Riding a Straight Edge of Success10 Dec, 2009 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
Razor & Tie’s Cliff Chenfeld and Craig Balsam have built a major entertainment company by capitalizing on the power of direct response.
After working as lawyers for just a few short years, Cliff Chenfeld and Craig Balsam were looking for a way out. The question was, what would be the next step? Both had visions of combining their creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and love for the music industry into a new career. And in 1990, Chenfeld and Balsam noticed that the only music products being sold on television, through DRTV, were compilations geared to an older generation.
So combining the desire to fill a hole in the marketplace and nostalgia for the music of their youth, the duo decided to launch a compilation album, Those Fabulous ’70s. Proceeding with no music industry connections, and working out of Chenfeld’s apartment, they constructed a lowbudget DRTV spot to sell directly to consumers. And — literally overnight (as they were informed the next morning by fax after the first spot aired) — the team sold 170 CDs.
Almost 20 years later, Chenfeld and Balsam have parlayed that initial DRTV launch into a unique company that harbors a successful music label, a music publishing house, a home video production company, a media buying agency, and a direct marketing operation all under one roof. Razor & Tie (R&T) Entertainment houses the largest independent music label in the country, serving as home to acclaimed artists such as global superstar Angelique Kidjo, Dar Williams, and Joan Baez — as well as breaking hard-rock act All That Remains.
R&T is also the compilation packager for Monsters of Rock and Monster Ballads. But perhaps R&T is most well known as the inventor, producer and distributor of the awardwinning Kidz Bop music series, which has sold more than 14 million copies since the release of its first album in 2001.
Meeting Chenfeld, the company’s president and co-founder, it’s easy to tell why R&T is able to have its hand in so many aspects of the industry, and do them all well. Chenfeld is enthusiastic about his work, creative, driven and, most of all, personable.