Jason Flom (@itsjasonflom) is the founder and CEO of Lava Records responsible for launching acts such as Katy Perry, Kid Rock, and Lorde, a philanthropist who has supported and championed various political and social causes, the host of podcast Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom, and the co-author of Lulu Is a Rhinoceros.

What We Discuss with Jason Flom:

  • Why Jason has always rooted for the underdog — from bullied siblings to sports teams to endangered species to the wrongfully incarcerated — and how he’s passed this sensibility along to the next generation of Floms.
  • How one stays relevant in the entertainment industry, which is always asking: “What have you done for me lately?”
  • The role relationships play at the top of the music game — one of the most competitive industries on the planet.
  • What we can learn from the wrongfully convicted, and why many of us are — for the grace of good fortune — just a hair away from a similar fate.
  • Why Jason’s bulldog is actually a rhinoceros and what he hopes this lesson will teach us about tolerance.
  • And much more…

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It’s an understatement to say that the American criminal justice system is far from perfect. But the number of innocent people sentenced to life in prison or even death every year is staggering. The “lucky” few who are exonerated often do so after spending decades behind bars, and emerge into a changed world devoid of any kind of support system.

Jason Flom, founder of Lava Records, host of the Wrongful Conviction podcast, and co-author of Lulu Is a Rhinoceros joins us to talk not only about his own background as a slacker turned CEO of three of the biggest record companies in the world, but also his pioneering work in the field of criminal justice reform. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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More About This Show

For as long as he can remember, Lava Records founder, Wrongful Conviction host, and Lulu Is a Rhinoceros co-author Jason Flom has rooted for the underdog — whether it’s a sports team, an endangered species, the wrongfully convicted, or bullied peers and siblings.

“For me it comes down to helping the oppressed in general and anyone who is down on their luck; I think it’s our responsibility to lift them up,” says Jason.

Admittedly, he does it because it makes him feel good to engage in what he calls selfish altruism. But as long as it helps make the world a better place and potentially inspires others to do the same, he’s fine with that — it’s the result rather than the motivation that matters.

Selfish or not, Jason takes this responsibility seriously; he’s involved in a number of organizations dedicated to righting various forms of injustice including Innocence Project, The Bronx Freedom Fund, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, The Legal Action Center, Drug Policy Alliance, NYU Prison Education Program, The T.J. Martell Foundation, City of Hope, Flex Your Rights, and VetPAW.

Jason also recognizes that oppressors aren’t necessarily evil to the core, but flawed beings in need of guidance — and only by addressing this fact do we stand a chance of stopping the cycle.

“Bullying comes from insecurity,” says Jason. “It’s because the person — the bully themself — is very uncomfortable and insecure. They don’t like themselves in some way, so they take that out on somebody else who they can victimize. It makes them feel, in some very temporary, shallow way, superior. But in fact, they’re making themselves miserable. So hopefully, if [Lulu Is a Rhinoceros] catches on, then I know it will have an impact on both prevention and cure — it’ll help kids who have been victimized by these societal maladies we have of intolerance and bullying to give them some comfort in knowing they’re not alone, and at the same time ideally it’ll help future incidents because of the fact that the message is clear.”

From Miscreant to Mogul

Even though his father was Joseph Flom, a lawyer so famous for pioneering the legal world of mergers and acquisitions that Malcolm Gladwell devoted a whole chapter to him in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, it might have been difficult to believe the young Jason would grow up to be someone who could afford lunch let alone the finances to fund numerous philanthropic causes.

“I was an expert at smoking weed,” says Jason. “I practiced a lot. I grew my hair — my hair was so long and so thick that I actually couldn’t see in the summer. If I forgot to bring my rubber band, it was a helmet of hair and smoke that I lived underneath. So it was quite a spectacle. I wanted to make it as a rock star. I was not interested in school.

“After I announced that I didn’t want to go to college, [my father] came to my room to have a little father-son talk. He gave me a year to become a rock star, or else I had to go to college.”

But Jason’s mother disagreed, and his father — legendary for negotiating hostile takeovers in the courtroom — immediately had to take back the deal. If Jason wasn’t going to college, he would have to work if he wanted to stay under the family roof. So he ended up getting an entry-level position at Atlantic Records, hanging posters in record stores all over New York City for four dollars an hour and free records.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Why didn’t you become a lawyer and follow in your dad’s footsteps?'” says Jason. “So the answer can be found in this very simple lesson that he taught us, which I’ve passed on to my kids: ‘Do whatever you want to do. Try to be the best at it. But just make the world a better place. If you do that, you’ll be a success in my eyes.'”

Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about how Jason honed his almost spooky instinct for spotting talent to work his way up the ladder from A&R (artists and repertoire) to CEO of three major music companies to founding his own label, how he talked Lorde’s parents into letting her follow her musical ambitions rather than making her go to law school, how he’s thrived in the entertainment industry in spite of being a nice guy, the importance of forgiveness, what he means when he writes himself a non-moving violation, bizarre stories of serendipity, wisdom from the wrongfully convicted, advice to anyone questioned for a crime they didn’t commit, why we should all be concerned about reforms to our correctional system that are long overdue, and lots more.

If you’re near New York, check out Jason in Wrongful Conviction Live: Women In Prison — An American Tragedy on June 27th at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn with Amanda Knox, Noura Jackson, Michelle Murphy, and Sabrina Butler.


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