To be clear, an album goes platinum when it achieves 1 million sales. In today’s digital age, it’s even harder — the RIAA didn’t even count streams toward a gold or platinum album certification until last year.
It takes 1,500 track streams to equal one album sale. With Tidal’s 1.2 million subscribers, each one would have needed to stream 4:44 tracks 1,250 times for Jay to have really gone platinum.
So, how’d he do it?
According to Billboard, it was the free downloads provided by Sprint that qualified Jay’s album for the certification.
Customers who wanted the download album were required to submit an email address and use the promotional code “SPRINT” in order to receive the album.
Those album downloads — which were free to the consumer but purchased by a company (Sprint) for distribution — were counted towards the platinum certification. (Roc Nation tells Billboard that the certification reflects 1 million downloads, and no streams were applied towards the certification.)
According to an RIAA spokesperson, a sale can count towards a certification if purchased directly by the customer, or a business can purchase the album or song and offer it to customers. In the latter case, customers must take affirmative steps to acquire the album or song (submitting an email address and promotional code, for example).
Note: for Billboard charting purposes, as per the current pricing policy, the Sprint-supported downloads would not count towards 4:44’s chart ranking. However, any streams reported by Tidal to Nielsen Music for the album’s songs in the week ending July 6 would contribute to the album’s ranking based solely on streaming equivalent album units.
Way to play the game, Jay. Congrats!
— RIAA (@RIAA) July 5, 2017