The cool kids among you will know that US rapper, Jay Z recently released his much anticipated new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail as an app available exclusively on Samsung Smartphones.
The app offered early access to the rapper’s new album to over a million fans three days before its official release date.
To the naked eye, the move looks like just a lucrative sponsorship deal for Jay Z and a chance for Samsung to improve their street credibility. But when you look beyond that, what you find is possibly the beginning of a revolution. Just like we had the Dropbox moment for storage and Lovefilm for streaming movies, we might look back at this moment as the beginning of the sea change in the way we consume music.
Ok, maybe it is a bit premature to be referring to album apps at the saviour of the music industry and album sales but it is at least safe to say it has brought about a buzz unlike any other since the transition from audio cassette to compact discs.
There is a long way to go before album apps become the norm but this new approach presents an opportunity for the music industry, disastrously slow with keeping up with the latest technology in recent years, to pioneer a new service before the pirates. Newspaper and book publishers have tapped into similar opportunities with great success so perhaps that presents a good template to follow.
In its short lifetime, the album app has already experienced more controversy than many other technologies experience in their many years of use. Despite being downloaded by 1.2 million users, the Magna Carta Holy Grail app was removed from the Google Play store, following complaints on the amount of personal data it was trying to access. With the dust not yet settled from the PRISM debacle, it’s no surprise that users are a bit sensitive on issues to do with data and personal information.
Privacy issues will need to be addressed but the power ultimately lies with users. If users feel they are getting a satisfactory amount of value from the album app, most will forego their privacy, or at least find a way round it, to have access to the favourite artists’ music. The true test of any new technology is how fans react to it and I guess the same will be the case for album apps. Artists have certainly not been deterred – Lady Gaga recently announced that she will also be releasing her album ARTPOP as an app.
It will be interesting to see what we’ll be saying about album apps in 10 year but it has certainly made a grand entrance. The first episode has not had the happy ending Samsung would’ve hoped for but we have undoubtedly been introduced to a new way to access music.