RIAA Issues Open Letter Addressing Jay-Z’s Samsung Deal And Some New Rules

The following was originally published on RIAA.com.

By now, many of us in the music business, as well as Jay-Z fans, know that Samsung has purchased one million “Magna Carta Holy Grail” digital albums to be given away to the phone maker’s customers.  It is a novel and creative marketing move and it has rightly stimulated a healthy conversation about the sale’s meaning and implications for the modern music business.   

For us, the move prompted a re-examination of our historic Gold & Platinum (G&P) Program award rules.  As we dug through the records of audits, re-reviewed rules and consulted with our auditing firm of more than thirty years, Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman, we discovered one rule disparity that no longer makes sense. 

One of our program’s requirements is that an album can become eligible for certification 30 days after release date. (There are other rules, of course – such as requiring that the price of the album meet certain requirements.)  The 30-day rule exists to take into account potential returns of physical product – CDs, cassettes, vinyl, etc. that could be shipped to brick and mortar retailers and returned, in which case our auditors do not count the sales. 

RELATED: Can Jay-Z Rewrite The Rules? Three Experts Weigh In!

When we first created the Digital Single Award in 2004, we elected not to impose any 30-day rule because there are very few digital returns.  According to our auditing firm, digital returns on average account for less than two percent of sales included in reports provided by the labels for certification – most digital retailer Terms of Use/Service allow users to return products only under limited circumstances. 

Also at the time in 2004, sales of digital albums were virtually non-existent and accounted for a small fraction of overall digital sales.  Fast forward a decade and that’s obviously no longer the case. 

We think it’s time for the RIAA – and Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman – to align our digital song and album certification requirements.  That’s why today we are officially updating this rule in our G&P Program requirements.  Going forward, sales of albums in digital format will become eligible on the release date, while sales of albums in physical format will still become eligible for certification 30 days after the release date.

Not only do we believe it’s sensible and logical to align digital album rules with those we have maintained for digital singles since the program’s inception, we also consider today’s move in line with our larger efforts to modernize the G&P Program to reflect the new music marketplace.   In May we announced the integration of on-demand streams to the program to more broadly recognize online demand for songs.

The reality is that how fans consume music is changing, the music business is changing as labels and artists partner with a breathtaking array of new technology services, and the industry’s premier award recognizing artists’ commercial achievement should similarly keep pace.  In short, we’re continuing to move the 55-year-old program forward and it’s a good day when music sales diversification and innovative strategies meet the RIAA’s time-tested, gold standard requisites for certification.

Liz Kennedy
Director, Communications and Gold & Platinum Program, RIAA

  • Abrasive Angel

    New Rules

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  • One Nite Stanley

    This nigga Hov Deebo’d these muh-fuckaz into changing the rules. He is now officially the first person in history to be certified platinum (technically speaking) before his album is even released. If you even look at it down to the letter of the law. The first second, as in the stroke of midnight the day his album is released, he will have already moved 1,000,000 units. WTF MAN! Boss move…I love it! G.O.A.T.

    • Kinda

      I guess he changed the game & the rules.


    • dexter

      True that. but. Is the album hot full of great songs with hitting tracks & nice hooks not to mention hear candy lyrics & fascinating concepts? Maybe some collabos? I mean I like JAy to… but I like good music even better. & if ur thinking it doesn’t matter than well there u go:) I will still prefer great music regardless who its from. & but yea u rite he sure did brody them n2 changing the rules. nice move.

      • One Nite Stanley

        I have absolutely no doubt that this album will be classic. If “Open Letter” was any indication of what’s to come…this album will be SICK!

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  • King Mardo

    New God RULEs

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  • screwfacecapone

    RIAA can eat a dick.

    • Southern Brew

      Why? Are you losing money on that rules change? Is this relevant in your regular, every day life? Does it help you wash cars, or wait tables, or walk dogs, or whatever you do, more effectively? It doesn’t. Oh, you are NOT a recording artist? So, explain again why they should eat your little dick? Because your comment doesn’t make a freaking lick of sense.

