Written by: Jody Maarschalk
“I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.”
Jay-Z’s recently released album, 4:44, has already gone platinum. For the people reading this who don’t know what that means, it means that his album hit 1 million downloads. The physical album hasn’t even dropped yet (at the time of writing this article) So you might be thinking, “many albums hit platinum shortly after release”… well Jay-Z did it in just 5 days. Gasp.
Hitting platinum in 5 days is ridiculous. Or is it the result of a well executed strategy? Behind the shiny platinum certification is a well thought out plan. In fact, an entire business. Suddenly Jay-Z’s one liner from the Kanye West track, Diamonds from Sierre Leone, makes sense. He’s a business, man.
Jay-Z broke the news of the 4:44 launch a few hours post the birth of his twins. Talk about good timing. The launch date was set for 30th June with exclusives given to Tidal and Sprint. Some context on this – earlier this year, Sprint (a USA cellphone provider) bought a 33% stake in Tidal, which is a streaming music service led by none other than…Jay-Z. Good business move and a great way to quickly bump up subscribers too. But to the dismay of many fans, on release date, the album was only available to Tidal and Sprint subscribers who had signed up prior to the release date. What a tease! But I’m sure this just made people want the album more. Indeed a cheeky (and smart) move on Jay-Z’s part but by 3rd July, the hip hop artist made the album available to all Tidal and Sprint subscribers. Phew.
It makes sense that Jay-Z would give his own streaming music service the exclusive. But Sprint? Well it’s possible that he’s repeated the paid upfront model he started in 2013 with the release of the Magna Carta Holy Grail album. For that release, Samsung prepaid for 1 million copies as part of its deal with Jay-Z for exclusivity. And the result? Magna Carta instantly went platinum. Whilst it hasn’t been confirmed that this was the strategy for the 4:44 release, it would make sense considering the album went platinum in just 5 days. For some perspective on this, Kanye West’s album Life of Pablo took over a year to go platinum. Beyonce’s album Lemonade (also launched as a Tidal exclusive) took nearly 2 months. Whether or not Jay-Z negotiated prepaid sales with Sprint, the truth is that the man has more platinum albums than any other hip hop artist currently. And he’s clearly a smart businessman too.
Not only did Jay-Z cash in the chips with the Sprint and Tidal stake deal earlier this year and obviously his new album release (which was all done via his owned music service) but he stands to make even more cash dollar once his physical album drops. And if he did negotiate prepaid sales with Sprint…. well you get the picture. Ka-ching. The man is on fire. And to top it off, he has just become the first rapper to be inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Nicely done Jay-Z. Retirement suits you.