If you were to scroll down a list of things I will never become tired of you may come across the words "Jay-Z" and "the Internet." Sure, there may be items between these like ice cream and a good laugh, but the point is, I have been a fan of both entities since my teenage years. So imagine my delight when I learned the music mogul and icon was utilizing the power of the Internet and social media to market his upcoming greatest hits collection. It was a hip hop techie's dream come true!
The site, www.JayZHitsCollection.com, was launched as the primary tool for marketing the legendary hip hop artist's anthology of work which begins with its first release, The Hits Collection, Volume One, on November 22, 2010. But, this isn't just a website. It is flashy and yet seamlessly beautiful. An even better description is the fictitious word used by a friend of mine who put me onto the site in the first place; he called it, "reedonkulfabulous."
The site opens to the sound of "Empire State of Mind" while breath-taking black and white photos of iconic New York City landmarks flash across the screen before landing on the image of Jay-Z, his back to the viewer, facing a gorgeous NYC landscape from Brooklyn as the East River virtually ripples between them. I'm a New Yorker, born in Brooklyn, so please forgive the fact that I sat on this homepage for several moments staring at the astounding piece of art before realizing there was much more to see.
The stylishness of the site continues with each page depicting an era of Jay-Z's musical history.
"When releasing an anthology for an artist as storied as Jay-Z, you're delivering more than an album -- you're telling the story of an iconic career," explains Richie Cruz, Digital Strategist for the marketing agency behind the site, AgencyNet.
The double win with an artist such as Jay-Z is you are not only telling his story, but you're reminding people of their own stories as bookmarked by memories of his music. For instance, the section marked 1989 to 1998, took place during the impressionable years of my youth. "Hard Knock Life" instantly reminds me of hanging with friends on my aunt's front stoop. Newer hits like "Empire State of Mind," return me to the seat of my rental car last year as I drove up the West Coast blasting the song to remind myself where I'm from, despite the beauty of the opposite coast's sunset. There is a song from each era that quickly and poignantly pulls my brain back to a specific moment in my own life. That's the power of Jay-Z.
Def Jam Recordings, Jay-Z's former label which is actually behind the project, has always been progressive in its approach to music, and is very intent on setting standards for the way music is not only promoted, but consumed. It is no surprise then to see the site's unique take on fan interaction. A widget, placed on the bottom of every era page, at first appears to be an equalizer following the rhythm of the song being played. In reality, however, a mouse roll-over reveals the bars in the equalizer are actually individual commentary left by fans. Via a pop-up called "Add Your Voice" and the Twitter hashtag #jayzhits, fans are able to post their memories and thoughts directly to the site. It is a cohesive and intelligent method for building a community around the experience rather than distancing fans as only viewers of the process.
While the site is a robust piece of technology, adorned with photos, videos and quotes, what's most impressive is the exceptional experience of it. It lives as a depiction of Jay-Z's ability to transcend not only beyond the boundaries of basic marketing, but beyond the boundaries of many artists in general. Like his music, Jay-Z's new site allows fans to make his experience their own. And what better way is there to make a lasting impression.