With the pre-release of Jay Z’s Samsung-promoted twelfth studio album Magna Carta: Holy Grail on July 4 (and subsequent standard format release July 9), HOVA is being hailed by some as a pioneer for new platforms of distribution. Dubbing his campaign #NEWRULES, he received both praise and scorn from fans and critics alike, with the app itself exemplifying the occasional downfalls of innovation.
Perhaps, however, as an effort to counteract criticism of his commercially driven release strategy, Jay has added a new twist to his #NEWRULES platform with plans for a pressed vinyl — which, as Billboard has reported, can be difficult to manufacture and have lower profit margins.
Teaming up with Jack White’s Nashville-based Third Man Records, Jay will release his MCHG LP as a vinyl package. But the release date, retail cost and number of units pressed is still unknown — even to head of production at Third Man Ben Blackwell.
“We do not have a tentative release date – as soon as possible is our direction and directive,” Blackwell told Billboard. “Vinyl plants are all completely at capacity and we are working in the same world as everyone else – so we’re just scraping by to get it out as soon as possible.”
The first word of the collaboration came during Jay’s spontaneous Twitter Q&A July 8, casually offering an explanation why the track “Open Letter” didn’t make the final album cut – mainly, that it was in Jack White’s hands. @YancyMcKiddy asked, and Hov responded: “vinyl only, handled by Jack White.”
— Mr. Carter (@S_C_) July 8, 2013
The track “Open Letter” will be featured on a playable “letter” packaged with the full pressed LP. During an interview with Hot 97, Jay explained. “It’s in a letter … You can play the letter. It’s amazing. You open the letter and you can actually play the card like a vinyl.”
The plan will be to issue both a limited version and a standard version, the limited including the “letter” package. “How many of the limited version, I’m not exactly sure – but the idea is there will be two different versions,” Blackwell said. “I like to think I get one good idea a year, and this might be my good idea for the year – without being too specific.”
The collaboration won’t be a first for Third Man Records, who recently issued the vinyl edition of Jay’s curated soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s “Great Gatsby” film. The label regularly releases an eclectic palate of music offerings including underground artists, Americana, and bands like The Raconteurs, Cold War Kids, and Alabama Shakes..
Blackwell notes “Jack and Jay Z are friends. That’s how we did the Great Gatsby vinyl and that’s how this came about as well. I don’t ask too many questions – if someone hands me a Jay Z album and says put it out, I’m going to go put it out (laughs).”
To date, Jay’s MCHG LP has surpassed sales estimates, with industry sources suggesting he could sell between 450,000 to 500,000 copies by the end of the tracking week Sunday.