Timbaland & Swizz Beatz: R&B/Hip-Hop Executives of the Year

Billboard Music

Speaking today from their respective home bases — Swizz in San Diego, Tim across the country in Miami — the two founders look more like the behind-the-scenes creatives they started out as than high-powered media executives. Before becoming business partners, they were friends and competitors; Verzuz was born out of their own good-natured onstage battles. Today, Tim has his phone propped up in a recording studio, and Swizz wears a simple T-shirt and hat. “Daddy daycare Mondays,” jokes the father of five.

“We’ve only seen each other [four] times since Verzuz started,” says Swizz. But as is usually the case for the two these days, those were largely business meetings: signing their contract with Triller; a Peloton-Verzuz commercial shoot; their own Verzuz rematch (their first battle kicked off the entire series) — and, naturally, a boat hangout with Busta Rhymes and Pharrell Williams.

Reflecting on their wins as executives, the pair repeatedly return to one lasting achievement: the career boosts artists experience following their Verzuz appearances, known as “the Verzuz effect.” Take last August’s face-off between Brandy and Monica, who gracefully delivered some of the most notable songs from their catalogs 23 years after their chart-topping duet, “The Boy Is Mine.” The episode attracted 1.2 million viewers on Instagram Live alone — the equivalent of filling Madison Square Garden 57 times — making it the second most-streamed IG Live event of 2020. Within 72 hours, the two scored a combined 21.9 million U.S. on-demand catalog streams, according to MRC Data, a 248% gain from the three days leading up to the stream.

They aren’t alone. Verzuz has become a crucial platform for legacy acts, ensuring they get their flowers — both financial and cultural — while they’re still active. “Verzuz is a platform of celebration and love, and it makes people remember,” says Tim. “It allows these legacy artists to do other things.” Since their April appearance with soul legends Earth, Wind & Fire, The Isley Brothers have gone on to tour, explore NFTs and a “docu-concert,” and release a single with Snoop Dogg. In the week following their Verzuz appearance, R&B artists Keyshia Cole and Ashanti scored more sales, downloads and over 23 million combined streams.

“The Verzuz effect was a great promotion tool for them to take things to the next level,” says Swizz. “What we do is put you right in front of everybody.” And the Verzuz founders have done that for their artists in another monumental way: They’ve given all 46 artists who participated (preceding the Triller deal) a portion of their equity stake. “Me and Tim wanted to give the artists a little piece of the pie,” says Swizz. “Was it the biggest piece? No, but it was a little piece when all these other companies ain’t giving no pieces.”

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