Picture a start-up company that is stable with an increasing market and the ability to use its own resources to function rather than seeking out investor support. This stage, which many entrepreneurs attempt to achieve, and more often than not fail at, is the growth period. Personally, I would stress this stage most emphatically within the business’ development because the end result can either be rich with financial success and recognition, or, contently chugging along with little progress. I would argue that factors such as innovation, foresight, and perseverance are just as important during this phase as it is during the start-up period. How else do you take your company from ‘mom-and-pop’ to global icon? You have to push the envelope. Jay Z did just this, as he was quickly becoming one of the most popular hip-hop artists in America during the early 2000s. His vehicle? Roc A Fella Records.
As in any business, there are seminal moments in which opportunities are taken to exploit an existing model or to fill a void. Starbucks capitalized on the coffee boom before it surged across America and Apple created the iPod. Innovation is what propels companies and business leaders into visionary statuses. The creation of Roc-A-Fella Records was just the type of establishment to shift the music industry. According to Shawn Carter, “A key part of business is recognizing change,” (Jay Z and Warren Buffet, Forbes Magazine Interview). Dash and Carter’s principles were simple, do not let other people make money off of Roc-A-Fella music and compensation should be made for the endorsements their rappers plugged into their lyrics (“Always win, and other lessons from the life of rapper Jay Z”, Potter). These were ideas that were unheard of in the music industry, yet completely ingenious. It is not uncommon to hear artists name-plug their favorite clothing brands, cars and watches into verses, as Migos raps “Versace, Versace, Medusa head on me like I’m ‘luminati,” in his song “Versace.” Luxurious brands that were synonymous with the rap lifestyle were given free product placement in songs, which increased the company’s sales, while the artists did not benefit at all. With the principles of Roc-A-Fella records, Jay Z has garnered endorsement deals with the New York Yankees, Adidas, and watchmaker Hublot (“Jay Z’s 10 Best Endorsement Deals,” Melia Robinson). This practice is no different from what major athletes like Lebron James and Derek Jeter do, for it increases revenue in areas outside the realm of their profession. Jay Z and Dash had the foresight to understand the partnership music and retail could have and implement this model into their own business ventures, elevating the brand of Jay Z to a global icon.
In financial terms, increased security and longevity can be acquired through investments and diversified portfolios. For an independent label, like Roc-A-Fella Records, it was not a priority to develop the lesser-known artists on a label. The emphasis was more on marketing the headliner, which in this case was Jay Z. Unlike smaller labels though, Jay Z and Dash’s company made a distinct decision to find and develop new artists from the New York and Philadelphia areas to expand their audience and increase their revenue (Greenburg 68). Much like investment, the label secured its future by spending the time and money on artists whom had the potential to be widely popular, which in turn increased the chances of Roc-A-Fella records growing into a bigger, more powerful record label company.
Roc-A-Fella diversified its assets by exploring other areas of commerce that could be fruitful. The label was merely a platform to catapult the business minds of Carter and Dash into uncharted territory for hip-hop artists. “We gonna build a tree and let the limbs grow all kinds of different places,” says Jay Z in an interview with Business Wire. Rocawear, a clothing brand established by Jay Z and Damon Dash in 1999, was possible because of Roc-A-Fella Records. “Dash encouraged Jay Z to cross-promote their products whenever he had a chance,” Greenburg notes in his book (71), “why give free advertising to someone else when he could boost his own sales with a Rocawear shout-out?” Rocawear’s success was immediate, selling over $80 million in clothing over its first two years (‘Jigga Man’ Jay Z Gets Down to Business, Business Wire). Dash and Jay Z understood their audience and marketability enough that they were able to branch out and add a new asset to the ever growing Jay Z brand. Jay Z’s name is everything to his empire, if he can correctly place it in as many avenues as possible he increases his chances of becoming more popular and increasing his wealth, much like what people do when investing money for the future.
Now that we have books like, Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s and Jay Z’s Decoded, fans and the public alike can comprehend how smart Shawn Carter truly is. Back at the turn of the century, we didn’t have access to such information unless we heard about some of the mogul’s ventures through interviews and news reports. Yes, Jay Z is an entertainer, but his brand, his tree with thousands of different limbs, is all encompassing; if there is some facet of consumption that is closely related with the music industry, Jay Z will find it, water it, and watch it grow. Respect the man’s talents; he sees the potential in things that you and I may not see, he’s Hova.