We've focused quite a bit of time on the Sage Audio mastering blog writing about marketing tactics independent artists can use to get their music heard by a more widespread audience. The subject has become increasingly more interesting in the past decade or so as the internet becomes more important in not only the marketing of independent music artists, but also the world of marketing and advertising in general.
That said, as one of the biggest artists in the world, Jay-Z may be the exact opposite of an independent artist. But the marketing strategy for his upcoming album, Magna Carta Holy Grail , is worth taking a look at by anyone in the music industry for its novel approach to not only marketing, but also album sales.
For instance, Jay has guaranteed himself one million sales in the first week of the album’s release , something that has never been done before. To do this, he partnered with Samsung, which has offered one million of its customers the opportunity to download an interactive Jay-Z mobile app that will allow them to download a free copy of the album before it is officially released.
It should be mentioned that news of this partnership -- and news of the album itself -- comes within a month of the album’s release date. Like his Watch the Throne partner Kanye West, Jay-Z is announcing the album near the actual release date to help combat leaking.
The album was initially announced during halftime at this year’s NBA Finals, and the following day Jay-Z tweeted a question many in the music industry had been asking.
"If 1 Million records gets SOLD and billboard doesn’t report it, did it happen? Ha. #newrules #magnacartaholygrail Platinum!!! VII IV XIII," he wrote.
It turns out Billboard will not count the one million album sales. The editorial director of the magazine, Bill Werde, said that "in the context of this promotion, nothing is actually for sale." He went on to say that the "ever-visionary Jay Z pulled the nifty coup of getting paid as if he had a platinum album before one fan bought a single copy."
Of course, the number of sales doesn’t really matter. The album will debut in the number one spot on Billboard anyway, and the more important point is that artists are moving albums with no traditional distribution involved at all.
The Samsung-Jay-Z partnership is being much hyped in the music industry, almost like the Radiohead “pay-what-you-want” release of In Rainbows back in 2007. After all, the Jay-Z/Samsung partnership is estimated to be worth around $30 million.
But like Radiohead’s strategy, it is not likely that anything in the industry will change overnight. However, more important is the indication of change. If the partnership proves to be a successful business move, it will get other artists -- on a large and small scale -- thinking about other ways to promote and sell their albums. And perhaps actual sales of the album will become less of a focus.
On another note, how good of an idea tying albums and artists more closely with corporate sponsors will be left up to each artist.