Some Thoughts on Jay-Z’s Latest Venture…


“It’s really about trying to invest in the future, trying to invest in maybe coming up with a new model. Because going in hard making records with artists and throwing those records into a system that’s flawed is not exciting for me. It’s not the music; people ingest music the same way. It’s just that the model of selling CDs has changed. So doing things the typical way is not in the best interests of anyone and not exciting for me. My whole thing is, how do we invest in the future? If everyone is committed to doing that, then I’m sure there’s a deal to be made”

-Jay-Z from this interview in Billboard Magazine last year.

As reported in numerous publications, most notably the New York Times, Jay-Z has begun a $150 Million venture with Live Nation, a publicly traded events company. It seems like a sweet deal and one that may usher in a new era in hip-hop.

From the NYTimes piece:

“Live Nation would finance the start-up of a venture that would be an umbrella for his outside projects, which are expected to include his own label, music publishing, and talent consulting and managing. Live Nation is expected to contribute $5 million a year in overhead for five years, with another $25 million available to finance Jay-Z’s acquisitions or investments, according to people in the music industry briefed on the agreement. The venture, to be called Roc Nation, will split profits with Live Nation”

Not bad, huh?

I applaud almost all efforts to try something new in the music industry, because any sensible observer knows that the industry will not last much longer if it continues the same business practices. Sales keep decreasing and the latest generation of music consumers does not pay for much of anything that isn’t live. The thievery is beyond music. For instance, many own bootleg DVD movies and/or burned a movie to a DVD-R. People still willingly pay for live sexual interactions (prostitutes, strippers) but frown upon the thought of buying pornography. I don’t know any people my age (early 20’s) that consistenly purchases any form of entertainment that isn’t live. This generation, thanks to the Internet, has some of the most capable “pirates” in history.

One of my favorite writers, Ambrose Bierce, once defined “Piracy” as “commerce without all its folly-swaddles, just as God made it.” Indeed, the folly-swaddles (such as the notion that downloading copyrighted music is illegal/bad) of the entertainment industry are collapsing, rightfully so, and the artists are likely to have more freedom than ever in regards to what is done with their art. Whether this newly acquired responsibility might be overly burdensome for the artists remains a question mark.

On a tangential note, this article, about the futility and evisceration of copyright, provides a possible glimpse into the future that should be welcomed by all fans of entertainment:

Here’s are some excerpts from that article (First and last paragraphs, respectively):

“Copyright was once a means to guarantee artists a decent income. Aside from the question as to whether it ever actually functioned as such – most artists never made a penny from the copyright system – we have to admit that copyright serves an altogether different purpose in the contemporary world. It now is the tool that conglomerates in the music, publishing, imaging and movie industries use to control their markets.”

“A world without copyright is easy to imagine. The level playing field of cultural production – a market accessible for everyone – would once again be restored. A world without copyright would offer the guarantee of a good income to many artists, and would protect the public domain of knowledge and creativity. And members of the public would get what they are entitled to: a surprisingly rich and varied menu of artistic alternatives.”

The rest of the article is a bit more nuanced and states the case against current copyright law more clearly and eloquently. But the main point is that current copyright restrictions are harming more artists than they are helping and that is something of which the entertainment industry in particular has taken note.

In sum, the collapse of intellectual property/copyright is upon us and live entertainment may be the only reliable way for companies to consitently make money in future. This recent move by Jay is a great example of the effects of these developments.


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