New rule: If Jay-Z says he is going to give copies of his album Magna Carta Holy Grail to the first one million people to download his Samsung app for free, you make sure those downloads get counted toward his sales total.
That's what the Recording Industry Association of America has done in a controversial move that will grant Magna Carta Holy Grail platinum status before a single copy of the album is sold.
The RIAA's Gold & Platinum Program award allows an album to become eligible for certification 30 days after its release, as long as it fulfills the requirements. When the Digital Single Award was created in 2004, the RIAA didn't impose the 30-day rule "because there were very few digital returns." Plus, nine years ago, "sales of digital albums were virtually non-existent and accounted for a small fraction of overall digital sales," something that has changed dramatically in 2013.
Because of the change in how consumers access music, the RIAA said it was time to update the 30-day rule to align the digital song and album certification requirements.
"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," Liz Kennedy, director of communications and the Gold & Platinum Program, said.
While the RIAA will count the copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail distributed to Samsung users -- through Jay-Z's $20 million deal with the company -- Billboardit will not count those downloads toward the mogul's sales totalis going in the opposite direction, and has said that.
"But our role as the chart of record is to set the rules," editorial director Bill Werde said in a letter on Billboard's website. "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 added, "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."
Here's why: When Best Buy bought 600,000 copies of Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy, those sales didn't count until customers bought them. Weder said that if the album had been priced at $3.49, the minimum for a new release to count on the charts, then the sales would have been counted.
What do you think of the RIAA's decision to update its 30-day rule? Do you think Billboard will follow suit.