He really is more than a businessman.
Jay-Z's partnership with Samsung for his new album, "Magna Carta Holy Grail," is another sign of how musicians are finding new ways to push, sell and promote their music, and how the multiplatinum performer — who famously rapped "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man" — continues to leverage his enduring popularity into a successful brand.
Jay-Z will give his new album to 1 million users of Galaxy mobile phones on July 4, three days before the album's official release date. The 43-year-old broke the news about his twelfth album in a three-minute commercial during the NBA Finals.
Details about the Samsung-Jay-Z deal, announced Sunday, weren't disclosed and both parties did not grant interviews.
But Jay-Z's partnership is just another way artists are promoting their music at a time when album sales are low and the digital market has taken the lead in the music industry.
Jim Donio, president of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), said top level acts like Jay-Z and Taylor Swift have the power to launch new albums in spectacular ways with various partners.
"For an artist whose album release is an event in itself ... they carry with them a much wider profile in the marketplace that they speak to, so their audience and all the things that they do affords these unique opportunities," he said.
In 2011, Lady Gaga sold 440,000 copies of her "Born This Way" album on Amazon for just 99 cents when it was on sale for two days, helping the album sell 1.1 million in its debut week. Others have also used that trend to sell albums, though not in its debut week: Last year, Phil Collins' greatest hits jumped into the Top 10 at No. 6 — its peak — when it was sold for 99 cents for a day. And Bruno Mars' "Doo-Wop & Hooligans" and Demi Lovato's "Unbroken" both jumped about 100 spots on the Billboard chart when they were on sale for 99 cents months after they were released.
Taylor Swift, one of the top sellers in music, had her second platinum-debut week with "Red" last year. Her partnerships for the album included Target, Walgreens and Papa John's (you could order a pizza and a Swift album at the same time).
"Even if you didn't purchase the CD, her face was still on the pizza box," Donio said.
And Prince released his "20Ten" album in 2010 via the Daily Mirror newspaper in United Kingdom.
Jay-Z's new partnership is one of his many business deals. His Roc Nation agency, which manages Rihanna, Shakira and other musicians, recently expanded into the sports world, and he now is helping the careers of New York Yankee Robinson Cano, New York Jets rookie Geno Smith and others. Jay-Z has launched fashion lines, has a string of 40/40 nightclubs, was also the president of Def Jam and owned part of 1 percent of the Brooklyn Nets.
He's still a consistent hit maker and a superstar who transcends music — which is why Samsung likely partnered with him on his new album. Samsung has chipped away at Apple's share of the mobile market with its Galaxy phones, and companies are relying more on music to lure new customers (Apple last week announced it will debut iTunes Radio, its streaming music service, in the fall).
One of the many questions about the Samsung deal still unanswered: Will the 1 million downloads count toward first-week sales of the album, giving it elite status of debuting with platinum sales, an accomplishment few artists have achieved? Billboard, which tracks album sales and chart information for the industry, did not return emails seeking comment. Samsung reportedly purchased the albums though it's unclear what the price-point was.
Jay-Z made it clear Monday what he felt the trade publication should do.
"If 1 Million records gets SOLD and billboard doesn't report it, did it happen? Ha," Jay-Z tweeted, adding: "Platinum!!!"
Donio said he thinks more deals like Samsung-Jay-Z are on the horizon.
"The record labels that are putting out the music and partnering with a variety of types of commerce outlets are going to look at just anything and everything that may work with that particular artist and that particular album release," he said.
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