By now, you’ve already heard that Jay Z’s groundbreaking deal with Samsung (in which the company purchased one million copies of “Magna Carta Holy Grail” in advance of its release) is poised to revolutionize the music industry – or to at least start the conversation. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has already adopted “new rules” for calculating album sales. And although Billboard declined to include the Samsung downloads in its sales figures, the magazine’s creative editorial director, Bill Werde, admits that they will re-visit the issue: “In the coming weeks, we’ll talk through highly nuanced questions about our album charts…These discussions may well lead to some changes to our charting rules — or they may not.”
While the Samsung deal is undeniably making waves within the industry, some wondered if it would help or hurt MCHG’s consumer sales. Billboard silenced any doubts this week, however, reporting a whopping 527,000 in first week album sales. This means that even without the benefit of the Samsung downloads, and in spite of enumerable leaks as a result of those downloads, MCHG has easily topped the Billboard 200. MCHG is Jay-Z’s first solo number one album in the U.K., and it also set a Spotify record when songs from the album were streamed over 14 million times last week.
To quote the man himself: “Men lie, women lie/numbers don’t.” And in an era where albums sales have suffered a major decline, MCHG is a bona fide smash.
How did Hov do it? Well, many are crediting his innovative marketing techniques. The mini-films released in conjunction with the album’s promotion were inspirational, intimate, and indelible. There was also a Twitter session last week, an unprecedented social media move for Hov, which allowed fans to engage him directly. And his six-hour performance of “Picasso Baby” at Pace Gallery in New York certainly had tongues wagging.
Music fans can tell you why The Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” or even Jay Z’s “Reasonable Doubt” are such monumental albums, but no one remembers their marketing campaigns. But nowadays, those campaigns contribute to both the exposure and the bottom line sales of an album. USA Today even proposes the marketing of MCHG is actually better than the album.
Billboard, which refuses to count the Samsung downloads in its calculation, estimates “Magna Carta Holy Grail” will…land at the top of their charts.” That proved true; MCHG is Jay Z’s record-breaking 13th number one album. No solo artist has ever had more. Six more and he matches The Beatles. #Factsonly
Ironically, in an interview last week, Jay Z described certain aspects of the Samsung arrangement to be “a loss” for MCHG – specifically, issues with the Samsung app which prevented some fans from successfully downloading the album. “The people that waited and downloaded it you want them to have that experience right away. That was the thing that was disheartening to me,” he said.
Jay Z’s statements were made prior to the news of MCHG’s robust sales figures. Still, there’s something refreshing about a self-proclaimed “business man” who is passionate about the quality of the fan experience and not just the bottom line. Which is part of what marketing is meant to do — speak to the customer and their experience of the product and/or brand while also driving sales. Despite myriad professional achievements, Hov continues to approach his work with the same relentless tenacity that catapulted him from obscurity, to his indisputable status now as a music heavyweight and mogul extraordinaire. From both a business and life perspective, there is a tremendous lesson for all of us in that.
Karen J. Francis is a freelance writer and media attorney living in New York City. Please follow her on Twitter @karebelle.