Q&A: ROC Nation CEO Jay Brown discusses experience in music industry

Landry Allred

Jay Brown, CEO of entertainment company ROC Nation, visited UT on April 17 to talk about his career experience and successes as the final VIP Distinguished Speaker of the semester. ROC Nation represents artists such as JAY-Z, Rihanna and J. Cole.

The Daily Texan had the opportunity to speak with Brown about his experience in the music industry.

The Daily Texan: How did you get your start in the music world?

Brown: I had an internship with Mercury Records. I was 19. Later on, I received a job at a joint venture through Polydor. Then in 1993, I was able to secure a position with Quincy Jones — a music publisher, and I was hired by Judith Bright. She did a lot for me in educating me on the business. So did Quincy. They took me under their wing and taught me a lot.

DT: You worked at Quincy (Jones Music Publishing), Elektra and Def Jam. What was the transition like from working in music companies like that and then founding your own?

B: I used to always manage producers that were separate from the companies I was working for. So I had a company with my partner Ty Ty called Marcy Music, and we were always in that business of being entrepreneurs. So the difference was that we knew it should be something so much bigger, and we wanted to create something and do something really well. There was a brainchild that came together where we all sat together, which included JAY-Z, Desiree Perez, Juan Perez and Ty Ty. That’s how we were able to create ROC Nation and for it to be what it is.

DT: How have you seen ROC Nation evolve over time?

B: It’s interesting because people are like, “Oh man, this is a big company,” but to us, it’s still our baby, and sometimes your babies never grow up. When I say grow up, you don’t really get to feel the expansion, but I’m really happy for the opportunity to do what we do. It’s just wonderful.

DT: What were some challenges that you faced as the company grew, and how did you overcome them?

B: I think my challenge has always been to make sure that I have patience because it’s qualities over time. You have to let things mature. You have to give people a moment (because) they come into something in the situation and not to expect the right away, and that includes businesses that you do and business relationships you have.

DT: During the session, you kept giving internships and helping people connect and use the resources that they have. What is it like coming to colleges and being able to facilitate that?

B: It’s easy because you see the future in these kids. All they need to see is it with themselves, so it’s great to give them an opportunity. A lot of them do. Look at all these bright kids that are in there. That’s the future for us, so why not present an opportunity for them if you can? I’m not selfish. I want to see them go out if I can help them succeed in any which way, and you’ve got some very good people in there.