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Billboard Overrules Jay-Z’s ‘#NewRules’ for ‘Magna Carta’


Jay-Z’s upcoming Magna Carta Holy Grail album will not be the first album to sell one million copies before its release according to Billboard magazine’s editorial director, Bill Werde.

During Game 5 of the NBA Finals on June 16 Jay-Z revealed that he’d partnered with Samsung to release his next project in a three-minute commercial. We saw him philosophizing about life and pontificating about technology in the company of the album’s super-producer Dream Team of Rick Rubin, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, and Swizz Beats.

In a seemingly unprecedented move Magna Carta Holy Grail will be available for free download on July 4, 12:01 a.m. EST, to the first one million Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy S 4 and Galaxy Note II users. In order to unlock the album fans will use a free Jay-Z-branded Magna Carta app. Those one million download copies are “free” to Samsung users but the Wall Street Journal reports that Samsung “bought” each digital copy at $5 a pop which is why Jay made the case that the album’s sales should count on BillBoard’s charts.

However, in an editorial letter published today, Billboard has overruled Jay’s #newrules:

. . . Our role as the chart of record is to set the rules, and hopefully even raise the level of play. It is in this spirit that I say 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. 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.

Retailers doing one-way deals is a fact of life in the music business. When Best Buy committed to and paid upfront for 600,000 copies of Guns N’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” in 2008, those albums didn’t count as sales — not until music fans actually bought them. 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. 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.

In a nut shell: “nice try, Hov.” How will Jay react to this news? Well he’s apparently reached his allotment of tweets for 2013 but we’re sure he’ll address it a song or a freestyle soon enough and whether Billboard counts the albums Samsung “bought” or not it all still adds up to more publicity for Magna Carta . . . Even when Jay loses he’s still winning.

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