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RIHANNA COUNTS
Questions Abound Over New Album's Rollout

According to members of her team, one of the major stumbling blocks to Samsung’s planned giveaway of Rihanna’s forthcoming album, ANTI—as part of the highly publicized $25m deal with the tech giant—is how to make it count on the charts. Assuming, of course, that she puts it out in Q4.

The bible brain trust that decides these things has come up with a new ruling, which turns out to be rather problematic: They’ll count the free offer from Samsung if the coupon can be redeemed for any album—and, although the offer will be wrapped in Rihanna marketing, the coupon must feature type big enough to make it clear that consumers have a choice of album. The back-and-forth between Roc Nation (which is both her label and her management) and the bible over how to execute the promotion has reportedly been fierce, to say the least.

Adding further drama has been a series of date changes for the release, which had been scheduled originally for 11/20, then moved to 11/6 and now looks headed to 12/4 or 12/11. Once Adele was added to the schedule, the scramble to find a new date began—and the plan to set up a huge sponsored giveaway became the only viable alternative to a brutal chart spanking from the British Queen of Pop.

Might she and Roc Nation even consider bumping the release to 2016, particularly given press coverage suggesting Adele's pending release has affected her confidence about ANTI? Her father, Ronald Fenty, was quoted in the U.K.'s The Sun as saying his daughter is "not happy" and "not comfortable" with the album. Some on the label side feel this has become a greater possibility in the last few days, due to the pressure from Adele and the other obstacles facing the release of ANTI.

The release date aside, other questions abound: Is Tidal partnering on the RiRi redemption? Will the exclusive be for one week, as previously rumored? Could Google Play or Samsung’s little-known Milk Music streaming-radio service be involved? What’s the international play? 

Then there’s the question of physical product. Of the 238k Rihanna sold first week on her last album, Unapologetic, 55% was physical, and 45% of that came from Target—which had 25% of the overall sales. She's sold 1.2m RTD, with digital making up about 34%. But the retailer has been notoriously temperamental as regards digital exclusives, and has even (in the case of Beyoncé’s “sneak attack” set) refused to stock product that got an online-only window upon release. What’s the plan for RiRi on that front?

The siren’s brand is so big right now—and her widely hyped  presence as a mentor on The Voice is only heightening her visibility—that this kerfuffle probably won't  hurt her. But those close to the action are calling it a giant shit show for the launch of her first record on her management company’s label. 

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