Jay-Z’s World Reverberates in Life and Times [VIDEO]

When you land at Jay-Z’s website, Life and Times, you land in a grid. A musical performance in one box. Football in another. An athlete in one box. Fashion in another. A killer car. Abstract art.

The content isn’t necessarily about Jay-Z, but he’s everywhere.

While his style and ethos pervade the site, the iconic rap and hip-hop artist, who headlined the Labor Day Budweiser Made in America Festival in Philadelphia last weekend, is not asking you to wade through old-school advertising.

Inside Life and Times

The site’s grid is made up of tiles. These are tiles of a style, the idea of a style: that style is Jay-Z as an artist, and Jay Z as an enthusiast.

Life and Times helps better define and further his brand — which includes his identity as a musical artist, and also as a clothing line creator, producer, art appreciator, sports fan, and philanthropist — with a mosaic that visually represents those facets.

“Jay-Z’s Life and Times shows that some celebrity brands, like their corporate equivalents, are realizing that in order to use digital media effectively, they need to stop bleating on about themselves and let their creative output do — and generate — the talking for them,” said Niall Cook, a principal advisor at Sociagility. “Why? Because that’s what really defines a brand in social media.”

Want more evidence? Here’s the point of view of one commenter at Life and Times: “I love the style of this page and it’s contend [sic],” wrote Kacy Lamb.

Area 17: Powering Life and Times

The site was built for Jay-Z by Area 17, an agency based in New York, Paris and France. The agency is also responsible for sites put up by clients such as Adidas, AOL, and SPIN.

As for who’s creating the Life and Times material, staff at SC Enterprises, a Jay-Z company, said in an email: “All of our original video is in-house.”

As for the articles and other materials, they are guided by what interests Jay-Z, created by a staff that includes writers who also work with publications such as GQ, Forbes, and Essence.

Lessons from Life and Times

Life and Times is engaging on multiple fronts. Here are some key points that emerge from what is there:

  • A Little Bit of Content Can Go a Long Way:  

Life and Times doesn’t give away the whole ranch. A minute or two will do. Everything is a teaser. The video segment posted on Sept. 4, for example, represents less than 60 seconds of the almost four-minute Watching the Throne track “Ni**as in Paris”.  (Also, the clip heavily emphasizes Kayne West’s rapping, not Jay-Z’s.)

  • Give Attention to Get Attention: 

As Niall Cook reminds us, successful brand strategy means that maybe you should not talk about yourself as the focus of what you put online. Look at the tile posted Aug. 29, 2012: Live at Afro Punk. It’s the Afropunk Fest in Brooklyn. Jay-Z wasn’t even on the bill. But photographer Bas N. Clark was there. And Clark’s photos make up a 15-image scroll of highlights.

Then there’s the Aug. 24 profile of Ultimate Fighting Championship contender Jon Jones. It’s a 1,000-plus word essay on his career.

Interestingly, there were no comments posted with the Jones story, as of Sept. 4, 2012. Compare that to the hundreds on the Watching the Throne video. So, you shouldn’t necessarily talk about yourself, but your fans hopefully want to talk about you — a lot.

By the way, Jon Jones uses Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” as his entrance music. One hand washes the other — content strategists take note.

  • Pictures May Equal 1,000 Words, But Text Still Equals Context: 

Something we can learn about content from Jay-Z’s site is that content is not always served best by image-based material. A good piece of writing still means something, even online.

Life and Times is a home for good writing and compelling visual content. Check the Michael Vick entry. Check the essay about The Doors.

Jay-Z  is making his presence felt online, as an artist and as an entertainer, in new and innovative ways.

Life and Times may not be about the conventional idea of return-on-investment — there’s no easy way to see how one generates a traditional conversion, when it comes to visitors outright buying anything — but the site is absolutely about return on fans’ expectations of an experience.

Put another way, expenditure on your audience’s experience is a way to build their loyalty. Jay-Z is clearly investing to earn it at Life and Times.

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