Jay-Z's "Magna Carta Holy Grail" Causes RIAA To Update Certification Policies
Samsung purchasing one million digital copies of Jay-Z's "Magna Carta Holy Grail" album has caused the RIAA to update the way it certifies gold and platinum albums.
In 2000, Jay-Z released the single "Change The Game." In 2013, Jigga's new material has caused the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to change the way it certifies releases as gold and platinum.
Last month, Samsung announced that it would be purchasing one million copies of Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail album, which would be available to its users for free. Hova's new album wouldn't be platinum upon release, however, because RIAA certification was only available 30 days after a project's release date.
Today, the RIAA announced a change in its certification policy. "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," Liz Kennedy, Director, Communications and Gold & Platinum Program, RIAA, wrote on riaa.com today (July 1). Traditionallly, a release is certified gold once it sells 500,000 units and earns platinum status once it sells 1 million units.
Kennedy writes that Samsung's "novel and creative marketing move...has rightly stimulated a healthy conversation about the sale’s meaning and implications for the modern music business." Kennedy writes that the 30-day certification rule was to account for returns of physical product, namely CDs, cassettes and vinyl version of a release. Digital sales are very rarely returned, though. According to Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman, the RIAA's auditing firm of more than 30 years, "digital returns on average account for less than two percent of sales included in reports provided by the labels for certification," Kennedy writes on RIAA.com.
On June 17, Jay-Z sent a tweet questioning the way sales of releases are reported in such music industry trade publications as Billboard.
In 2004, the RIAA created the Digital Single Award and did not impose a 30-day delay on certification given that there are very few digital returns. "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," Kennedy writes today, "we also consider today’s move in line with our larger efforts to modernize the G&P Program to reflect the new music marketplace."