Hey! This update covers the decision to promote Roc Nation’s Desiree Perez to CEO, takeaways from Ray Dalio’s mentorship of Diddy, and Rihanna’s new $25 million Amazon documentary deal.
Did Roc Nation make the right move with new CEO Desiree Perez?
Roc Nation caps off its wild, turbulent, eventful 2020 with the biggest announcement of all—a new CEO.
Desiree Perez, who has served as COO of Jay Z’s Roc Nation for a decade, has been named CEO of the multi-hyphenate company, Roc announced today (Dec. 13). Jay Brown, who previously held the title of CEO, has been named vice chairman.
In her new role, Perez will be responsible for leading and developing Roc Nation’s many verticals, which include a record label, management, publishing, film and TV, touring, philanthropy and branding, among others, according to an announcement made by the company. Brown will continue to cultivate partnerships and expand the Roc brand. Both are co-founders of the company.
Before I assess this from a strategic perspective, let’s highlight the achievement. It’s dope to see a woman leading one of the most influential companies in hip-hop. Perez was also honored yesterday by Billboard as the Executive of the Year. Congrats to her. I hope this leads to more women in executive positions in the industry.
Here’s her speech:
Now, let’s get to the move itself. In Billboard’s feature, Perez—who historically never does interviews— spoke about the future of Roc Nation:
“The reason I’m actually talking to you and doing this is because I think it’s a special time at Roc Nation,” she says. “To me, the success of this company is so emblematic for so many other people — a lot of people are inspired by what we do, to see people work hard and not necessarily be part of a big machine, and be entrepreneurial. I feel like the next two to three years [are] critical to this company’s growth. Because we’re almost to the next level. And we’re going to have to make it there.”
Her promotion isn’t surprising, but it’s also hard to see it as true change. Jay Brown had been at the helm for the past ten years, but Roc Nation has always been led by the trifecta of Brown, Perez, and Jay Z.
Here’s what I wrote in July in Why Roc Nation Needed to Restructure:
To be fair, co-leadership structures are fairly common–even when the title doesn’t reflect it. The decision to team [Roc Nation Records co-presidents Omar Grant and Shari Bryant] up might be a reflection of Roc Nation’s COO-CEO structure up top. Desiree Perez is the COO, Jay Brown is COO, and Jay Z is the founder. But they operate more like a ‘Big 3’ that collectively lead the company.
But even with a clear designation of roles and responsibilities, the lack of a clear lead can make decision-making difficult—especially for a company that is under drastic changes. It can also cause added stress. If one person’s slate of responsibilities has more influence on the company’s future, the “co” title might seem meaningless.
Perez has worked with Jay Z and his team for over two decades. Her husband leads Roc Nation Sports. She’s family. But she’s so ingrained in the existing culture that its hard to see this as a true step forward for an enterprise that wants to get to the next level.
If Roc Nation was a unicorn startup, its board would have pushed for an external hire to replace Jay Brown. My take is that the company feels some type of way about hiring externally because of the group of external execs it hired and fired earlier this year. Most of the folks who got cut were seasoned execs who lasted 18 months tops:
In January, Phil McIntyre was out as president of Roc Nation Management. In March, Benny Pough, president of Roc Nation Records, was let go. In May, the company fired Azim Rashid (SVP Promotion), Orlando McGhee (SVP A&R), Gita Williams, (EVP Marketing), and Fairley McCaskill (Sr. Director Publicity).
Come on. There’s no way that ALL those people weren’t cut out for the job! There’s likely a mix of cultural fit, money, and strategic alignment, which all stem back to the leadership decisions made by Brown, Perez and Shawn Carter.
Jay Z’s experience at Def Jam has likely validated those firings with a bit of hubris. I imagine Hov would justify the moves and say, “We’re not built like other labels, and not everyone can make it here.”
An externally hired CEO would have been the right call, but it would have been an adjustment. Roc Nation has more in common with a family business than it does a traditional entertainment company. If Roc Nation wants excellence, a fresh set of eyes would have went a long way. And Perez could have had a greater impact at the helm of another multi-hyphenate entertainment company that wants to get the level that Roc Nation currently is.
Takeaways from Ray Dalio mentoring Diddy
Billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio and Diddy shared a video of one of their mentor/mentee conversations. Here’s a short clip from Diddy’s Twitter account (with a link to the full 24-minute episode):
A conversation with one of my mentors, @RayDalio. Watch it here: https://t.co/bYY1UFUIFh pic.twitter.com/gy7fILX0Df
— Diddy (@Diddy) December 11, 2019
It’s dope to see this happening, and it’s great that we got an inside peek. A few thoughts:
- Props to Diddy for continuing to level up and inspiring others to do the same. Ego can get the best of folks, especially in hip-hop. It’s easy to think you got it all figured out because you’re better off than most of the people around you.
