Rihanna’s ‘Anti’ Is Certified Platinum Despite Selling Just 460 Copies

How many copies did Rihanna’s ANTI actually sell?  That depends on which official music industry group you’re talking to…

Rihanna’s ‘ANTI’ might be the album that shows just how completely broken the music industry has become.  As of Tuesday, the release has already been declared Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), despite just 460 albums officially counted by Nielsen.

Those official numbers were fed into the very official Billboard, which ranked ‘ANTI’ at no. 27 for the week, Rihanna’s lowest chart position ever.

Somehow, the RIAA has counted north of one million actual album sales, with huge streaming numbers to boot.  Under new RIAA rules (first reported by DMN), a Platinum certification requires 1 million album sales, 1.5 billion on-demand streams of songs from the album, or some combination thereof.

That makes the 460 number sound totally ridiculous, but the figure was actually confirmed to Ben Sisario of the New York Times within the last 24 hours.  “Nielsen Soundscan has counted that tiny number since a January 27th release date,” Sisario wrote (full article here).  “Nielsen reported that the album sold fewer than 1,000 copies in the United States; a subscriber to its service who declined to be identified because the data is private, said that the number of albums sold was 460.”

Sounds like Nielsen was busy counting old-school CDs, which Rihanna fans apparently don’t care about.  Enter TIDAL, the Jay Z-owned streaming service that experienced a huge usage spike after offering an ANTI exclusive.  TIDAL has claimed sales of 484,833 album downloads, though it only received its exclusive after Samsung’s exclusive, which ended Thursday.

Enter yet another complication, which is that the official music industry sales week now starts on Friday, instead of Tuesday.  That means that TIDAL only had a small window to rack up (and report) first week sales.

BUT… as part of its special exclusive promotion, Samsung pre-purchased more than a million copies of the album, which is exactly the number required for a Platinum release.  Those were real sales from one party to another, and probably explains the RIAA certification.  Yet somehow, the Nielsen refused to recognize those sales, despite the presence of an actual buyer (Samsung) and seller (Rihanna and her label), which is what the game is all about.


Similarly, Billboard refuses to count sales made through promotional or special deals, which drastically impacted Rihanna’s chart positions (see above).  Billboard made the same refusal back in 2013 with none other than Jay Z, who pre-sold one million sales of ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ to Samsung as part of a similar promotion.  Shortly thereafter, Jay Z called Billboard ‘irrelevant’ and ‘threatened’ for refusing to recognize the copies, while essentially playing God over what gets counted.

There are other cases in which Billboard has refused to count massive album sales totals because of special deals or positioning.  That includes Lady Gaga, whose Amazon-subsidized, $1 ‘Born This Way’ albums were flatly refused for chart consideration; and U2, whose album Songs of Innocence was distributed to more than 500 million iTunes accounts as part of a massive pre-purchase by Apple (none of which were counted).

Billboard (along with Nielsen) flatly declared such creative sales as irrelevant following the U2 dust-up.  “Free or giveaway albums are not eligible for inclusion on Billboard’s album charts and do not count toward sales tracked by Nielsen SoundScan (which supplies data for Billboard’s sales-driven charts),” Billboard decreed.  “The same sort of scenario played out in 2013 with Jay Z’s ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ album, which was given away to Samsung users.”

Back to the present imbroglio, TIDAL is now pointing to 5.6 million streams of the full album on its service, though only a fraction of those will be counted in the first week (which was recently changed to Friday by global recording industry IFPI).  Those streams will count towards the RIAA’s new streaming certification calculations, in which 1.5 billion total on-demand streams are required for Platinum status (5.6 x 13 tracks = 72.8 million, with single song streams added on top).

Make sense?


13 Responses

  1. GGG

    They should just call it something different. I mean, I get and probably agree with those that would say a TRUE platinum record is 1M sales. But getting 1.5B streams is still an impressive feat. So it should certainly count for something.

