Five startup lessons from Jay-Z

by Dylan on May 27, 2012

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I went to see Jay-Z and Kanye West play at the O2 in London last week. Although Jay-Z was clearly the main attraction, they both killed it. Equal parts ludicrous and sublime, it made me think about some of the fundamentals which have escalated Jay-Z to the top of the music world.

1. Invest in your customers by giving them clear value for money

Jay-Z and Kanye played for over two and half hours. No woolly interludes or faffing around on the stage. To quote the philosopher Westwood-just straight fire. That’s a long time for an industry that seems to think most performances shouldn’t be longer than a football match. No matter what you paid for your ticket, it was a great experience. Means next time I won’t even think twice (no matter what the ticket prices are).

2. When you’ve found the thing that works, relentlessly exploit it

It’s not as if either rapper struggled for traction with the crowd. But the Ni**as in Paris track is clearly the tune of the Summer, and had a particular impact. So they played it FOUR times for the encore. And still people were loving it. I’ve never seen an audience leaving a (major) gig that excited.

3. Presentation is everything

Jay-Z could pretty much get a crowd to its feet by adjusting his cap. But this gig was a master lesson in lighting and stage choreography. Almost worth going to see for that alone.

4. When presenting, involve your audience

A time-honoured hip hop thing. When they say ‘hey’, you say ‘ho’ and so forth. The very essence of community engagement was being practiced by Brooklyn rappers in the 1970s. Still holds true for startups and investor presentations today.

5. Understand your own business model

“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man”. Somewhere along his career, Hove realised that he was much more than a rapper, he was a brand (or had the potential to be). Understanding that distinction has allowed him to leave once-contemporaries like Busta Rhymes,  Ghostface Killah and Nas behind him

  • Paul Shiels

    Build Your Startup Using The Music
    Producer/Artist Method


    Firstly there are 3 phases to creating a
    new hit song


    The Intro

    The Chorus

    The Outro


    So lets first look at the intro and what it actually means
    for a record producer or artist and let us then look at how this method should
    be used in your startup.




    This part of the song is the most important, the producer
    will ensure that the melody reels the listener in and ensures they are kept
    interested. The intro is used not only to reel you in but to bring you on a
    journey to the next piece of the song.


    Intro In A Startup


    The intro in a startup has all the same elements, it needs to
    do exactly what the producer is trying to do, namely :


    Get users interested in your product

    Ensure they are interested enough to
    stay with it until the chorus

    Ensure it is a journey they are enjoying
    giving them enough room to explore your product but don’t overdo it to much to
    soon could lose you a user !




    The chorus of any song is its most important element, when
    used correctly it becomes a form of marketing that is done by the
    listeners/customers. We have all been in a position where we heard one of our
    friends singing a song ( marketing the song) we did not know the song and felt
    interested enough to ask “whats that song called” or “who sings that song” this
    is the cleverest piece of a producer or artists work because when done right it
    becomes more than just a catchy melody it becomes their marketing arm.


    Chorus In A Startup


    The chorus for you should be to get your users marketing your
    product, be it by using It and telling people outright to use it or by being
    seen using it and asked what it is and who makes it. You see its about people
    not only liking your product or service its about them singing the chorus so as
    others in this case not hear it but see it.



    The Outro


    The outro in any track that has been laid down is a mixture
    of the above 2 elements . In incorporates the chorus and the intro fused
    together to have a creshendo effect. The outro to a track will have an impact
    on the listener and if that listener wants to listen to the track immediately
    all over again you have succeeded in your task.


    The outro in a startup


    When someone has taken the time to see your intro and
    experienced your chorus it is time now for them to log out or stop playing your
    app or whatever the case may be. So use the methodology of the music producer,
    have them love the intro and chorus elements so much that they are more likely
    to listen or in your case use your product again. They may not log in
    immediately after logging out but they should want to log back in to use it




    One other element I forgot to mention is the endorsement of a
    music track, the featuring of a well known artist within the product. This
    enhances the track and opens up markets to the releasing artist who may be
    unknown – The well known artist fanbase !


    Endorsement within a startup product could be that rock star
    user, or that well known investor or even advisor . Use the endorsement factor
    to spread the word of your product throughout their channels and see them as a
    marketing wing.


    My experience of being a music producer before becoming a
    startup founder has served me well as it has done for a plethora of producers
    and artists such as Russell Simmons, Jay Z, Dr Dre, Eminem, Bono and many more


    Take this advice and use it, go and listen to some of your
    favorite tunes and see how they incorporate this method, what could be more fun
    than that !

  • Stephen Lee

    I like the way you think…Being a BIG J fan..(I like Ye too) I’ve always liked his music as much as his approach to business..Elevate and aspire to places most thought was impossible. He runs a huge,food,clothing, and sports. We should all put a small bit of J in our plans..nice post..

  • rez

    bloodclaat Dylan…… “left nas behind him”……

    Nas is the wickedest those other clowns can’t even compare

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