*Jay Z has always been on a mission to change the game of the music industry and it seems with his last release he may have done just that.
Liz Kennedy, the director of the Recording Industry Association of America, revealed that the music industry’s trade organization would amend its rule to accommodate Jay Z.
“We think it’s time for the RIAA … to align our digital song and album certification requirements. That’s why we are officially updating this rule in our G&P Program requirements,” Kennedy said of the organization’s gold and platinum certification program, which typically requires a 30-day wait from release day to tally sales certifications. “Going forward, sales of albums in digital format will become eligible on the release date, while sales of albums in physical format will still become eligible for certification 30 days after the release date.”
This change was prompted by Jay Z’s deal with Samsung, in which the company bought 1 million copies of the album and is offering it early to consumers who download a special app.
“It is a novel and creative marketing move and it has rightly stimulated a healthy conversation about the sale’s meaning and implications for the modern music business,” Kennedy wrote about the deal. “For us, the move prompted a re-examination of our historic Gold & Platinum (G&P) Program award rules. As we dug through the records of audits, re-reviewed rules and consulted with our auditing firm of more than thirty years, Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman, we discovered one rule disparity that no longer makes sense.”
Kennedy explained in her blog post that the old rule was merely a way to keep track of any potential physical product returns in store. Returns don’t count towards total album sales. But the returns on digital items are few to nonexistent, which inspired the RIAA to create a new paradigm to accommodate the unorthodox release of “Magna Carta.”
Although the RIAA is changing its tune, Billboard magazine, which tallies music sales, has not followed suit.
Jay Z’s deal, if taken into account by Billboad, would have him sitting at platinum status before his album was officially on sale at retail. But the magazine’s rule is not accepting the bulk sales in the sales count.
Billboard Editorial Director Bill Werde explained why his magazine was standing its ground in an editor’s letter.
“[But] our role as the chart of record is to set the rules, and hopefully even raise the level of play,” Werde wrote. A spokesperson for Billboard was not available for comment at press time.
“It is in this spirit that I say it wasn’t as simple as you might think to turn down Jay-Z when he requested that we count the million albums that Samsung ‘bought’ as part of a much larger brand partnership, to give away to Samsung customers,” Werde wrote. “True, nothing was actually for sale — Samsung users will download a Jay-branded app for free and get the album for free a few days later after engaging with some Jay Z content. The passionate and articulate argument by Jay’s team that something was for sale and Samsung bought it also doesn’t mesh with precedent. 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,” he said.
Werde continued, “And ultimately, that’s the rub: The ever-visionary Jay Z pulled the nifty coup of getting paid as if he had a platinum album before one fan bought a single copy. (He may have done even better than that — artists generally get paid a royalty percentage of wholesale. If Jay keeps every penny of Samsung’s $5 purchase price, he’d be more than doubling the typical superstar rate.) But in the context of this promotion, nothing is actually for sale.”