Jay-Z Writes New Rules for Music Millionaires

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Jay-Z says he’s writing new rules. But for whom?

The multi-millionaire rapper created a firestorm of PR by launching an innovative deal with Samsung to distribute 1 million copies of his new Magna Carta Holy Grail album through a special app exclusively on Samsung phones before the album went on sale publicly July 9. Samsung reportedly paid $5 for every album, meaning Magna Carta Holy Grail sold $5 million before a consumer purchased a single copy. Samsung became a music distributor overnight. And the Recording Industry Association of America was inspired to change the way it tracks the sale of digital albums to account for the 1 million units sold instantly. ┬áIt’s no wonder Jay-Z has been tweeting about creating #newrules, and Billboard has gushed about “Jay-Z’s New Blueprint.”

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Essentially, two big brands, Jay-Z and Samsung, are distributing music together as Jay-Z and Nokia did 10 years ago. But how repeatable is the Jay-Z model for the entire music industry? The example of Radiohead is instructive. Radiohead, another Continue reading

Queen of My Soul

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Music, sweet music. You’re the queen of my soul.

Those words come from a soaring Average White Band song, “Queen of My Soul.” I’ve been thinking a lot about that song during a week defined by my love of music. On Tuesday, a popular Pink Floyd news resource, Brain Damage, published an interview with me about how music has intersected with my professional and personal lives. (Befitting the focus of the website, the Q&A included lots of discussion about Pink Floyd.) The next day, I hosted a Social Media Week New York conversation onstage with musician Daria Musk and Google’s Caroline McCarthy regarding how Musk has relied on the Google Plus social media site to launch her career. Being interviewed and then being the interviewer was rewarding. Both experiences affirmed the role of music in shaping my life.

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Me, Daria Musk, and Caroline McCarthy

The Brain Damage interview was highly personal. I discussed how the music of Pink Floyd got me through hard times in life and bonded me with my brother one memorable summer. I fairly gushed about my love of Pink Floyd for aspiring to create art. My interviewer, Eduardo J. Lopez-Reyes, asked me why some people form a close bond with music, while others do not. I answered, “Listening to music is like dating: you can enjoy it at a casual and superficial level until someone comes along who changes your life. When you connect with someone else at a personal level, you form a relationship that matures as you experience whatever life throws at you.”

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Do you know what I mean? If you don’t, I feel sorry for you.

Our conversation also veered into the territory of social media. I was asked whether album-oriented artists like Pink Floyd could make it today. I replied, “Digital gives emerging artists a chance to share album-length music through performance . . . For instance, musicians such as Daria Musk and Pomplamoose are using social media platforms and services like Google+ Hangouts and StageIt to perform global concerts on shoestring budgets. Social media also gives artists ways to connect with fans more personally.”

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Musk told her own story of social media success on February 20. In the Hearst Tower, Musk, McCarthy, and I pulled off a first for Social Media Week: we held a panel discussion about how Google Plus has helped Musk find her audience, conducted a live Google+ Hangout with a global audience (projected on a giant screen behind us), and injected music through a performance by Musk and her bandmate RAM Rich.

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Musk recounted how she began writing songs as a child, found her voice as a musician, and then found her audience through social media after banging her head against a wall playing dives. Google Plus, the 500-million-member network launched by Google in 2011, gave her a platform to play her songs through marathon concerts performed through the Google Hangout feature (the equivalent of Skype for people on Google Plus). Her concerts attracted a global audience of more than 2 million fans in countries ranging from Croatia to Sri Lanka. And as she explained during our conversation, she’s been monetizing social media through corporate sponsorships with brands such as Verizon.

Some artists have built brands on social. Others have launched new music. Musk has made a career.

But as interesting as the discussion about social media was, what struck me most about her was her obvious passion for music. That love for song was evident as we prepared for our appearance. Her sound check the night before was became something of a mini-concert, as she and RAM Rich played with energy and soul for an audience consisting of me and a few audio technicians who were fine-tuning the acoustics in the theater. You would have thought she was playing the audition of her life as she let her vocals soar and her guitar sing.

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Her performance the next day was a natural extension of the song she sings every day. She could not even have a conversation with me without bursting into song occasionally, as the Livestream of our conversation shows.

Music is a way of life for Daria Musk. And music flows through me like blood.

Daria Musk and Google+: The Making of a Rock Star

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Musician Daria Musk has famously built a career through Google+. She’s part of the emerging generation of artists whose success hinges on social media. Instead of simply building brand awareness with social media (which is standard operating procedure for savvy artists now), she’s cannily relied on Google+ to perform concerts, generate a global following of fans, find ideas for songs, and build relationships with brands. If you caught her February 14 Valentine’s Day Hangout Concert, you know what I’m talking about. Days before the performance, she adroitly used her Google Plus page to promote the concert and then during showtime, she charmed a global audience with her warmth and her gift of song — essentially lighting up the digital world for one evening, as shown in this rebroadcast:

Her use of Google+ has also been a godsend for Google, helping to legitimize the fledgling social media community during Google Plus’s first critical months of existence and leading to improvements in Google+. On February 20, at Social Media Week New York, I will interview Musk and Caroline McCarthy of Google at the Hearst Tower in order to uncover lessons learned from their collaboration, including how brands can build closer relationships with their audiences. The session occurs at 2:30 p.m. EST at the Hearst Tower. If you are at Social Media Week New York, please register here. Meantime, to give you a sense of the ground we will cover, I posted a brief Q&A with McCarthy on the iCrossing Great Finds blog, available here. Check it out for Google’s perspective on the Daria Musk story, and come see us in New York.