    • Me

      Yeah, there should be different names for streaming numbers, like 1M = Brook, 10M = Creek, 100M = Tributary, 1B = River, 10B = Sea, 100B = Ocean.

  2. Blargh

    And, what is a “play”? One complete listen/ IP/ day? Or, just a tally of non-stop clicking of the play button, scrubbing included? Until they come forth with the common algorithm that makes them a viable streaming service to be included in these tallies, then it’s just another pat on the back for a job done sort-of-ok. Every streaming service tallies their on-demand hits differently. This reminds me of “albums sold v. albums shipped”..

    • Me

      I believe the song has to play for at least 30 seconds to be counted.

      • Paul Resnikoff

        Sounds right, but shouldn’t it be a full listen to qualify? Just recently, a study was released showing that a very substantial percentage (if not majority) of listens for on-demand tracks were not full listens. Should those count towards a certification?

        • GGG

          I don’t think it necessarily has to be 100%, since people like to skip ahead once a song starts to fade, but 30 secs is definitely way too short. It should be some % of a song, and I can’t imagine it’s THAT hard to implement.

  3. smg77

    What is confusing? Physical media is dead and streaming is the future.

  4. Megamind

    This article was TL:DR it all Bc it’s laced with envy. And it’s sorely misleading. Rihanna will have the number album in the country next week with over 100k sold in addition to the million prepurchases. What’s so hard to understand about the future…even the RIAA had to come around. There is a paradigm shift happening. Get with it or be left behind…with is so ironic for a website called Digital Music News.

    • Troglite

      Paul can certainly clarify his own intentions about this article. But, from my perspective.. he is highlighting the manner in which that “shift to the new paradigm” is being managed. In that light, I think its perfectly appropriate to pose the question: is the new standard consistent with the original intention of the legacy standard it replaces?

      And if “platinum” really means something different now than it did back then, I think its also fair to question what impact this will have and what motivated such a change.

      For example, is it possible that the music industry is effectively making it easier for artists and labels to achieve “platinum” status in the hopes that it will improve their ability to market new releases?

      • Paul Resnikoff

        Almost every industry experiences issues when it comes to counting success, especially as technology changes. Actually, sports is a great example. Let’s take tennis: rackets are made out of graphite not wood (or some other advanced material), players are better conditioned with better technologies, and taller, even the tennis balls and courts are better. So how do you compare Ivan Lendl or Boris Becker to Roger Federer, given such great changes in a such a short period of time?

        I’d argue that tennis has a far smaller problem than music, because the basic mechanisms are the same (player holding a racket, on a court, with a net in the middle, 5 sets, etc.) In music, there really isn’t a common measurement anymore. Albums? That’s only a format that matters for certain artists and demographics (like Adele, and older demos). It’s unlikely that anyone will ever beat Thriller with a new release, simply because the music environment we live in is so dramatically different.

        In that light, I don’t envy the challenge of having to decide what ‘platinum’ success is. But, I question whether it makes sense to still hold the album as the end all, be all of success. The album isn’t the prevailing format anymore, especially for an artist like Rihanna. And cramming streaming into an album metric only dilutes ever earlier record holder; the comparisons between older and newer artists will never make sense.

  5. juxta thought

    What’s up with the analogies? They get ridiculous describing the music business.

    Maybe the music industry is more like GMO corn, yep that’s the problem. And the DMCA is like an alien hybrid stealing everyone’s babies at night. RIAA is to Billboard as Katy Perry times the speed of light is to the cubic root of SOPA. Adele minus SFX will always be greater than per play royalties, except in the case of Labels where they rise exponentially but are asymptotically damped.. just like a black hole. Which leaves streaming as the ten years ago future, but it’s moving away from us too fast to see. In fact, by the time it arrived, it had already left.

    So it’s very simple to see a Platinum certification hits that 460 number precisely, whether real or imaginary.