If you go to www.MagnaCartaHolyGrail.com you will find the latest collaboration between a corporate giant and Jay-Z. Apparently last night, during the NBA Finals Game #5 between the Heat and the Spurs, Samsung bought 3 minutes of time (on the cheap since the NBA has become more WWE these days so no one is watching) and introduced Jay-Z’s upcoming album, with a twist. A free*, exclusive, product tie-in, pre-launch courtesy of Samsung.
Arguably the most influential dominant, successful rapper of the last 20 years, Jay-Z seems to have a knack for working the heck out of “the system.” This latest “triumph” is really good. In the face of declining record sales and fewer outlets to peddle videos, which used to be designed to sell albums, Jay-Z has managed to get a technological juggernaut like SAMSUNG to not only foot the bill for his album’s release, but also provide him with incredible marketing crossover, tech clout, and insurance that his album will generate great numbers.
Now Jay-Z is a talented artist. You can’t deny that, and he has enough of a fan base that him sneezing over a beat would probably see insane radio rotations but I have to say that seeing him team up with Samsung is just huge at another level. Most of the “formula” is still there: obscure historical reference tied to modern day street culture, hype tied to a major sporting event, and now a key part of this mix is a pesudo-doc style commercial that seemingly offers a “rare glimpse” in to the surreal world of Jay-Z where he presides over the most talented producers in commercial music: Pharrell, Swizz Beats, Timbaland, and Rick Rubin. Just another sunday with the boys no doubt.
The video is everything we’ve grown accustomed to accepting as “fly-on-the-wall” or ultra exclusive, behind the scenes. Its raw-like, shaky, almost amateurish quality is designed to make the viewer feel like he’s in on the action while Jay and the boys are making history in a studio. (that happens to be overlooking the projects = street cred) And the soundbites seem equally scripted, as we listen to Jay-Z wax poetic on “lush sounds’, release dates, and navigating through success and failure while staying true to your self. (note to jay though, success and failure affect you regardless. who you choose to be is up to you)
By the end of the clip you have witnessed Jay-Z play mad scientist in his studio with his contemporaries happy to be part of his circle… an almost Arthurian take on the round table with Samsung making sure the world gets to bask in its glory. The other hook in this line is that Samsung is offering this new album for 72 hours, prior to its “official release” to its Galaxy customers. So anyone with a Galaxy S3, S4, or Note 2 can pre-download an app which will then allow them to download the album and related content prior to the July 4th release.
The tech portion of this collaboration is pretty huge. It would seem that Samsung and Jay-Z are paving the way for new distribution deals. After all, why would an artist wait for music sales, digital or otherwise, to see how successful their latest effort is when they can have a major brand sponsor the release, broaden their release target, increase cross promotion and of course make some money in the process.
The best part of the video is actually Rick Rubin. Long time producer and Jay-Z contributor, Rubin offers the best sound bite as he responds to Jay’s lyric from an upcoming track. It explains away that once you get all the things you think you want in life, you realize they don’t change anything. And thats pretty ironic considering that this info sits in a commercial to sell you an album, a lifestyle, a samsung device. But then again that’s also been part of the formula that Kanye and Jay-Z have mastered. Its all Emperor’s new clothes.
Argue for your limitations and they’re yours
Just saw these cool storyboards for “Psycho” drawn by Saul Bass, over at this isn’t happiness tumblr. Just a quick glance through them and you can instantly see how it all came together on film for Hitchcock.
In today’s fast-paced, immediacy-driven society, careful planning and thoughtfulness are kicked to the curb in favor of improv and WYSIWYG methods of creating media. You can’t blame Larry David or the developers of Vine for this approach to production that everyone seems to adopt these days but they are enabling it. I’ve had plenty of clients that think video, especially “viral video” is just a point-and-click exercise. The fact they even want to “create” viral videos is an oxymoron to me but that’s a whole other post.
The point here is that it is worth acknowledging the importance of planning when it comes to production. No matter how big or small your video, you should always try to put some pencil to paper and sketch things out. You don’t have to necessarily draw every scene but just taking the time to sketch out what things should look like and how they fit together can help the crew, the client, and the editor. Having a layout might even spark creativity and push you in an entirely different direction. It may not always be necessary but it is always helpful.
Never underestimate the importance of a good storyboard. Lesson learned.