No One Cares About Jay-Z's New Music
Ever since the announcement of his game-changing arrangement with Samsung Electronics, most of the conversation about Jay-Z's forthcoming studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail has revolved around the nature of the deal, not the coming music. Even as the project (out officially tomorrow) is being rolled out via in-studio video clips and scavenger hunts and lyric sheets, the focus remains on the logistics of the album, its delivery and its meaning for the music business.
It's no wonder. Almost immediately, the Wall Street Journal reported that Samsung paid $5 a piece for one million copies of the album, to be given away free to owners of select Samsung devices. Granted, Samsung, which is worth over $200 billion (with a net cash position of $28.5 billion), essentially has enough money to buy the entire Vatican a couple of times over, so $5 million to them is probably like thirty bucks to the rest of us. Yet how many of us would pay thirty bucks for a Jay-Z album in 2013?
But Samsung didn't just pay for the album; they paid for a seat at the cool table. And considering that the company's Chairman Lee Kun-Hee is the richest man in South Korea --with a personal net worth of $12.6 billion--it's like, fuck it, yo. Samsung is estimated to spend some $20 billion dollars a year on advertising, marketing and promotion and is seen as the most viable hardware challenger to Apple's dominance of the smartphone market. It appears they got Jay-Z on the cheap.
It's all heavy-handed, top-down maneuvering of the sort that could only be pulled off by a handful of artists and companies in the world. (By contrast, Drake, in an effort to remain part of a discussion that has become all about Yeezus and Magna Carta Holy Grail, released four songs in one day and no one cared.)
It's almost a forgone conclusion that this deal is a loss-leader for Samsung--unless the Jay-Z association somehow translates into $5 million worth of smartphone and tablet sales, which would be pure magic. Jay-Z may be one of the most well-known living musicians on the planet, but his last two albums, The Blueprint 3 and Watch The Throne combined didn't sell one million copies in their respective first weeks. And, as he noted in a tweet (which did not come from an iPhone) this won't either.
See, not only is Billboard not counting these "sales" towards chart position, the app, despite being free, has been downloaded by less than 500,000 users so far. Still, the sound you hear right now is Jay-Z not giving a single fuck. His next album, Nicene Creed Immaculate Conception will probably come via a pair of Beats by Jay headphones and feature a tossed off aside about how he not only rules the Billboard charts, he changes them.