Who owns Kidz Bop? The billion-dollar company behind the popular brand

Kidz Bop

If the first time you heard of Kidz Bop was when you saw the band trending on Twitter, the chances are you haven’t cared for a 4-to-10-year-old kid in the past couple of decades. Kidz Bop is a music brand for children that alters some of the lyrics in popular adult music to make the tracks child friendly. 

According to its website on Concord, the brand has experienced great success, selling over 22.5 million albums and generating over 6.5 billion streams. Kidz Bop has more top 10 albums on Billboard than Madonna and Bruce Springsteen. 

If Your Time is short

  • Craig Balsam and Cliff Chenfeld founded Kidz Bop a decade after leaving their law careers to venture into music. 
  • Concord acquired Kidz Bop through its acquisition of the Razor & Tie label in 2015 and 2018. 
  • Sasha Junk was the SVP Marketing of Kidz Bop before she replaced Victor Zaraya as president of the brand. 
  • Google mistakenly named content creator Elise Ecklund the owner of Kidz Bop after an internet user fed wrong information into Wikipedia. 

Craig Balsam and Cliff Chenfeld started Kidz Bop to fill the gap between adult and kids’ music

Cliff Chenfeld and Craig Balsam
Cliff Chenfeld and Craig Balsam | Photo By Crain’s New York Business

Craig Balsam and Cliff Chenfeld met while studying law at New York University. The pair saw music as an alternative to their dreary law careers and started writing songs soon after graduating. 

“Unfortunately, we were competent but not exceptional songwriters and soon realized that if we wanted careers in music, we were going to need to come up with some other ideas,” Cliff told PS Audio

The pair’s decision to sell 70s music in CD form proved successful. Craig and Cliff created The ‘70s Preservation Society and named themselves co-chairmen. Their funding came from savings and the generosity of their wives. 

Razor & Tie, Craig and Cliff’s indie label, was born in the 1990s as the company began to release titles from artists big labels ignored. “The retail experience that we gained via our reissues paved the way for us to start signing new artists,” Cliff said.

By the late 1990s, Razor & Tie had become the envy of major labels, which often hired the indie label to market their releases. Razor & Tie attracted successful acts, and in 2001, the co-CEOs created their most popular brand, Kidz Bop.

Chenfeld told PS Audio that as parents, they were concerned with explicit lyrics from famous singers such as Eminem and Britney Spears. The pair also noted their children had outgrown offerings from Barney and Sesame Street. 

“We came up with a solution for both,” Cliff said. “The parents could rely on us to ensure that what the kids heard was appropriate and the kids were excited about the access to pop music.”

Kidz Bop released its first entry in October 2001. The brand doesn’t need permission from artists to record their songs but requires artists’ approval to change lyrics. Cliff said:

“The publishers and songwriters of the songs are paid and we had great relationships with them as they would see significant revenue from our recordings.”

Kidz Bop became popular by releasing clean versions of popular songs

Not every song gets the Kidz Bop treatment. A track must achieve popularity before Kidz Bop producers, and musicians use ‘common sense and good judgment’ to adjust the lyrics. 

Vic Zaraya, the former president of Kidz Bop, told The Washington Post that Kidz Bop doesn’t have a list of topics or words that are off-limits. Zaraya said the goal is to keep the track’s flow and rhythm while making it safe for children. He explained:

“If you listen to the catalog of 20 years, yeah, you’ll find examples of songs where it wasn’t perfect. But, in general, we do a pretty good job of getting it in the right place. If you look at our 4-to-10-year-olds, they’re pretty forgiving. They’re not like adults.”

Jacob Jones, a Kidz Bop Kid from Maryland, told the outlet: “It’s great to be able to cut out all the bad words in the song. That’s what Kidz Bop is all about, is the family being able to listen to the songs without having to listen to the bad words.”

