ZACK O’MALLEY GREENBURG is a senior editor at Forbes, where he covers the business of music & entertainment in his column, The Beat Report. His first book, a Jay Z biography called Empire State of Mind, was published by Penguin’s Portfolio imprint in 2011. His second, a business-focused biography of Michael Jackson, was published by Simon & Schuster’s Atria in 2014. In addition to Forbes, Forbes Asia and ForbesLife, his work has also appeared in the Washington Post, Billboard, Sports Illustrated, Hollywood Reporter, Vibe and McSweeney’s.
Zack has been writing professionally since the age of 14, when he landed a gig reviewing video games for Boys’ Life magazine. A former child actor, he played the title role in the film Lorenzo’s Oil alongside Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon. He retired early to pursue his dream of winning a middle school intramural baseball championship before starting his writing career.
His first taste of the music business came at Yale, where he majored in American Studies with a concentration in Urban Studies. When he wasn’t busy booking gigs and singing for pop/rock a cappella group Out of the Blue, he profiled artists ranging from Gunther to the Goo Goo Dolls for the Yale Daily News. During his sophomore year, he saw a flyer for an internship at Forbes posted in the newspaper’s offices; he joined the magazine that summer and continued to freelance as a student at Yale.
Two weeks after graduation, Zack joined Forbes as a full-time reporter and has since written over 800 articles for Forbes, Forbes Asia and Forbes.com. His stories on music, business, travel and sports have taken him from the back rooms of New York’s Apollo Theater to the rail yards of Omaha to the diamond mines of Sierra Leone–and, most terrifying of all, the bleachers of Fenway Park.
Along the way, Zack has profiled luminaries from all walks of life–including Bruno Mars, Richard Branson, Alicia Keys, 50 Cent, Toby Keith, Afrojack, Steve Wozniak, Justin Bieber, Afrika Bambaataa, Mac Miller, Wiz Khalifa, Dr. Ruth, Swizz Beatz, Mr. T, Skrillex, Akon, Ludacris and Bill Gates (sort of) – as well as a host of non-famous mutual fund managers, musicians, CEOs and billionaires. He once helped arrange a ukulele duet between Jon Bon Jovi and Warren Buffett.
Zack’s first book, a unauthorized, business-focused biography of Jay Z titled Empire State of Mind, was published by Penguin’s Portfolio imprint in March 2011 and is now on its third printing (more info on the book here). Though Jay Z told Zack that the book was “horrible,” a lot of other people seem to have liked it–including hip-hop pioneer Fab Five Freddy, rap historian Jeff Chang, and Zack’s boss’s boss’s boss, Steve Forbes, who wrote the foreword to the book’s paperback edition.
Empire State of Mind also received received high marks from media outlets including the Financial Times, CNN, the New York Times and Bloomberg News, which called it “one of the year’s best rock books.” The book earned Zack praise for being, in the words of The Big Payback author Dan Charnas, “one of the rare reporters to bring dignified coverage of the hip-hop business into the mainstream.” And, for what it’s worth, DJ Khaled has said that Zack is “the best” at what he does.
Zack’s Michael Jackson book was published by Simon & Schuster’s Atria in June 2014 and has been featured on air by NPR, CBS, CNN, CTV, CNBC and Revolt, and in print by Forbes, Billboard, Ebony, Hollywood Reporter, Vibe, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and many others. Amazon named it the Best Book Of The Month in the Business & Leadership category and USA Today called it one of “the hottest titles this season,” along with books Hillary Clinton and Stephen King.
Zack has also served as an expert source for BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Reuters, MTV, NPR, Entertainment Tonight, Good Day New York, CBS’s 60 Minutes and other print, web, radio and video outlets. He has become a go-to speaker and panel moderator at private functions and industry conferences ranging from SXSW to SF MusicTech to TEDx. He has appeared as a guest speaker at Yale College, Harvard Business School, Howard University, Berklee College of Music, Year Up Boston and Georgetown University.
Zack lives in New York City with his rockstar wife; together, they enjoy anthropomorphizing their cats, memorizing/forgetting/making up song lyrics, and having their Halloween costumes chronicled by various news outlets.
Zack reveals how he first started writing about music for Forbes:
Zack talks about Jay-Z’s rise as a businessman on Bloomberg TV’s Game Changers: