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Rihanna: musical superstar, Grammy award winner, millionaire, just had her latest album Anti chart in the lowest position any of her albums ever had in any debut.
Allegedly, the album sold less than 500 physical copies in its first week of release. Yet, the record was considered to be a success – and it went platinum.
Who’s responsible for certifying when an album reaches any status (i.e. gold, platinum, diamond)? In Rihanna’s case, since she’s considered an American artist, it’s up to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The organization will conduct an audit on the sales once the label requests it, then based on the international sales of the album, they’ll give it a rating from gold to platinum.
Here’s where it gets complicated.
To be platinum, 1 million albums need to be sold. Considering the apparent lack of sales, it can’t be possible for Rihanna’s Anti to be certified platinum, right? Well, there are different responses for how many copies of the album she’s sold. Once released, Rihanna’s album was exclusively being streamed on Jay-Z‘s music streaming service Tidal (she co-owns it too). According to Tidal, Anti was downloaded 484,833 times and and was streamed 5.6 million times. So where did the “under 500” figure come from? According to chart tracking company Nielsen, the album allegedly sold 460 copies. Clearly, there’s no definitive answer here.
To further complicate the matter, Samsung partnered with Rihanna and Tidal to allow her to give away 1 million free downloads of Anti to anyone signing up for a Tidal membership. This accounted for a huge chunk of her fan base. Tidal’s director of marketing, Grace Kim, told Spin that 1.4 million units of Anti were moved in just 15 hours.
THIS is essentially why RIAA gave the album a platinum rating since over 1 million copies of the record were “sold.”
But, because Anti was distributed for free to anyone signing up for Tidal through that Samsung deal, those “sales” aren’t eligible to be part of her Billboard ranking. The rule is that the album has to be priced at $3.49 or higher, and obviously free doesn’t qualify. Hence, why Anti is RiRi’s lowest ranking album to debut on charts.
But there’s more.
Anti was leaked before its official release date. The leak sparked a tension between label, Universal Music Group (UMG), and Tidal. According to Tidal, they told Spin that UMG was responsible for the leak due to a “system error” they caused. They also blamed the leak for rushing the official release because the album began popping up on piracy sites. UMG got wind of this and responded.
A senior exec, who remains anonymous, told Music Business Worldwide that those accusations are ridiculous and false. Of course, UMG blames Tidal.
As you could see, there’s lots of confusion and controversy surrounding Anti. Did you keep up with all of that?
Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter @MUCH.