RIAA certification

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In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America, (RIAA) awards certification based on the number of albums and singles sold through retail and other ancillary markets.[1] Other countries have similar awards (see music recording sales certification). Certification is not automatic; for an award to be made, the record label must request certification and pay a fee to have the sales of the recording audited. The audit is conducted against net shipments after returns (most often an artist's royalty statement is used), which includes albums sold directly to retailers and one-stops, direct-to-consumer sales (music clubs and mail order) and other outlets.

Description and qualifications[edit]

Presently, an American RIAA-certified Gold record is a single or album that has sold 500,000 units (records, tapes or compact discs). Originally, the requirement for a Gold single was one million units sold and a Gold album represented $1 million in sales (at wholesale value). In 1975, the additional requirement of 500,000 units sold was added for Gold albums. Reflecting growth in record sales, the Platinum award was instituted in 1976 for albums selling one million units and singles selling two million units. The Multi-Platinum award was instituted in 1984, signifying multiple Platinum levels of albums and singles. In 1989, the sales thresholds for singles were reduced to 500,000 for Gold and 1,000,000 for Platinum, reflecting a decrease in sales of singles. In 1992, RIAA began counting each disc in a multi-disc set as one unit toward certification. Reflecting additional growth in music sales, the Diamond award was instituted in 1999 for albums or singles selling ten million units. Because of these changes in criteria, the sales level associated with a particular award depends on when the award was made.

Nielsen SoundScan figures are not used in RIAA certification; the RIAA system predates Nielsen SoundScan and includes sales outlets Nielsen misses. Prior to Nielsen SoundScan, RIAA certification was the only audited and verifiable system for tracking music sales in the U.S.; it is still the only system capable of tracking 100% of sales (albeit as shipments less returns, not actual sales like Nielsen SoundScan). This system has allowed, at times, for record labels to promote an album as Gold or Platinum simply based on large shipments. For instance, in 1978 the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band soundtrack shipped platinum but was a sales bust, with two million returns.[2] Similarly, all four solo albums by the members of Kiss simultaneously shipped Platinum that same year but did not reach the top 20 of the Billboard 200 album chart.[3] The following year, the RIAA began requiring 120 days from the release date before recordings were eligible for certification, although that requirement has been reduced over the years and currently stands at 30 days. Sony was roundly criticized in 1995 for hyping Michael Jackson's double album HIStory as five times Platinum, based on shipments of 2.5 million and using the RIAA's recently adopted practice of counting each disc toward certification, while SoundScan was reporting only 1.3 million copies sold.[4] A similar discrepancy between shipments and sales was reported with The Lion King soundtrack.[5]

List of certifications[edit]

Records[edit]

  • 500,000 units: Gold album
  • 1,000,000 units: Platinum album
  • 2,000,000 or more units: Multi-Platinum album
  • 10,000,000 units: Diamond album

For further information, see Music recording sales certification.

Multi-disc[edit]

Multi-disc albums are counted once for each disc within the album if it is over 100 minutes in length or is from the vinyl era. For example, each copy of The Smashing Pumpkins's Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (running time of 121:39), OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (running time of 134:56), and Shania Twain's Up! (145:44), all double albums, were counted twice, meaning each album was certified diamond after 5 million copies were shipped. Pink Floyd's The Wall and The Beatles' White Album, both vinyl-era, are also counted double even though their running times are under the minimum requirement.

Spanish[edit]

Since 2000, RIAA also awards Los Premios de Oro y De Platino to recordings of which over 50% of the content is in the Spanish language.

For Spanish-language albums certified after December 2013, the award levels are:[6]

  • 30,000 units: Disco de Oro
  • 60,000 units: Disco de Platino
  • 120,000 units: Disco de Multi-Platino

For certifications made prior to December 2013, the award levels are:[7]

  • 50,000 units: Disco de Oro
  • 100,000 units: Disco de Platino
  • 200,000 units: Disco de Multi-Platino

Note: The number of sales required to qualify for Oro and Platino awards was higher prior to January 1, 2008.[7] The thresholds were 100,000 units (Oro) and 200,000 units (Platino). All Spanish-language albums certified prior to 2008 were updated to match the current certification at the time.[7][8] "La Bomba" by Bolivian group Azul Azul is the only single to receive a Latin certification before the creation of the Latin digital singles awards in 2013.[9]

Singles[edit]

It is estimated that there have been about 2,550 combined single certifications.

