Jay Z

Hip-Hop’s “Holy Grail”: Certified Platinum Status

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Jay-Z’s surprise announcement of his new album has been coupled with a possibly revolutionary deal. Could it be the way forward for music sales?

Yesterday saw Jay-Z make the surprise announcement of his new album “Magna Carta Holy Grail” during half time of game 5 of the NBA Finals between Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. This was no ordinary announcement. It was made via a 3 minute advertisement featuring Hov in the studio with Rick Rubin, Swizz Beatz, Pharrell Williams and Timbaland, all working on the upcoming album. The release date of July 4th and the fact it was announced at the NBA Finals would usually be the big talking points of the news. However, the biggest surprise of the announcement is the fact that Jay-Z has struck a rather interesting deal with electronics giant Samsung.

The South Korean firm have bought 1 million copies of “Magna Carta Holy Grail” and on a “first come, first served basis”, the first million Samsung Galaxy SIII and S4 users to download the custom-made app will get the album for free. This move sees Jigga to be guaranteed to hit the elusive platinum status that Hip-Hop artists are struggling to reach these days.

The Rise Of The Internet And The Decline In Record Sales

As most people are aware of by now, record sales are down in not only Hip-Hop, but across the board in the music industry. Hip-Hop album sales seem to be more important to the fans and media than any other genre of music. It could most likely be the sporting aspect of Hip-Hop which has been the life blood of the genre since it’s inception with MCs and DJs battling their peers throughout it’s almost-40 years of existence. The most notable example of an album sales war is the 2007 battle between Kanye West and 50 Cent.

The most note-worthy US platinum hit in Hip-Hop is OutKast’s 2003 double-disc release “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”. It has been certified platinum eleven times. Looking at today’s landscape, those numbers are unthinkable. As the access to file-sharing and the dominance of YouTube continues to grow, in correlation, album sales have steadily declined. Since 2007’s album sales battle between 50 Cent and Kanye West, only nine Hip-Hop acts have reached the “Holy Grail” that is certified platinum status from the RIAA. Those artists in question are: Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem, Young Jeezy, T.I. and Timbaland. Here is a breakdown of all the albums from the artists in-question which have reached platinum since 2007:

2007 platinum table jay-z

In 2012, the only artists to hit platinum are YMCMB duo Drake and Nicki Minaj. Both are crossover artists. Drake with his singing R&B style and Nicki Minaj with her “Starships” House music style.

The most successful artist in the above platinum club chart is Kanye West, who has his latest album “Yeezus” dropping tomorrow. The predictions are indicating that it could hit gold status on it’s first week of sales. Some may take that as an indication that album sales may be on the up. However, walking into street signs, celebrating your birthday with Jay-Z and Nas and having Kim Kardashian give birth to your baby all within the album release time-frame is great, free publicity that would set anyone up to sell well in their first week.

kanye west jay-z
Kanye’s “Yeezus” is expected to hit Gold in it’s first week.

On the flipside, you can argue against the theory of album sales being on the up. One person who had a tonne of marketing behind them was French Montana. 56,000 was his first week numbers for “Excuse My French” which is highly disappointing for someone who was wanting to hit the 200,000 mark. Enough has been said about his sales so there is no point beating a dead horse.

The most recent artist to come close to hitting the platinum status is Dr. Dre’s latest project, Kendrick Lamar. As of the time of this article, he has sold 921,000 copies of “good kid, m.A.A.d city” and is still consistently selling around 8,000 copies a week. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are next in line after Kendrick with their album “The Heist” which currently stands at around 800,000 copies sold thus far. Both of these albums were released in 2012. The innovative deal that Jay-Z has made with Samsung now sees Magna Carta Holy Grail” ahead of both of these albums already before it’s even released to the public.

The Impressive Track Record

Jay-Z’s album sales have been consistent to say the least:

Jay-Z Platinum

Bear in mind that this is the RIAA numbers and not worldwide numbers. Jay-Z has undeniable record sales. To make the track record even more impressive is the fact that a few of those platinum records are EPs. For someone who more often than not hits the platinum mark with his releases, some could say that this deal he has made with Samsung is not needed at all.

Innovation Before Desperation

It is amusing to think Jay-Z could possibly be insecure about the potential sales of “Magna Carta Holy Grail”. That is almost guaranteed to not be the reason why he has worked out this deal. If anything, he has crafted out this deal to show some innovation and possibly pave the way for other artists to follow suit. Who is not to say that Eminem’s next release could use this Samsung deal as a blueprint? (No pun intended). Apple could buy 1 million copies of his upcoming release which would be free for the first 1 million users to access the album on iTunes. Snoop Dogg’s next album could be boosted by Microsoft or Lil Wayne’s next release could be supported by Sony. Matter of fact, such a deal wouldn’t necessarily have to be on such a huge scale.

Jay-Z’s innovation could also show the way for artists who have a buzz around their name to approach a more modest deal with a smaller amount of sales in order to get their name heard and make some money at the same time. For example: Up-and-comer New Yorker Joey Bada$$ could sell 50,000 copies of his album to Apple or Google for iTunes or Android respectively. A$AP Rocky could now possibly strike a deal with Amazon to guarantee a sale of 200,000 copies through Amazon.

jay-z message
The key details of the Samsung deal.

Jay-Z’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail” deal with Samsung has just opened up a brand new revenue stream for not only the Hip-Hop industry but the music industry as a whole. With artists now struggling to reach platinum status, this is a brand new opportunity to not only boost their numbers but also earn some guaranteed money in the process. The fact that the advertisement for the album has hit almost 2 million views on YouTube within a day (and also the fact that this article is being written) shows some great publicity for the unexpected album.

Instead of trying to fight against the use of technology due to piracy, Jay-Z has shown the industry how to not only embrace it but carve out some cash by approaching the issue at a completely different angle. Samsung has also shown that they are willing to invest in Jay-Z in order to get people to download their app, which will no doubt be loaded with Samsung advertisements. Weather or not other companies want to follow Samsung’s ways is another question altogether and it will be interesting to see if any corporation is willing to do so.

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James Kennedy Senior Editor
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