As Jay-Z’s Roc Nation is about to turn a decade old, we take a look back at some of its history and why it’s come to be one of the world’s trendiest entertainment companies.
Established in 2008 by Jay-Z, Roc Nation originally started out as a record label. For all intents and purposes, it still is, however the brand does a lot more than just this. Talent agency, touring, concert production, music, film, TV, and music publishing are where the label specializes. Though an independent label, the company signed a 4-year distribution deal with Sony Music in 2009 and has since partnered with Live Nation, one of the largest live event companies in the world; Warner Music for an international music publishing deal; and Universal Music for distribution after its agreement with Sony expired in 2013.
Part of the success of Roc Nation has been in acquiring these kind of corporate partnerships which has helped to solidify the brand as a major player. These deals have also played significant roles in legitimizing the artists who Roc Nation has pushed. Among the artists that have benefited from signing to Roc Nation, this long list includes J. Cole, Jaden Smith, Rita Ora, Rihanna, T.I., Vic Mensa, Demi Lovato, DJ Khaled, and Nick Jonas. It has even allowed Jay-Z himself to find unique ways to distribute his own material, such as including the release of Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013) as a free digital download to any Samsung customer. As a business person and an artist, Roc Nation has continued to legitimize Jay-Z as someone who knows what he’s doing in these spaces.
The brand and record label has also not been shy about seeking out talent, going so far as to open five offices in New York City, Nashville, Austin, TX, Los Angeles; and London, UK – all cities who are not only players in the music industry but in the entertainment industry as a whole. Being based out of these meccas of media, it provides Roc Nation with plenty of opportunities to seek and develop artists.
There is another point that must be made on Jay-Z’s empire’s long-term success. They have been able to successfully move past being just a record label and have opened up divisions that cater to their growing fan base.
For example, Roc Nation Sports became the label’s sports management division and has sought to represent players in basketball, baseball, hockey, and football. Then, there’s a co-partnership with Three Six Zero Group called ‘Three Six Zero Entertainment’ which focuses on clients in film and TV. Then, in March 2017, Roc Nation formed a division it called ‘Arrive’ which is set to make investments on start-up companies.
All in all, it has been the record label’s meticulous attention to detail on where there is opportunity to grow that has continued to foster a spirit of creativity at Roc Nation. Though it may have at one time been seen as a vanity label for Jay-Z, within a year of being founded, Roc Nation was already a big player in the music industry and today, it stands even bigger.
Jay-Z is featured in Funktasy’s Top Hip Hop Producers of All-Time.