Jay-Z's 'Magna Carta' Giveaway Won't Count for Charts

'Billboard' declines rapper's request to factor in promotion

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
June 21, 2013 12:30 PM ET

Jay-Z's plan to give away a million copies of his upcoming album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, to Samsung mobile customers a few days before it's widely available won't count toward his ranking on the Billboard charts, the magazine has ruled. The rapper's team had asked Billboard to factor in the Samsung giveaway, arguing that the wireless company had bought the million copies it will distribute to fans through a Jay-Z app.

That's not enough to qualify for inclusion in Billboard's chart caculations, editorial director Bill Werde wrote in a letter on the magazine's website. "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," Werde wrote. "The passionate and articulate argument by Jay's team that something was for sale and Samsung bought it also doesn't mesh with precedent."

Summer Tour Preview 2013: Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z

That precedent includes a situation from 2008, when Best Buy purchased 600,000 copies of Guns N' Roses' LP Chinese Democracy. In that case, the albums didn't count as sales until purchased by fans from the retailer. Werde says that if Jay-Z and Samsung charged $3.49, which is minimum threshold for a new release to count on the Billboard charts, for either the app or the album, the U.S. sales would have registered.

Once Magna Carta Holy Grail is available for purchase, the sales will count toward chart rankings. Label sources expect first-week sales of the album to be in the range of 400,000-450,000, which will most likely situate Jay-Z at Number One on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Jay-Z announced the album during Game 5 of the NBA finals last week.

Werde says that in the coming weeks Billboard will be reexamining the charts and to determine whether changes are necessary as the music industry continues to shift. Alterations aren't unprecedented: the magazine earlier this year began including YouTube views in its formula for calculating placement on its singles charts.

"Learning about Jay-Z's enormous and admirable ambition two weeks ago simply didn't leave time for this, Werde wrote. "But rest assured, Billboard will find the right balance and metric to chart brand-driven album distribution."

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Stillness Is the Move”

Dirty Projectors | 2009

A Wim Wenders film and a rapper inspired the Dirty Projectors duo David Longstreth and Amber Coffmanto write "sort of a love song." "We rented the movie Wings of Desire from Dave's brother's recommendation, and he had me go through it and just write down some things that I found interesting, and they made it into the song," Coffman said. As for the hip-hop connection, Longstreth explained, "The beat is based on T-Pain. We commissioned a radio mix of the song by the guy who mixes all of Timbaland's records, but the mix we made sounded way better, so we didn't use it."

More Song Stories entries »