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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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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August 22nd, 2012 at 2:48 pm

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

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April 14th, 2010 at 6:03 pm