Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Beyonce Change the Music Game


The Appetizer

As the impact of digital evolution continues to hit the music industry, three artists in 2013 made very notable efforts to test the boundaries of what can be done/allowed moving forward into the digtal age.  In 2013, Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Beyonce each dropped new albums, and each of them implemented new and unique strategies not previously used by major, if any, music artists before.  Kanye West, building up to his 2013 album, Yeezus, shied away from releasing radio-friendly music, and instead released highly publicized commercial campaigns that included premiering a music video on the side of a building.  His campaign leading up to his album release relied very heavily on images and unconventional marketing campaigns, and when his album came out, it released to no (initial) promotion aside from campaigns mentioned above, interviews, and a tour announcement.

Jay-Z’s album followed shortly after.  His album was announced about a month before its release through a commercial during the NBA Finals.  Aside from that no details were provided until soon after when it was confirmed that his album was going to be given away for people that owned Samsung Galaxy phones and downloaded the relative Jay-Z Magna Carta app.  The app regularly released videos, lyrics, snippets, and photos about the upcoming album, and when it was released, the app’s ability to handle the demand for the album download caused it to shut down the download option.  Ultimately, it was revealed that Samsung had agreed to buy 1 million copies of his Magna Carta album for $5 each, and those were the album copies they gave away.  Game changer- but not just because of that.  In addition to the Samsung deal changing the way artists could think about approaching releasing their albums, it also caused music charting Billboard to have to revise their policies on album sales and how to calculate them.  Why?  Because based off of the agreement alone, Jay-Z had immediately sold 1 million copies of his album before it even was released, therefore making it platinum before its official release date!

Then there was Beyonce, one of the most famous singers of the current music generation.  Throughout 2013 since her Superbowl appearance, she had released songs here and there.  There were rumors that she had an album due at various times of the year, but that since none of the songs that had been released to the radio had picked up a major following, that her label kept pushing it back.  Eventually, aside from her tour, there was silence.  Then out of nowhere, she dropped her album- on digital only.  Her album released at midnight on a Friday morning on iTunes, with a traditional store release taking place weeks later.  Not only this, but the album itself featured a video for every song on it.  The results- it was a frenzy from the media and fans alike, praising the bold and game changing strategy- and a great album!  Her first week sales made her platinum despite the shorter release window since it did not come out on a tuesday and was only availabe over one (the non-traditional) platform.

The Main Course

Jay-Z’s Samsung Deal Signals a Musical Future Where the Rich Get Richer

Kanye West Premieres ‘New Slaves’ With Video Projections Around the World

How Beyonce’s ‘Beyonce’ Stayed Secret Until the Day of Release



The Dessert

My only question is this- Kanye, Jay-Z, and Beyonce all roll in the same camp, but there is one person that usually puts out an annual release that was surprisingly missing- Rihanna.  Personally, I’m waiting to see what she does.  She is already known for doing risky antics personally and music-wise, so to do something to turn heads like what we saw in 2013 is right up her lane, the only question is what will it be- and when (so really, there’s two questions).  Back to the main topic(s) at hand- why are these releases important.  In the big picture, these artists outright changed the game in terms of how an artist can market, release, and sell their albums with each one of their campaigns.  Let’s be clear that they are not the first ones to use creative tactics to drive sales or add bonus elements to their albums.  Prince famously went independent, and went on tour, and for the price of a concert ticket, it also included a copy of his album, thus helping place it on the Billboard charts.  When 50 Cent released The Massacre, the deluxe version came with a video for every song on the album.  And those are just two examples.  The significance, especially for this site, was the artists willingness to embrace the opportunities that the digital world offered them to enhance the experience- and bottom line- for their albums.  They did not run from the digital space, they used it to make their album releases more of an event and experience than just the standard norm.  Most importantly, they were successful at doing it- and they are all world-reknown artists.  Make no mistake, there will be copycats.  There will be new/established artists that will use similar, or their own unqiue, digital approach for their own material moving forward.  Now where’s that Rihanna album…

The Overall Meal

5 Stars

The Doggybag

What other creative strategies/opportunities do you think music artists may use to help push their music that is unique to the digital sphere?

Please place your response below. Let the convos begin!

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