TLAL Perspective: Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail

Editor’s Note: Here at Think Like a, we like to explore all facets of the music industry. Jay Z is personally one of my favorite artists of all time. I remember when “Reasonable Doubt” was released in 1996 after the tragedies of Biggie Smalls and Tupac, Jay Z emerged as a breath of fresh air, giving practical instructions on how to survive the hip hop game and life in general. These days, Jay is a walking, talking multi million dollar industry. He’s an admirable business mind and is now tackling the DIY – new media disconnect the major label music industry ihas been dispairing over for the better of five years now. Our staff writer, Christine Infanger explores Jay Z ‘s business exploits and the ingenious business model that is built into the release of his new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail. -je

As the music industry continues to evolve into an unknown abyss of multimedia amalgamation, artists have had to become increasingly savvy creative thinkers. Never one to shy away from innovation, consummate businessman, Jay-Z, took the music and business worlds by storm two weeks ago when he announced his partnership with electronics giant Samsung.

While an artist and a tech company partnering up was certainly nothing new, the details of their pairing left managers, Billboard, Soundscan, and everyone else in the industry wondering what exactly the terms of their deal would mean for the future of the music industry and music releases in general.

Samsung bought one million copies of Jay-Z’s album Magna Carta Holy Grail which it was going to give away exclusively to the first one million Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy S 4, and Galaxy Note II users to register for an app designed to deliver the music to the devices. The app delivered the release to Samsung users on July 4, while the album’s official release date was July 7.

Samsung paid $5 for the each copy of the album in a deal estimated to be worth a total of $30 million.


So why was this a big deal and what does it mean moving forward? As was the case with the oft referred to Radiohead release In Rainbows, which allowed fans to pay any amount they chose for the record, including nothing at all, the importance of the Jay-Z release in the long run may end being that of example. Setting precedent and forcing artists, their teams, and those in related businesses to think big and seek alternative means of building their business and their brand may prove more important overall than the actual specifics of the Samsung deal.

Jay-Z’s proverbial tweet read ‘round the world which said: “If 1 Million records gets SOLD and billboard doesnt report it, did it happen/ Ha. #newrules #magnacartaholygrail Platinum!!!! VIII IV XIII,” raised many an interesting point. Would the one million copies of the record purchased by Samsung count toward platinum status? New rules, indeed!

In the June 29 issue of Billboard magazine, which ran a feature titled ‘Jay-Z’s New Blueprint,’ also ran a letter from Bill Werde, Billboard’s Editorial Director, explaining the decision that had been reached regarding such releases moving forward.
It has been determined by Billboard that the one million presold copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail will not count toward chart position because they were sold prior to their release date (you’ll recall the Samsung app delivered the album to users on July 4, before its July 7 release date).

An artist of Jay-Z’s magnitude is going to have a multiplatinum release, that’s essentially guaranteed at this stage of his career. With this particular release, however, it’s almost an aside. The most important part of the Magna Carta Holy Grail release is what it shows us; that even artists at the highest levels of success are continuing to think of what’s next. While partnerships such as that forged between Samsung and Jay-Z are not likely to be offered to an unknown artist, they can still innovate in their own way.

The lesson to be learned by everyone, industry wide, is that everyone must be open to new ideas and new partnerships. The evolution of the music industry has forced artists to become more entrepreneurial and, while it may not be entirely romantic, artists such as Jay-Z continue to prove that you can be in control of your business and still maintain integrity as an artist.

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  • So, I think Jay Z doesn’t give a RAT’s ASS about what the industry thinks. He just banked 1 million albums sold without the industry taking one cent from his pockets.

    For Billboard to say those million albums didn’t count as sales just shows how the industry is totally ass backwards with their thinking. Big record companies are not going away, they are just going to become the big “bankers” of the industry. They are only going to push a few acts to stardom so they reap the profits.

    If you want great customer service, don’t go to the big banks, go to a credit union or community bank.
    If you want to hear the up and coming bands and musical talent, don’t expect to find it at the top with the big record companies. Find it online, at the small venues, on Youtube, on the music blogs.
    The dream of being a big star and achieving that dream is alive! There’s so many outlets for getting your art to the masses. Find the outlet that works for you and forge ahead – don’t get trapped by the dream that some record A&R guy is going to pick you out of obscurity and make you a star!
    Make yourself a star!

  • Herschel~ I agree with you on one point; counted or not, Jay Z got paid and created a huge buzz while doing it. I do see Billboard’s perspective, as well as the need to find some solution for the increasing popularity of deals such as this. I wonder if, at some point, a chart for artist/sponsor collaborations will exist?

    I love your point; “There’s so many outlets for getting your art to the masses. Find the
    outlet that works for you and forge ahead – don’t get trapped by the
    dream that some record A&R guy is going to pick you out of obscurity
    and make you a star!” and agree fully, though I think there are talented, mediocre, and downright awful artists on majors, indies, and those are entirely without a label. The best part is the increasing avenues for artists to be heard and make careers, or at least well paying hobbies, for themselves. Thanks so much for reading!

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