Jay-Z's <em>Magna Carta Holy Grail</em> leads RIAA to change rules, will go platinum on moment of release

Even if Jay-Z’s forthcoming Magna Carta Holy Grail proves to be a damp squib, it’s already made its mark on the future of the US charts.

Jay-Z’s twelfth studio album is set to be released through a tie-in deal with Samsung Galaxy phones, with the record being given away gratis to a million Samsung users via an app later this week. Unsurprisingly, Billboard elected not to count the giveaway in their chart rundown, suggesting that “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.”

Jay-Z has previously expressed his disappointment at the current system, writing on Twitter: “If 1 Million records gets SOLD and billboard doesnt report it, did it happen? Ha. #newrules #magnacartaholygrail Platinum!!! VII IV XIII”

As Billboard report, Jay-Z’s message seems to have got through to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). At present, digital album certifications are given by the RIAA following the same 30-day waiting period as physical releases are subjected to. In light of Magna Carta Holy Grail, the organisation has now changed its rules so that digital album certifications will be granted on the day of release.

According to a blog post by RIAA Communications and Gold & Platinum Program director Liz Kennedy, the change was “prompted” by Magna Carta Holy Grail:

By now, many of us in the music business, as well as Jay-Z fans, know that Samsung has purchased one million “Magna Carta Holy Grail” digital albums to be given away to the phone maker’s customers.  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.

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.

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.

Under the new rules, the RIAA are expected to recognise Magna Carta Holy Grail as a platinum record on the day of its release. Even in the light of the changes, Billboard have stressed that the album sales still won’t count towards their chart rundown.

Magna Carta Holy Grail is due on July 4 through Island Def Jam (and, once it gets a proper physical release, is still expected to hit the US No. 1 spot). The album will feature guest spots from the likes of Justin Timberlake, Pharrell and Swizz Beats – although, as we learned yesterday, Rick Rubin’s nowhere to be seen.



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