Music Entrepreneurs in the Twenty-First Century: A Case Study on the Career of Jay-Z

By Perice, Leanne | MEIEA Journal, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Music Entrepreneurs in the Twenty-First Century: A Case Study on the Career of Jay-Z


Perice, Leanne, MEIEA Journal


Introduction

Amusic mentor of mine once told me "overnight success" takes about seven years to transpire. While he may have been misguided a decade ago, to achieve artistic stardom today means breaking the norms and the boundaries of the past. The make-up of a contemporary music career has undergone fundamental changes over the past fifteen years. These changes are linked to the tremendous technological advancements that have shaped the music industry in recent decades. The main impacts can be observed in the new ways artists create, market, and brand themselves as well as the altered infrastructure of the record labels and the models they employ.

To obtain success in the twenty-first century, artists need to acquire additional skills beyond creating art. When examining the careers of the top artists today, it is clear that entrepreneurship and artistry complement each other and are essential to building successful careers. Making albums and selling records is simply not enough.

This thesis will examine the career path of Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z, one of the most successful hip-hop moguls and entrepreneurs in the world. The successful lifestyle brand that Jay-Z has created results from a combination of artistry and entrepreneurship termed strategic brand management. This case study will trace the career of Jay-Z while extracting lessons on how to help emerging artists establish successful brand partnerships and careers. Lastly, I will use my research to forecast the direction the music industry is moving in and how artists can adapt by entering and dominating in other industries as well.

Historical Background

Music has and will always be fundamental to human life. While the media have cast a negative shadow on the industry as being on the "verge of collapse," to build new beginnings we must understand its current foundation. In the past thirty years the music industry has experienced drastic changes. The format of recorded music has evolved from vinyl records, to 8-track, from cassette, to CD, to MP3 digital downloads and now AAC file technology (Costello, 1). Each of these technological changes over the past three decades directly altered the industry as it stands today. While the listening formats and the devices have evolved, the distributors and record labels were forced to adapt to the changes as well.

In 1978 Philips and Sony worked together to create a uniform standard for a Compact Disc that made LPs irrelevant and outdated. In 1982 record companies put forth a worldwide statement to ensure that all CDs would be able to play on all CD players. Next came the birth of the MP3 format in 1990 (Taintor, 1). The MP3 compresses digital audio files by a factor of twelve to a size that can easily be shared between computers with minimal degradation to sound quality. Lawsuits started to appear in the mid-1990s when technology allowed people to easily pirate digital music. In 1995 people started streaming audio across the internet and in 1997 the first attempts to sell music on the internet surfaced. In 1998 the RIAA decided to take legal action against those downloading copyrighted songs by suing 1, 977 individuals for sharing music illegally on file-sharing sites (Menta, 1).

In 1999 Napster was created and changed the music industry always and forever with the debut of peer-to-peer file sharing. Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker launched Napster and were the first to offer extensive lists of popular music in a comprehensive online database. Napster was forced to shut down in July of 2001 and pay millions for damages and future royalties. However, other peer-to-peer file sharing services appeared in its place, altering how everyone accessed new music and still directly affected sales of CDs (Taintor, 1). After Napster the music industry waged a losing war against digital piracy. Although similar legal battles were won, the current demand for pirated content remains at an all-time high (Taintor, 1). …

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