Jay-Z Changes the Rules in the Recording Industry

The RIAA says that Jay-Z's new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, will be awarded platinum status.

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Jay-Z's new album could be certified platinum the day of its release. (Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

When Jay-Z announced his new partnership with Samsung -- in which his next album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, would be made available exclusively to the first million Samsung users who downloaded the app -- there was lots of talk from him about new rules, along with many questions. Chief among them: Would those million downloads of his album give the album platinum status upon its release, considering that it was the company he is endorsing that bought the first million albums?

On Monday the Recording Industry Association of America, the organization responsible for certifying platinum albums, announced that there will indeed be a new rule, influenced primarily by Jay-Z and Samsung's partnership.

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.

In related news, Rick Rubin, the legendary producer who is seen throughout the Jay-Z and Samsung ad, said that he did not actually work on Magna Carta Holy Grail

Read the entire statement by the RIAA on it website.

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