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

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

Jay-Z
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Jay-Z
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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."

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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."