“Navigating through the music business is like living in the Matrix”, says Zach Katz. “If you don’t have Neo as your guide, you’re lost.” In an ever-changing industry where no one or nothing is really who or what they seem to be, success depends largely on who is guiding your career. For over a decade Zach Katz, as a music attorney, music executive and manager, has guided the careers of some of the industry’s most important artists and producers.
Katz earned his Juris Doctorate from Loyola School of Law in 1996 and went into private practice in his home city of Los Angeles. He quickly found success and became the go-to guy for numerous notable artists, producers, record labels, distributors and publishing companies who heard about the young music attorney with a true love for music, particularly hip-hop. “I was never satisfied with just drafting and negotiating agreements. Securing endorsements, merchandising opportunities, and touring engagements for my clients were prominent parts of my practice”.
This unorthodox “lawyering” became a natural transition into the next stage of Katz’s career in the music industry. In 2000, one of his legal clients Groove Attack GMBH, a European music distribution powerhouse, decided to launch a U.S. hip-hop record label. Based on his work with Groove Attack, Katz was asked to become the CEO of the new enterprise. During his two years as the company’s CEO, Katz supervised the production, distribution and marketing of several critically acclaimed albums, including the solo album from A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg. Phife’s album went on to sell more than one hundred thousand units in the United States alone. Katz’s work with Groove Attack largely took him away from his work as a lawyer, a place he was not eager to return.
In 2001 while Katz was legally representing producer extraordinaire Hi-Tek, the opportunity to become Hi-Tek’s manager opened up. With his first management client seeing immediate success as a producer, artist and music executive under his guidance, Katz knew that he could never be just a lawyer again. “Managing Hi-Tek proved to be very exciting. As a manager I had the opportunity to continue the creative work that I began as the CEO of Groove Attack. But it was very challenging to prove to the people around me that someone who was once a lawyer had the creative vision to be a music manager. At first, many people simply didn’t want to see me in my new role,” he explains. The non-believers were quickly converted when Katz expanded his management roster to include the legendary rapper Rakim. “When I officially became Rakim’s manager, people had to accept that I was in the management game. Rakim is one of the most respected people in the music industry. Everyone knows that he’s extremely selective about the people he surrounds himself with.”
As Rakim’s manager, Zach Katz saw tremendous potential to expand his client’s hip-hop icon status into an equally sizeable brand name. Thinking on a global level, Zach Katz successfully identified and forged relationships with corporate entities, who naturally fit the class, integrity and uniqueness of Rakim’s brand. The first of these brand marriages was with Reebok, who created a national Rakim Classic campaign. The campaign was an equally huge success for both Reebok and Rakim. The second branding opportunity came when Zach Katz successfully pitched and landed the Never Blend In campaign with Hennessy. The Never Blend In campaign was a perfect match for Rakim, who’s unmistakable class and style has stood out from its inception. The Hennessy campaign ran for nearly three years via full page advertisements in music’s most credible publications.
As Rakim and Hi-Tek’s manager Katz quickly forged a strong alliance with Aftermath. “Managing Rakim while he was signed to Aftermath, I spent countless nights in the studio with Dr. Dre and witnessed him at work. Many people would pay top dollar to see what I saw and learn what I learned from Dre. I got to see the science behind some of people’s favorite rap records. And I paid very close attention to everything,” explains Zach Katz.
With music producer management as his primary focus from 2002 through 2005, Katz represented some of today’s most notable urban producers. In addition to managing Hi-Tek, he added Denaun Porter p/k/a Konartis of D-12 to his roster. Under Katz’s guidance Denaun went on to produce 50 Cent’s smash single “P.I.M.P.”, G-Unit’s smash single “Stunt 101” along with singles for D-12 and Young Buck. With Katz’s producer clients contributing to worldwide record sales of over 50 million units, Katz felt that things couldn’t be better. This was until he discovered Jonathan “J.R.” Rotem.
“I knew there was something extraordinary about J.R. from the day I first heard his music”, says Zach Katz of his exclusive management client and business partner. “I had never before heard such unique musical ideas”. A classically trained pianist from the age of five, J.R. was a young digital Mozart with a relentless drive to be among the producer elite. “I had never worked with such a focused and humble person before. He put his complete faith into my creative and business guidance and literally worked around the clock,” explains Mr. Katz. The new team’s work quickly paid off as J.R. landed one placement after another, adding up to more than 200 songs produced and placed in just three years. And just as astounding as the number of J.R.’s placements is the versatility of his work. These placements include songs for Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Game, Snoop, Lil Kim, Lil Scrappy, Rick Ross, Fabulous, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Whitney Houston, Paris Hilton, Chamellionare, Natasha Bedingfield, Jojo, Jesse McCartney, Leona Lewis and Ashley Tisdale, just to name a few. J.R. singles highlights include Rihanna’s worldwide #1 smash “S.O.S.”, Rick Ross’s street anthem “Push It To The Limit”, 50 Cent’s single “Best Friend”, Chamellionare’s “Hip-Hop Police” and Ashley Tisdale’s “He Said She Said.” J.R. ended 2006 with the highest honors when MTV named him “Superproducer of 2006” along with only Timbaland, Swizz Beats and Sean Garret.
In 2007, Mr. Katz’s work with J.R. led to the formation of their media company called Beluga Heights, which on the record side has a joint venture label deal with Epic/Sony. “The deal with Epic was designed so that J.R. will be the musical ear and face of the labe,” explains Katz, J.R.’s partner in the venture and the company’s CEO. The multi-million dollar joint venture is off to an amazing start with the commercially successful release of its first artist Sean Kingston. J.R. produced the entire album including the chart-topping smash singles “Beautiful Girls” and “Take You There”. And 2008 looks promising for Beluga Heights as they add two more new artists to their roster.
Always planning his next move, Zach Katz is focused on building Beluga Heights into a full service record label and music publishing company. With the Epic joint venture already in place on the record side Beluga Heights is now entertaining offers from the industry’s biggest music publishing companies who want to be in business with Beluga Heights’ hit factory song writers. “J.R. and I constantly push each other and our team to bring our A-game to the table. We want to surround ourselves with talented artists, writers and executives who are prepared to dedicate the time and energy its going to take to build the creative and business blueprint for the next twenty years,” says Katz. With that kind of vision and dedication, Zach Katz and Beluga Heights are sure to win.