In the modern era of streaming and digital distribution, the business of making and selling music gets more complicated by the day.
Case in point, Jay-Z’s triumphant return to form, 4:44, while garnering a platinum plaque for units shipped, does not appear on this week’s Billboard 200, ceding the top spot for the 2nd week in a row to DJ Khaled’s I’m Blessed. While this is sure to make executive producer Asahd happy — more than Justin Bieber does, anyway — it’s more likely to confuse hip-hop fans who were expecting Jay-Z’s newest masterpiece to smash more industry records.
However, Billboard can only release streaming numbers if it has them, and in this case, it doesn’t. Tidal, for reasons currently unknown, did not release the streaming figures for 4:44 ahead of the Billboard 200 cut-off last week. Perhaps they are waiting for the physical sales to be counted as well to juice the number or maybe the numbers weren’t as big as ownership at Tidal would have liked.
After all, one thing that hasn’t changed in the industry is the good old “perception is everything” axiom. While Jay could probably survive the negative publicity of subpar numbers, a cagey business, man like himself would probably want to make this project look as good as possible, because being the biggest rap star in the world has its privileges. Jay wants to be the blueprint for the music business in the digital world, but first he has to prove his model works, and the only way to do that is with big, splashy numbers. Hopefully, we’ll see what those look like a week from now.