  • jsj23

    This article is nice and all, but what really is being changed? It appears that RIAA is merely redefining when something is platinum/gold etc. Who cares about that? What impact will that have on anything other than awards maybe?

    • Southern Brew

      True. Maybe sheep’s perception of what is good or not in music. If you tie record sales to the quality of the music, you are making a mistake. Some real garbage have moved units. it is more about marketing nowadays. The music’s quality is ancillary.

  • #NewRules #SameGame

  • Southern Brew

    I guess some ignorant ass you know what will say that this is proof that Jay-Z is in the illuminati next. One dude got all salty that the RIAA changed that rule. It’s just a bit of music news. No need to get upset and shit. When folks get all emotional about shit that doesn’t affect their ability to put food on the table, it shows their weakness. And for you conspiracy theorists. You want to know who the illuminati really is? Who the devil really is? It’s the folks who tell little black boys that they cannot excel in sports AND academics at the same time. It’s the people who call black boys gay because they can read and speak properly. It’s the people who strike out at people who are trying to better themselves. They want to hold you back so they can get their hands on all the limited money that exists in the world with the full knowledge that an educated Black man is a POWERFUL Black man. For proof, look at the policies during the slavery era and analyze how they were able to keep us in chains for so long.

    • “For proof, look at the policies during the slavery era and analyze how they were able to keep us in chains for so long.”


      • Southern Brew

        You are gonna make me go to a dictionary, fam! All jokes aside, they used fear and ignorance to keep us in chains. The owners wouldn’t allow the slaves to be literate. Let us get a little knowledge and you know the rest. It’s like the pimps and hoes. “Let a bitch manage her money and she liable to go crazy” (From the Mack) Shit, that new line from Kanye is a great example too. You know the one about “niggers not reading” when he talks about the “slave” contracts the labels put artists under.

      • Trust me, your going to appreciate adding that word to your lexicon.

      • Southern Brew

        Yep. ‘Preciate it!

      • Saiyan Prince

        Just looked this up. Good look on the info big bro.

      • If you liked that, youtube:

        “Dr Claud Anderson Inappropriate Behavior A Road Block to Empowerment”

        Normally I charge $19.95 (* + Shipping & Handling ) to drop that info.

        Grab your “L”, brew & take notes.

        >>Big Upz!

      • Schoolin em as usual, you STAY puttin cats up on “new” shit we need to know. *daps*

      • >>Fist Bump

        *Meritorious Manumisson

      • Dig…I been marinatin on this ever since I looked up manumission to see what was good…quiet as kept, our tax system ain’t shit but an advanced form of that (just like all the intentional divide in all aspects in this country is just an advanced form of Willie Lynch syndrome, fake papers or not). Hell not even just the tax system but our whole economic setup in general…people spendin outta their means and fallin victim to consumerism and materialism, just for the illusion of feelin like they’re free…not even understandin they’re the most trapped and enslaved of all.

      • >>In Denzel’s “Training Day” voice : “My Ni99aahHHHHH!”

        We over in the Trayvon Smoking gun article, I swear, wait till you read Matt Swan’s reply to me, that ‘chet will make you ‘chet your meal!


    • ThatBostonMan

      No this proves the exact opposite. If anyone is in that 1%er “illuminati” position in this situation it’s the RIAA who are trying to decide the rules to the game without anyone having voted them into that authority. They don’t make the rules, the fans and the market should make the rules.

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  • Reblogged this on City Press.

