Masekela: No!>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: I went to play DIII,
and my best friend was a great player at Duke University. And I realized he was going to
make it and I wasn’t. So I started to actually throw parties in college to make some extra
money. And I will admit — Because you are smiling
because I know the truth. I actually sold fake IDs right before I started throwing the
parties. And I realized for after one month of doing it that I didn’t need to do that.
So I was doing parties. And then I was in Atlanta, Georgia. And the
whole hip-hop movement of Atlanta was coming up. So I got approached by a rapper named
Ludacris to work with him, and I was 19 years old.
I was doing the parties. I was working with Ludacris and then I started doing stuff for
with ‘N Sync, for Britney Spears, for a lot of other groups. And then a guy named Jermaine
Dupri approached me about doing marketing for him. He said, you know — Jermaine is
a very short guy. He is about 5’4″. I remember the conversation. He was sitting
on a stool and his feet were dangling. And he was telling me, you know, that I had more
potential than parties. So I went to work for him and I became the
VP of his company. I was 20 years old. I left college to run my company and his. Broke my
mother’s heart. My brother, who’s here, graduated from Ivy
league so she has her favorite son now. [ Laughter ]
And I was frustrated because I had these ideas. I was in college. Facebook came and all these
different things and social media and Google. And I had these ideals of using social media
for marketing and branding with music. And my boss didn’t agree with me. And my father
gave me really great advice. I called him and he said, “Son, either shut the ‘f’ up
and work for the person you work for or go and take a risk while you’re young and don’t
have kids.” So I went and took a risk and I signed a kid
out of his dorm room named Asher Roth. We ended up doing a song called “I Love College.”
I had a run with that. And then four months after finding Asher,
I saw a 12-year-old kid singing online. He had 60,000 views, and I caught the fever.
I’m patient zero. [ Laughter ]
So I found Justin. I kind of stalked him and his mother. I moved them down to me and been
raising him since he was 12 with his mom and have a very special relationship. We just
went on a run. And my dad gave me good advice.>>Sal Masekela: That’s amazing, man.
>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: I actually remember, right before we started, I took all the money
I had from parties — being a party promoter. I don’t know if guys know any. We have a really
bad rap. So everyone just thought I was heavily on drugs. And I barely drink. So — except
at this conference. [ Laughter ]
So, yeah, I actually took the money I had and I figured out how I could live my lifestyle
comfortably for six months until I was going to go broke. And I risked everything, and
I remember Asher lived on my couch for six months. And I had Justin and his mom in a
townhouse around the corner, and my name was on the lease. And I had these Canadian citizens
living under a lease under my name in Atlanta. And I — yeah, that wasn’t fun.
And then in month five “I Love College” hit and kind of turned it around. And we have
been on this wild run. And four years later I’m pinching myself. Sitting next to Tony
Hawk. Cool. [ Laughter ]
>>Sal Masekela: Segue to — Tony, tell us how you got to be this guy who rides skateboards
for a living.>>Tony Hawk: Wow. Well, I started skating
because my older brother was into it. He was a surfer, and he was skating because skating
was basically bred from surfing. Guys trying to figure out what to do when there is no
waves and emulate carving and whatnot. He was outside, basically, our alleyway one
time. And he had this one board. I was watching him do it. And I think I was, like, 8 years
old. I jumped on it. Can I try it? Yeah. So I jumped on it, and I went straight and
I was yelling at him, “How do I turrrn?” And then I literally hit the fence at the end
of the alley and then picked it up and turned it around and went back the other way.
And there was no fireworks. There was no — it was really just, like, wow, that’s what you
do? That’s it? And then he gave me that board. And I ended
up skating — because all my friends were doing it at the time. I was kind of the odd
man out and, then I picked it up later. And then eventually — probably about a year
later, one of my friends invited me to the skate park, which there was one in San Diego.
And they — I didn’t realize, but they were already on the out. They were kind of the
rise and on the way out in a way. And I found my way to the skate park, and I saw these
guys flying around. I literally saw guys flying out of empty swimming pools. And I thought,
that’s what I want to do. I am going to do whatever I can to learn how to do that. I
want to fly. And I just took on and much to — much to
my own bodily harm, learning how to do this stuff at a really young age. And I was scrawny
rat. I was likes a pixie and trying to do this stuff these bulky dudes were doing. I
didn’t know any better. And I would knock my teeth out a few times. I got plenty of
concussions, stitches, whatnot. The doctor at one point pulled me into another
room outside my parents and started asking me questions like I was a beaten child.
