With or without a platinum-selling album, the Samsung deal is a win for Jay-Z

He’s a business—man.
He’s a business—man.
Image: Getty Images/Jennifer Graylock
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In the rap world, Jay-Z is known for, among other things, not writing down his lyrics.

But he always keeps track of his numbers. However, music industry analytics might be challenging this.

With the release of his new album Magna Carta Holy Grail, Shawn Carter has brokered a deal with Samsung, who pre-ordered a million copies of it. The first million Samsung Galaxy S III, S 4, and Note II users who download the Jay-Z Magna Carta app will get the album for free on July 4—three days before it hits retailers.

After the Samsung commercial announcing the album’s app aired on June 16, during Game 5 of the NBA finals, Jay-Z tweeted:

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Billboard, which compiles internationally renowned charts for the world’s most music, said no. Editorial director Bill Werde wrote in a blog post that Billboard won’t count the Samsung provided albums.

On the other hand, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)—a trade organization aimed at supporting and promoting major music companies—followed Jay-Z’s “new rule,” literally.

On the RIAA blog, communication director Liz Kennedy wrote that the association has updated it’s Gold & Platinum (G&P) award requirements established in 2004, in response to Jay-Z and Samsung’s deal. Before the rule change, albums—digital or physical—were only eligible for gold or platinum certification (500,000 or 1 million sales) 30 days after release. Now largely in part to the Jay-Z/Samsung deal, digital albums can be certified gold or platinum on the day of release.

Whether Billboard acknowledges the sales or not, Samsung has already cut the check—a $5 million check, according to the Wall Street Journal. And for Jay-Z, that’s the bottom line.

This isn’t the first time the hip hop mogul has partnered with a cell phone company to promote an album. In 2003, he joined forces with Nokia to release a special version of the Nokia 3300 preloaded with“The Black Album.” The album debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 463,000 copies in the first week.

With the entrance of file-sharing sites and streaming music services, it’s not surprising that physical album sales have declined over the years, as much as 30% has been attributed to online piracy (pdf, 16).

With an ever-changing music industry, a guaranteed sale is better than a potential one. And if Jay-Z truly has already made $5 million off M.C.H.G before it even dropped, a Billboard classification doesn’t seem all that significant.

He’s already profited from the deal. Now, all eyes are on Samsung and its sales.