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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What Jay-Z Can Teach

The entertainment mogul Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter has added another hat, er, baseball cap, to his rather extensive collection.  The NYT reports that his company, Roc Nation Sports, just signed up to represent Robinson Cano, the New York Yankees second baseman.  I’ve long been interested in Jay-Z’s business acumen and his ability to gauge where unpredictable markets are headed (and made a brief mention of it in this short essay).  More than that, he seems to be making the most of these changes rather than resisting them.  When he signed with LiveNation in 2008, Jay-Z was one of the first musicians to work with, rather than fight or deny, the changes in the music business (Madonna, another savvy business person, did too).  He took that money and started Roc Nation (of which Roc Nation Sports is a part).  Now he’s realizing the potential to be found in the blurring of sports and entertainment (and the public's perception of athletes and entertainers) .  An athlete typically has a relatively short shelf life in the field, so why not make that short shelf life as lucrative as possible?  Furthermore, an athlete may have a longer shelf life as a brand.  Gven the coalescence of sports and entertainment, and the way social media makes celebrities so accessible, there's a lot of revenue generating opportunities there.  So why should this be interesting to readers of this blog, many of whom may have no interest in baseball?  Sure, Jay-Z is probably a great negotiator and the contract – if we ever get to see it – will be interesting.  But more than that, we should be like Jay-Z and recognize how quickly the landscape and technology changes – and consider what impact those changes might have on our contracts.  For example, there are outstanding recording/distribution contracts which predate digital distribution formats.  Are digital recordings included under such contracts? ( The Eminem case touches upon a related issue having to do with a failure to anticipate digital tunes). The book publishing industry is another sector that is undergoing much disruption.  While no lawyer is expected to be an oracle, it may help your client – or help your students to help their future clients) to think about future marketplace and technological changes during contract negotiations, especially where the contract is a long term one.

[Nancy Kim]

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