Archive for the ‘Jay-Z’ tag

Jay-Z, Samsung and the Art of Commerce

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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

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Confessions of a Justin Timberlake Fanatic: Where Did All the Sexy Go?

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Yes, the rumors are true. I am a devout worshipper and long-lost admirer of the man who cried an entire river and still managed to make it look sexy. That’s right, I’m a Justin Timberlake groupie and I have the N*SYNC bobble head circa 2002 to prove it.

After 10+ years of blatant rejection, I made the executive decision to kick my JT habit and move forward with my life. Luckily, I wasn’t distracted by concert dates and song releases…because he kind of fell off the face of the planet for a while. Some will argue against the previous statement, claiming that his random appearances in mediocre films and SNL parodies (which I must admit, are all hilarious) kept his head above water in the proverbial sea of popular culture, but I tend to disagree.

Let us assume, for argument’s sake, that JT fans considered him MIA since the release of his last album, FutureSex/LoveSounds. And let’s also assume that, as loyal fans, our expectations were set especially high when news of his musical comeback hit the Twitterverse. We were ready to welcome back the too sexy for music love affair that had boyfriends and husbands eye-rolling all over the place.  Little did we know, the most anticipated song release of 2013 (I realize that we’re only a month in, but what else could top this?) seems to have fallen from the pedestal of sexy and wound up in a pile of corny.

That’s the thing about expectations—we’re not convinced they’ll fall short until they do. It kind of reminded me of the scene in 500 Days of Summer, when the split-screen effect separates Tom’s expectations from his reality. We all know what’s coming, even Tom knows what’s coming, but he refuses to believe otherwise because of his high expectations. It’s what all JT fans are guilty of. We were expecting soulful crooning paired with a Lovestoned-esque beat, but all we got was a post-wedding ode to the new and improved Jessica Biel Timberlake (I’m still adjusting).

Don’t get me wrong, the Tom Ford suit and Jay-Z collaboration work extremely well alongside that notorious falsetto of his, but something seemed to be missing. Was it a sheer lack of sexy, or do we all just like him better as the nomadic, always-available bachelor? Does Suit & Tie represent a new stage both in his career and love life, or will the old JT resurface after all? The only way to know for sure is to listen to the entire album, The 20/20 Experience, which will hit the airwaves later this year.

Justin Timberlake answered our schoolgirl prayers and returned to music; the least we can do is give him the benefit of the doubt. That, and forgive him for his recent nuptials.

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The Anatomy of Fandom: Jocking Jay-Z

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Hi, I'm Jay. I have a bridge to sell you.

“We will turn Knicks fans into Nets fans. It’s part of success.”

Those were the words of the Nets Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov at an introductory press conference back in 2010 (via NYDailyNews).  His first real foray into the American spotlight, Prokhorov already began laying the groundwork for a marketing campaign to steal NY’s basketball heart, regardless of what happened on the court.

Stationed just across the river from the ‘Mecca’, the Brooklyn Nets will attempt to maintain their existing fanbase in NJ (all 3 of them) while simultaneously trying to make you forget they were ever there.  What will likely be a case study in strategic and persuasive marketing, the Nets have a few things on their side.

First up is the state of the Knicks organization.  Fresh off a first round flame-out, ongoing issues with Amare Stoudemire and letting Jeremy Lin head to Houston, Knicks fans are far from content with James Dolan & co.  If Linsanity is in full swing in Houston while the Knicks are floundering, the allure of an alternate option may begin to gather steam.

Second: $$$.  Having an owner with endless pockets can’t hurt, as shown in the offseason acquisition of Joe Johnson and efforts to pursue and land Dwight Howard (albeit unsuccessfully).  Off the court, these funds allow Prokhorov and team to put the Nets front and center in NYC, as they they did in 2010 with their ‘blueprint for success’ billboard near Madison Square Garden.

