Variety has named veteran music journalist Shirley Halperin as Executive Editor, Music — signaling the entertainment publication’s launch of a new initiative to cover the music and live entertainment businesses.
Halperin, who comes to Variety from Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter, where she served as news director and music editor, respectively, will be joined by her close associate Jem Aswad, who is being named senior music editor. The two have worked hand in hand at Billboard for the past three years. Halperin will work out of Variety’s Los Angeles offices, while Aswad will continue to be based in New York. He will report directly to Halperin.
“As music has become more ubiquitous than ever, and is continually opening up new opportunities for business and partnerships, a sector ripe for reporting has emerged. We look forward to tackling the music industry from every angle at Variety,” said Halperin, who will report to Variety Co-Editor-In-Chief Claudia Eller.
The two seasoned journalists will lead Variety’s multi-platform news coverage of the music industry in print, online, and on video. They will write, assign and edit daily breaking news stories for Variety.com, and contribute cover and inside features and profiles to the weekly magazine. Halperin and Aswad will also spearhead Grammy coverage and music-related events and conferences for Variety.
“Hiring this dynamic duo instantly establishes Variety as a serious player in the music business coverage space,” said Eller. “Shirley is the most respected name and force in music journalism today, bar none. With her skills, knowledge and ferocity, I am certain that Variety will soon dominate music business news. We plan to cover music as aggressively as we do film, television and digital.”
Halperin, who has been covering the music industry for two decades, has worked on several magazine relaunches, including US Weekly and THR. As music editor at THR, she wrote a number of cover stories on major artists, including Snoop Dogg, Katy Perry, Pitbull, Justin Bieber and Trent Reznor, for which she won a best personality profile award from the Los Angeles Press Club.
Halperin, who was born in Israel and raised in New Jersey, has also authored three books, 2008’s “Pot Culture,” 2010’s “Reefer Movie Madness” and 2011’s “American Idol: Celebrating 10 Years.” She started her journalism career as an intern at High Times.
Aswad, who has most recently been a senior editor at Billboard, and before that has held senior posts at MTV News, Spin and Time Out New York. He also had industry experience, having worked at labels Atlantic, Warner Bros. and Caroline Records.
Aswad brings a hands-on, proactive approach to deadline-intensive news, and specializes in planning and executing daily and long-term content, and breaking stories.
With his encyclopedic knowledge of popular music, Aswad makes frequent appearances on major TV news programs, including CNN, ABC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and “Good Morning America,” to discuss the music business and trends.