Update: Following the publication of this article, Chance the Rapper tweeted that the Lyft partnership is “not a bundle,” and Chance’s business affairs team told Rolling Stone that it met with Billboard and Nielsen to note that the Lyft free downloads should not tally on the Billboard 200 in accordance with the artist’s wishes. While Billboard announced Monday that it will not log the free albums, the bundled downloads are still eligible for other music charts, which all apply unique methodology to sales, streams and downloads. This article has been updated with this clarifying information.
Chance the Rapper unveiled his debut studio album The Big Day last Friday and has been busy spreading the news in every direction ever since. The Chicago rapper announced a 35-date tour on Monday after releasing the LP on all major streaming services and performing at a Spotify-hosted album release party to kick things off. Over the weekend, Chance also made his album available as a free download to a seemingly random demographic: users of the ride-sharing app Lyft.
Anyone using Lyft from Friday to Monday can receive a link to download The Big Day for free, Lyft wrote in a blog post Friday. All Lyft drivers are eligible to receive the free download as well. Austin Schumacher, Lyft’s head of culture and entertainment, said in the blog post that “from cassette tapes to passing the aux cord, music and driving have always gone hand in hand, and we wanted to create a new in-car experience,” adding that the partnership with Chance grew out of a prior Lyft/Chance effort to support Chicago Public Schools in 2018, in which the rapper went undercover as a driver. To download the album, users click on a link that appears in their “Notifications” tab in the Lyft app.
What the blog post doesn’t mention is that The Big Day arriving free alongside a Lyft ride isn’t just a fun perk for music fans. So-called “album bundles,” in which albums are offered for free within the purchase of concert tickets and other consumer products, have been soaring in popularity in recent months because they can effectively boost artists’ chart figures at no cost to listeners. (When they’re are offered digitally, labels and artists don’t incur much of a loss, either.) Earlier this year, new albums from both DJ Khaled and Tyler, the Creator were released with highly promoted merchandise bundles — DJ Khaled’s paired with energy drinks and Tyler’s with T-shirts, stickers, and lawn signs — which caused ruckus around the Number One spot on music charts as the industry debated whether to accept these entries as legitimate music sales. Other major artists like Travis Scott, the Backstreet Boys, Bon Jovi, and Taylor Swift, whose website is currently accepting advance orders for her unreleased album paired with hoodies and T-shirts, have also been big bundlers.
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Chance, whose last mixtape album Coloring Book already shook things up in the music business in 2016 by getting all the way to the Grammys without making any sales, is adding another layer to the discussion by bundling The Big Day with an entirely different kind of product. But Chance’s team tells Rolling Stone that the rapper specifically requested the free downloads be kept off of his tally on the Billboard 200, the industry’s longest-running weekly albums record, because it was not the case in this situation that he wanted to game the charts.
A Lyft spokesperson said the number of claimed free downloads is still being tallied. Lyft’s blog post says the link to download the album for free will be available until Monday July 29th, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.