Jay Z Means Business

Last week the Budweiser “Made in America” Music Festival was a success as headliner rapper Jay Z gave the final performance to a delighted crowd of nearly 50,000. The festival was truly a special event with three stages and a variety of artists from Kanye West and Common to Drake, D’Angelo and Pearl Jam. Even President Barack Obama made a cameo appearance urging all in attendance to vote in November, and he mentioned Jay Z’s story is what “Made in America” means. Jay Z (Shawn Carter) comes from very humble beginnings growing up in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood to become a major musician and entrepreneur worth $460 million dollars. The eye-opening fact is that Jay Z is not the only rapper to reach such monetary heights. Sean “P Diddy” Combs and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson have also branched out into the business world and found major wealth. The marriage between music and business consummated many years ago as large venue concerts and major artists were easily able to secure sponsorships that guaranteed money that insured event success. However, the costs of promotions skyrocketed, meaning that funds from corporations would be a necessity. Several years ago, I spoke with a friend who is a country music executive about the rising costs of promotional budgets for artists. He had no problem with recording and even manufacturing the CD’s at the time, but the cost of promoting the artist and/or music was astronomical. He told me that for record labels to make that kind of investment in an unknown entertainer, the music had better be a major hit to recoup the initial financing and more. The musical artist of today seems to be more financially aware compared to the artist of yesterday. I remember my father telling me of so many jazz musicians not getting the money they should have, or living almost destitute because of bad money management. It is understandable that musicians would learn lessons from their predecessors, but you have to wonder where the young people, who grew up very poor like Jay Z and others, acquire the acumen to build business empires. Perhaps those same humble starts produce a hunger and a mentality of survival necessary for major entrepreneurship.  I have only heard Jay Z interviewed a few times, but each time I really enjoy hearing him speak about his ideas on music and business. He has a real “common sense” approach that is undeniably effective after overseeing success of his businesses: labels Roc-A-Fella and Roc Nation and clothing line Rocawear.  He is now also part owner of sports bars 40/40 Club, and a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets NBA franchise. Jay Z has also seen success in his personal life with his marriage to mega-musical star Beyonce and the birth of his daughter Blue Ivy. Is retirement from performing now in his plans? Most fans will be watching and listening to see if he introduces any new material. For right now, it would seem like spending time with his daughter is job number one. Nevertheless, the corporate sponsors are ready, the businesses are still in operation, and Jay Z still means business.

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