[ Laughter ] And then I eventually learned the basics and
I started competing because the only way to get noticed back then was to compete. So I
reached the top of the amateur ranks pretty quickly, and that wasn’t a great feat because
skating was small at the time and it was getting smaller.
And so I got a sponsor. I got sponsored by Dogtown Skateboards, which a lot of people
are familiar with from the Dogtown documentary. What I didn’t realize was that Dogtown was
actually — had been reincarnated. It was a whole new crew, and it was going out of
business at the exact time I got sponsored by them.
And then I got a call from Stacy Peralta, who is a legendary pro skater and became a
businessman at the time. He became partners with another guy and they formed Powell-Peralta
Skateboards. And they had the most elite team. That was — hands down, everyone knew that
was the best team. He called me one day when I was at home. I
was 11. [ Laughter ]
And he said — he said, Hey, I heard dogtown went out of business? And I was like, Really?
That’s probably why I haven’t gotten any skateboards from them in a long time.
[ Laughter ] He said, I would like to talk to you about
being sponsored. So I went and met him. He became my sponsor. He became my coach. He
became my mentor. I eventually turned professional when I was
14 years old, and I had a run of successful competitions right at the time the skateboarding
was dying. But it came back around as I was entering
high school. That was the good thing. All these people that were good at it, were the
known names, they were the ones that were sort of at an age of responsibility and they
all had to quit because they couldn’t do it for a living anymore. And I was 14. I was
a professional skateboarder. What do I care? [ Laughter ]
I’m going to school. It didn’t matter. So by the time I was — by the time I was
18, skating was coming back around in vogue. It was getting very popular. Skateboard parks
were springing up again. I was at the top of the game.
I bought my house — my first house while I was still a senior in high school, which
is a challenge to make it to school on time when you own your own place and you have three
roommates the same age. [ Laughter ]
But I made it. And then I — things were going really well. As soon as I graduated high school,
my dad was encouraging me to go to college but I was the last of four children. I was
the youngest, and he had already been through the ringer with all of them. They’re all very
well-adjusted people. My sister is here. She is my business partner
actually. But he had been through so much that it was
like, “Whatever, go, do what you’re going to do.”
[ Laughter ] So I became a pro skater. Immediately I was
traveling the world. I was doing — living this dream no one really knew existed, that
we were creating as we went, and had a really amazing time.
And then about the time that I did reach the age of real responsibility and started a family,
skating died again. And I had two mortgages. I had a son, and it was very tricky.
And then I knew I wanted to be in the skating industry. I loved skating too much. I wanted
to be in it. I didn’t know if I would make a living as a professional, but I was going
to be — I was devoted to skateboarding. So I refinanced my house and took all the
money and started a skateboard company, which seems like the stupidest thing in the world
to do when skating is dying. It was exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a company
owner, be behind the scenes. I quit my sponsor and started and for about
three years struggled very hard. My partner and I, we had pooled our money together. He
was an ex pro skater as well. And we just did Birdhouse and did whatever we could to
get by. And all the team was staying on my couch.
I literally while I am changing diapers, I’m, like, driving guys to these spots that they
are going to get arrested at because there’s no skate parks so they are going to go ride
schoolyards. It was such a strange existence. But I loved it because it was skateboarding
and it was exactly what I wanted to do. And so we really hunkered down. Like, I was
living on Taco Bell and peanut butter and jelly and Top Ramen for probably three years
for sure. But I didn’t care because it was still, like, I got to do what I loved. That’s
the thing, people say, Was it a struggle? Well, no, because I loved it too much. I still
got to go skate, and I had time to skate. I didn’t have to go sit behind a computer
for eight hours and then hope I get time to skate.
>>Sal Masekela: No offense to anybody who sits behind a computer.
[ Laughter ]>>Tony Hawk: It wasn’t that — it was if I
had chosen, that — like I love video editing. I love to do it. But I knew I wasn’t going
to make a living at it.>>Sal Masekela: Right.
>>Tony Hawk: And I loved skating, and I wanted to be able to make a living at it.
And so eventually the X Games started in 1995. We found sort of a new life in media coverage,
and that — And I kind of got a second career. Through that I had stopped competing because
I just — I was devoted to the company. And the X Games came around. I’m still doing this.
I’m still good at it. I’m going to compete again.
I was on a really good winning streak through the first four years of X Games or so. 1999
they had the best trick event. I landed the first 900.
>>Sal Masekela: I think I was standing on the ramp.
