Tag Archives: Music

Apple to Remove Headphone Jack…For What?

Rumors have surfaced that Apple plans to abandon the ubiquitous 3.5mm headphone jack.  This story developed when Apple blog, 9to5mac, discovered that Apple submitted a design specification to its licensing program which would connect headphones using the Lightning port.

For Apple, this is a smart move.  By removing the classic headphone port, Apple makes all previously designed headphones obsolete.  This wipes out products of competitors, and maybe most importantly, it sheds more light on the significance of the $3 billion Beats Electronics acquisition.  Rather than collaborating with Beats Electronics to create headphones with Lightning port accessibility, Apple now has the ability to earn exponentially more money from license fees and adaptor sales.  The fact that such headphones would probably retain the iconic Beats logo only adds to Apple’s gain, as both brands are synonymous with current popular culture.

Moreover, this innovation, or business ploy, should instigate new technology developments from other competitors, only making Apple diverse and exclusive.  Without a headphone jack, Apple perpetuates its own longevity by locking consumers in to purchasing more Apple products.

Sometimes the wellbeing of the customer is not considered at all.  With this move, we stand to lose big time.  Now that our beloved headphones are obsolete, we must either purchase bulky adaptors or new headphones all together.  Those Beats Studio headphones you just bought? Yea, those are no longer functional, which means shelling out another $200+ to listen to music.

Its funny how the simplest changes result in huge revenues for a company.  I can’t say I’m upset with the Beats acquisition or this news because its kind of ingenious.  For a full read on this recent development, check out the article on Forbes.

Maxwell

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Apple To Acquire Beats Electronics

For those living under a rock, Apple has once again made headlines as it plans to acquire current pop culture staple, Beats Electronics.  According to Apple and multiple news outlets, the deal is set to be worth $3.2 billion.  Apple isn’t the first popular brand to make such a lofty acquisition recently, as Facebook purchased messaging app, WhatsApp, for $19 billion and Oculus VR for $2 billion.  Google has also pulled out the wallet and bought Nest for $3.2 billion– certainly, none of these deals have broken the backs of either company.

Many different conjectures have been published as to why Apple has selected Beats Electronics to be aligned with the brand.  Some believe its because of Apple’s desire to hire Beats’ co-founder Jimmy Iovine, who is apparently a leading innovator within the music industry; others think its for the newly released Beats streaming service, which has utterly failed to compete against Spotify; and then there are those who simply believe Apple is floundering, running out of the creative ideas consumers have come to expect from the powerhouse tech corporation.  This final theory may hold some weight considering the fact that Apple has followed the pattern of the other aforementioned corporations’ acquisitions.

Personally, I believe Apple made this move because (A) it places another product that has huge profit margins in Apple’s current lineup, and (B) perhaps for revitalizing/merging iTunes Radio with Beats’ streaming service.  Whatever theory you believe, its definitely not the groundbreaking move that will recover some of Apple’s lost market-share to other technology companies.  Maybe Apple has some ‘holy-shit’ idea up their sleeve that we don’t know about, but until then let’s just think of this as two iconic brands getting in bed together– a la Jay Z and Beyoncé.

As for producer/rapper, Dr. Dre, he can now be regarded as hip hop’s wealthiest mogul, surpassing Jay Z and P Diddy.  Although people speculated that he would be the first billionaire out of the triumvirate, Forbes estimates that this deal will bring in about $480 million after taxes– leaving Dre $200 million shy of the illustrious billion dollar mark.  Regardless, I can’t imagine seeing a Dr. Dre album releasing any time soon, especially after this huge pay-day.

Maxwell

Jay Z: Maturity

Albeit a somewhat disappointing evening for the fans of Roc Nation and Jay Z, as Hova came away with one Grammy, we did get to see the music industry’s most powerful couple show us how to truly rock a stage…so I guess it wasn’t all that bad.

Congratulations to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for their album, The Heist, winning Rap Album of the Year.  Jay Z still has the most platinum albums out of any solo artist to ever perform, yes, more than Elvis, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Ben Haggerty (AKA Macklemore).

