Sunday, July 7, 2013

Samsung's Magna Carta Holy Fail and Music's Battle with Exclusivity

On his latest album Magna Carta Holy Grail Jay-Z spits the line "Might crash ya Internet, and I ain't even into that" lyrics from "Somewhereinamerica" that would prove prophetic. Right around midnight on July 3rd, officially the 4th, millions (literally) of Samsung owners took to Twitter to celebrate and gloat at their apparent win over iPhone users. After years of hearing the praises of the iPhone and Apple, Android users finally had their moment in the spotlight thanks to Jay-Z and Samsung's 5 million deal. Well at least that was the idea, soon as many found out, millions of people using the same app to obtain the same album at the same time would prove problematic. Samsung users all over immediately went from ecstatic to disappointed as they stared at a blank screen or an error message as many reported.

While Samsung users were cursing the company all over social networks, iPhone users sat high and mighty on top of the mobile device world once again. As Samsung was sorting out an solution, others fled to Google for streams and leak links for the newly released album. Once learning that Funk Flex of Hot 97 was running a stream of the album, I decided that was the best of a bad situation. When Flex wasn't ranting and dropping Flex bombs (or wind sound effects as they sound to some) I was quite impressed with what I heard. After about an hour I had the album available to listen to sans Flex, while my cousin who is a Samsung owner still was on a blank white screen "patiently" awaiting for his album. That got me thinking what did Samsung exactly accomplish with this deal?

Aside from the publicity from the deal Samsung did nothing to exactly change the perception of the Android vs iPhone debate, if anything it gave fuel to the latter's side. That is how it may seem on the surface but if you really read what came with the MCHG app, Samsung might've made a win out in the long haul. Before accepting the download the permission settings for it pops up to display this and while Mike gets credit for noticing I'm sure millions of others didn't even bother to read that. Now what Samsung will do with those permission settings still remains to be seen but I'd say that would be a nice consolation price to a little public embarrassment over a crashed app.

Although one of the main things that was pushed was the exclusivity of the deal and the fact that Samsung users would be the only ones with MCHG until it was released for the rest of the world on July 7th. That too got me thinking about exclusivity when it comes to music in general. We live in a day and age where albums hit the Internet faster than they hit the retail shelves, sometimes days or weeks and in rare cases months before expected release dates. While some artists choose to ignore when their album leaks others take notice, such as when Wayne decided to create a project from the leaked material off the Tha Carter 3 into a EP appropriately entitled The Leak. Some even take to their respective social media accountants to address the leak and ask fans to still support the album if they enjoyed the leak.

Now while record labels and artists still haven't found a solution to this particular problem, digital release is widely seen as the next step in the way music is released. If Samsung and Jay-Z taught us anything with their deal it's that digital release is not the solution that some have been labeling it as and if anything it comes with its own problems. Sure the album didn't technically leak as it reached its intended digital release date but it also didn't go as smooth as I'm sure Samsung thought. Many couldn't access the album and in some cases such as mine, non Samsung owners had the album before actual Samsung owners. Imagine if those same people would've paid $10.99 for that album only to not be able to access it while others who illegally downloaded it listened. While I don't think we'll ever solve the exclusivity issue in music, at least not as long as technology evolves the way it does, I do think that if done right digital release can at least quell the issue of leaks. Exclusivity on the other hand is another issue entirely on its own...and something that even a major company and Jay-Z can't solve.