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  • $28825362

    I bet when Kanye put that video on the wall he was thinking, “damn I’m a marketing genius, I’m bout to change the whole game with this.” Then Jay comes along and… well you get it. hahahaha

    • BlackBombshell

      Depends. Kanye showing New Slaves on the sides of buildings was more ADVERTISING than marketing. Why? Because it was just putting the product in the view of potential customers so that they know it exists. However, Jay Z’s deal was more MARKETING because you have to take into account who your paying customers are, what do they pay for, how do they pay for it, when do they pay for it, how do they use products like yours, how/when/if they share their experiences with that product, etc, etc, etc…

      MARKETING is all about analyzing the data to best figure out how to get someone to BUY your product. Meanwhile, ADVERTISING is just finding creative and effective ways to make potential customers AWARE of your product.

      Both Kanye & Jay were GREAT at what they achieved via the means that they chose.

  • One Nite Stanley

    Not to mention how he just helped every other artist, in every other genre as well…both independent and established. Artists that have been at the mercy of the majors since the beginning of recorded music. The same labels that are directly responsible for the decline in good music. The ones that “keep the artist in debt” to quote Jadakiss. Now it’s possible to do deals with companies outside of the realm of the music industry, and still make money (Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc). Because while record sales have declined, technology hasn’t…so artists partnering with these heavy weights can only benefit us…THE END USER! Good technology…quality music. Nothing candy cut, because of what the label says the format of an album should be…”you need 2 clubs songs, one song for the females….”

    YESSSS! I’m happy…this is what we all need! POWER TO THE PEOPLE! This is a more revolutionary move than people are giving it credit for being….

    • Has Been

      I don’t think that most artists will be able to benefit from this game-changing move; only the ones that already have a name because most major corporations will only be willing to make such a deal with artists that have proven track records of selling gold or better. so this still leave the up and coming independent artists left out. But it does show creative and innovating thinking and as long as thinking outside of the box continues, the game changer for the smaller fish should be right around the corner.

      • One Nite Stanley

        Not necessarily….now an artist that’s trying to “get on” has the option of trying to make themselves viable via other avenues. It’s no different than an unknown actor being the face of a product/service (Old Spice Man, Dos Equis Most Interesting Man, etc). Granted, it’s not going to happen over night, but this is a game changer…I’m talking long term. I could see a unknown – mid range artist landing the soundtrack to a video game…this is good for music….

    • ThatBostonMan

      The same sort of people keeping the artists in debt are the sort of people who want to keep the country in debt.

  • Erik

    Am I missing something here?!? What’s the new rule??? “Going forward, sales of albums in digital format will become eligible on the release date (like they already were), while sales of albums in physical format will still become eligible for certification 30 days after the release date (like they already were).”

    • disqus_wztaauJrBM

      I thought I was the only one…

    • BlackBombshell

      Sales of DIGITAL ALBUMS were still subject to the 30-day rule that sales of PHYSICAL ALBUMS were.
      However, sales of DIGITAL SINGLES were NOT subject to the 30-day rule.
      Now, ALL DIGITAL sales are counted on 1st day of release.
      Meanwhile, ALL PHYSICAL (vinyl, CD, cassette, etc) sales are still subject to 30-day rule.

  • ThatBostonMan

    Jay Z has pissed off the Illuminati. They don’t want him to “break the rules”. Who cares? A sale is a sale. If you sell a million copies to 1 person or a million copies to a million people a sale is a sale. Now they can of course change the rules to make it that it has to be a million to a million but it doesn’t change the fact that Jay Z is selling whatever he sold and should get credit for his advanced business acumen.

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  • NachoS

    So Selling 1 Million Copies at $5 each is equal to selling 1 Million that normally will cost us consumers $11.99+??? Is Jay still Platinum??? Also, Didn’t he sign a deal with Samsung for 20 Mil? is any of that on top of the $5 million for the album??? Think about it…

    • Negro Peligro

      Agreed. I ain’t hating but by that rate. Those sample music that come with my Windows 7 Kalimba from the hit album Ninja Tuna by Mr. Scruff. Should go 500 million platinum.

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  • killidolatry

    Watch the commercial Jay said it times to make some new rules.Pioneer

  • BrotherMan21

    We went from ringtones to “Jay Z App..”

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