>>Tony Hawk: You were there for sure. I think your voice resonates in my head, too, when
I was landing it. It marked the end of probably my best year of competition. I competed for
20 years at that point, and I wanted to do something else.
I wanted to see where else I could take skateboarding, like what other opportunities there were.
And skating was just on the rise. Our video game got released. Our first video
game got released that very fall, and things blew up.
>>Sal Masekela: Tony Hawk Pro Skating.>>Tony Hawk: Tony Hawk Pro Skater from Activision,
yeah. And things blew up ever since then.>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: I did it a lot for
when I was struggling for those six months.>>Tony Hawk: I have heard a lot of people
blame me for them failing college. [ Laughter ]
>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: Dropped out my sophomore year. So, yeah, basically.
>>Tony Hawk: I think everybody will start blaming you for Angry Birds because it is
mobile. So, anyway, things kind of blew up from there
and then I started new businesses. Hawk Clothing, a clothing line. I started a foundation for
public skate parks and still skating through and through.
I did a tour that included skateboarding, BMX, and Motocross, kind of the first of its
kind, called Boom Boom Huckjam. Really, I’m still exploring what’s possible
with all this and kind of making it up as we go along but at the same time embracing
new technologies, you know, embracing social media and figuring out how far we can resonate
because it’s — everything — not everything, but the information is global now. And that
means that we have to follow through with getting access to all of these things and
with skateboarding especially. Like, skateboarding is huge in the U.S. It is huge in Australia.
It is huge in Brazil. It is barely known in China, but they have some of the best facilities
there. And I think there are ways to promote it that are more grassroots.
And so I’m just excited to be here, to be honest. That’s my story. That’s how I got
here.>>Sal Masekela: That’s awesome.
[ Applause ] Both you guys — both of you guys are strong
proponents and really ground-breaking users of social media.
How important is it to take advantage, for you guys, to go directly to the source, to
the customer — to the consumer? In your case, with Justin Bieber, you guys
bypassed the music industry, bypassed the rules that already existed and said, You don’t
believe us? We are going to go straight to the fans.
>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: I think when you hear the word “no,” it is more exciting. You
were giving a great talk before about how you put games into your life to save your
life. And I think, you know, it is the same thing, we made it a game for us. Every single
time we heard the word “no,” it was a new challenge.
And I was hearing “no” from my heroes. And I was getting meetings with people that I
looked up to my entire life, and they were telling me not just “no,” “hell no”. I thought
you were a marketer. You are not an A&R? Get out of my office. Why are you here with this
child?” And, you know, we just stopped going to those
meetings and we started having a direct conversation with the consumer and with the fans. And that’s
what worked the best. Now I meet a lot of — you know, I started
in this business when I was 19, and I am meeting a lot of people at that age and they are talking
to me. And my advice to them is “who cares what I think.” Go directly out there and find
out what they think. And that’s the great thing. We took platforms
that existed and just communicated on a one-on-one basis.
To me it’s more significant to have a conversation with — for Justin it is more significant
for him to have a conversation directly with a fan, you know, a 16-year-old girl in Iowa
than it is to get an interview with “Billboard” magazine because we make people believe in
the dream, that it can happen, that you can be touched by these people.
And for the first time, thanks to all these amazing platforms out there, you can sit in
your living room and be touched by your hero. And that’s all it was. It was just creating
that dream and giving kids something to believe in because at the time, you know, we were
in a recession. And the kids turn on MTV and they would see “The Hills” and kids driving
around in their cars and inheritance and everything else like that. And that just sucks. It doesn’t
really give you a lot of hope when you are a teenager and you see your parents losing
their job and maybe losing their home. And you are turning on TV and seeing children
that are privileged. We wanted Justin to represent a story of rags
to riches. We wanted a story of if you put your mind to it and you put in the time and
the effort you can achieve something. And not only did we tell the story, we involved
them in the story. It has always been about them.
I remember there was one interview where they asked me, “I’m very shocked, Team Bieber is
very small. There is only six of you.” I said, “Actually, I think we are bigger than any
corporation in the world because we have millions of devoted fans who create content on a daily
basis for us and we distribute it through our platforms.”
So, you know, it is an exciting time because you hear all these things about the music
industry dying. And to me, I’m not in the music industry. I’m in a multimedia industry,
and I’m in an industry where if you look at musicians — I have a buddy who is out there
somewhere, Troy, who manages Lady Gaga. Justin and Gaga are the two biggest people in social
media on the planet. They are both musicians. If you look at every single social media platform
out there, it is musicians sitting on the top.
