Archive for the ‘DIIV’ tag

Jay-Z, Samsung and the Art of Commerce

without comments

jay-z-GO-HOME-TEEPhoto credit: TheSource.com

It used to be that there was no greater crime for an artist than to associate with a brand. It used to be called “selling out.”

But recently that’s changed. Now the high visibility of musicians in popular culture have mixed art and the cult of luxury. Hip-hop, that uniquely American sound of poetry and upward mobility, is a great example of this cultural phenomenon. And if any artist’s career mirrors the co-mingling of music and money, it’s Jay-Z, the artist formerly of the Marcy Projects and now of the 1.2 million Samsung Galaxy app downloads.

In a deal rumored at around $20 million, Samsung bought a million digital copies of Jay-Z’s latest album Magna Carta Holy Grail and made it available five days early to Samsung Galaxy owners through a unique app. Though there have been complaints from various news outlets, including the New York Times, that the app is a front for an elaborate data-mining operation for Samsung, the move earned Jay-Z a million-plus-selling album with less than three weeks of marketing behind it. In an era of intense struggling for record companies, the Samsung/Jay-Z alliance stands out as an unequivocal success.

Surprisingly, what has not been a major topic of discussion is the association with Samsung. And this is mainly to do with the power balance that has shifted in favor of musical artists in the past 40 years. Through the Internet, musical artists have been able to find their audiences without the extensive web of middlemen, resources and contracts that come with recording companies, allowing them a direct line of access to their fans and larger profit margins. This is common for both small and large artists now – Jay-Z left Roc-A-Fella, the label he started under Def Jam, years ago when it became too constricting. He now operates without a traditional label, and is able to pick and choose the partnerships that will give him the most creative freedom while remaining extremely lucrative. Major corporations, such as Samsung or Live Nation (another entertainment conglomerate that holds a multimillion-dollar contract with Jay-Z), are willing to invest in an artist that has a big following, all in the hope of a big payoff.

For smaller brands and artists, the main benefit is an increase in brand equity. An example is the partnership between fashion label Saint Laurent (formerly Yves Saint Laurent) and Zachary Cole Smith, the frontman of the band DIIV (pronounced “dive”). The luxury fashion house is luxury but in need of a fresh update, as evidenced by its new creative director, the young and arty Hedi Slimane. Slimane’s selection of Smith, whose shoe-gaze revivalist band’s debut album has sold barely 50,000 copies, is a clear indicator of the future of the brand: young, fresh, art-rock. By partnering, Saint Laurents gets endorsement from a highly respected niche artist, and Smith gets exposure and elevation from a top French fashion label.

So it looks like these kinds of unconventional partnerships are anything but – rather than unconventional they are becoming the norm. Very few artists will elect to go it alone, since there’s no such thing anymore of “selling out.”

Written by: Caitlin Buggy

Share Button