JAY Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail prompts #NewRules for RIAA | News

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When JAY Z discussed the concept of bringing new rules to the music industry in terms of creativity, creation and the consumption of music in the first trailer for his twelfth studio album Magna Carta Holy Grail, many of us could not have predicted this turn of events.

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has made a decision, sparked by the Brooklyn hailing rapper and businessman (“I’m a business man”)’s one of a kind deal with Samsung which saw them purchase one million digital copies of the new LP to give away to Samsung Galaxy users via a special Magna Carta app on July 4th (three days ahead of it’s general release), has decided to change the way it certifies albums.

Till now, the RIAA would have to wait till 30 days after an album’s release for it to become eligible for gold and platinum certification but in this digital age, the rule has now been scrapped in relation to digital sales.
So with this in place it looks like the Magna Carta Holy Grail will make history as the first album to go platinum ahead of it’s public release.

Read the full letter below…

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.

When we first created the Digital Single Award in 2004, we elected not to impose any 30-day rule because there are very few digital returns. According to our auditing firm, digital returns on average account for less than two percent of sales included in reports provided by the labels for certification – most digital retailer Terms of Use/Service allow users to return products only under limited circumstances.

Also at the time in 2004, sales of digital albums were virtually non-existent and accounted for a small fraction of overall digital sales. Fast forward a decade and that’s obviously no longer the case.

We think it’s time for the RIAA – and Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman – to align our digital song and album certification requirements. That’s why today we are officially updating this rule in our G&P Program 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.

Not only do we believe it’s sensible and logical to align digital album rules with those we have maintained for digital singles since the program’s inception, we also consider today’s move in line with our larger efforts to modernize the G&P Program to reflect the new music marketplace. In May we announced the integration of on-demand streams to the program to more broadly recognize online demand for songs.

The reality is that how fans consume music is changing, the music business is changing as labels and artists partner with a breathtaking array of new technology services, and the industry’s premier award recognizing artists’ commercial achievement should similarly keep pace. In short, we’re continuing to move the 55-year-old program forward and it’s a good day when music sales diversification and innovative strategies meet the RIAA’s time-tested, gold standard requisites for certification.

Liz Kennedy
Director, Communications and Gold & Platinum Program, RIAA

Despite the change by the RIAA, Soundscan and Billboard will not count these ‘sales’ to Samsung on their charts as editorial director Bill Werde stated last month…

“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 in a letter from the editor. “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.”

I’ll leave the last word to JAY Z…