bSMART Guide

Former Executive Vice President for Strategic Marketing and Business Development at Roc Nation, Jennifer Justice is committed to building women leaders and promoting women-owned businesses.  With a degree from Cornell Law School, Jennifer transitioned from Partner at Carroll, Guido & Groffman to General Counsel and then Executive Vice President at Roc Nation.  Having represented Jay-Z, Rihanna, Kanye, and Shakira (to name a few) and named as one of Billboard's top Women in Music 2014, Jennifer is sharing her marketing and branding expertise to educate, support, and empower young women.  Find out what it takes to be successful as an artist, how to make the most of your law degree, and how not giving up is the secret to accomplishing your goals.


My advice to be smart is to never give up and don't listen to any negativity.


Roc Gal

Who are the artists that have influenced and inspired you the most and why?

One of my favorite artists is Dolly Parton.  She’s one of the first female artists to write her own music and she’s done everything by her own rules.  I absolutely love her.  I also love Rihanna and what she stands for (of course, I'm biased because she’s one of our artists).  She's done things in a way that’s authentic and true to herself without apology, which I think is amazing as a woman artist.

What have you learned about how to be a successful artist?

One of the best things I've learned from the artists I’ve worked with is that you have to be authentic and true to yourself.  You have to record the music that speaks to you and you have to perform in a manner that's comfortable for you.

Doing any kind of ancillary sponsorship or endorsement has to be for something you truly love and are passionate about because otherwise you're not connecting with your fan and that's the whole point.  If you're an artist, then you're doing it for the artistry and to connect with your fans and the only way to do that is in a genuine way.

What is your process for marketing a new artist?

When I first start working with an artist, I try to find out about their passions, what they're most interested in doing, and then we build a plan to figure out how we can achieve that.  If they're a new artist with only one album out, then brands probably don't know them as well, then we’ll do some smaller things such as a show for them, or something incorporating video, or doing a small collaboration.  Then you use that to build as a stepping-stone like any other career.  It’s like the analogy - you crawl, then walk, then run.  

It’s easiest if you're making sure your fans are the same fans that the brand has, then you can consolidate and grow the base together.  A lot of that includes using your digital and social and cross-pollinating both channels from the brand and the artist.  From there you can start doing bigger and bigger things to the point where you can start owning part of companies such as a clothing brand, an alcohol brand, or a home goods brand, or whatever the artist’s passion is outside of just music.  Then we can get to that end goal by doing little baby steps and building.


I've learned that you have to be authentic and true to yourself.


What are the characteristics of a successful brand partnership?

The essence of a successful partnership is when the goals and objectives from the artist and the brand are in alignment.  From there you can build a great partnership.  The key is to really listen to each other. Usually the brand is coming to the artist because they want to capture an audience that they don't have or engage with them.  Brands would do really well to listen to the artist when it comes to any out-of-home billboard, TV commercials, or any kind of digital including the hashtags.  

I had some artists who were doing a deal with a big American brand and they wanted them to use hashtags that weren’t genuine to the artist.  The artists said their fans would know that this is not authentic and to let them come up with things that would speak to the fan base.    It takes both sides being a little more fluid and the artist also trusting the brand and understanding that they have certain quotas they need to meet. 

It’s important to be fluid even after you get the contract down and be open to adding performances or even taking something away from the contract.  If your goals and objectives align, you're authentic with the execution, and listen to what the artist knows, then you can have a great partnership.

What are you most proud of accomplishing working in the music industry?

Your reputation is all that you have and it’s all that you can stand behind.  I’ve been known as a very strong woman in my industry and I can be very staunch in my ways, but at the end of the day anyone would come away knowing that the right deal was made, that I could still be a woman in my business working in an authentic way instead of trying to pretend I was somebody I wasn't.  I'm very proud of the way I've built my career being true to myself. 


Watch Jennifer's bSMART interview here!

You learn from people when you show your vulnerability because that’s what makes you accessible.


The Blueprint

How did your background prepare you for a successful career?

My background didn't prepare me at all for my job, but I suppose it did in a way.  There’s a new buzzword ‘grit’ and its the new measure of success for children suggesting they can have all the education they want, but if you have grit then that really prepares you for life.  Coming from a background where my mom didn't graduate from high school, we didn’t have any money, I didn't have any mentors, I didn't have anybody show me the way, but I definitely had grit because I had to figure out my way on my own.

That definitely prepared me.  It prepared me for being able to be nimble and figure out things on my own very quickly.  In regards to nature versus nurture, I definitely had something in my nature that said I wanted to persevere and be ambitious.  When people ask me how I got to where I am, I say I don't really know, but I know it was in me and I needed to accomplish things that were not necessarily in my path being born where I was born. 

How did becoming an attorney influence your career? 

A law degree is an amazing path to success because it’s an education that’s difficult to get (those extra three years of college are no walk in the park and the bar exam is a little short of torture), but once you have that degree, you have a whole separate set of skills that no one else has.  CEOs have backgrounds as lawyers and most presidents have a law degree.  It prepares you with another set of skills.  Once you start practicing negotiation or litigation and the way you have to think on your feet, those are all amazing skill sets it takes other people a lifetime to learn.