So these are people who affect all of us significantly. If I talk to each one of you individually,
music is probably going to be the time line of your life. So how do we take that and create
that brand and use it to create other things? My dream some day is that sports, music, you
know, film, television, all that is just an advertisement for a platform and that we can
all work together and really build those things out.
And Justin was just — I mean, he’s incredibly talented. You saw the movie. You cried three
times, you told me.>>Sal Masekela: Why would you tell that to
the audience? [ Laughter ]
They sent me the movie, and I had avoid watching the movie even when I worked at “E” entertainment.
I was like, “I’m not going to watch that.” They sent it to me. I cried 3 1/2, maybe 4
times in the Justin Bieber movie. It is powerful. You’re like, No! Don’t make me cry, Bieber!
[ Laughter ]>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: I think it is a fun
story. He is a talented kid.>>Sal Masekela: Don’t watch it (sobbing).
>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: It is a fun story. He is a really talented kid.
But the whole premise of it was to prove something. And, you know, I think now the next step for
him at least is everyone assumes he is a kid. And, unfortunately, as human beings, we think
of everything so negatively. You know, I’m sure when you were going through with skateboarding,
they said, Oh, skateboarding is over. You took that risk because you knew you believed
in something. And success, nothing great ever comes easy.
So the next thing is, Oh, he can’t make it. He is a kid, and he won’t be here in ten years.
You know, they said the same thing — people forget that Michael Jackson after the Jackson
5 was thought of as corny and wasn’t supposed to do anything. And people forget, you know,
that the Beatles were thought of as that teeny act and girls were screaming and no one was
paying attention. If you make great music, you continue. If
you make a great product, you continue. If you hit that 900, you continue. And if you
carry yourself well — And I have heard the theme of everything I have been hearing from
all the speakers is that if you carry yourself with positivity and you surround yourself
with positivity, you get positive results. And I learned that lesson because I’m not
going to name names. But when I was in college and I did own a promotion company, I had a
kid who worked for me who someone else vouched for, super smart, big asshole.
He just made me look in the mirror and question myself on a daily basis. I thought I was the
asshole. And now I have surrounded myself — the people
who work with me, I don’t even consider — not “for” me, they work “with” me, they are really
good people. And I enjoy working with them. I enjoy my team. You saw some of them in the
movie just on the road. We’re a family. And I think that’s why we’re experiencing
such success, because the fans and the consumers, they enjoy watching our story because they
can tell we enjoy it. And I think that’s the direct relationship.
And thank God for all these social media platforms because it is not fake. There is no marketing
gimmick. The gimmick is real, just keeping it as authenticate as you can.
>>Sal Masekela: Tony, you are one of those people who has never been afraid to get right
out there with the fans. Your Twitter work is stuff of legend.
Talk a little bit about how you use social media, especially with some of your scavenger
hunts, et cetera.>>Tony Hawk: I think the thing I really love
about our sports in general, too, is that the athletes are totally approachable. They’re
not shrouded by some big company or have to hit an exact talking point or whatever it
is. They will come — You will go to a skate park. We go to a skate park with our team.
Our skate park — our team is just there riding with the locals. That doesn’t happen in ball
sports. You don’t get a pickup game with LeBron. That’s not ever going to happen.
[ Laughter ]>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: He’s got some free
time now. [ Laughter ]
>>Tony Hawk: Wrong example. And so in social media, I really feel like
those voices shine through and especially in our world. And, I mean, I kind of found
Twitter just because I heard people talking about it. And I joined and realized how prolific
it is instantly, the speed of information. I mean, you find out about an earthquake immediately
when it happens because someone you follow is there. And it is not on the news or whatever
it is. And I was thinking about all that, and I was
driving to my office one day — my office, my ramp —
[ Laughter ] It really is an office, but it’s there because
the warehouse fits my entire halfpipe. So everything else is incidental to that.
And I was driving and I thought, I wonder what happens if I just put a skateboard here
in the bushes and said it’s right here. And I did. I had a skateboard in my trunk. Surprise.
And I hid it, like, behind this fire hydrant at the end of a cul-de-sac.
And I just said — I just wrote, I left a skateboard (saying name) Road and this intersection,
behind the fire hydrant. And by the time, I got to my house 15 minutes later, there
was a picture of a girl holding it. And all these people saying “Oh, we just drove up
and she was driving away.” And she said there were four cars coming in and people I knew
were looking for it. [ Laughter ]
Guys that worked for “Skateboard” magazine. I went over there? What? What? Call me up.
