What the Jay-Z & Samsung deal means for the future of artists and artist apps

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On July 4th, one million lucky fans were chosen to receive hip-hop legend Jay-Z’s newest album Magna Carta…Holy Grail before anyone else thanks to a partnership between tech giant Samsung and the rapper himself. Those with Galaxy S4, SIII, and Note II devices who downloaded the free Magna Carta app, available in Google Play weeks before the album release, were eligible. The app, specifically developed for this event, also included behind-the-scenes footage, lyrics, and social sharing to engage users before and after the release.

With the rise of digital and mobile, the music industry is no longer what it used to be; power has shifted from the music labels to the artists and even consumers. Nowadays, artists have more say in how they market themselves, and consumers have more power in choosing what music to listen to and buy. What better way to connect with consumers than on their smartphones, an integral part of daily life?

And while the Magna Carta app wasn’t without flaws, it did in a way revolutionize how artists can incorporate mobile in their album releases. The Magna Carta app generated a lot of buzz for Samsung and Jay-Z before, during, and after the album launch from both the tech and music communities. In addition to offering a full-length album for free days before the official launch, the app also gave fans exclusive content. It was innovative, original, and definitely something that had not been done before by an artist or tech company.

Mobile apps can be effective vehicles for artists during album launches; however, it’s important to 1) Offer exclusives that can’t be found elsewhere like offering free music to users days before the public has access to it; 2) Update consistently with engaging content. Content is extremely important, and can determine whether or not an artist app is worth keeping on one’s phone even after the album launch; and 3) Interact with your users. Apps give artists unique ways to interact with fans through push notifications and location-based marketing among others. To ignore these would be a huge opportunity lost.

While artist apps are exciting and can play an important part in an album launch for various reasons including buzz, immediacy, and accessibility, they can also generate revenue for the artist. In Jay-Z’s case, Samsung purchased 1 million copies of his new album at 5 dollars each. For Samsung, being associated with Jay-Z and his novel album release could have long-term benefits. Furthermore, the free publicity generated for both Jay-Z and Samsung would have cost millions in advertising dollars if Jay-Z took a more traditional route of an album launch. Artists can also generate revenue through in-app purchases including music, merchandise, and other exclusives.

As a leader in the music scene, Jay-Z has set the stage for other artists to be innovative when it comes to merging technology and music. Mobile apps are the perfect medium for artists to promote their music, engage with their fans, and generate revenue. The opportunities in mobile for music artists are endless.

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