Jay-Z’s latest record brings two super-brands together

Hip-hop star teams up with Samsung for an unusual treat for fans

HOW do you give something away for free and make a bundle of cash in the process? Ask Jay-Z; he did it last week. Well, sort of. Technically it was the South Korean tech giant Samsung that gave away the rapper’s latest album Magna Carta Holy Grail... after paying the his Roc Nation company an estimated $20m.

Just after midnight last Thursday – a full 72 hours before the official release date – 1m copies of the album were given away to the first million people to download a special app available on the Galaxy S III, Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note II. Samsung is said to have paid $5 per album, with the extra $15m spent on marketing the record. That gives Jay-Z $5m of sales before the album has even been officially released.

Who says the internet is killing the music industry?

Other innovative releases

Radiohead: In Rainbows
Radiohead allowed people to pay what they want to download their 2007 album In Rainbows. A generous gift to their loyal fanbase or canny marketing ploy? Either way, it worked out well for the band – the album sold 3m copies (including CDs, box sets and every download) and made more of a profit than their previous two albums combined.

Smashing Pumpkins: Machina II
When the Smashing Pumpkins showed Machina II/The Friends & Enemies Of Modern Music to their record label, they refused to release it. The preceding two albums – Adore and Machina I – both bombed, and Virgin weren't willing to take a chance on a 90 minute concept album about a rock star who descends into madness. Unperturbed, the band released the album themselves for free on the internet. They also printed 25 physical copies themselves and gave them to their friends.

Prince: Planet Earth
How did Prince, the hip-thrusting purveyor of such albums as Dirty Mind, Lovesexy and One Nite Alone, choose to release his 2007 album Planet Earth? Why, he gave it away free with the Mail on Sunday of course. From Basingstoke to Pocklington, middle-England rang with the sound of smashed crockery as grans up and down the land attempted to moonwalk for the first time.

The move angered high street music shops who were already suffering in the face of stiff competition from internet retailers and illegal downloads. The row ended with Columbia refusing to distribute the album in the UK.

Bjork: Biophilia
Bjork's app/album Biophilia was heralded as the future of music when it was released in 2011. The Icelandic singer worked with scientists, writers, inventors, musicians and instrument makers to create a “unique multi-media exploration of the universe and its physical forces”. Senior lecturer in music Dr Nicola Dibben wrote an essay to accompany every song and narration is provided by Sir David Attenborough. But if that sounds too out there for your tastes there was the option to buy it as a regular CD too.

Gorillaz: The Fall
Damon Albarn released Gorillaz’s fourth album as a free download on 25 December 2010. Shortly after receiving his first iPad Albarn reported that he had “fallen in love” with the object, and that it was his intention to produce the first fully iPad-made album. The result was The Fall, the entirety of which Albarn made during the American leg of Gorillaz's 2010 world tour Escape to Plastic Beach. Apps used to make the album include Speak it!, SoundyThingie, Mugician and Solo Synth.

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