And how much excitement it generated. I was just reading all the replies, and I thought,
wow, that would be super fun to do on a big scale.
And so I did. Watch what you wish for. Around Easter a couple years ago, I said, “Yeah,
let’s do this on a big scale.” And I sent skateboards to people I trust around the world,
really. And just said, “On this date tell me where you hid it.” And I was a one-man
show, for the most part. They would hide it, send me the location. I would tweet that out
and watch for replies to see when it got found. And, at some point, like, six hours in of
just watching replies, I was like this is heavy duty. It’s fun. It’s a blast. But I
need help. So last time we did it, we did it on the Saturday before Easter. We did it
at my office. I had help. We had — I just sent a message out saying, “Hey, anybody want
to donate goods? We’ll give you a plug.” And they came in droves. We had, like, Fender
guitars. We had Kicker audio speakers. And we had — we had, like, fancy almonds. And
it was just all over the place. Corn Flakes. It was just — we put together a goodie box.
And we sent out 50 of them across the world. And that was super exciting to see it refined
like that and to see it on a big scale. And they didn’t want anything in return except
just recognition at the end.>>Sal Masekela: So cool to see the pictures
of the people when they find the boxes, the smile’s just wrapped around their head.>>Tony
Hawk: Some people that I employ — employ — but some people that I asked to help, they
like to get a little tricky with it. Like, this guy in London likes to make it this whole
hunt and clues and go to this gallery and look under this desk and go to the next place
and order this kind of sandwich and this guy will do this.
[ Laughter ]>>Tony Hawk: He goes a little crazy with it.
But people love it. And, even when they don’t find it, they love that they were a part of
that movement and part — and part of the excitement. Sometimes it’s heart breaking
because, you know, they’ll bring like their really young children. And they’re full of
promises. “We’re going to find this thing.” Sorry you didn’t find it. You know? But you
might want to be a little bit more — little more reality-based with the children when
you’re going out to find something like that.>>Sal Masekela: When you’re going out with
your children on a scavenger hunt that started on the Internet. You guys are both players
of Angry Birds, correct?>>Tony Hawk: Very much so.
>>Sal Masekela: Scooter even once called himself the Michael Jordan of Angry Birds.
>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: I only said that with my girlfriend in our bed. I was competing
against her. And it was the revenge for crying in the movie.
>>Sal Masekela: Indeed, it is. We’re going to give you an opportunity to see if that’s
really who you are. Because Tony Hawk and “Scooter” Braun are going to play one round
of Angry Birds right now.>>Tony Hawk: Can we play Tony Hawk Pro Skater
next?>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: Oh, I see something
happening here. You’ve got an advantage.>>Tony Hawk: I was going to say it would be
unfair otherwise.>>Tony Hawk: One round, of the first level
ever?>>Sal Masekela: Highest score wins.
>>Tony Hawk: At the same time?>>Sal Masekela: Yeah. Go for it.
>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: These are all the same birds.
>>Tony Hawk: You’re on a different level.>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: I’m on a different
level. Is your level harder?>>Tony Hawk: I don’t know.
>>Sal Masekela: Here we go. Good luck.>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: Oh, no, no.
>>Sal Masekela: No offense, but Tony finished already.
>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: Game is not over. I’m struggling.
>>Tony Hawk: Yeah. Yeah. Oh! [ Applause ]
>>Sal Masekela: It’s over. It’s over. And it was not pretty.
>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: He’s a professional athlete.
>>Sal Masekela: Yes, he is.>>Tony Hawk: No, I spend a lot of times on
airplanes or in airplane mode.>>Scott “Scooter” Braun: I’m going to get
murdered by my girlfriend.>>Sal Masekela: Can’t wait to tell Bieber
about this one. Tony Hawk, your prize is an Angry Birds T-shirt from the creator, Peter
Vesterbacka. [ Applause ]

Reader Comments

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  2. Tony Hawk's story is much more interesting than Scooter's
    Who cares about a guy who found a testicular cancer and turned it into a pop singer?

  3. @MrSuspiciousPerson i agree, they are also some of the best but tony hawk took the x games to a new level

  4. lol at first i thought this "scooter" thing was some faggy thing about razor scooters… then i realized it was this dude which is even gayer…

  5. right now, whilst watching this video i am playing tony hawk pro skater hd on the xbox and i just landed a 1080 indy… as rodney mullen… lol :p

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