You can practice law in-house, at a law firm, you can practice all different kinds of law and learn different subjects.  If you're in litigation you can learn about different subjects and then you can use that knowledge to reach another level.  If you want to work in business, you can go in-house as general counsel, like I did.  I was then promoted to Executive Vice President doing more strategy and branding because I had learned so much in all of the deals I had put together that I knew what was going to be successful and what wasn't.  It’s a degree that will carry you for the rest of your life and you'll always have that to fall back on.  If you try something else, you will always still be a lawyer and that's something no one could ever take away from you.


One of the keys to success as a manager is understanding there's always more to learn.


What are your tips for being a successful manager?

One of the keys to success as a manager is understanding there's always more to learn.  There's nobody (I don't care how long you've been working) that has not benefitted from the people they have worked with or somebody who has come into the company.  As a manager you have to be extremely open to other people’s personalities and how they work, and figure out how, as a team, you can incentivize everybody to do the same goal.  While you have to be tough, you also have to be sympathetic and you have to understand people's personal needs.  People have lives, and those lives bring a lot to the table including their background, experience, and family lives.

We're all seeing the statistics about women and how we really haven't gotten as far as we should have in the last 35 to 40 years and what we're seeing is adding in women and mothers to the table brings a lot more balance, better decision-making, and different viewpoints that are all very important.  While you have to get things done and you have to make sure the tasks are being achieved, at the same time one of the most important goals is to continue to learn from your own team and continue to listen to them as well.  Especially in the time of digital and tech, I would say, 'Don't ask me a question about anything digital because my opinion doesn't matter.  I'm over 40, so it doesn’t matter.'  When you're not so egotistical that you can learn from other people on your team with much less experience,­­ but still know and command that you're the boss, then that's some of the best assets a manager can have. 


I'm proud of the way I've built my career being true to myself. 


What are your biggest lessons learned working in the music industry?

The lessons I've learned are the age-old clichés such as listen to your elders, because people have done this before.  There are people with a lot of experience that have come before you.  When I've felt like I wasn't moving forward, or I wanted to quit, or I didn't get the recognition I deserved, or I didn't do something right - it’s important to seek advice and mentorships to hear things about yourself that maybe isn't great to hear, but you can grow from it instead of being upset by it or retreating and saying they're not right and being egotistical about it.  You have to learn from these mistakes and learn from what other people are telling you.  

My industry is very small and I do business with the same people over and over again.  So I started seeking advice from other women that are mentors of mine or even peers of mine, asking what can I do differently.  It’s drastically increased my productivity and my happiness and my ability to manage and lead and my growth in general.  You learn from people when you show your vulnerability because that’s what makes you accessible and makes you a better person in general - let alone as an employee, employer, executive, a friend, a mother, or partner.  Learning to listen and listen to other people is what I've learned most.

What can we learn from your story to be smart like you?

My advice to be smart is to never give up and don't listen to any negativity.  You know in your heart what you want to do and I’m proof you can come from absolutely nothing, with no mentorship, no guidance, and zero money, from a tiny town in Washington state, born into a family who didn't graduate from high school, to living in Tribeca in New York City representing Jay-Z, Rihanna, Kanye, and Shakira and numerous other people.  You can do anything you want.

My story is not obvious and even to the people I work with it’s not obvious, but we got here because we didn’t listen to the people who told us we couldn’t do it.  In fact that was my motivating factor, if someone told me I couldn't do it, then I was definitely doing it.  When people tell you those things, they're doing it because it’s their own insecurities they’re projecting onto you.  If you want to do something, then go do it.  I even had children by myself because I wanted kids.  People and doctors told me I couldn't do it and I went and did it.  You can do whatever you want and don't let anybody try to stop you.

Jennifer.Slide.2  Jennifer.Slide.4

You can do whatever you want and don't let anybody try to stop you.


Spotlight on Jennifer Justice 

Neighborhood: Tribeca

Occupation: Executive Vice President at Roc Nation

Instagram: @Jenniferjusticeleague

Women I Admire: All single moms – it is really hard to satisfy everyone and take care of yourself so I appreciate the pioneers before me.

Ultimate Accessory: My twin toddlers, Jack and Nico.

Favorite Store: ABC Home & Carpet

Must-have Shoes: Pierre Hardy

Favorite Nail Polish: Formula X

Can't Live Without Product: Hedgehouse throwbed

Salon Recommendation: Ricardo Rojas

Signature Scent: Serge Lutens Fleurs d'Oranger

Beauty Essential: Thuyen Nguyen everything

Cocktail of Choice: Rosé

Travel Destination: St. Barths

Current Craving: Rosé

Best Advice: When asked to take on a job or project you aren't sure if you can do, ask yourself, "What would a straight white man do?" And then do that :-) Chances are they'll just jump at the chance!

Favorite Quote: 'Strong women: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.'

De-Stress Technique: SoulCycle and wine – in that order

Favorite App: GlamSquad

University: Cornell Law School / University of Washington




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