This past May, a cryptic TV advertisement for something called “4:44” aired during the 2017 NBA Finals. The thirty second black-and-white spot starred Mahershala Ali and Danny Glover in a boxing ring, with an instrumental playing in the background. This video corresponded with hundreds of ads plastered across NYC and LA that simply read 4:44.


After the Internet did its thing and started digging, it was discovered that the advertisements and video were tied to TIDAL, Jay-Z’s music streaming service. It was eventually announced that TIDAL had struck a major partnership with Sprint, where Sprint customers would get exclusive access to the music streaming service and VIP music opportunities as well. This TIDAL x Sprint partnership was becoming a music fan’s dream, but fans needed to become a Sprint user in order to achieve it (Sprint’s way to compete with Apple in the marketplace).


As the summer weeks went by, more and more cryptic ads appeared, each with more information, and located in more cities throughout the US. Ultimately, it was revealed that 4:44 was the title of Jay-Z’s thirteenth studio album, which was to be released on June 30 exclusively though the Tidal x Sprint partnership. The excitement really began as Jay-Z had not released a studio album since 2013’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, which too was first announced during an NBA Finals marketing blitz.


Now that the album release has come and gone, we can admire the marketing genius that is Jay-Z.  The cryptic advertisements that lead up to the release had EVERYONE talking. Was Jay-Z finally responding to Beyoncé’s Lemonade? Was a Jay-Z & Beyoncé joint album coming? Was it a film? Was it merely a single? The point is that everyone knew something was coming, and Jay-Z was involved, but no one truly knew what to expect. Well, per usual, we should have all anticipated greatness as this ten song album, coming in at a cool forty minutes in length, gives us everything we have been missing from Jay-Z.


The album has features from Beyoncé, The-Dream, Frank Ocean, and Damien Marley, and touches on subjects such as the rap star’s marriage with Beyoncé (and her Lemonade accusations), the birth of his twins, advice for Kanye West, race and political issues the country is currently facing, and more. It is a true masterpiece in the purest rap form.


However, there is a catch (per usual). Fans could only get access to the album if they subscribed to TIDAL. The album is not for sale on iTunes, nor is it available for stream on services such as Apple Music and Spotify. Thus, Jay-Z got us again, finding a way to make us all subscribe to TIDAL (which has struggled to keep up with Spotify and Apple Music).


Eventually, it is assumed that 4:44 will be available everywhere for purchase and streaming, but until then, Jay-Z has won the day again. There truly may never be as powerful forces as the Carters, when it comes to promoting their art in the music space and getting everyone to buy-in. We are not complaining though. We are all in favor of a good marketing ploy, and Jay-Z and Beyoncé sure as hell know what they are doing.


written by bryan davidson Associate Director, Entertainment Marketing, Business Affairs