The Heart Of The Deal: Why Jay Z Really Hooked Up With Samsung

What do you do when you’re the king of a dying industry? Start making deals.

The Heart Of The Deal: Why Jay Z Really Hooked Up With Samsung

“The soul of a hustler, I really ran the streets / A CEO’s mind, that marketing plan was me.”


So quipped Sean Carter, better known as Jay Z, on “What More Can I Say,” a standout among standout tracks on his would-have-been retirement record better known as the Black Album, released back in 2003.

Ten years–and four albums, so much for that retirement–later, the self-proclaimed best rapper alive has changed the nature of the game again. His newest, the lean-luxe Magna Carta Holy Grail was announced and released in the most unconventional–and lucrative–of fashions.

As in, the album was announced as a viral video. One that now has 24 million views.

Then, as Co.Create‘s Joe Berkowitz pointed out, the album flew to the top of the charts. Why? Samsung bought a million copies of the album for their phone owners.

This caused a lot of collective consternation within the internets. But as Mr. Carter explains to Elliott Wilson, it was a matter of adapting to a dwindling industry.

“First of all, we’re in a dying business, everybody sees that,” he says. “So what am I supposed to do, just sit here and wait to gets to zero before I do something?”


So what Jay did was what executives do. In the same way that UPS grew a logistics consulting service out of the expertise it developed in delivering packages and thus garnered a new source of revenue, Jay made a deal with Samsung to leverage the tremendous platform that he’s accrued as an artist.

He continues:

I’m like, let’s figure out how to bring new revenue streams into the business. So I went out on my own and I made a deal …

To me, if you’re not with the changing times, you’re irrelevant to me, we’re gonna move on. We’re not trying to trick the system, I wasn’t looking for a number one album.

This is the nature of the entrepreneurial artist: You gotta find new ways to find revenue with the name that you’ve cultivated.

And so: Jay’s got 99 problems. Finding new revenue streams ain’t one.

[Jay Z: Landmarkmedia via Shutterstock]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.