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New Rules: How Jay-Z Went Platinum Without Selling One Album

Jay-Z is officially releasing his new album Magna Carta Holy Grail on July 7, 2013.  Thanks to a change in the way the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) officially tallies sales, Jay-Z’s new album is slated to go certified platinum on the day of its release.

On Monday, July 1, the RIAA announced it would start counting digital sales immediately, rather than waiting its standard 30 days after an album’s release. According to the RIAA’s director of communications and Gold & Platinum Program Liz Kennedy, “Not only do we believe it’s sensible and logical to align digital album rules with those we have maintained for digital singles since the program’s inception, we also consider today’s move in line with our larger efforts to modernize the G&P (Gold & Platinum) Program to reflect the new music marketplace.”  The RIAA’s original 30 day waiting period was created in order to account for any returned merchandise, which would diminish total album sales.  However, because iTunes, Amazon, and almost every other digital download service do not accept returns, the RIAA decided to change its policy.  Kennedy explained, “The reality is, that how fans consume music is changing, the music business is changing as labels and artists partner with a breathtaking array of new technology services, and the industry’s premier award recognizing artists’ commercial achievement should similarly keep pace.”

S how does the RIAA’s new policy make Jay-Z’s new album certified platinum before selling a single unit to consumers?  That would mean Jigga would have to sell a million albums in one day and that’s impossible.  Actually it’s not when you combine the RIAA’s decision with the promotional deal Mr. Carter inked with Samsung.  The conglomerate agreed to purchase one million copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail, at a reported $5 per copy.  Samsung plans to use the album to promote their Galaxy product line by giving away a digital copy of the album to the first one million Galaxy users through an exclusive app that can be accessed with Samsung Galaxy devices (Galaxy SIII, SIV, and the Note 2) in South Korea on July 3rd, and then in the USA on the 4th of July, three days before the album’s official release date of June 7th.  According to the RIAA, this means Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail will have a Platinum certification the day its released.

While Jay-Z’s album comes with a new platinum standard, the Billboard charts aren’t recognizing the Samsung giveaway in the same manner as the RIAA.  Bill Werde, Billboard’s editorial director stated, “Had Jay-Z and Samsung charged $3.49–our minimum pricing threshold for a new release to count on our charts–for either the app or the album, the U.S. sales would have registered.”  So, the RIAA will recognize the transactions while Billboard’s Nielsen-powered SoundScan numbers will not.  Magna Carta Holy Grail will be eligible to hit the Billboard 200 once its officially released to the public on July 7.  This will mark the first time in history that an album will be considered platinum before its official release date, before selling a single unit to consumers all without touching the Billboard charts.

Way to hack the system Jay-Z.  You created a loophole and you completely exploited it, and you know what, I ain’t mad atcha!  At the same damn time the whole situation seems fishy.  I’m still not sure how the RIAA benefits from its own decision.  All I can picture is a man behind the curtain licking his thumb while counting his money.  No doubt it will sound strange at first to hear how Rhianna’s album went platinum before you even got a chance to hear it a million times on the radio.  However, this is apparently the new trend in music that the RIAA felt compelled to stand behind.  Hold on, did you hear that noise?  That was the sound of record company execs doing cartwheels in their offices imagining how many times platinum Drake’s new album will go once they sign a promotional contract with Nickelodeon.  I already know a few hypebeasts who are dying to hear that new ‘Wheelchair Jimmy’ track.  The only question left is… who will be the first to go certified Diamond on opening day?  My money’s on Bieber Nation!  Regardless of who it is, I hope I get an invite to that album release party.

What do you think of the RIAA’s decision?  Voice your opinion and leave any thoughts or comments you might have.

Marco A. Rivera
Marco Rivera is a Chicago native with a B.S. in Marketing, a passion for writing, an affinity towards music, and a love of sports. Since moving to Los Angeles, he’s recorded over 100 songs and performed live at venues throughout Southern California, including the House of Blues. Marco also co-founded an events and promotion company to help brand aspiring artists. Besides posting blogs, he can be heard rambling about sports on his podcast, and seen interviewing up & coming artists on his webshow.

One thought on “New Rules: How Jay-Z Went Platinum Without Selling One Album

  1. I think it is a smart way to deal with the way people consume music today, but in the long term these kind of deals could result in brand/product placement being more important than the music being sold/given.

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