UPDATE: (7/1): The RIAA has amended its rules and has decided to award the rapper platinum certification immediately after the album is released. Read their rationale and full statement on their site.
When Jay-Z announced that Samsung would be buying one million copies of his upcoming new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, and distributing them via app to Galaxy phone owners, the music world went nuts with variants of "Jay-Z's New LP Already Went Platinum!" headlines. Some of this, inevitably, was due to parroting of Jigga himself, who tweeted earlier this week:
Apparently, the answer to that seemingly rhetorical question is no, it did not happen.
As Nielsen SoundScan, the company that tracks album sales, tells Fuse, if there's no cost to the consumer—Samsung is paying $5 million directly to Jay-Z—those sales will not be counted as part of the total albums sold. The company compared it to iTunes' free Single of the Week offer, which is also not counted when tallying total sales. SoundScan also doesn't count bulk purchases, so it's a no-go either way.
There's a saving grace, though. Because Samsung is distributing the albums to Galaxy owners via a special app that will allow them to hear the album 72 hours before its official release, they could conceivably charge those not part of the lucky million for the app, thus allowing the album to be counted as a sale.
If it all sounds a bit murky, that's because it is. We're in uncharted territory here, and SoundScan told Fuse that the company is currently in talks with Roc Nation, with the latter trying to find a way to make these sales count. Knowing the weight and influence of the Roc, this story isn't over by a long shot.