Russ has long been an outspoken advocate for going the independent route in the music business, frequently touting its many advantages over signing to a major label. However, that approach also comes with some drawbacks, forcing Russ to stand up for himself recently with regard to the first-week sales accounting for his recently released album, Santiago.
On Monday, Russ accused Billboard and music data provider Luminate of unfairly discounting several thousand sales for his album, keeping him from a top-ten spot on the Billboard 200 chart. “Billboard & Luminate took away ANOTHER 4,000 of my REAL sales over the weekend making that 10,000 sales total they took away from me while allowing major labels to fake their streams and sales and do monopolistic merch bundles,” he argued, elaborating that “only major labels are allowed to do merch bundles because the only approved vendor is a major label vendor.”
However, he ended his missive on a positive note, reminding followers, “These numbers and charts are made up. The impact however is not. Shoutout to the fans.”
Billboard & Luminate took away ANOTHER 4,000 of my REAL sales over the weekend making that 10,000 sales total they took away from me while allowing major labels to fake their streams and sales and do monopolistic merch bundles (only major labels are allowed to do merch bundles… https://t.co/lH06KpNLM4
— SANTIAGO (@russdiemon) August 28, 2023
Russ was projected to sell around 52,000 units by Hits Daily Double last week, a particularly robust figure for an independent artist without major label support. This would have seen him slot neatly into the top 10, just behind Taylor Swift and Hozier, and it’s clear Russ considered this a feather in his cap.
Of course, projections are just projections. HitsDD can only work with available data and trends and take an educated guess at where things will end up, so there’s no guarantee that Russ was going to sell 50k, only that it looked like he might. Other albums, like Swift’s Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) or Lover, could have seen big spikes, or Santiago could have lost momentum mid-week. However, he does have a point about counting sales from only specific retail avenues.
Unfortunately, Billboard is between a rock and a hard place there; the publications previously incensed other major artists due to allowing merch bundles at one point — the rule has since been changed, which angered different artists. The truth is, no accounting system would be perfect, because someone would always feel they got “cheated” if they disappointed their own expectations. Meanwhile, Coi Leray seems to have had the best approach recently, dismissing the assumed importance of first-week sales in lieu of enjoying her continued impact and the fact that even without splashy figures, she’s living her dream and touching fans with her art.