It’s also good to see him with someone like Ray Dalio for two reasons. First, the 70-year-old magnate is someone whose work spoke for itself, then became a more public figure. He’s not one of these gurus who became known solely for being a guru (not saying any names!) Second, Diddy went to a much older white guy for mentorship. Talk to any successful minority, and there’s usually a conscious thought of whether they seek mentorship from those of the same race or gender. There’s a certain comfort and relational benefit that comes from those of the same race/gender, but being too myopic can limit great opportunities when they arise. I assume someone like Diddy has mentors of all different backgrounds, as he should.
- In the interview, Diddy mentioned his desire to make a “hard reset.” He said he reached moments where he outgrew his team and needed new people. This is common for growing organizations. Recently, Diddy’s been public about his challenges growing REVOLT. He never reached that goal of making it the ESPN of Music or getting it on one billion devices. He may also be referring to Combs Enterprises. It can be especially difficult with organizations that are operated like families (e.g. Roc Nation).
One of the most celebrated companies on this front has been Netflix. CEO Reed Hastings and former Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord instilled a strong culture that wasn’t afraid of letting employees go if they were no longer the best fit. The company treats staffing like a sports team that cycles in and out for the strongest lineup possible. For instance, in 2002 Netflix let go of its longtime, loyal bookkeeper. She helped the company develop systems to accurately track movie rentals and royalties, but it was time for the post-IPO Netflix to get a more seasoned CPA. At Netflix, anybody can get it if it makes the organization better–including McCord herself.
Diddy can relate. The resources needed to partner with international stars like Ozuna is different than partnering with those who have similar backgrounds, like Loon or G-Dep.
Sidenote – everyone reveres the Biggie/Mase/112 era of Bad Boy in the 90s, but don’t sleep on the Loon/G-Dep/Black Rob/Mario Winans era in the early 2000s. Those boys had hits too.
- This mentor-mentee video has earnest roots, but it’s still a business move. The 50-year-old mogul came to the meeting with a copy of Dalio’s New York Times best-selling book, Principles. This video will expose Dalio’s book to a new audience and will likely lead to more sales. Hell, after watching the interview I checked on my Kindle to see where I can get the ebook.
Moments like this also keep both Diddy and Dalio in the press. Both of their brands rely on the monetization of their public persona.
Should we expect to see Dalio speak at the 2020 REVOLT Summit? I wouldn’t be surprised. But based on the positive response to this clip, I’m sure this won’t be the last time we see Dalio and Diddy on screen together.
Rihanna’s re-ups with Amazon for $25M documentary
RiRi and Amazon Prime Video are back at it. From The Hollywood Reporter:
Move over, Billie Eilish.
Another pop superstar has scored a mega payday from a streamer. Amazon has landed worldwide rights to a Peter Berg-directed doc about Rihanna. Sources say Amazon paid $25 million for the untitled film’s rights in a move that reflects last week’s $25 million Apple TV+ deal for an Eilish doc directed by and produced in collaboration with Eilish’s label, Interscope Records.
Amazon declined to comment.
At $25 million, that’s technically more than Beyonce got from Netflix for Homecoming—which was part of a $60 million, three-project deal. Apple TV+ overpaid for the Billie Eilish doc at $25 million, but that’s not as surprising considering the amount of cash Apple has on hand, and how much it’s poured into original content like The Morning Show.
This Rihanna doc continues the partnership between her and Amazon, which I wrote about back in September in Why Rihanna Partnered With Amazon:
Both Fenty and Amazon are vertically-integrated entities that benefit from strong partnerships. Rihanna wants strong distribution partners to expand the reach of her Fenty products. Meanwhile, Amazon finds strong products to leverage its distribution and fulfillment. With alignment in both retail and video streaming, both parties seem like a match made in heaven.
In that article, I also commented on the limited reach via Amazon Prime Video’s 26 million viewers, which is much smaller than Netflix’s 140 million:
Despite the alignment, Amazon’s Savage x Fenty fashion show was released with little fanfare. I can’t recall a single person on my social media feed who said one thing about this fashion show. And believe me, my timeline literally stops whenever Rihanna breathes, posts a thirst trap, or talks about dropping new music…
The limited exposure has a lot to do with Prime Video’s audience. Amazon’s content often needs a massive promotional budget to become regular water-cooler talk. Jack Ryan had a borderline-spam advertising campaign, but it’s too expensive to do that for every show.
Beyonce’s Homecoming documentary got to that level. Easily. Travis Scott’s Look Mom I Can Fly documentary did too. But both of those were on Netflix. It’s much easier to reach the masses with an audience of 140 million.
Will Rihanna’s new documentary get Jack Ryan treatment? It would surely benefit from it.
But despite the limited exposure, there’s a data and marketing case for Rihanna’s decision to re-up with Amazon. By now, Amazon has a richer data set on the Rihanna customer profile. There’s strong viewership data from both the Savage x Fenty fashion show and sales data from the Fenty products sold on Amazon. They can target prospective customers that visit Amazon.com to order any products. Netflix doesn’t have that opportunity. There’s no way for the company to interact with users or gather data until the streaming app is opened.