Music Business

Why Jay-Z Premiered His “Holy Grail” Video On Facebook

Magna-carta-holy-grailBy Corentin Villemeur, head of digital for 50 Cent and G-Unit Records, co-founder of

“Men lie, women lie, Numbers don’t”

 Jay Z, 2009

Ever since the announcement of the Samsung deal back in June, I’ve been fascinated by Jay Z‘s release plan for Magna Carta Holy Grail. As he just released the official music video for “Holy Grail”, my good friend and coworker Tony G asked me “What’s the point of premiering it on Facebook?” .. It inspired me to write the following.

Perception Is Everything

In these days where album sales are still lower than they used to be, this concept in the music industry is key: Perception is everything.

Believe it or not, people care about numbers. They check their Klout, buy Twitter followers, and want more Likes than their look-at-my-salad-pictures-taking Instagram friends.
They also want Soundscan to check first week numbers.. It started with Myspace, YouTube and its prominent view counter took it to another level. Analytics for all is in, get your data right.

So the Brooklyn rapper just dropped the music video for “Holy Grail” – track off the album featuring Justin Timberlake – and chose our friend we hate to love, Facebook to premiere it.
This might come as a surprise for most, but it makes total sense in the overall master plan he used for his MCHG marketing campaign.

I will try to highlight here his clever usage of numbers .. not the ones you’re now accustomed to, the ones he wants you to see; believe that he’s hard at work to make the first impression, the last one. 

The first impression is the last impression

Facebook’s proprietary video player is pretty weak if you ask me. One of its only values is the predominance of the Like the Page button when you watch the video within your feed. Outside of that, it’s a standard player with an obvious lack of features (see embed above: no source/logo, no click through, meh).
So why use it you would ask..

2 reasons:

  1. It’s Facebook’s proprietary player and by using their own technology, your content has a better chance to appear on your fans feed.

No need to run a Fan page to see that your photo directly uploaded to Facebook will get more likes than one uploaded via your Instagram account. Your friends are simply more likely to see it that way. That’s just how Facebook works.
With that being said it’s a better way to capitalize on his 17M Likes rather than posting a YouTube clip.
Now, Facebook offers you to promote your posts and everyone is accustomed to click on a YouTube player, so the real reason might be elsewhere.

  1. No one knows the real amount of views, all you see is the amount of Likes .. and it’s going to be a lot!

As I’m writing this, the Holy Grail video post has more than 230,000 Likes.

To see this kind of numbers on his Page you need to go back to September 19th 2012 and this iconic photo with Obama and Beyonce, which has 269,000 Likes.


So can this video compare with meeting Obama? Clearly not, but that’s where Jay’s brilliance lies.

When Jay Z announced his album, he also said he had already sold a million copies.. what now?



The exact details of the deal here are not known but it was reported that Samsung bought a million copies at $5 a piece and were to give them away for free to their users.

Do we know how many were actually downloaded? No.

Just like his Facebook release, you only get a certain number – The one he wants you to see, that big one, that Lady Gaga number, that number that will make you go ‘wow’.

The Wow effect

Don’t let him fool you, that album wasn’t put together overnight. Justin and Jay’s summer tour was planned months ahead (announced in February) and the timing of MCHG’s release – actually both their release when you include JT’s 20/20 Experience – is no surprise.

The RIAA updates its standards; they move faster than Usain Bolt now?
A $5M deal with Samsung.. sure, let me sign that here while Timbo finishes this beat.

Jay Z doesn’t use his VEVO channel, so his other platform of choice would have been YouTube. He recently used it for Picasso Baby, guess he wasn’t too happy with its performance.

Though it had a good concept and some wide coverage (before and after), the video racked a mere 2.8M views for 22,384 Likes.
The stats on the video, obviously, have been disabled.
Was the video too long? Did he go too far with his art concept? Is Justin making that much of a difference?

Anyway, want to see what 200,000 Likes gets you on YouTube, it’s here.

On YouTube, people might not pay as much attention to likes than they do to views but they do on Facebook, and that’s all that matters here.

We have no way of knowing how many views this video has (you have to be a Page admin to check the amount of plays – ‘Export the data’ .. open Excel .. too many steps) but the perception is there. 230,000 likes in 48hrs .. Justin Bieber kind of numbers.

Starting to make sense now, right?

I remember reading a lot of comments arguing the legitimacy of this Platinum status. The fact is, the app used for the release was downloaded well over a million times.
The app was removed since [old link] but thanks to the Wayback machine you can clearly see that the app received somewhere between 1 and 5M downloads.


Screenshot of the Google Play page, via Wayback machine

If apps are to replace physical CDs, perfect by me.
On top of that, Jay still sold 527,000 copies its first week and had the best opening week in Spotify history.

In this day and age of information overload, using numbers to your own advantage is an art.. Jay mastered it.
Chapeau l’artiste!

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1 Comment

  1. Great post. It’s great to see someone actually taking the time to break it down. The way music is being shared and consumed has changed. Platforms and their effects also have changed but more importantly the consumer has changed it’s view on what is important to them when it comes to music. Love your post.

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