I digress, without further adieu, I present to you the final part of my research behind hip hop’s biggest brand: the maturation of Shawn Carter.

At the point of maturity, a veteran firm has achieved a certain amount of name recognition, their sales require less effort, the business produces a reliable stream of cash, and intensive marketing or redevelopment may be needed to increase or maintain market position.  Picture Jay Z as a mature firm.  He is no longer an artist trying to find his place in the industry, but rather a mogul who runs his own record label (Roc Nation) and has the most albums to go platinum as a solo artist.  It is safe to say that he has attained such a position where not much he does is considered a failure.  With that being said though, how does he maintain his level of success as his career progresses?  Enter, Beyoncé.

“In terms of the entertainment industry, it’s the biggest merger you could possibly imagine,” (Bloomberg, 188).  In 2008, Jay Z and mega-star in her own right, Beyoncé Knowles, were married.  On a strictly financial basis, this could be considered a business transaction, a merger, where two brands came together to form a joint venture to achieve profits greater than they could have dreamed of on their own (according to Forbes, the Carter Family is the highest earning celebrity couple).  When thinking about Jay Z’s upside, the marriage provides different financial opportunities.  For example, in 2004, while Beyoncé and Jay Z were dating, Carter invested $10 million into beauty company, Carol’s Daughter (“Carol’s Daughter Poised for Growth,” Julie Naughton).  Would former drug dealer turned rapper have invested in such a company if it were not for Beyoncé?  Beyoncé offers Jay Z a new fan base, “We exchange audiences,” Jay Z says (Bloomberg, 198), but more than that a female perspective of investment opportunities.  It is understandable that Jay Z wouldn’t be interested in investing in a company that is geared toward African American women, but with his relationship with Beyoncé, who’s a global icon in her own right, those doors are now open to the rapper.  Beyoncé is an asset to Jay Z, and like a mature company, she can be used to rebrand and recreate the image of Jay Z.  Moreover, with the birth of their daughter, Blue Ivy, Jay Z is now perceived as more than just an entertainer, but a father and a family man; I hear the sound of doors being opened and lots of money coming in.  A merger/marriage benefits both joining entities because it creates new avenues for their global brands to travel and reach the millions of people who’ve yet to be touched by their business savvy.

As previously mentioned, at the pinnacle of a business career name recognition, effortless sales, and a steady stream of revenue have been acquired.  However, another aspect of such a point is that business leaders or firms attempt to give back or, teach those who have not been as fortunate, the tools to attain such success.  Many corporations and companies, like Starbucks and Nike, have established foundations to improve the quality of life for a specific demographic of people or to address issues that pertain to the scope of their industry.  Jay Z, too, has a foundation.  Carter and his mother, Gloria Carter, founded the Shawn Carter Foundation in 2002.  It was established because, according to Jay Z in the interview with Steven Forbes and Warren Buffet, “such a small thing changed my life, right? A sixth-grade teacher said, ‘You know what, you’re kind of smart.’ And I believed her.”  Carter understands that not everyone can be as lucky as he has been thus far in life.  Not everyone can “bet it all” on the music industry and try to be successful without any formal education.  The Foundation stresses the need for higher education in order to explore and develop one’s mind.  Such efforts cannot be attempted if the resources and finances are not available, though.  The Shawn Carter Foundation has grown with Carter as he has succeeded financially during his music career.  According to the foundation’s website, they have awarded over $1.3 million to students so they could pursue higher learning.  Jay Z’s tool to success is intellect and a different understanding of the world around him; he recognizes that education is needed to reach such points.

