The glossy New York offices of Republic Records, a division of Universal Music Group, are a long way from Monte and Avery Lipman's first place of operation. "If you saw my early office, it looked like a boiler room," Monte laughs, as he stands in his office on Broadway near Columbus Circle.
Photography: Amy Lombard | Author: Carson Griffithwww.architecturaldigest.com
"We had this giant rat that used to run around. We were on 45th Street and Times Square, and it became sort of a weird pet thing." Now Monte, the chairman and CEO, his brother, Avery, the president and COO, and Charlie Walk, who joined the Lipmans in 2013 and is the president of the Republic Group, each claim a uniquely decorated office on the eighth floor of the building, all three spaces possessing only two shared qualities: enviable lengths of glass windows and countless pieces of memorabilia from the men's impressive careers working with award-winning multiplatinum musicians.
"The one thing I say to any artist who walks in here is if you want to be the biggest act in the world, you've come to the right place because that's the way we go after it," says Monte. "Whether it's a strategic alliance with Taylor Swift, someone like Drake, what's happening with the Weeknd right now, and the list goes on and on, we think about that year-round. Who’s the next crop of artists, what the expectations are."
But according to all three men, as much time is spent out of their offices as in them, working on the collective careers of the talent.
"We say you get more done in the hallway than you do sitting in a room full of people," says Avery, who adds that the main structure of their business isn't about back-to-back meetings. "The core of our business it to find artists, sign them, and break them.”
"Every day is different, 365 days a year," says Walk. "Because it's such a fast-moving business. Something that could be the biggest thing tomorrow could happen tonight. A lot of things I've done and actually signed didn't happen here but because I was at the right place at the right time. [The office] allows you to collect your thoughts, but going out allows you to execute those thoughts."
Walk's office, the most modern of the three, is also infused with the most personality. Decked out with awards, personal photos, and artwork, the space includes things like a Billboard Music Award for Top Artist given to him by Taylor Swift, a photo of Walk introducing Hailee Steinfeld to the Weeknd, and a personalized piece of art given to him by Peter Tunney ("my Tunney money"). “For me, it was really important that the walls were wooden so it gave it kind of an organic feel and an office look. To me the wood slabs felt barnlike; it made the space feel creative, and I mixed with more modern, minimalistic furniture,” says Walk of his office. “I added this carpet to give it a living room feel." A strategic move on Walk's part: "If you come here and you're an artist or in the creative entertainment space, it shifts your mind-set from corporate. I always say, 'From a corporate to an entrepreneurial vibe.' It feels open and clean and modern, yet that wood brings a feel of organic to it."
Avery Lipman's office, in comparison to the brightness of Walk's, is a gale of masculinity, with its heavy wood furniture and dark wall hangings. "I actually inherited this space, so when I came in here, I didn't have a whole lot to do," he says. Still, the room has his personal touch throughout, including a handmade vegetable-dyed rug, a painting made for him by singer John Mellencamp, and a plaque from his first job as Clive Davis's assistant at Arista Records. A bejeweled Moroccan wedding blanket hangs above one wall, the table beneath it displaying a plaque announcing Amy Winehouse's five Grammy wins.
Avery's brother, Monte, has the corner office of the floor, a sizable space with a couch so large it looks like it could (almost) fit every one of the label's past Grammy winners.
"I always say in this business, ‘No detail is too small,' and that certainly applies to the office as well. So everything you see has been curated, so everything has been thought about: What does it represent, what does it say, what kind of impact would it have on somebody walking into the office for the first time?" he says.
With the 59th Annual Grammy Awards on the horizon, Republic Records will be a large presence over the course of the awards weekend. "For me personally, I'm very excited about the Lorde Music Listening Session, playing some music to the community in a studio on Friday, which will be fantastic, and then Friday night we have a new artist showcase, Class of 2017, at a place called No Name that we'll have the industry come out to—only 125 handpicked people," Walk says. And Republic Records' own after-party for the Grammys will be a highlight. "It's the one you go to where you take your tie off and enjoy yourselves," Walk says. While Avery gamely points out the show is always exciting, Monte says they definitely have some artists of their own they'll be rooting for specifically: "This year it's Drake, just because he's nominated for six [awards], including Album of the Year, plus the Weeknd is going to perform. Ariana Grande is up for two awards; the Avett Brothers are up for two awards. And plus, we have the most kick-butt party every year!"
A bookshelf in Charlie Walk's office.
"These are boxing gloves; I'm starting to get into it," says Walk of a custom pair Monte Lipman gave him for the holidays with his name on it.
“I love [Peter] Tunney and his history,” Walk says. “And that's something he gave me for the office a while ago, and he wrote a special message for me: ‘guaranteed to go up (in writing!).’”
“These are some of the [MTV] Video Music Awards: Ariana Grande, Lorde for 'Royals,' which is one of the first songs I got to work with when I came here," says Walk. "When I came back into the game [in 2013], Billboard Hot 100 [recognized me]. It's considered an honor to be one of the top executives in music honored once a year. This is two years in a row: 2015, 2016.”
“Don't try and take a golf swing under it!” Avery Lipman says of his chandelier. “It doesn't go so well. . . . I like the idea of hand dye. This particular rug is vegetable dye and is 200 years old. Kind of like a really good song: It sticks around for a really long time.”
A Berber wedding blanket serves as a backdrop for some memorable awards. “This is a plaque of when I worked at Arista Records. I was Clive Davis's assistant, so this is hard to put in a box," says Avery. "This is a super-memorable night when Amy Winehouse won five Grammys. She should have won six, but I don't want to sound ungrateful. And she wasn't even there! She performed and she was beamed in from a pub in London at like four in the morning. It was really, really cool.”
Monte calls his corner office "a bit of a Frankenstein dynamic," since, like his brother, he inherited the room. "When I came in, we changed it around and curated it, so things like the wallpaper were already here, the light fixture was already here, but outside of that we just added things here and there."
Photos of Monte with musicians like Amy Winehouse and Ariana Grande, a shot of his family and Barack Obama, and a slew of awards fill the bookshelves.
A series of signed guitars from Taylor Swift, Three Doors Down, and the Rolling Stones.
“When you look at something like this Amy Winehouse [plaque] and how it impacted my career, that's why it's the only record plaque on the wall," says Monte. "Because during that period of time when she broke, it changed not only the course of music history at the time, but it changed the course of this company. We were not so little after that.”
“Ariana is our girl; she's like a little sister,” Monte says.
Magazines sit on a side table between two Eames lounge chairs in Monte's office.
"For me, it was really important that the walls were wooden so it gave it kind of an organic feel and an office look,” says Walk of his work space. “To me the wood slabs felt barnlike; it made the face feel creative, and I mixed with more modern, minimalistic furniture, so if you look at the mix of white, grays and wooden walls, it's different than what you see in most offices.”