Epic AF: How an album nobody can buy made the US Top 10 four times

Epic Records found a loophole in the Billboard 200 streaming rules

Jess Denham
Tuesday 09 August 2016 12:05
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Drake features on DJ Khaled's song 'For Free' which started life on the Epic AF compilation album
Drake features on DJ Khaled's song 'For Free' which started life on the Epic AF compilation album

How can an album that nobody has ever bought make the US Top 10 not once, not twice, but four times? The answer lies in the growing power of streaming.

Epic Records has engineered the chart feat with Epic AF, a compilation album that has never been released yet features a bunch of tracks that have been hugely popular as songs in their own right.

Since late 2014 when streaming services began their domination of the music industry, the Billboard 200 album chart has counted 1,500 streams or ten paid downloads of a song as equivalent to one album sale. The catch? This is only the case if the song in question is attached to an album. If it’s not, those streams and downloads count for nothing.

Epic Records figured that there must be a way around this fiddly little issue as many of their artists’ viral tunes were being wasted simply because they were not yet on an album. Their solution was to collate those songs into their own compilation record so they could count towards the chart, which still stands as a key marketing tool for labels.



Tracks featured on Epic AF include “For Free” by DJ Khaled ft Drake, “Pick Up the Phone” by Travis Scott and Young Thug, a remix of “Down in the DM” by Yo Gotti ft Nicki Minaj and a bunch of other artists that the label wants to promote. Once the artists’ albums come out, streams for the singles start counting towards those instead. For example, “For Free” features on DJ Khaled’s number one album Major Key, which came out last week, pushing Epic AF from number five down to 32.


Dave Bakula, a senior analyst for Nielsen Music, which runs the Billboard 200, told the New York Times that Epic Records was “trying to manipulate the charts” by finding a loophole in its rules yet praised them for “being creative and having enough of a stable of big-name artists and big songs” to make an unconventional impact. “It feels a little bit like a ‘Now That’s What I Call Music!’ record for streaming services,” he said.

Sony, which owns Epic Records, is reportedly planning another compilation album featuring more pop acts.

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