Jay-Z did what all innovators do with his new album Magna Carta Holy Grail, he took a risk. He partnered with Samsung to release his album via an exclusive app that gave its downloaders access to the album a week ahead of its public release. In the end, this new distribution model was a risk that did not pay off. Yet.
While the app itself had plenty of critics who bemoaned its privacy invading reach , Jay was unhappy with another dimension of the launch. In short, the download was too popular and crashed. “It was 20 million hits for the app and it broke,” he said. “No one is expecting it, there’s no way in the world for you to calculate 20 million hits. It’s not even a number you can fathom. You cannot prepare a service for that.”
So it goes with innovation. Not all new media distribution methods can work as well as Louie C.K.’s self-distribution model. While it is doubtless that an exclusive app distribution will be tried again, Jay-Z was clear about what this failure meant. “For me, that’s not cool. That’s a loss. That has to get better,” he told New York’s Power 105.1 radio. “Someone else is going to figure that out and the next person will now know how to go into it better. That’s my job. I took the hit for that.” That “someone else” will indeed come along though. From marque acts to independent artists, apps and mobile platforms in general offer creative and highly profitable methods of getting in front of consumers. Not every single one of these new methods is going to work, or at least work immediatly, but new territory is not charted without risk.
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