Lee Trink: FaZe Clan’s CEO Bridges the Gap Between Gaming and the Entertainment Industry
The CEO of Esport titan FaZe Clan, Lee Trink, has been making magic since the 90’s. From Kid Rock and
The CEO of Esport titan FaZe Clan, Lee Trink, has been making magic since the 90’s. From Kid Rock and Simple Plan, to 30 Seconds to Mars, everything Trink touches turns to gold. Now at the helm of Esport gaming mega-group FaZe Clan, Trink is hoping to bridge the gap between gaming as a lifestyle, and the entertainment industry; he’s making MTv for gamers. What is Trink’s vision for FaZe and the gaming industry as a whole? CELEB looks into those questions, and the man behind the success.
Who is Lee Trink?
A New York native, Trink was once on a fast track to be a successful district attorney. With a BA in Psychology/Business from University of Albany, SUNY, and a JD from Brooklyn Law School, Trink started his career with an eye on law. First working as an Assistant District Attorney for King’s County’s DA office, Trink soon chose to branch out into the entertainment industry.
Dose of Leadership describes Trink’s meteoric rise from DA to entertainment giant; “In 2001, Trink served as General Manager for artist-first label Lava Records. Next, Trink went on to lead Virgin Records as General Manager and COO with much success, ultimately resulting in his promotion to President of EMI’s Capitol Music Group, comprised of Capitol Records, Virgin Records, Blue Note Records and Astralwerks Records. While at the helm, Trink was instrumental in accomplishing the company’s EBITA target for the first time in a decade during the toughest climate in music industry history. Simultaneously, he launched the careers of global superstars such as Katy Perry and Jared Leto’s 30 seconds to mars, along with architecting global marketing campaigns for The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, and Lenny Kravitz, among others.
Following his tenure at EMI, Trink built his own business where he managed multi-platinum global recording artists such as Kid Rock, The Backstreet Boys and Ice Cube; produced a charity album for the King of Thailand; and worked with iconic brands, such as General Motors, Harley-Davidson and Jim Beam. In this role, Trink also co-produced the Tony Scott directed Unstoppable starring Denzel Washington as well as Sean Penn’s short film Americans.
In a 2014 interview with Trink, Canadian Music Week sums up Trink’s recipe for success; “Lee Trink was a Child actor, got a PHD, trained with the Israeli Army and worked as a Prosecutor in the Brooklyn D.A.’s office. All this made him ‘prepared for warfare’ when he went into the record business. Since that time, Lee has been Director of Product Development at Atlantic Records, where he first met Kid Rock, has been General Manager and Senior Vice President at Lava Records, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Virgin Records America, and since 2007 served as President of Capitol Music Group. In his time at Capitol, Lee has broke more artists than any other major label, and he continues to build a reputation for progressive thinking.”
Trink Talks Business Success
In the Music Week interview, Trink describes how he and singer Kid Rock used an innovative approach to ticket sales and touring. As a team, Kid Rock and Trink worked together to lower costs for concert-goers, taking a risk that most artists aren’t comfortable with by eschewing up-front earning guarantees and pooling venue costs, then splitting them among the number of likely concert attendees. The result wasn’t just breaking even; they came out ahead almost every time. By lowering the cost of tickets and venue amenities, Trink was able to increase attendance which made up the difference in lower ticket costs.
This sort of innovative thinking followed Trink throughout his music career. In 2015, Trink turned his eye to the growing world of esports, and was hired as the CEO of FaZe Clan.
FaZe Clan’s Rise Meets Trink’s Brand of Success
As CELEB explored after a high-profile win this month, FaZe Clan continues to dominate esports. “According to G-Fuel’s FaZe Clan bio page, ‘FaZe Clan is the world’s most popular professional gaming and esports organization. Since its debut as a Call of Duty clan in 2010, FaZe has expanded its roster to include over 70 professional gamers and content creators focusing on titles ranging from Fortnite, Call of Duty, CSGO, and PUBG, to Valorant, Rainbow Six Siege, and FIFA. Known for its disruptive original content and hyper-loyal fanbase, FaZe Clan counts celebrities such as NFL star JuJu Smith-Schuster and musicians Offset and Lil Yachty among its ranks. As gaming enters the mainstream, FaZe Clan is leading the charge.’
FaZe was originally created in 2010 under the name FaZe Sniping, in Los Angeles, California. A YouTube channel built to showcase Call of Duty, early FaZe featured founders Eric ‘CLipZ’ Rivera, Jeff ‘Timid’ Emann, and Ben ‘Resistance’ Christensen. Although the member roster has changed over the past decade, the one unchanging element of FaZe has been it’s inexorable rise to the top of ESports.”
