While the release of Rihanna's new album ANTI was messier than many people expected, the album's leak and Tidal exclusivity haven't had much of a negative impact on the album's sales. Sources close to the situation have confirmed to The Verge that ANTI is going to hit No. 1 on next week's Billboard album charts (dated February 20th), a reflection of the album's popularity during its first full week on sale. (Billboard is scheduled to reveal the chart's top 10 entries on February 7th.) The album is expected to reach approximately 170,000 equivalent album units, a figure that reflects both digital downloads and streaming totals. Roughly 20 percent of that total originated with Tidal. ANTI will become Rihanna's second No. 1 album — it's following in the footsteps of its predecessor, 2012's Unapologetic.
Any measures of ANTI's success have been complicated by the web of corporate partnerships and exclusivity agreements surrounding the album's release. It was made available late on Wednesday, January 27th for streaming and purchase on Tidal, which had exclusive streaming rights to the album for a full week and exclusive download rights for a day. Listeners could also acquire the album by entering free download codes provided by Samsung, of which more than a million were available. (The supply was exhausted by Thursday afternoon.) The album was released on iTunes at midnight on Thursday night; Billboard's tracking week ended early Friday morning.
The album went platinum faster than any other in history
All of these factors combined to give ANTI a debut sales week that was disappointing at a glance. The album debuted at No. 27 on the Billboard charts dated February 13th, a position largely driven by streams and sales of lead single "Work"; Nielsen reported that the album had sold less than 1,000 digital copies. (It wasn't physically released until today.) Of course, that position took only a little more than a day's worth of streams and downloads into account; for more than half of that period, the album was freely available through Rihanna's Samsung partnership.
ANTI is hitting No. 1 during its first full sales week, but streaming was still restricted to Tidal until Wednesday night. It's possible the album's debut on services like Spotify and Apple Music will help buoy its sales in its next full week on the charts. In the meantime, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) will award Rihanna the album's platinum certification on Sunday, an achievement that can be credited to her deal with Samsung. (She's reaching the certification faster than any other artist in history, according to industry sources.)
It was a foregone conclusion that ANTI would eventually reach the top spot, but the winding road it travelled to get there is further proof of how complicated sales tracking has become in music's digital age.