After premiering his new Samsung commercial during Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Billboard revealed the cover of their latest issue. The cover story "Jay-Z's New Blueprint" is available now and breaks down Hov's new deal in regards to sales and album charting.
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.
Writer Bill Werde also goes on to cite label sources expecting first-week sales of around 400-450k. It's not platinum status, but it should definitely be enough to give Hov his 13th No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Adding to his effort to reach The Beatles' ever-illusive (most-likely impossible) 19.