At a young age I simply enjoyed his music, and it helped that I admired him because I saw business lessons to learn earlier than a non-Jay Z fan would.
He knew how to create tracks that you could not only bob your head to but also relate to in one way or another.
As his music matured and he began creating his legacy rather than just a hip-hop career; my opinion of Jay-Z went from, “Wow he’s good at music” to “Wow he’s good at business”.
I’m not sure when it started, but I think it was somewhere in between the creation of Roca-Wear and his retirement announcement that I realized he was just as much of a businessman as he was an artist.
Just because the establishment doesn’t like your ideas, it doesn’t mean you should give up on your dreams.
Jigga was turned down by major record labels when he first came out. Rather than giving up, he used his self-confidence and business nous to start his own record company.
Fast forward twenty years and he is one of the most successful hip-hip stars of all time, both critically and commercially.
Yet I’m sure when he was turned down by the major record labels, he felt deflated. But he had the confidence and vision to stake his future on his talents and has now been rewarded handsomely.
If more of us took a similar path to potential success, we could find our gambles paying off too.
In Decoded (2010 book), Jay Z writes:
“We made short and long term projections, we kept it realistic, but the key thing is that we wrote it down, which is as important as visualisation in realizing success”.
To me, this shows the importance of writing down your goals and objectives.
It’s the idea that if you want to accomplish something you need to identify exactly what it is you want to accomplish and then hit the ground running trying to achieve it.
One challenge that many people face is that they want success but don’t know what success looks like.
They see fancy cars, shiny watches, big homes and lots of press but don’t see the process itself. Jay-Z understands that along the way you need to identify short term projections to reach long-term projections.
It’s the key to visualizing what you are going to do to get where you want to be.
Dumb down for your audience and double your dollars
For me, this line can relate to two different lessons about dumbing down when you’re doing business or even design. It links very nicely with the concept coined by Steve Jobs:
“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs
It’s important to understand the effectiveness of simple communication. If you over complicate your businesses process or communications message, people will find it difficult to connect with your brand and share your story.
In fact, there’s a good chance that if you’ve complicated your message, your potential clients will move on to less confusing competitors.
In business we often over complicate things without even noticing. This is why there is so much emphasis on having a personal elevator pitch and a professional elevator pitch. Albert Einstein (physicist) once said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
The second type of dumbing down is what many would call selling out. Facebook did what many would call selling out when they went from being a university exclusive service to a service available to the general public.
While several members of their fan-base thought this was a horrible idea, Facebook realized that this was something they had to do to attract the masses and become the largest social network in the world.
Jay-Z faced a similar situation when his first album, Reasonable Doubt.
The debut album only attracted a few true hip-hop fans and barely made a splash mainstream. Jay-Z quickly realized that he had to dumb down his music to double his dollars.
This switch in his style caused quite a bit of controversy in the hip-hop world but was essentially the turning point for his entire career.
Next time you see the homie and his rims spinnin’, Just know my mind is workin just like them… The rims that is!
This line speaks to the notion of being an opportunist and hard worker. When it comes down to it, Jay Z is the epitome of what it means to be a Hustlers.
He works hard and is always thinking about new ways to generate revenue. Jay-Z is always thinking of new ways to improve his business or personal self.
A lot of people stay idle right after high school or University and stop educating themselves and growing their skill-set.
Those who are fans of lifetime learning are the ones who save their companies millions of dollars and ultimately find themselves in senior positions earlier than expected. It’s important to stay curious as sooner or late it will lead to brilliance
Never settle, Multiple revenue streams is the key to success.
Early on in Jay-Z’s career it became clear that he understood the importance of diversification.
He may have picked this up on the streets but either way, he understood that diversification was the key to business success.
He didn’t go to business school and learn about portfolio diversification – He simply understood practically business 101. The more streams, the more money – it’s that simple.
Ever since he first came on the scene as Shawn Carter instead of Jay-Z, he’s been adding more and more pieces to his empire.
From being the owner of a nightclub to owning a percentage of the Brooklyn (Formerly New York) Nets, the man they call Jay-Z has completely changed the way musicians look at business.
More and more we are seeing musicians begin clothing lines or teaming up with brands to sell products.
Many people don’t realize how business savvy Jay-Z truly is. Here’s a clip of him and Warren Buffet that speaks volumes in regards to this artist’s dedication and thought process with respect to business:
Business Lessons for Startups to Apply from Jay-Z
“Don’t wait for nobody”
This is really good for tech startups, many of whom wait to get a free engineer. Just do what you can to get it going and build momentum.
Maybe instead of begging engineers for free work or VCs for money. Learn to do some of the programming or build the MVP on a framework.
“Stand on your own two”
Stop waiting for others people money. Stop relying on other peoples approval and “validation.”
“Don’t listen to your crew. Do what’s good for you”
Sometimes our friends and family will doubt us. Do what you need to do in order to run a successful buisness.
“Don’t look at your fall and feel bad”
Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we fuck up REALLLLY BAD. Get over it, move on. Press forward.
“A closed mouth don’t get fed”
If you never ask for advice, partnerships, SALES, then you can’t make money. So know what you want and ask for it.
It’s All About the Math
One of the earliest lessons I learned from Jay-Z was how to break your business down into what really matters, which is the math.
Up until the arrival and dominance of iTunes, albums were the coin of the realm in the music business.
All marketing, promotion, and sales were centered around the release of an album. Between 1996 and 2004, on average, between his solo projects and a few collaborations, Jay-Z released a new album every 9 months.
Each of those albums probably had, at most, three killer tracks: just enough to get continuous radio & video play over the course of a 9 month run.
The rest, IMHO, where largely studio throwaway tracks that probably should never have seen the light of day in comparison to the truly great music on those same albums.
But you can’t release an album with 3 tracks on it.
Jay-Z and his team, to my eyes, figured out the mathematics of album sales and basically emptied out their vaults to maximize the profit of each and every studio session.
In short, it’s all about the math.
This is an important business lesson to learn because once you’ve stayed in the industry for long enough and you begin to see the patterns, that’s when you see the money rolling in.
Seek a Romantic Partner with the Same Values
Probably one of the most important business lessons to learn from Jay-Z that he is a testament to, is to seek romantic partners that reflect our values and complement our ambition.
He was surrounded by models and could have lived a single life. Instead he chose to marry a woman (Beyonce) that reflected his business mindset.
Likewise, for those of us in business, it pays to have a romantic partner that either reflects our own ambition or at least is supportive of our own values and lifestyle.
For more reading, check out CNBC’s coverage of the 5 strategies that led Jay-Z to build a $800-million empire.
This is part of our “Business Lessons to Learn” series where as you can see, they’re mostly my favourite artists!