NEW YORK • Just how popular is the new Rihanna album, Anti?
To judge by the proclamations of Tidal, the streaming music service in which Rihanna is a partner, it is an unqualified smash. The album, which came out late last Wednesday after a drawn-out marketing campaign and a last-minute leak, was released with help from a sponsorship deal with Samsung, in which one million copies were given away to fans.
Those downloads led the Recording Industry Association of America to immediately certify Anti as a platinum release. Tidal further said that it had sold more than 484,833 downloads of the album, in addition to those given away as part of the Samsung promotion, and that the album was streamed 5.6 million times on its service.
But despite those big numbers, Anti had a low start on the Billboard album chart this week, opening at No. 27 - Rihanna's lowest opening chart position.
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 the number of albums sold was 460.
Anti also had 4.2 million streams and 126,000 sales of individual tracks, according to data from Nielsen, whose accounting week goes through the end of Thursday.
Despite the low initial sales, the album quickly reached No. 1 on iTunes's internal charts and industry sales executives predict that it could sell up to 130,000 copies in its first full week of sales, which would be reflected on next week's chart.
Billboard's chart policies disqualify albums that are part of gratis promotions, so the Samsung giveaways do not count. But what about all the rest of the sales that Tidal claimed?
Adding to the complexity are the business relationships involved: Rihanna's label and management company is Roc Nation, which is led by Jay Z - the largest shareholder in Tidal.
One possibility is that the sales of Anti were made outside the US - Tidal operates in dozens of countries - or extended past the deadline to be included on this week's chart, which was midnight last Thursday.
Either way, Rihanna's album did not have the blockbuster chart opening that she is accustomed to. Her last album, Unapologetic, from late 2012, opened at No. 1 and each of her seven earlier studio albums had opened in the Top 10. Her single Work opened at No. 9 on the Hot 100.
This week's Billboard chart featured the return of Adele's 25 to No. 1 for an eighth week, with 97,000 sales.
NEW YORK TIMES