Magna Carta: Jay-Z Samsung downloads change RIAA rules for Platinum Certification

Chris Burns - Jul 5, 2013, 1:21pm CDT
Magna Carta: Jay-Z Samsung downloads change RIAA rules for Platinum Certification

It’s been made official – Jay-Z’s move with the album Magna Carta Holy Grail and a total of 1 million “free” downloads has pushed the RIAA to update their rules on Gold and Platinum records. Mentioning specifically the Magna Carta album and the Samsung deal made with the artist, the RIAA has made it clear: “a common sense update” is in order. The 2004 “Digital Single Award” will be updated to reflect the “wild wild west” of modern times.

What we’ve got going on here is a re-examination of the RIAA’s Gold & Platinum (G&P) Program award rules, going back specifically to the 30-day specification for certification of an album. The organization has suggested that the original 30-day rule was put in place specifically for physical albums and the way they were sold to record stores:

“One of our program’s requirements is that an album can become eligible for certification 30 days after release date. (There are other rules, of course – such as requiring that the price of the album meet certain requirements.) The 30-day rule exists to take into account potential returns of physical product – CDs, cassettes, vinyl, etc. that could be shipped to brick and mortar retailers and returned, in which case our auditors do not count the sales. ” – RIAA

Obviously this same sort of situation does not match up with the sale of digital copies of albums or digital singles. The RIAA suggests that when they created the Digital Single Award in 2004, they did not impose a 30-day rule because of the major lack of digital returns as such.

Here in 2013 the RIAA notes that they’re still without an award with mention of full digital album sales. Because such a thing makes sense to exist – and because the album Magna Carta offers up such a unique – and important – example of massive sales in the industry, digital albums are now added to the RIAA’s G&P Program rules:

“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.” – RIAA

Meanwhile Billboard has suggested that they’re not about the change the way they certify, not for Jay-Z, not for anyone. Their Letter from the Editor still stands:

“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.” – Bill Werde for Billboard

Werde suggested that they’ll need more time between learning of a new method for inclusion in Billboard listings, and: “Should we decide changes are in order, we’ll give the business advance warning so the game stays fair, and certainly run test charts with our data partner Nielsen SoundScan to ensure the charts are up to our historic standards of integrity and accuracy.”

It’s suggested by Werde that, “Learning about Jay-Z’s enormous and admirable ambition two weeks ago simply didn’t leave time for this,” and that they’ll continue to examine their methods through the future, but at the moment they’re sticking with what they’ve got.

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