Using social media and apps, music artists are finding a direct line to fans, overthrowing the industry norms of highly publicized album releases and keeping Billboard-ranking artists inaccessible to their fans.
Rapper Jay-Z shocked the industry and excited fans when he announced last month he would distribute one million copies of his newest album free through a Samsung smartphone app. It seemed an innovative marketing plan and a chance for more people to access his music.
Then on Monday, Jay-Z broke returned to the Twittersphere after a social media hiatus to host a Q&A with fans and promote his album Magna Carta Holy Grail.
Jay-Z is widely viewed as one of the most savvy businessmen from his industry, from creating his own record label in 1996, to cultivating the careers of young starts such as Rihanna, striking a deal with Microsoft to promote his memoir on Bing, buying and later selling a stake in the Brooklyn Nets and getting certified as a professional sports agent.
But in this age of Edward Snowden and NSA spying, Anonymous hacking stunts and Facebook privacy snafus, even Jay-Z has hit a snag in his recent attempts to redefine the music marketing industry.
Less than a week after the release of Magna Carta Holy Grail, the Samsung app has been pulled from the Google Play store and Jay-Z and his collaborators are facing complaints about botched downloads and the amount of personal information the app requested.
According to The Wall Street Journal, users experienced delays in downloading the music and were forced to open and close the app repeatedly.
More disconcerting, though, was that the app asked for more personal information than most users and privacy experts thought warranted, such as access to the device’s location, information about other apps running on the phone, and to read the phone’s status and identify when it’s being used for voice calls.
The app requires users to sign into Facebook or Twitter to use the app. Fans were also able to browse lyric sheets for the tracks – but only if they posted a tweet or Facebook status update promoting each lyric.
In a July 5 article titled ‘Jay-Z is Watching, and He Knows Your Friends,’ The New York Times’ Jon Pareles writes: “I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s creepy, especially when Edward J. Snowden’s revelations have shown the extent of government surveillance of emails and phone records.”
There were earlier signs of security issues, too. Last week, internet security firm McAfee identified a fake version with Trojan malware embedded in it.
“On the surface, the malware app functions identically to the legit app. But in the background, the malware sends info about the infected device to an external server every time the phone restarts. The malware then attempts to download and install additional packages,” malware expert Irfan Asrar wrote in a blog post on the McAfee website.
Jay-Z’s managers have defended the app, saying the rapper and his company have no plans to use any personal information.
“It’s much ado about nothing,” John Meneilly, one of Jay-Z’s two managers, told the Wall Street Journal. “You have to provide a lot more information than was asked for in this app when you buy music with a credit card.”
Jay-Z was more empathetic during his Twitter Q&A on Monday, tweeting at one point that the app “must do better.”
The rapper used Twitter’s new #music channel, a music discovery service that launched in April to connect fans and artists and promote trending songs. Jay-Z’s tweets – his first in several weeks – surprised some fans with their randomness and at times abrasive tone. He talked with fans about everything from cereal to Picasso and Britney Spears, making jokes and tweeting emoticons. His direct connection with fans, and willingness to shoot the breeze about just about anything, may help the rapper save face in the aftermath of the privacy complaints.
When @tiffbump asked Jay-Z if he was lying on a “plush baby seal rug” while he tweeted, Jay-Z responded “It’s Alpaca.”
To fan @draique, who promised to “become a better person, go to church and stop doing drugs and go on a diet” if Jay-Z responded, the rapper replied, “That is a lofty set of goals..In one day??????”
The Twitter conversation, which lasted several hours, may do more to promote Magna Carta Holy Grail than the smartphone app. Jay-Z gained more than 46,000 followers during the Q&A, and from Sunday to Monday afternoon his album got about 325,000 mentions, a Twitter spokeswoman said. After the Q&A, Jay-Z released a never-before-heard version of the track Dead Presidents.
As @PeaJay01 tweeted during the Q&A, the Twitter conversation became “A worldwide Conversation. Highly impressed. That’s Genius.”
Photo from consequenceofsound.net