Roc Nation Sports has a lot to be excited about right now. Two of its clients—Danny Green and Jeremy Lin—just won an NBA championship. It just signed Kyrie Irving in advance of NBA free agency. And its flagship athlete, Kevin Durant, is still the NBA’s prized asset despite his tragic injury. It’s remarkable to think about the influence and power that the agency has achieved in a short amount of time.
But it’s also a reminder of how the entertainment company’s focus has shifted. In December, I explained why Roc Nation May Move On From Its Record Label. Outside of J. Cole, the label had a poor track record of developing music talent. More of its newer deals have been management deals, not record label deals. Jay Z was clear about his intentions to think beyond the record label mentality. His frustration from running Def Jam informed the strategy that Jay Brown now executes as CEO of Roc Nation.
In March, Roc Nation Records cleaned out the house. The subsidiary let go or parted ways with the following people:
- Benny Pough President
- Azim Rashid SVP of Promotion
- Orlando McGhee SVP of A&R
- Gita Williams EVP of Marketing
- Fairley McCaskill Sr Director of Publicity
It played exactly as I expected it to. But instead of patting myself on the back (because I’ve been wrong before too!), let’s discuss what Roc Nation should do next in music.
First, it should not become a music distribution company. Sure, that’s the current wave, but there’s enough of them. It could make sense for Roc Nation Latin since the culture’s music is still undervalued, but definitely not in American hip-hop.
Instead, Roc Nation should partner with music distribution services to strike deals with the top acts who are ready for the next stage in management opportunities. Remember, artists will stay independent to maintain ownership, but many of them still welcome the grand exposure that a brand like Roc Nation offers.
A rising artist can accomplish a lot with a strong, passionate management team and a Stem account. But a company like Roc Nation can take things to another level with its connections entertainment. For instance, Roc Nation recently partnered with DAZN and Meek Mill (a Roc Nation managed artist) for a docu-series leading up to the Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz fight. The series premiered on May 21 and probably got even more traffic given the massive upset by my guy Andy Ruiz. (he’s not really my guy, but I gotta stick up for folks hating on Ruiz cause of his size. It’s a boxing match, not a fashion runway)
UnitedMasters and Stem aren’t in a position to make deals as Roc Nation can. It’s not their objective and it shouldn’t be. But if those distribution services do their job well, then top artists will be ready for the next step. If there can be a partnership established to help artists make that leap, it would help everyone involved.