The day after his three-minute commercial announcing the imminent arrival of Magna Carta Holy Grail, Jay-Z jumped on Twitter – for the first time in years – and posed the question: “If 1 Million records gets SOLD and billboard doesnt report it, did it happen?” In a nutshell – no, those sales didn’t happen. At least as far as Billboard is concerned. But that doesn’t diminish the deal’s impact for the music industry.
This is the first time a huge release has been exclusively premiered by a brand – it’s the frequent Kanye West-collaborator‘s first solo album in four years – and even brings the importance of record labels into question. If Jay-Z can reach one million fans without a distributor, isn’t their function slightly redundant? Well, Magna Carta Holy Grail will be released by Def Jam on July 7 (three days after the album is available to Samsung customers), so the question then becomes – Do first-week sales matter?
Billboard looks at the situation from a number of different angles. If a record has longevity, then the impact of losing those initial sales with a brand exclusive is negligible. But the way consumers buy music has changed and albums tend to open big and then peter out – making that initial blow all important. The music bible raises Lady Gaga‘s Amazon deal to boost sales of Born This Way as an example. It’s a complicated issue and there’s no real answer. One thing is for sure. If Hov’s deal is a moneyspinner then it won’t be long until another act follows suit.
Should those one million pre-sales be chart eligible? What does all this mean for the way music is distributed? Share your opinion in the comments.