An open letter to Jay Z

An open letter to Jay Z

Denver Water weighs in on the rap mogul’s recent comments about the price of water and how it relates to music

By Steve Snyder

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22:  Rapper Jay-Z performs onstage at the 2009 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jay-Z

Rapper Jay Z performs onstage at the 2009 American Music Awards on Nov. 22, 2009, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Dear Jay Z,

First of all: Big fan! I’ve listened to your music for years; I’ve admired how you’ve become much more than an entertainer, and you have perhaps the coolest line I’ve ever heard, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”

But recently, you made a comparison about water and music.  And since water is my business, I have to say, “Stick to your own business, man!”

I get what you are saying. Artists should be paid for the music they create. But to say that “water is free while music is $6” isn’t exactly true.

This isn’t meant to state the obvious fact that some people can’t pay their water bills, so water must not be free. But your comments bring up the issue of how people value water — an issue our industry struggles with all the time.

Right now, Denver Water customers pay an average of less than $3 for 1,000 gallons of water. When you think about how much a gallon of milk or a liter of soda costs, water is a pretty good value. And if you compare your monthly water bill to your other bills like electricity and phone, the value is even better. Then, think about the vast collection, treatment and distribution systems that most utilities operate and maintain, and now that value is off the charts!

Of course, we have to use some different math for a man of your financial stature. To put it in perspective, here are some examples of how much water you could buy with the money you have:

  • Your last album, “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” sold 528,000 copies in its first week on the market. At $6 each, that’s more than $3 million. You could buy 1 billion gallons of water for that, enough to fill 1,600 olympic-sized swimming pools. Your summer home has enough room for those, right?
  • You once sold a clothing line you created, Rocawear, for $200 million. You could have bought more than 66 billion gallons of water for that, enough to make 44 million barrels of beer. And if each barrel holds 31 gallons of beer, you could throw one heck of a party — for most of America!
  • At one point, you were reported to have a net worth of $510 million. When trying to calculate how much water you could buy with that, my calculator short circuited. But I think we are getting into ocean territory with that figure. Or at least a good-sized gulf.

Of course, that light-hearted analogy overlooks a very real problem. All the money in the world can’t help when water becomes scarce. Just look at these impacts of California’s current drought. Californians would no doubt pay good money for Mother Nature to turn on her faucet a little more frequently.

So perhaps we have something in common. You will continue your quest to help people understand the value of music, while people in my industry will do the same with water. Of course, I’ve heard you actually have a whole list of problems to address — 99 to be exact?

Yours in rap,

Steve Snyder

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