Billboard Won’t Count Jay-Z’s ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ Samsung Downloads

Billboard announced Friday that it would not count the one million downloads of Magna Carta Holy Grail that Jay-Z is giving away to Galaxy phone users through his partnership with Samsung.

The album officially drops on July 7, but one million owners of the Galaxy S III, 4, or Galaxy Note will be able to download the album on their devices on July 4. Jay-Z made the announcement in an ad that aired during Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

In a letter on Billboard’s website, editorial director Bill Werde explained what those million copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail will mean for the Billboard 200 chart.

“But our role as the chart of record is to set the rules, and hopefully even raise the level of play. 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,” Weder said.

“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.”

Weder referred back to Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy, and how Best Buy bought 600,000 copies of the album, but the sales didn’t count unless a customer actually bought them. Weder said that, had Samsung and Jay-Z priced the album at $3.49 — the minimum price for a new release to count on the Billboard charts — then the sales would have counted.

“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,” Weder wrote.

“(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,” he added.

Do you think Billboard is making the right decision? Or should they count the Samsung downloads as sales?