Magna Carta Redux: Jay-Z & Samsung Are The Digital Future

“We don’t have any rules; everybody is trying to figure it out. We need to write the new rules.” Jay-Z

Jay-Z Magna Carta Holy Grail

The Magna Carta was one of the most important documents of all time. The “Great Charter” changed the face of British law and influenced constitutional law all over the world.

On July 4th something equally ground breaking is happening in the music industry (hyperbole alert!). Jay-Z the most popular rapper and master of brand cultivation is releasing his new album Magna Carta Holy Grail for free to one million Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note II users.

This means that the album could be certified platinum before it’s even released. But it’s also is another step in the evolution of the music industry and how much digital has changed it since the late 90s.

Here’s how it works, Samsung users will have to download a special app which will then grant them access to the album. Samsung released this short promo last week featuring Jay in the studio with superstar hip-hop producers Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, Swizz Beatz and Rick Rubin – producer of my favourite Jay track 99 Problems.

The site has also been set up with a countdown to the launch.

I wonder what the RIAA would have made of this back in 99 or so when they were at war with Napster and similar P2P music sharing sites. How things have changed that a major global superstar is releasing a major album not only primarily digitally but to consumers on their digital devices and also for free.

Not everyone is entirely happy about the new model. Billboard has confirmed it won’t count the Samsung copies in its influential Billboard 200 chart. Not sure if that’s entirely fair as according to WSJ, Samsung paid $5m for the 1 million free copies so technically they are already pre-sold as opposed to just a straight giveaway.

The RIAA however is adapting to the new release model. Even though the Samsung copies of the album are not being sold to consumers, the RIAA will still count them as sales and certification for gold and platinum status.

“It is a novel and creative marketing move and it has rightly stimulated a healthy conversation about the sale’s meaning and implications for the modern music business”
Liz Kennedy, Director of Communications, RIAA

The RIAA have had to move with the times and it’s good to hear they are doing so. Nowadays on-demand streams are also accounted for in gold and platinum status.

Some might say this is just a gimmick but really this is just another powerful example of how were moving to total digital future and how current distributions and sales models are going to be increasingly challenged as new platforms open up.

It’s also a pretty ballsy move by both Hov and Samsung. They know this will garner a lot of attention in the press and on awesome blogs like the one you’re reading but it’s a very smart move.

Money aside Samsung are subtly telling their users and rivals their platforms are the choice for a connected young generation in a far more effective way than the usual ad campaigns. I bet it also helps when Samsung start to really push their own e-shop fronts. A big name product with an exclusive launch window is as attractive as it gets. This can also tie in with their eventual push for their own OS.

And that’s what it’s really about.

Here is the secret goal for every player in digital:

Content + Distribution = Success.

If you own the content and you own the distribution channel and platform then you’ve made it.  This is why so many movie studios are owned by bigger conglomerates. It’s why Sony launched the PlayStation and bought Columbia Pictures.

Samsung in the past few years have stepped up incredibly. They understand how to position their products. They understand what consumers want and they understand the power of their own brand. Samsung & Jay-Z also build their own brand equity by working together. Two cool brands melding into one super-brand. Very smart.

Short sighted decisions aside, digital is here to stay and as the digital future comes closer I bet we’re gonna see a lot more of this. A lot more!

Are you gonna get Jay-Z’s new album on your Samsung device? Is this the way music should be released?

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