Home > Uncategorized > “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”

“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”

July 5, 2013

When Musicology came out a decade or so ago, anyone who went to see Prince live on that tour received a copy of the album. It was certainly not the first time an artist got creative in getting in distributing his or her work, but it caught my eye at the time in, after reaching number one on the charts, causing Billboard to reevaluate how they count album sales.

Never being one to do things the way they’ve always been done himself, Jay-Z has now partnered up with Samsung to offer his new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, free to anyone with a Samsung smart phone. Much like Prince before him, the powers that be did not take kindly to having another weird distribution channel.

My first thought was that this is a great way to promote his new work. It gets people talking and puts the music into the hands of hundreds of people who otherwise would probably not have sought it out. But the devil, it turns out, is in the details.

Say you’ve got a Samsung phone and want to hear Magna Carta Holy Grail. How do you go about it? This being 2013, you download an app. This app then digs into your phone in a way that is downright preditory.

It demands permissions, including reading the phone’s status and identity, which made some users, notably the rapper Killer Mike, suspicious: Does Jay-Z really need to log my calls? It also gathers “accounts,” the e-mail addresses and social-media user names connected to the phone. Those permissions are often part of a typical app package. This one got worse.

When installed, it demanded a working log in to Facebook or Twitter and permission to post on the account. “We would like fans to share the content through social networking sites,” a Jay-Z spokeswoman said by e-mail. (E-mail to Samsung Mobile’s customer service address for the app was returned as undeliverable throughout Wednesday.) But the app was more coercive.

Frankly the whole thing skeeves me out. They say that if you’re not paying money for something, you’re not the customer. And if you’re not the customer, then you’re the product being sold. I’ve got nothing against marketin stunts, but this one crosses a line from seeking out new customers to seeking out new product.

Update:

Ars Technica has more.

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