Justin Hypes | Sales Director
July 25, 2013

Could the Jay-Z and Samsung Failure Have Been Avoided with Proper API Management?


On July 4th, Jay-Z fans who owned a Samsung Galaxy smartphone felt anything but independence when they were gifted a special promotional offer to receive Jay-Z latest album, Magna Carter… Holy Grail, early and for free on their mobile device. However, fans were faced with server errors and aggressively forced to give access to personal information, such as GPS-location and the identification of Phone Calls, in order to download an app version of the album. 

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) a week after the album’s release. In their complaint the EPIC stated that Samsung failed to inform users about the app’s privacy practices and limited meaningful choices that consumers could make regarding collection of their data.

Avoid a Snafu with a Properly Managed API

Every media company must have well-managed APIs, even to power experimental apps. Some media companies, such as Spotify, already understand the importance of supporting an API for growth of the online music industry and their business.

In their API Developer FAQ, Spotify notes that great concepts are key to developing successful apps, but only allow developers to access their API if their concepts will bring something unique to the a users’ listening experience. Spotify carefully manages their API to make sure that apps integrating with the service have a positive impact on the online and mobile music communities. With monitored access to their API they hope that developers will be encouraged to build some really cool stuff.

Earlier this year, one such app, MusiXmatch, ranked first on Design Trends’ list of favorite Spotify Apps. MusiXmatch allows users to see lyrics of the songs they are playing, whether they wish to sing along or just trying to win a bet among friends during an infuriating road trip debate. The app will notify you when you are playing a song in Spotify if it has lyrics available. You can either ignore this message or load the app to see the lyrics as you continue to listen to your song.

In the case of Jay-Z’s app, Samsung should have offered the right to use and enjoy the app (and the music) painlessly. Proper API management could have prevented a lot of end-user pain points while helping the team responsible for the launch of the app manage what information they were going to collect, how they were going to collect it and how they would be integrating with a user’s device. They completely missed the mark when it came to the opportunity to build trust with users while developing a new channel for music distribution. Instead they created an avenue for legal action.

As you design your API for data exchanges you leverage how users communicate in their environment. In this case, Samsung could have mapped their mobile experience to exchange data while reinforcing their relationships and opening a line of communication with their customers.

What’s Next for the Music Industry?

Though there was a bit of a snafu with Jay-Z’s album launch, Samsung disrupted the market by opening a new channel for mobile music distribution.  

As early as last year, Sting commented on the future of mobile music distribution during an interview with Billboard. Sting said, “People are going to stop buying CDs,” and further stated that he and the rest of the music industry are actively looking for different ways to get music to fans, acknowledging that the app model seems to be the favorite. 

Let’s just hope they have a well-managed API in order to deliver the experience seamlessly to their listeners across devices and offer fluid functionality and integrations.