[Roc] Nation Builder...
As president and one of four founders of Roc Nation, the joint venture between Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter (see No. 13) and Live Nation (John Meneilly and Tyran "Ty Ty" Smith round out the Roc Nation team), Jay Brown oversees a roster that includes J. Cole, Willow Smith and Jay-Z on the label side and artists like Melanie Fiona, Wale, songwriter Ester Dean (Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass"), chart-topping production team StarGate and Rihanna on the management side. And that's not to mention Roc Nation's growing publishing arm and worldwide partnership with U.K. electronic dance music management group Three Six Zero (Deadmau5, Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris). Talk about power. To be in business with Rihanna (who Brown-along with Jay-Z and Smith-signed as executive VP of Def Jam) or have StarGate flood the market with another hit, you have to call Brown. Rest assured you won't be the only one making that call.
How would you characterize Roc Nation's run to date?
Jay Brown: It's been great. [At] every company you have your challenges regarding what you want to do and how you want to be different. Our main focus when we started was just to concentrate on the music . . . to concentrate on the song. [So] we started off concentrating on our publishing company, and also on the management of producers and writers. And then we started managing artists, because the thing that's different about us is that we came from the process of making records and being able to A&R and executive-produce albums-we love to do that, so we still do that for the artists we manage. That's a service we can provide.
Roc Nation is multifaceted. How would you describe the company?
I don't want to call it a "360." I just want to say that our company can provide services from every stream. From the merch side to the touring side, publishing, producer management, artist management or a label-basically every venture that an artist is a part of or not a part of, we can offer that. We can be in business with an artist and not manage, but we can publish. We don't have to have everything.
What do you look for in artists and partners?
We look for someone that contributes the same amount we do. That's not monetarily, but how much time they're going to put toward the craft. We work with some real competitive, hard workers, like Jay-Z, who's put out a record every nine months since he was 26 years old. Rihanna's been putting out a record every year and never stops recording . . . You gotta love it as much as we love it. We can't love it more than you. If you have that kind of person, you can do whatever you want.
You recently told the BBC: "Kids want new material all the time . . . I think you become disposable when you put out an album every three years." This seems in keeping with the Roc Nation philosophy.
We like being in the marketplace. Worst thing for us is not to be in the marketplace. We really do this because we love it every day. These hours that we work-everyone's putting in 18-hour days, and it's a lot-but I'd rather do something I love than something I don't. If you want to know my mission statement, it's "Do what you love to do."
Last year, Roc Nation signed a worldwide deal with Three Six Zero.
We've always been infatuated with electronic music. We travel a lot, knew the culture of it and what it meant everywhere else [outside of the United States], and we even tried something with Rihanna on Good Girl Gone Bad with "Don't Stop the Music." It worked. We remixed her whole album, and from Good Girl Gone Bad on, we used to do that every time with her [projects] as a bonus. And Three Six Zero-those guys are great businessmen. They're good people, and we were lucky enough to do a partnership with them. Three Six Zero has 31 electronic acts [including] Deadmau5, Swedish House Mafia and Calvin Harris. And as you can see, the synergy works really well. We manage Calvin with them and the [Rihanna] record "We Found Love" that we got from Calvin [No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks, Rihanna's best showing to date]; he produced it and wrote it 100%.
As you look ahead to 2012 and beyond, where do you see growth opportunities?
Every aspect of our business has an opportunity to grow a lot more, so I'm very driven to make sure each side is growing. Nothing's really ever equal, but I'm looking forward to seeing everything grow and everything coming into itself even more.
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