After a hotly debated hullabaloo over whether or not the one million pre-sale copies of Jay-Z‘s 12th studio album Magna Carta Holy Grail that Samsung bought would count toward his position on the charts, Billboard has released their official statement that the sales will not count—which confirms an earlier tweet from Hov.
— Mr. Carter (@S_C_) June 17, 2013
Billboard’s editor-in-chief Bill Werde didn’t simply issue a simple “no” in response to the topic though, but wrote a thoughtful, nuanced letter that addresses both the changing culture of the industry itself and why, in this case, they decided not to count Samsung’s pre-purchase toward actual sales. A key point:
“Had Jay-Z and Samsung charged $3.49—our minimum pricing threshold for a new release to count on our charts—for either the app or the album, the U.S. sales would have registered, Werde wrote, adding: “And ultimately, that’s the rub: The ever-visionary Jay-Z pulled the nifty coup of getting paid as if he had a platinum album before one fan bought a single copy. (He may have done even better than that — artists generally get paid a royalty percentage of wholesale. If Jay keeps every penny of Samsung’s $5 purchase price, he’d be more than doubling the typical superstar rate.) But in the context of this promotion, nothing is actually for sale.”
The letter also admits that the culture of corporate sponsorship and branding has changed music so much—especially in light of the fact that even some die-hard fans don’t pay for copies of albums anymore—that there will be myriad discussions following this decision, and through the year that may potentially revise Billboard’s policies. They also report that projections for first week sales of the record are already reaching 400,000-450,000, which would certainly give Jay another No. 1 spot on the charts anyway. Read the full letter here and watch Jay-Z’s album teaser/Samsung commercial below.
Further questions? Tweet at Billboard’s editor-in-chief Bill Werde (at his suggestion!) at @bwerde, he’ll be fielding questions about the decision via Twitter.