With ‘Donda 2’ Stem Player Release, Kanye West Skips Streamers — And the Charts
The album and the $200 devices that play it fail to meet Billboard's chart eligibility requirements.
After releasing 16 tracks from Donda 2 to his Stem Player last week, Kanye West is so far staying true to his promise to hold back the album from streaming services.
The artist and entrepreneur, who now goes by Ye, reported $1.3 million in Stem sales via Instagram in the 24 hours after announcing Donda 2 would be released exclusively on his $200 proprietary hockey-puck-sized streaming devices, which allow users to remix songs as they listen. While new Stem purchases appear to come preloaded with 2019’s Jesus Is King, last year’s Donda and Donda 2, anyone who purchased the device when it was released last year can also upload the Donda 2 songs — or others — using their computer and a USB-C cable.
Ye said at time of his Feb. 18 Instagram post that he had sold 39,500 Stem Players to date — for total net sales topping $8.6 million.
While that revenue far surpasses what an artist can earn from streaming or sales in the same time period, one thing this release strategy will not be earning Ye is placement on the Billboard charts. That’s because the album is being sold with a device that can be used for other means besides the playing of the album. As such, the Stem/Donda package would fall within Billboard’s latest merch bundle policy, where albums sold with merchandise are not chart eligible.
Since the Stem Player is a fairly new concept, however, people familiar with the matter from both Billboard and MRC say they plan to continue to monitor its evolution as it relates to chart eligibility.
Ye released four Donda 2 tracks to his Stem Player on Feb. 23 following a listening party and live performance in Miami the night prior. The next day, he released 12 more songs, calling the 16-track collection the “Miami Version.”
When Ye released Donda on Aug. 29, it topped the Billboard 200 albums chart with 309,000 equivalent album units moved, according to MRC Data, becoming 2021’s top single-week release to that point. He was later surpassed by Drake’s Certified Lover Boy and Adele’s 30 and ended 2021 with the calendar year’s 39th biggest album, according to the Billboard 200 year-end chart.