With his new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail (what’s his next one gonna be called—Bill of Rights Ark of the Covenant?), Jay-Z invented a new movement, or at least a new hashtag, which is what movements have been reduced to these days. “#NewRules” was meant to draw attention to the pioneering ways in which one can disrupt the music industry, utilize new channels of information, engage fans on new platforms and sell a million of records in a single day.
Just one catch: you have to be Jay-Z.
Two catches, rather: you have to be Jay-Z and also you have to sign a deal with multinational conglomerate Samsung, who, spitting up a molecule-sized portion of their $247 billion in annual revenue, “bought” 1 million copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail in digital form to give away through a free app that Samsung users can download to their phone.
The RIAA, who is totally high, decided that this transaction constituted 1 million album sales. Boom! Magna Carta Holy Grail went platinum, all because a huge company spent $5 million out of its marketing budget to align with a rap superstar/walking Wall Street Journal stipple drawing.
That the RIAA decided these are legitimate sales is ludicrous, though not surprising, since most of the RIAA’s actions in the past 15 years have been ludicrous anyway. What’s downright insidious is what happened to users who downloaded the free app from Samsung in order to hear Magna Carta Holy Grail on their phone.
Forced to accept the app permissions, users were faced with a screen reading: “JAY Z Magna Carta needs access to: Storage, System Tools, Your Location, Network Communication, Phone Calls.”
Sound familiar? It should. If you wondered why Samsung only paid $5 per digital copy of Jay-Z’s album, you can add an extra bonus for Universal Records: being able to harvest Samsung users’ personal data—phone calls, location, usernames for social media accounts and, as demanded when the app opened, a login to Facebook and Twitter. That’s not a platinum album—it’s an NSA surveillance system.
In related news, Magna Carta Holy Grail is terrible and Jay-Z should have stopped rapping in 1999.
Gabe Meline is the editor of this paper.
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