When Trink became CEO, he hoped to bridge the gap between gaming and entertainment. The former DA is uniquely poised to do so.
Trink Talks Taking Advantage of Gaming’s Entertainment Draw
Once Trink took the helm of FaZe, he set his eye on finding a way to appeal to the hundreds of thousands of fans who aren’t necessarily tuning in for gaming, they just want to be entertained.
In 2019, Digiday invited Trink onto their Digiday Podcast. During the podcast, Trink talked about recognizing game streaming as more than a presentation of games being played; “A lot of the content that we create are things that about gaming. Gaming as a lifestyle, gaming as entertainment, which is really where the biggest action is. The buzzword is esports, but the broad audience is really in gaming rather than esports. Esports is a component of gaming, but we as FaZe Clan live in gaming broadly. We do a lot of the non-competitive stuff as well as the competitive stuff. So when you hear about all those huge numbers of audience that people are watching, even this 500 million plus view count, those are not numbers on the competitive professional side of gaming, those are the entertainment. People who are tuning in just to be entertained.”
Trink talked about a four-pronged approach to FaZe Clan’s success. Four revenue arenas for FaZe are esports, sponsorship and brand deals, merchandise and apparel, and content and publishing.
Trink is a Top Innovator
In September, The Wrap named Trink one of it’s Top 12 Innovators of 2020. In an interview with Wrap discussing his success, Trink opened up about career decisions and inspirations, as well as the advice he would give to someone starting out in the same career.
Trink was asked about the mistakes he’s made, and responded, “What I do think about are crossroads in my career. When I maybe took the left path instead of the right path. Sometimes those things don’t work out. Sometimes you go a certain direction, and it doesn’t work out the way you thought, but it’s still part of what gets you to [where you got to] eventually. …The key is, when you make mistakes… …what can you learn from them, how do you soldier on, how do you continue to move forward despite your mistakes.”
Trink also said that his inspiration has come from two main places; his father, and surprisingly, Winston Churchill. Trink explains that Churchill’s tenacity and fortitude translate well to lessons in entrepreneurship.
When asked what Trink would say if he could go back to the start of his career and give himself advice, Trink answered, “If I could go back to the start and give myself advice, I think that advice would be, ‘be confident in yourself. …believe in the fact that you can accomplish anything you really set your mind to.’ I think that doubt is an enemy of success. …You can achieve anything you set your mind to achieve. I ended up learning that lesson, but I think it would be great if I could learn that lesson early on.”
Goldman Sachs Honors Trink
Last week, Goldman Sachs announced that it was honored Trink as one of their 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs at it’s Builders + Innovators Summit. Per PR Newswire, “Goldman Sachs selected Trink as one of 100 entrepreneurs from multiple industries to be honored at the two-day event. Trink has been CEO of FaZe Clan for two years and has been building a brand that extends beyond esports to mainstream entertainment through content, collaborations and e-commerce. Trink has spent most of his illustrious career moving through the ranks in the music industry, working with global superstars such as Katy Perry, Coldplay, Lenny Kravitz, Kid Rock, and leading some of the most well-known music labels in the world including his time as President of Capitol Records and before that COO of both Virgin Records and Lava Records. Now, with Trink at the helm of FaZe Clan, the world’s most prominent and influential gaming organization, he is a leader in one of the most rapidly growing industries across all sports and entertainment…
‘It’s an honor to be included among this group of entrepreneurs recognized by Goldman Sachs,’ says Trink. ‘FaZe Clan is an incredibly special company where we break new ground every day, carving our path as a leader of youth culture and changing the way people think about esports and gaming as entertainment.’
‘True innovation is built from a diversity of perspectives and experiences,’ said David M. Solomon, Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs. ‘Our Builders + Innovators Summit brings together a collective of impressive future leaders who are striving to drive meaningful change. For over 150 years, Goldman Sachs has supported entrepreneurs as they launch and grow their businesses. That’s why we are pleased to recognize Lee Trink as one of the most intriguing entrepreneurs of 2020.’”
FaZe Will Continue to Succeed with Innovating Thinking Like Trink Brings
With Trink’s ability to think outside the box and expand opportunity, FaZe Clan is in excellent hands. Although FaZe is no stranger to controversy, Trink has thus far managed to steer FaZe clear of anything too messy. He continues to capitalize on the success of the FaZe clan gaming giants. With esports being one industry that hasn’t taken a massive hit from the pandemic, the time is right for that transformation Trink dreams of making from gaming lifestyle to entertainment empire.
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