Standard singles are certified:

  • Gold when it ships 500,000 copies
  • Platinum when it ships 1,000,000 copies
  • Multi-Platinum when it ships at least 2,000,000 copies

Note: The number of sales required to qualify for Gold and Platinum discs was higher prior to January 1, 1989. The thresholds were previously 1,000,000 units (Gold) and 2,000,000 units (Platinum).[10]

Digital singles are certified:

  • Gold means 500,000 certification units
  • Platinum means 1,000,000 certification units
  • Multi-Platinum means 2,000,000+ certification units

From 2004 through July 2006, the certification level was 100,000 downloads for Gold and 200,000 for Platinum. When the RIAA changed the certification standards to match retail distribution in August 2006, all Platinum and Multi-Platinum awards for a digital release were withdrawn. Gold certifications, however, were not, meaning a song that was downloaded over 100,000 times and certified so by the RIAA during that time frame retains its Gold status.[11]

Starting May 9, 2013 RIAA certifications for singles in the "digital" category include on-demand audio and/or video song streams in addition to downloads at a rate of 100 streams=1 certification "unit".[12][13]

Latin digital singles are certified:

  • Disco de Oro (Gold) means 30,000 certification units
  • Disco de Platino (Platinum) means 60,000 certification units
  • Disco de Multi-Platino (Multi-Platinum) means 120,000+ certification units

The Latin Digital Single Awards began on December 20, 2013. As with the digital sales, 100 streams count as one download sale.[6]

Video Longform[edit]

Along with albums, digital albums, and singles there is another classification of music release called "Video Longform." This release format includes DVD and VHS releases, and certain live albums and compilation albums. The certification criteria is slightly different from other styles.[14]

  • Gold: 50,000
  • Platinum: 100,000
  • Multi-Platinum: 200,000 copies

Records[edit]

Lists from RIAA site showing current status holders of RIAA Certifications:

Artists with the most certifications of Gold, Platinum and Multi-Platinum albums as of November 2013[edit]

Albums that have been certified Gold might receive additional certifications for achieving Platinum and Multi-Platinum levels.

Artist # Gold # Platinum # Multi-Platinum Total Source
AC/DC 21 20 12 53 [15]
Aerosmith 25 18 12 55 [15]
Alabama 22 20 10 52 [15]
The Beach Boys 20 9 6 35 [15]
The Beatles 47 41 26 114 [15]
Garth Brooks 16 16 15 47 [15]
Jimmy Buffett 17 9 3 29 [15]
Mariah Carey 25 13 9 42 [15]
Johnny Cash 19 10 5 34 [15]
Kenny Chesney 16 11 5 32 [15]
Chicago 23 18 8 49 [15]
Eric Clapton 25 12 8 45 [15]
John Denver 21 13 7 41 [15]
Neil Diamond 40 21 11 72 [15]
The Doors 19 14 5 38 [15]
Bob Dylan 36 16 5 57 [15]
Grateful Dead 21 6 4 31 [15]
Jimi Hendrix 17 10 6 33 [15]
Whitney Houston 10 10 8 28 [15]
Isley Brothers 15 10 3 28 [15]
Alan Jackson 18 15 8 41 [15]
Jay Z 15 15 8 38 [15]
Jefferson Airplane/Starship 20 5 1 26 [15]
Jethro Tull 15 3 1 19 [15]
Billy Joel 18 17 12 47 [15]
Elton John 38 26 12 76 [15]
Toby Keith 17 12 5 34 [15]
Kenny G 15 11 8 34 [15]
Kiss 24 10 3 37 [15]
Led Zeppelin 19 18 14 51 [15]
Lynyrd Skynyrd 19 13 7 39 [15]
Madonna 20 17 12 49 [15]
Barry Manilow 24 13 6 43 [15]
Mannheim Steamroller 19 8 4 31 [15]
Johnny Mathis 16 6 2 24 [15]
Dave Matthews Band 17 14 7 38 [15]
Paul McCartney 16 7 4 27 [15]
Reba McEntire 27 19 9 55 [15]
John Mellencamp 15 12 5 32 [15]
Anne Murray 15 6 2 23 [15]
Willie Nelson 22 16 7 45 [15]
Ozzy Osbourne 15 12 9 36 [15]
Tom Petty 16 8 5 29 [15]
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers 15 8 5 28 [15]
Pink Floyd 18 15 12 45 [15]
Elvis Presley 90 52 25 167 [15]
Prince 23 16 7 46 [15]
Queen 19 12 7 38 [15]
Kenny Rogers 31 19 8 58 [15]
The Rolling Stones 43 28 11 82 [15]
Linda Ronstadt 17 13 7 37 [15]
Rush 24 14 3 41 [15]
Santana 21 10 7 38 [15]
Frank Sinatra 34 10 4 48 [15]
Bruce Springsteen 22 17 10 49 [15]
Rod Stewart 27 19 10 56 [15]
George Strait 38 33 13 84 [15]
Barbra Streisand 51 30 13 94 [15]
James Taylor 20 14 5 39 [15]
The Temptations 19 6 1 26 [15]
U2 16 16 11 43 [15]
Luther Vandross 19 15 7 41 [15]
The Who 18 12 5 35 [15]
Hank Williams, Jr. 23 8 1 32 [15]
Neil Young 18 7 3 28 [15]