Another philanthropic way, in which Jay Z gives back, is through his current lifestyle company, Roc Nation.  Roc Nation is primarily a record label, but it recently began representing professional athletes.  It is different from other representation companies because it focuses on the development, cultivation and continued support of its clients.  In an interview with BBC Radio’s Zane Lowe, Jay Z talks about how his new sports management division of the company alters the current industry.  It is no secret that the sports industry dwarfs the music industry in terms of revenue.  Players are being paid millions upon millions of dollars, but they aren’t receiving the support they need to maintain their wealth for the years to come after their playing days.  The average playing career in the NFL is three to four years, and shortly after that players end up broke.  Carter says, “Now they (current sports agents) have to wake up and go to work.  They’ve spent fifteen, twenty years just sitting back and collecting the check, now they have to see how their [client’s] mama doing and if his mental situation is where it needs to be.”  Jay Z understands that he stands less to gain from his clients than they stand to gain from him.  For Jay Z it is more than the profits.  With Roc Nation and Roc Nation sports, he wants to promote financial literacy, so that young and highly successful people can be secure in the future when they no longer have the ability to produce at profitable levels.  Despite the company being a business, its principle is purely philanthropic, and socially conscious.

Jay Z had to lay the groundwork himself as a young and unproven artist.  It was he who sold his tracks out of his car, along with business partner Damon Dash, and it was he who founded his own label, Roc-A-Fella Records, in order to distribute his music on a larger scale.  Jay Z the entrepreneur invested the money, time, and energy to promote himself as a brand, and when that wasn’t enough he sought out bigger record labels to help with his production.  Through consistent output of music and innovation in the way Jay Z could profit from his brand, he has achieved a respected and revered status in the industry.  He has the attention and command of his listeners, and when his name is attached to some new product or some new album they respond.  This suggests that there is a pattern to success no matter what the industry or profession.  Jay Z’s physical journey to fame and wealth was quite different than that of others who have attained the same position, but the characteristics and genius behind them are very much the same.

Shawn Carter is needed, not just for pop-culture, but also for Black America.  We need a beacon of hope and of prominence where we can look to as a rubric for success.  In Jay Z’s own words, “We want to be looked at as a real solid company.  Not a good black company, but a good company ‘cause there’s a difference,” (“Jigga Man Jay Z Gets Down With Vibe”).  Jay Z is driven and determined to attain a spot in society that black Americans do not see everyday, and he’s doing it for us.  I, too, used to be a part of the group that thought rappers were selfish, stupid and materialistic ignoramuses.  Before I knew anything about Jay Z, he was grouped with such artists.  I don’t know if the hip-hop genre will ever distance itself from that notion, but I believe Jay Z has made a distinct decision to be a different example of African American identity.  Rap is poetry.  The rhymes and subliminal messages are beautiful, and when artists are straightforward with their messages the art form loses a bit of its appeal.  If you look deep enough at all aspects of Jay Z’s career, his message and desire of becoming an influential figure which the African American people can look towards is evident.

Thanks for listening.

Maxwell

Jay Z: Growth

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.

Maxwell

Jay Z: Start-Up

Welcome back to another installment of Young Economics.  First, I would like to apologize to my readers for not completing my ‘Jay Z Week’ as scheduled.  I actually had a significant amount of schoolwork that had to be done leading up to the Jay Z concert, so I was a little side tracked.  However, it’s never too late to talk about one of hip-hop’s most prolific rappers, plus with the Grammy Awards coming up this Sunday, what better time than to finish the discussion this week.

As I mentioned in my initial post to kick this week off, businesses generally undergo four phases of life during their development.  Today, I would like to discuss the start-up stage, as it pertains to Shawn “Jay Z” Carter.

Businesses don’t just spring up out of thin air (not the good one’s at least), no, every firm has an infancy period where a tremendous amount of effort, time, energy, and practice is needed to jump-start the growth and development of an entrepreneur’s ‘once in a holy shit idea’.  Most people who are familiar with Jay Z know about his story.  We know that he was a highly successful drug dealer out of the Marcy projects in Brooklyn, New York, and we understand how dangerous and how life threatening that life style was to young African Americans during the late 1980s and early 1990s.  For those of you who haven’t heard Jay Z’s story, I strongly encourage you to check out his first albums, and some of his most successful, Reasonable Doubt and In My Lifetime Vol. 1.  I look at this time in Jay Z’s life a little bit differently, though.  I believe the days spent dealing drugs to the addicts and casual users and the days evading rival dealers were integral parts to the development of Jay Z’s business acumen, which made him somewhat of an anomaly in the music industry.

