It’s funny to see how often good ideas in theory just don’t translate into reality. People tend to often overlook and under think the reality of the marketplace and the entirety of how things will play out as a whole. This is true in both everyday life for individuals as well as for huge brands and artists.
Jay-Z and Samsung’s #newrules / Magna Carta Holy Grail project is an example of a great idea in theory, not reality. If you didn’t hear, Samsung pre-purchased 1 million copies of MCHG to give away exclusively on its Galaxy & Note phone line three days before the album officially released anywhere else and developed a brilliant campaign around the project. The project was a smash from a PR perspective, but when midnight struck on July 4th, the day of release, became an epic fail from the perspective of Samsung users having the project exclusively and three days early. Lets explore why.
First, the project was bound to fail from the start. Audio is not hard to copy and will NEVER be exclusive to any device, and all it took was someone with a Samsung phone to download the music into the app, record back into any recording program from the headphone jack, and upload as MP3’s (lets not even talk the emulator apps or hackers who found the source files…). On the internet, the album was available as a download on thousands of sites. No one truly needed to have a Samsung phone to hear it a few minutes after midnight, so the gimmick of it “only being available on Samsung” is instantly thrown out the window (and will never work for anyone or any brand/artist/genre… its not the way of the internet, and the public knows this).
Second, Samsung wasn’t ready for the demand. I put the odds at 80% on the Samsung MCHG app crashing within seconds of midnight (after going back from the 95% i really wanted to put), and sure enough, come midnight, all users saw was a white screen with the MCHG image- no music. Samsung even went on a twitter campaign saying they broke the internet and responding to users individually saying it would be available soon. Samsung was in no way, shape, or form prepared from a server perspective and underestimated the amount of people who would try to download the project right at midnight. I’ve been through this issue before in the past with mixtapes I’ve done crashing servers instantly due to high demand and large file download size, but have figured ways around it to make it work and haven’t had that issue in years. Now, Samsung, one of the biggest companies in the world, has much more resources, engineers, brains, and more importantly money behind it than me, and should have been prepared especially with a project of this level. Samsung phone owners (myself included) were pissed, and rightfully so as many people on the iPhone actually heard before Samsung users.
Third off, us DJ’s played it first! Our SKEE 24/7 Radio iPhone app streams our live (and on demand) radio station that was playing the album at midnight (as several other stations across the country did as well), giving us the exclusive when Samsung couldn’t even deliver to its users! While it worked out good for us (even after we faced a couple quick minutes of server downtime due to insane demand thanks to Samsung messing up and users not having a place to hear), I can’t imagine this is what Samsung envisioned on how people would hear the album first. A bunch of music blogs (and nearly half of twitter it seemed) started linking to us and other stations to hear the album as it wasn’t available on Samsung phones yet, and since our SKEE Android app isn’t out in the Google Play store for a couple more weeks, it was ironically an iPhone exclusive essentially… not exactly great for Samsung.
Now, did Samsung and Jay-Z really lose? Absolutely not. From a marketing perspective, both brands come out looking like pioneers and received millions of dollars in press the past few weeks alone from the announcement.
For Samsung, they ultimately probably didn’t care that about this issue and were happy with the marketing value and brand building they received from the hype of the project (far more than what they paid for the albums).
For Jay, he already sold a guaranteed million instantly at midnight on the charts regardless of if people could actually get it or not. This is more than he’s ever sold in any week before, so I’m sure he doesn’t really care about the download issues as he essentially used this opportunity to get another check, sell a million records, spread the Jay Hova gospel and brand, while also being looked at as a pioneer in the new music and content business, and ultimately just wants people to hear the music no matter where its from (remember this is a one off deal for him, Samsung isn’t his brand).
While it may have ultimately worked out on this go around for both brands thanks to the press, chatter, brand building, and marketing around the project itself, the next time something like this happens, people will look at it like it has already been done, thus eliminating the oh wow factor. That means a project like this may not be special anymore. If you strip this down to the core of delivering music exclusively without the hype, it actually has no real value then since nothing will be exclusive in a scenario like this (thats why what Kanye did with the projections only at physical locations actually was more revolutionary when you think about it as it never leaked other than bad quality cell phone video).
Moral of the story? Brands and artists can try to make the new rules, but the market will always create the NEW, new rules. You can create mass hysteria with one off cool ideas and live off the hype from them individually (and only a few artists actually have the power to do this), but everyone needs to think the reality of the world we live in from every angle if you truly want to create the new rules. Nonetheless, it is refreshing to see new ideas being tried in the music business and kudos to Jay-Z & Samsung for winning without even playing the game (and MCHG is a good album).