Desiree Perez is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Roc Nation and winner of the 2019 Billboard Women in Music Executive of the Year Award. She has come a long way since first entering the music industry. She got her start as a part-time promoter at a hip hop club managing the C-Suite for Roc Nation, owned by rapper and artist Jay-Z.
The Management style of Desiree Perez
Perez describes herself as transparent, strong, and fair in her management dealings for Roc Nation. The COO of Atlantic Records, Julie Greenwald, describes her as extremely driven. Greenwald feels that Perez is the face of Roc Nation just as much, if not more so, than Jay-Z.
Perez acknowledges her driven nature and credits that trait to growing up as the daughter of a Cuban immigrant. Her father, the owner of a moving company in the Bronx, relied on her to translate what his English-speaking customers needed. She states that her father’s influence on her as a child and young adult was huge because he worked so hard to make a better life for their family. Perez also helped in the moving company by learning to drive a truck and tractor-trailer by age 17, along with changing motor and transmission oil.
Breaking Boundaries in the Industry from Humble Beginnings
Desiree Perez was operating a company that sold pagers and cell phones when a friend asked her to help a Manhattan nightclub run promotions. Although she knew little about the music industry, Perez recognized this was an excellent opportunity for her. She was operating several nightclubs by 1996, which was also the year she booked Jay-Z. The young rapper and his DJ who went by Clark Kent were not well-known at the time.
Within a few years, Perez, her husband Juan, and Jay-Z opened a Manhattan nightclub called The 40/40 Club. Perez became the Director of Operations of The 40/40 Club and expanded it to locations in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. Although those locations have since closed, the original 40/40 Club in Manhattan still stands.
Jay-Z Brings Desiree Perez to Roc Nation
When Jay-Z signed the deal with Live Nation to create Roc Nation in 2008, he immediately asked Perez and her husband to join him at the new company. Just as when she first got into the music business in the early 1990s, Perez saw this as a good career move. She discovered that running The 40/40 Club became more physically demanding as she got older and saw the transfer to Roc Nation as a positive change.
What It Means to Work for an Independent Company
Although Roc Nation is a large New York City-based company with 450 employees and many subdivisions, its leadership has decided to remain independent. Perez feels this has given the organization permission to do the right thing every time because they are free to ignore industry norms. While operating as an independent entertainment business gives Roc Nation greater opportunity to evolve, Perez points out that the company sometimes has to fight for others to take them seriously.
Desiree Perez’s experiences in the industry mean she has become accustomed to walking into a boardroom made up of mostly white men and feeling disrespected. This is despite the fact that her team arrives ready to make major multimillion dollar deals. However, Perez feels that managing a range of businesses that includes publishing, streaming services, and a music label allows Roc Nation to compete on a more level playing field, and allows them to surpass the expectations of more traditional industry executives.
Working as Female Minority in a Male-Dominated Industry
Perez has also had to contend with people who may feel put off by her straightforward and assertive management style because she is a woman. In an interview with Billboard, she states that she has observed men acting in the same manner, but people seem to accept that behavior in men with no hesitation. Perez would love to see more female minorities join the music management industry as the numbers are nowhere near 50 percent.
Desiree Perez considers herself a secure woman who just wants to be herself in her work. One of her life’s missions is to shine a spotlight on both racism and sexism in music to encourage other minority women to join the industry.
About Roc Nation
Jay-Z formed Roc Nation in 2008 as a joint entertainment venture between himself and Live Nation. The $150 million dollar deal gave Live Nation broadcasting rights to Jay’s recordings, tours for 10 years, and publishing. In the 13 years since its formation, Roc Nation has grown from five to 450 employees. The company reports that 52 percent of the employees are minorities.
In 2017, Jay-Z signed a new contract worth $200 million dollars that gave Live Nation touring rights only. Roc Nation is also the parent company to these organizations:
Criminal justice initiative with the company Meek Mill
Publishing wing with Latin and country music divisions
Roc Nation Management, which manages the careers of several top-name singers
Roc Nation Records, which has a global partnership with Universal Music Group
Roc Nation Sports, which manages the careers of several top-name professional sports players
S. Carter Foundation, a venture capital firm geared towards philanthropic efforts
Tidal Music Streaming Service
Touring arm in charge of arranging live ventures for the Made in America Festival and Jay-Z