Finally at the core of this campaign sits Jay-Z, whose standard introduction now takes about 30 seconds to complete – rap legend, fashion entrepreneur, producer, club owner, NBA owner, Blue Ivy daddy, etc.  The main source of the Nets ‘cool factor’, Jay brought instant street cred. and status to a brand that had been relegated to…well…Newark.  It was a no-brainer for Prokhorov to put Jay at the forefront of the new brand image, from his aforementioned, pun-filled ‘blueprint’ billboard to crediting him with the design of the Nets new logo.  The latter which is a simple, black and white visual evokes memories of when N.W.A. made the LA (don’t call us Oakland) Raiders cool.  (Side note: check out the hilarious, albeit short-lived “Logos By Jay-Z” tumblr site to laugh at HOV’s design prowess)

The Nets efforts mark an almost unprecedented marketing strategy for a professional sports team; rebuild the brand around an iconic owner, while almost seemingly distancing themselves from promoting the actual product.  In late September, the Nets will open the the Barclays Center (their multi-billion dollar home arena) not to a basketball-based celebration of the team’s stars, but instead to an 8-night back-to-back-to-back-to-back (you get the picture) concert series by their part owner.

The Nets have based their strategy on capturing and harnessing the romanticism of Brooklyn (from the Dodgers to Biggie) and combining it with Jay-Z’s superstar status.  The seemingly unfounded element in Prokhorov’s declaration to steal Knicks fans is that ultimately, no wants to align themselves with a losing franchise.  Basketball fans will wonder whether Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are enough to tilt the scale of basketball fandom in NYC, while the Nets Front Office will continue to  say ‘but look at all the pretty lights!’

At the end of the day, being labeled a bandwagon jumper is the scarlet letter of fandom – a black mark on one’s track record that diminishes all future celebrations in the eyes of your peers.  Just ask the Knicks flagship fan Spike Lee, who recently declared that he would not become a Nets fan despite growing up in  Brooklyn.  While you may see a few more New Yorker’s rocking the black/white of Jay’s new brand, it’s a leap of faith to assume that the masses will leave their lifetime’s worth of memories at MSG behind.

If you believe that, there’s a bridge to BK I’d like to sell you…

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Written by Stephanie Rudnick
Stephanie Rudnick

August 22nd, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Dura What? Dura Who?

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Product integration is nothing new. For years, we’ve seen it in movies, television and of course, music videos. As integration has gotten more creative in recent years, there has been a fair share of criticism, praise and even satirical TV episodes about product integration sponsored by the brand they are satirizing. But I don’t recall a time when I’ve seen product integration in… a commercial?

Jay-Z has just become the (invested) face of Duracell’s new Powermat, designed to keep your smartphone charged at all times. “Never Be Powerless,” say the ads, which I’ve seen all over town on bus stops and subway cars. However, they just released a YouTube commercial, which has attracted a lot of attention in recent days (I saw it when a friend posted it on Facebook). The ad features a young professional guy living his ‘crazy busy life in NYC’ surrounded by people with phones on the brink of death. He finally finds himself at a club charging his phone with attractive friends and accidentally picks up Jay’s phone when B(eyoncé) is calling. Classic mix-up/”Never Be Powerless”/end scene.

But let’s take a look deeper into this production. The commercial for Jay-Z’s battery charging system features Jay-Z’s song “Run This Town” while a club scene happens at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club and bartenders are serving bottles of Jay-Z’s (unofficial but official) champagne Armand de Brignac and then all of a sudden Jay-Z shows up? Holy crap… Did I miss anything?

Fortunately for the brand, most people probably aren’t as obsessed with Jay-Z as I… er… some of us and therefore won’t notice some of these minor details. But what an incredible brand Jay-Z has become, that he can seamlessly integrate five of his brands (including himself) into one commercial and it still doesn’t cover his basketball team, his beer, his car, his shoes

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Written by Peter McCutcheon
Peter McCutcheon

July 26th, 2012 at 10:04 pm

“NY-Z” – An ABSOLUT Collaboration with Jay-Z

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Written by Admin

April 14th, 2010 at 6:03 pm