This past Friday, JAY-Z released his shockingly personal and intimate new album 4:44. It’s a great album, but people tended to have one big complaint about the thing: They couldn’t figure out how to hear it. At first, the album was only available to stream if you were a Sprint customer or if you’d become a Tidal subscriber before midnight on Friday night. Eventually, JAY opened it up to all Tidal subscribers. Still, that only covers a tiny subset of the population. And the album isn’t available for purchase anywhere; right now, it’s streaming-only. But this morning, the Recording Industry Association of America has certified 4:44 platinum.
According to a press release from the RIAA, 4:44 is now platinum, “recognizing 1 million albums sold and/or streamed in the United States.” That makes it the 13th JAY-Z solo studio album to be certified platinum or higher. That’s more than any other rapper in history. But so, um, how? Is the RIAA recognizing illegal downloads now? Or is it just contorting all possible logic so that it can give JAY-Z whatever he wants?
I do like how, in that picture, JAY looks as skeptical as the rest of us.
UPDATE: Mystery solved! Our friends at Billboard have the scoop. Here’s the gist:
4:44 was released on June 30 by Roc Nation, and was initially exclusively available as a stream to existing customers of Tidal and Sprint. However, by July 2, the album was also offered as a free download — sponsored by Sprint — via the web site 444.tidal.com. Customers who wanted the download album were required to submit an email address and use the promotional code “SPRINT” in order to receive the album.
Those album downloads — which were free to the consumer but purchased by a company (Sprint) for distribution — were counted towards the platinum certification. (Roc Nation tells Billboard that the certification reflects 1 million downloads, and no streams were applied towards the certification.)
This is pretty much exactly what Jay negotiated with Samsung in order to push Rihanna’s ANTI to platinum status. What a clusterfuck that was! We wrote about that whole thing at considerable length a while back, and you can read all the gory details if you’re so inclined. Same story, different day. Also you can check out Billboard’s full report on the 4:44 situation here.