Was Jay-Z’s Exclusive Android App a Success?

Samsung recently passed Apple on Fortune’s Global 500 list and Jay-Z is music royalty, so it would seem that a partnership between the two would benefit both houses. However, Samsung’s exclusive Android app that promotes Jay-Z’s latest album has seen more than its fair share of criticism during its first week on the market.

This was the marketing plan: Samsung bought one million copies of Jay-Z’s album “Magna Carta Holy Grail” for $5 apiece. The album was released to the general public on July 7, but Galaxy users could download an app on July 4 to have exclusive access to the music. Samsung won a major PR boost, Jay-Z got his latest album promoted and everyone went home rich and happy, right? Since the app release – and subsequent album drop – Samsung may have seen more bad press than the partnership has been worth.

JayZ_MagnaCartaHolyGrail_608x608If Jay-Z has one million albums and he sells them for $5 apiece, how many albums has he sold? It sounds like a bad math problem but according to Billboard, the answer is zero. Billboard regularly gets asked to count promotions as music sales and has decided that if retailers charge a minimum $3.49 for the album then it will count as a sale. Anything lower than that is just a giveaway.

The ever-visionary Jay-Z pulled the nifty coup of getting paid as if he had a platinum album before one fan bought a single copy… but in the context of this promotion, nothing is actually for sale.

Despite Billboard’s rejection of the album sales, the app still flourished. Samsung reported that 1.2 million copies were downloaded shortly after midnight on the 4th. The sheer number of people simultaneously trying to download the album clogged the servers and caused the app to crash repeatedly.

The main problem that users have had with the app – and that the media has been quick to point out – is the questionable privacy settings. According to the New York Times, the app requests access to GPS information, system tools, USB storage, network communications, and your phone log. While these are usually asked of users for other apps, this one went a step further by invading social media privacy as well.

Samsung wanted to bring in what marketers call a “social aspect” to the app. If users wanted to access lyrics, they had to post a tweet or Facebook status announcing what song they had just unlocked. The Times noted that this wasn’t one Tweet to unlock an album full of lyrics, it was one tweet per song. That’s upwards of 15 automated tweets sent out just to review song lyrics.

Despite these problems, the launch was a success. Samsung is happy with 1.2 million downloads and Jay-Z is climbing the Billboard 200 – even without the help of the app. This rocky week also gives marketers a few lessons for their own content strategies:

  • Do: Create exclusive content to reward loyal fans.
  • Do: Be prepared for an expected spike in web traffic.
  • Do: Collect data from visitors, and customers to analyze their preferences.
  • Don’t: Act like the NSA and collect excess information just because you can.
  • Don’t: Force people to repeatedly spam their fans and followers on social media.
  • Don’t: Make registration forms overly complicated.

What do you think about this exclusive content case study? Do you think Samsung did the best they could or should have known better?

About the author

Amanda Dodge