Jay Z and drug dealing partner, DeHaven, understood that to make more money they would have to expand into undeveloped markets in Maryland and Virginia because the clientele and competition was less sophisticated (Greenburg, 37).  Not only does this demonstrates the foresight Jay Z would need in the music industry, but perhaps these characteristics led to certain ventures, like Rocawear Clothing, a topic to be discussed later.  This could also be considered a period during the “ten thousand hours” phase of development.  Day in and day out, Jay Z was on the streets thinking of ways to increase his revenue stream and stay on top of the game.  In a way, this is practice for a bigger, much more lucrative music industry in which Jay Z exemplifies shrewdness and a clear innovative vision.

Further application of Jay Z’s street smarts can be seen as he was just starting to get involved with the hip-hop genre.  Artists like, The Sugar Hill Gang, Run DMC, and Big Daddy Kane were not as savvy as Jay Z with their lyrics and delivery, so the public was not familiar with Jay Z’s style.  This problem is similar to how Jay Z would have to stay out of trouble with rival or enemy dealers while still trying to make a profit.  Jay Z kept a low profile, says his old business partner, DeHaven.  “He was doing the little things, like, you know, a little Lexus here… when all these guys in the street were buying Benzes and BMW’s.  To be smart enough to play yourself down just to keep the paper means you’re doing business properly,” (Greenburg, 40).  Jay Z gained critical acclaim by applying this same principle to his lyrics, “I dumbed down for my audience, doubled my dollars,” (“Moment of Clarity,” Jay Z).  By being experienced in drug dealing code and knowing when to be subtle about his accumulation of wealth, rather than ostentatiously boasting it, Jay Z was able to maximize his profits and become a better-known artist.  Had he not done so or understood this concept, a quick splash in the industry only to never be heard of again may have been in his future.  Moreover, by allowing his audience the opportunity to comprehend his message first, he could then begin to grow and develop as an entertainer trying different rhymes and flows in his later albums.  For any company or entrepreneur, growth is necessary, but not until a substantial recognition and income has been achieved.  This is why many critics and rap aficionados like, Marc Lynch, consider The Black Album and The Blueprint as some of Jay Z’s best work, for he established a relationship with his listeners, which could progress into greater, more complex creations (Lynch, “Jay Z vs. The Game: Lessons for the American Primacy Debate”).

A benefit of Jay Z’s increased popularity was his leverage inside of the boardrooms of record label companies.  Normally, when up and coming artists seek out record labels for album distribution and development, they are given low level deals.  In some situations they receive twenty-five percent of the profit while the record label retains the rest.  At times, they also do not have the ability to re-release their work barring any separation from the company, as their masters are property of the label.  Jay Z was different.  With a lack of support from any record label companies after the debut of his first album, Reasonable Doubt, Jay Z and business partner, Damon Dash, co-founded Roc-A-Fella records.  With the hopes of selling the manufacturing and sales rights of Jay Z’s upcoming second album to a bigger record company, Jay Z and Dash sought out Freeze Records and Priority Records.  Jay Z, a relatively new artist with an infant label was low-balled by the two companies, but ultimately was able to retain his masters and acquire a fifty percent split of the profits coming off of his highly anticipated 1997 album, In My Lifetime Vol. I (Greenburg, 58).  DJ Clark Kent credits this unheard of deal to Jay Z’s experiences in the streets.  He says, “If you did it in the streets, and you made good money in the streets, when you walk into a boardroom you look at everybody in the boardroom like they’re suckers,” (Greenburg, 59).  On a daily basis Jay Z had to confront people in the streets that wanted him dead, for he was a threat to their own business and livelihood.  He conquered the streets and flourished, which is why he persisted and remained steadfast in his entitlement to increased earnings when powerful executive, Will Socolov, tried to exploit Jay Z’s worth.  Jay Z gained the confidence to stand up for his own music and intellectual property because of those life threatening days spent hustling on the streets of Brooklyn.

