Jay-Z’s new album went platinum in 6 days, but how?

This morning the RIAA announced that Jay-Z’s brand new album, 4:44, had already been certified platinum. The accomplishment gives Jay his thirteen platinum plaque for his solo albums, more than any other hip-hop artist in history, but already many are calling into question the math behind the feat.

4:44 was released as a Tidal exclusive on June 30, but in order to gain access to the album through Tidal alone consumers had to sign up for the streaming service within the first day of the record’s release. After that, those wishing to hear Jay-Z’s new record would need to join Sprint, which means a two-year deal for cellular service, in order to access the record.

To put Jay-Z’s six day platinum status into perspective, Beyonce’s Lemonade – also a Tidal exclusive when initially released – took six weeks to earn the same status.

So how did this happen? New rules introduced by the RIAA a few years back state that 1500 streams of a record is the equivalent to a single album sale. If 1,000,000 sales are needed to achieve platinum status then 4:44 would need to have accrued 1.5 billion streams in just six days of release. This is not impossible, especially considering the album’s scant 35-minute runtime, but it would be unusual. Tidal is far from the biggest streaming player in the game, and the same could be argued about Jay-Z’s position in hip-hop. He’s a giant without question, but in 2017 could he really be the most popular, in-demand rapper of them all?

The announcement made by the RIAA does not detail the specifics of how 4:44 reached this impressive milestone so quickly, but some have already questioned whether or not there may be bulk sales involved in the mix. When Jay released his last record, Magna Carta, Samsung famously bought one-million copies to give away through an exclusive promotion. Those sales count just the same as traditional album sales, so the album was essentially platinum before it was even released. Something similar could have happened with Sprint and 4:44 (via Tidal), but there might be some questionable activity found in that deal because Sprint owns one-third of Tidal.

Can a giant corporation buy a million copies of a record only available through a service they own and call them legitimate sales? If so, what does that say about the importance of such accreditation?

In response to questions raised earlier today, July 5, the RIAA released this statement:

We will keep an eye out for additional information regarding the certification of 4:44 and the future of Tidal. Follow Haulix on Twitter so you never miss another headline for us or the many music writers whose work we support through our channels.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.