On a warm, partly cloudy afternoon on the eve of SXSW’s music week on Tuesday, March 18, legendary producer Just Blaze stopped by the Box headquarters just off Congress Avenue for an informal fireside chat with Steve Martocci, co-found of Splice and Jade McQueen, managing editor of media & entertainment at Box, about the digital transformation of the modern music landscape.
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That lack of middlemen, who collect rent along the way for marketing and distribution, has allowed Blaze to cash in on music like never before. Blaze released “Higher” by Baauer and Jay Z for free on Soundcloud and YouTube, and it ended up making him “2 to 3 times more” than anything recent. The track’s popularity allowed him to tour for all of 2013 and ink lucrative sync deals with Samsung and Lexus. Because he didn’t release the track through the label, the artists got to keep all of that cash themselves. Eventually, Universal ended up paying him for the license to the song.
“The days of sending Def Jam a CD in hopes of somebody hearing your record are over,” Blaze said when giving parting advice to up and coming artists. “Do your own thing. Nobody wanted Wu-Tang Clan, nobody wanted Jay Z, but then he started Roc-A-Fella Records and things changed. People only wanted Young Chop after Chief Keef blew up.”