I think people often look at Jay Z’s stint as a drug dealer as a point in his life where he was lost trying to find his way in the world.  There is no doubt that he was sucked into this lifestyle due to his unfortunate upbringing, and it’s quite a story considering how differently it may have turned out.  However, from a business aspect, these years dealing crack cocaine were anything but unfortunate.  They proved to be beneficial in the development of Jay Z’s entrepreneurial mind and ability.

*I would like to recommend the book Empire State of Mind: How Jay Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office by Zack O’Malley Greenburg where much of my research for this post came from.

Maxwell

Jay Z Week

I wouldn’t say that rapper and entrepreneur Shawn, “Jay Z,” Carter and I are similar.  I have never dealt drugs, I did not grow up in an outdated, public housing project and I have had a very stable home and family.  However, I look up to him.  It was not Jay Z’s music that originally sparked my interest, but rather something about his personality, some aura of coolness that radiates from his being, which I find to be so compelling.  I remember watching him walk into Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration with his beautiful wife on his arm and such swagger, like it was his own event, like he knew he played a vital role in the election of our President.  Jay Z is different from other rappers.  I was watching a documentary on the preparation for his opening concerts for Brooklyn’s new Barclay’s Center.  For one of his concerts he decided to take the subway instead of the usual entourage and convoy of vehicles.  He allowed people to take his picture, he dapped people up, and more specifically, he sat next to an elderly woman, who clearly had no idea who he was, just to chat.  Jay Z doesn’t change his persona, unlike Clark Kent in the famous Superman comic books; he is who he is on and off the stage, a Brooklyn native who still tries to enjoy the regularities of life.  He is truly relatable to people of many different backgrounds, for he has experienced a variety of situations in life, as he has gone from poverty to extreme wealth, and that is something that I admire.

Yes, on Thursday, January 16th I will finally cross out ‘see Jay Z live’ on my bucket list, as Jigga Man is coming to town.  Thanks to a wonderful Christmas present, I will be accomplishing absolutely nothing over the next several days, since every waking moment will be used to prepare for what is sure to be a momentous night.  However, I can’t forget about my blog, something that I am thoroughly enjoying thus far.  What better way to incorporate the two then to have, what I’m calling, Jay Z week?  In honor of Hova’s concert, I will be blogging not just about the businessman, but the business, man! (Get it? Check out Kanye West’s “Sierra Leone” if you don’t) for the entire week.

According to Forbes , Jay Z is the hip-hop industry’s second wealthiest entertainer with an estimated net worth of $475 million.  The mogul owns an entertainment/ record label company called Roc Nation, 40/40 Club, a stake in the recently constructed Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York, and a sports management company named Roc Nation Sports.  Beyond the music industry, Jay Z has built a reputable brand that has become marketable in many different areas of commerce.

On a basic level, businesses undergo four stages of life: start-up, growth, maturity, and decline.  Start-ups are businesses that are fairly new.  They require a large investment, effort, time and energy to make it a stable and profiting enterprise.  Often times, the executive of the start-up uses his own funds to keep the business afloat.  During the growth stage, the business is stable and their market is increasing.  It can also use its own resources to function instead of seeking out investors for support.  Since it is still an infant enterprise, though, support may be needed in terms of manufacturing and distribution.  At the point of maturity, a stable influx of profits is attained, the firm is well known and respected, and an increased effort in marketing or rebranding is needed to increase profits.  And lastly, decline occurs when the firm sees shrinkage in their market and costs are cut to preserve profits.  Although it is fair to say that there has not been a decline in the popularity of Jay Z, as a financial entity, I believe his entrepreneurial career has followed this path.  Stay tuned this week as I talk about each of these stages.  I leave you with my favorite song off of his latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, “Holy Grail”:

Maxwell