As the Miami Heat faced off against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the NBA finals Sunday night, a curious TV ad aired near the end of the second quarter featuring rap star Jay-Z in a studio, riffing with a cast of characters including producer Rick Rubin and artist Pharrell Williams. At one point, a member of the posse is shown taking notes on a tablet device. More than two minutes into the three-minute video Samsung Electronics Co.,tagline flashes across the screen: “The Next Big Thing.”
The connection: Samsung has purchased 1 million copies of Jay-Z’s coming album, entitled “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” slated for release July 4, and plans to give them to Samsung Galaxy smartphone users for free – 72 hours ahead of the release. The users are to receive the music through an app they’ll receive later this month. (Recipients won’t be able to share it until the official release date.)
Samsung paid $5 apiece for the albums, according to a person familiar with the matter. It wasn’t immediately clear if Nielsen SoundScan will count Samsung’s purchases in its sales tallies.
The partnership could help Samsung compete with Apple Inc. AAPL +0.45%, which recently announced the launch of iTunes Radio – an online radio service bundled onto Apple devices that promises to offer listeners access to certain tracks before they’re available elsewhere.
For Jay-Z, the deal is a precious advertising opportunity and gives him $5 million in sales before the album is even released. The agreement signals the increasing importance of corporate sponsors to the music industry, which has seen sales tank over the past decade.
Jay-Z hinted at the partnership on Twitter two days ago with a photo of a Samsung smartphone displaying text telling fans to “tune in” to the game.
Neither Samsung nor Jay-Z could immediately be reached for comment.