In a series of tweets shared on Monday and Tuesday, the Diemon artist thanked fans for their support of his new album while simultaneously highlighting the thousands of "real sales" he says were taken from him in a matter of days.
"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 because the only approved vendor is a major label vendor)," he said. "These numbers and charts are made up."
After responding to a few fan tweets, Russ continued breaking down his issues with the practice.
“Billboard charts are inflated by fake data which is being verified by only one company, Luminate,” he said, adding that both are “owned by the same company.”
See more from Russ below.
Russ' manager, Milan Ackerman, also addressed the topic in several tweets of his own on Monday. Per Ackerman, the majors are "hiding their fake streams ... in plain sight." From there, Ackerman pointed out an issue that's been discussed with some frequency as of late, i.e. the discrepancy some artists see between ticket sales and album streams.
"It's a rigged game," Ackerman said.
This isn’t the first time an artist has expressed concerns over the process of verifying album streams and sales in the modern age. In his appearance on 21 Savage’s Grammy-winning 2018 single “A Lot,” for example, J. Cole opened the third verse with a question aimed at the practice of artificially boosting one’s streaming presence:
"How many faking they streams? (A lot)
Getting they plays from machines? (A lot)
I can see behind the smoke and mirrors
N****s ain’t really big as they seem"
More broadly, Meek Mill criticized the emphasis placed on first-week numbers last April, adding that "labels run that shit" and artists should instead focus on their "brand and impact."
As for merch-bundling tactics, it was announced in May of this year that the Billboard 200 album chart would be allowing “fan packs” to count toward a release’s numbers. However, such combinations are subject to prior approval of both Luminate and Billboard.