Kidz Bop’s strategy has received criticism from commentators who see little value in changing words such as ‘die.’ “We overwhelmingly sell kids short on their capacity to handle hard life lessons,” Shayna Coburn, an assistant professor at Children’s National Health System, told The Washington Post

Concord acquired Kidz Bop in 2018 alongside the Razor & Tie label

In 2015, Concord and Razor & Tie formed a joint venture dubbed Razor & Tie Enterprises LLC. As part of the deal, Concord acquired 50% of Razor & Tie and committed to providing resources for the expansion of Kidz Bop. 

“I have known and respected Cliff and Craig for almost 25 years,” Concord CEO, Scott Pascucci, said. “They have shown remarkable focus and creativity in building Razor & Tie into the company that it is today. We are excited to be their partner as they continue to grow and expand the company.”

Scott Pascucci
Chief Executive Officer at Concord Music Group Inc Scott Pascucci, speaks onstage during the 8th Annual MusiCares MAP Fund Benefit | Photo by Maury Phillips/WireImage

Three years later, Concord bought the rest of Razor & Tie, consequently acquiring Kidz Bop. Concord COO Glen Barros denied reports that the acquisition sparked the end of Razor & Tie. 

He told Variety that Concord planned to integrate Razor & Tie into the parent company’s structure. “There may be some continued integration into our overall structure, we’re sorting through that right now,” Barros said. “But we’re not making any massive changes or shutting down Razor & Tie.” Barros continued:

“It was always understood between Cliff Chenfeld, Craig Balsam, and the Concord team that Concord would eventually purchase the remainder of the company at some point after our initial investment in 2015. We mutually and amicably decided that the time was right to do this now.”

Founders Craig Balsam and Cliff Chenfeld were expected to remain tied to the company in an unspecified capacity. However, Cliff told PS Audio that the pair left Razor & Tie:

“Concord bought Razor & Tie/ Kidz Bop in 2018. Craig and I play no role in the company today. I am very lucky to have had Craig as my partner. We have always worked well together, complemented each other and remain very close friends.”

In April 2022, Music Business Worldwide published a report claiming Concord rejected a buyout offer of $5 billion. The report stated the company’s majority owner, Michigan Retirement Systems, had been seeking a bid in the region of $6 billion.

Kidz Bop’s president Sasha Junk was promoted from the marketing department in 2020

Sasha Junk was the Global Head of Publicity at Classic Media before joining Kidz Bop in 2009. As SVP Marketing, Junk spearheaded Kidz Bop’s expansion to new markets and collaborations with Dollar Car Rental, Subway, and Mattel. 

Under her leadership, Kidz Bop’s popularity ballooned, with the brand generating billions of streams and attracting millions of social media followers. Sasha Junk said:

“I am thrilled to be taking on the expanded role of President and would like to thank Scott Pascucci, Tom Whalley and Victor Zaraya for their support and dedication to creating an environment that empowers Concord executives and staff.”

“I look forward to working with our super talented Kidz Bop team to identify new growth opportunities to move the brand forward.”

Victor Zaraya, the outgoing president, earned a promotion to Chief Revenue Officer at Concord. “Sasha and I have worked together for 10 years and I am proud of what we’ve all accomplished at Kidz Bop,” Zaraya said. “I’m confident that Sasha and her team will be even more successful in the coming years.”

Wikipedia mistakenly claimed influencer Elise Ecklund was the owner of Kidz Bop

In mid-2022, content creator Elise Ecklund posted a screenshot mistakenly showing that she was the owner of Kidz Bop. Netizens confirmed that a google search of Kidz Bop’s owner produced a snippet from Wikipedia saying Elize Ecklund was the owner. 

“No fr who did this,” Elise tweeted alongside the screenshot. “Kidz Bop is gonna come and sue me y’all.”

It’s unclear who attributed Kidz Bop to Elise Ecklund, but it was pretty hilarious. “Apparently I own a multi million dollar company,” Elise wrote