JAY-Zs new album 4:44 went platinum before I even heard a single track. By no means are my eardrums required to be in the populace of the first 1,000,000 to achieve the sales benchmark, but by god are they supposed to be. As a white, Jewish boy from the north shore of Long Island, naturally my roots are pretty intertwined with hip hop culture so when a new album drops, normally I am there to catch it. As devout as my fandom is, JAY-Zs exclusive streaming deal with his music platform, Tidal, has outcasted me and the masses from the initial listening party. As I attempt to cry foul and rebut his approach, my 7 day delay was well worth the wait…HOV has since been left on repeat. While the music speaks, the marketing techniques he deployed speak even louder. Years ago, JAY-Z informed the world that he’s not a businessman, he’s a business, man. 4:44 is evidence of that.
The specifics of the exclusive contract aren’t as hairy as one might assume. JAY-Z started Tidal in an attempt to provide artists with more direct access to their streaming revenue, a campaign that has fostered as much success as it has spurred backlash. We live in a world where music is handed to us on a silver platter, free and accessible for all to hear. JAY-Z, the musical maverick that he stands to be, has fought arduously to reverse the free music trend and his exclusive release deals with Tidal are the pawns in this musical chest match. Now, a week and a half past the initial release, the Apple Music, Amazon, and Google subscribers have 4:44 at their disposal and the original delay has since been forgotten. JAY certainly played his corporate bargaining chips to a tee and the world should note that he isn’t in the record selling business, he’s in the brand building business. You see, listening to music is passive…getting people to press play is extremely active. Forcing Hip Hop heads to impatiently wait certainly had it’s results on the public opinion of the project, leading me to believe that waiting is pretty polarizing when it comes to perception. In a hype vs. truth battle, 4:44 has thrust most to the extreme ends of the spectrum. People either love it. Or they hate it. Lil Wayne says sorry for the wait…JAY-Z makes money off it. Science has a thing or two to say about that…
Why We Love It:
Because Good Things Come To Those Who Wait: Sigmund Freud, the father of psychology, first started down the delayed gratification rabbit hole before the social psychology subfield was poked and pronged for the coming millennia. In what he explained to be the Cognitive-Affective Personality System (CAPS) the ideology explains that immediate rewards and contingencies trigger our “hot” responses, while patience allows us to collect ourselves and form more accurate, “cool” responses. JAY-Z went against the norm by only offering 4:44 to Tidal subscribers. Essentially, he flipped the CAPS theory on it’s side, as the emotionally charged listeners were likely frustrated that they were privy to new JAY-Z a week late. With that, the appeasement is met with open arms and an overwhelming positive public opinion. Hot and bothered in the era of immediacy, 7 days was enough to make the dogs salivate but more over, helped us to appreciate.
Because We Form Personal Opinions from the Public: George Lowenstein can offer a remark or two as to why the delayed listeners may enjoy the album even more than the Tidal community. In what he describes to be the Information Gap Theory, the human psychosis aggressively attempts to piece information together when it is unavailable. JAY Z created two land masses with a mighty river dissecting them. Firstly, JAY came out of musical hermitage to release his first studio album in nearly 4 years. Then, the album went Platinum before most could even bit torrent the 13 song setlist. Tidals contract for exclusive releases with Sprint accounted for the first 1M units, so essentially the album defaulted into Platinum. Without being abreast to that little Hollywood fine print, the audience without access has no choice but to assume that the project is something special…therefore, upon finally hearing 4:44, their opinion is largely already set in stone. With that, their review has been prematurely extrapolated…if you think it’s good, the Information Gap Theory is going to tell you that it is actually great.
Because Chemically, We Are Supposed Too: Helen Fisher focused much of her research doctorate to every party animals favorite organic chemical, dopamine. The neurotransmitter, dopamine, is in charge of rewarding the brain for the bodies feats…recreational drugs like cocaine have synthetically produced dopamine which tricks our body into thinking ingesting an 8 ball was a good thing. Regardless, Fisher found that dopamine levels rise whenever someone is forced to wait for their prize. Like finally having sex with your long distance girlfriend or collecting a commission check that has been 6 months in the work, the delay will make the reward that much more gratifying. After the album went Platinum, our expectations were as high as our ear canals were delayed. When the other platforms were given the new album, it was a sweet, much needed gift and the dopamine was finally released.
Why We Hate It:
Because the Conflict is Internal: The announcement that 4:44 went Platinum during Tidals exclusive window closed was a double edged sword and had a detriment equal to the reasons why we love it. Of course JAY-Z went platinum but in doing so, a level of expectation was created and that bar was set inconceivably high. Leon Festinger in his Theory of Cognitive Dissonance explained that massive amount of internal strife are created when the mind and body are juggling two different ideologies. The dissonance in a delayed listening party stems from the publicly certified opinion that the album rocks, while the brain is saying that you personally do not like it. When the ends don’t meet, the body releases its cortisol and we as creatures become stressed. Therefore, when high expectations meet a subpar reality, we write off the source as trash and pay our dues for the ‘I hate JAY-Z’ club.
Because We Like to be Right: The household name for this Psych Term is the knew it all along hypothesis. People are predisposed to give themselves the benefit of the doubt, a survival tactic that allows us to afford ourselves a bit more credibility than we might deserve. Whispers of 4:44 not being all that great will trigger our hindsight and forces us to form our opinion before we’re even half way through track one. This is what happens when people form our opinions before us…the rotten apples spoil the whole crop. Amos Tversky developed the subfield of psychological heuristics, which describe premeditated behavioral sets that people deploy daily. Heuristics act as mental short cuts, as we take bits of information and apply them to formulas we have already solved for. Therefore, if you aren’t a big HOVA fan, you’re heuristics will kick in and your hindsight bias works in over drive, alerting your brain that the album sucks, just as you thought it would.
Because of our Pride: Jean-Jacques Rousseau took the reigns on personal thought within psych, explaining that many are predisposed to go against the publics grain. While we are all individuals, not all of us express the ideals and motives of individualism. Rousseau explains that the plight to maintain individualism often clouds reality and effects perception. As the Tidal users and Billboard charts quickly recognized the album as great, the individual mindset will tell a person to fight the urge to conform. These enigmatic, 1OAK people are actually forbidding themselves to enjoy 4:44 on a subconscious level. To the holier than now folk who pride themselves on their novelty, be careful to not let your nonconformity manifest itself into arrogance.
JAY-Z and Tidal will shake up the music industry for years to come, redefining the art of the drop and what it means to release music to the public. JAY has grown an empire since his humble Brooklyn beginnings throughout his plethora of money making endeavors. With the financial staying power via his billion dollar bank account, JAY can sacrifice the short term outlook for the long term forecast. As we see Soundcloud rappers and even titans of the industry fight tooth and nail for monstrous opening numbers, JAY understands that business is all about surviving the short run to thrive in the long run. With that, JAY used 4:44 to open the flood gates for continued success for Tidal and his Roc Nation brand. They say that as the water rises, the boats in the harbor do so too along with it. JAY epitomizes that mindset, as he uses all of his resources to benefit his entire arsenal. JAY-Z made us wait when no one else would dare. Guess what? He probably spent the week counting his returns anyway.