Samsung's recent Jay-Z deal, or, what I like to call, "The new rules deal," isn't about advertising Galaxy devices and it’s not about selling albums. It’s about depicting "the album" as something that goes onto a smartphone—something that is like an accessory to your phone, a charm on a new kind of charm bracelet.
Paying $5 million for a million copies of the new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, is Samsung's way of trying to bolster a cultural shift already in progress. First it was music and film, then television, and more recently video games. But now software and apps are the new media everyone obsesses over. The old media companies are hoping they can ride that wave by packaging their artists’ work like software—you know, like something you’d find preloaded on your Android phone with a hundred other random apps.
The album, set to release July 4th to owners of a Galaxy device (S4, S3, and Note II), will be made available through an Android app. In music’s recent past, it was always software that was the secondary feature. You’d have to insert a CD into their computer and browse to the file folder to see if there was any collateral media; sometimes you’d get lucky and find a few videos. The new world, however, now requires an app install first and foremost before moving on to the music.
The music industry and artists themselves have already dabbled in making albums into literal apps, which has only proved to be a complete waste of time. Even those apps that exist for the sole purpose of supplementing musical albums haven’t gone very far. Ever since Apple’s open letter against DRM, music consumers have demanded a move towards less lock-in, not more. Apps serving as albums isn’t the future we’re moving towards, yet apps will still be apart of the music industry going forward.
What Samsung did was to use the appeal of Jay-Z’s music and combine it with a mobile app store, rather than a traditional music retailer. Using Google’s Play app store, Samsung played into a huge audience of engaged consumers and didn’t have to find a digital music store that wasn’t iTunes. Will this be the trend to get users downloading a company’s app, pepper it with free music? At this point anything is on the table, but once there’s a massive deal like this, there’s sure to be a lot of copycats.
[Image: Flickr user Adam Glanzman]