Artists with the most certifications of Gold, Platinum and Multi-Platinum singles as of January 2011[edit]

Singles that have been certified Gold might receive additional certifications for achieving Platinum and Multi-Platinum levels. For example, Barbra Streisand has had 8 singles certified Gold, 5 of which went on to achieve Platinum certification as well.

This list includes the RIAA formats 'Single','12 inch single' and 'Video Single'. This list includes singles of the RIAA types 'standard' and 'digital'.

  • Very few artists ever received a Gold 12-inch single (Donna Summer, Barbra Streisand for "Enough Is Enough", and Madonna for "Angel/Into The Groove")
  • 12 inch singles were given a Gold certification after sales of 500,000 or more copies sold. This took place back when more 12-inch singles were manufactured and sold.

This table tracks artists with some number of singles that have received at least ten total certifications.

Artist # Gold # Platinum # Multi-Platinum Total source
Elvis Presley 55 28 7 90 [16]
Beyoncé 41 20 4 65 [17][18]
Lil Wayne 29 23 6 56 [19]
Mariah Carey 26 13 1 40 [20]
Taylor Swift 25 22 8 41 [21]
Madonna 26+Gold 12 inch 8 2 36 [22]
Rihanna 15 14 11 40 [23]
The Beatles 24 6 4 34 [24]
Michael Jackson 21 9 1 30 [25]
Whitney Houston 16 11 1 28 [26]
Janet Jackson 21 5 - 26 [27]
Elton John 18 6 1 25 [28]
Kanye West 27 21 7 55 [29]
The Temptations 17 6 - 23 [30]
Carrie Underwood 19 14 6 39 [31]
R. Kelly 11 7 - 18 [32]
Usher 11 7 - 18 [33]
Chris Brown 10 6 2 18 [34]
T.I. 9 13 3 25 [35]
Boyz II Men 10 7 - 17 [36]
Jay-Z 26 21 4 51 [37]
Linkin Park 9 6 2 17 [38]
Black Eyed Peas 9 4 6 19 [39]
Donna Summer 12+Gold 12 inch 3 - 16 [40]
Britney Spears 12 9 4 25 [41][42]
Justin Timberlake 9 5 1 15 [43]
Aretha Franklin 15 - - 15 [44]
Nelly 12 3 1 16 [45]
Bee Gees 11 4 - 15 [46]
Creedence Clearwater Revival 10 5 - 15 [47]
Ludacris 9 5 - 14 [48]
Lady Gaga 5 5 6 16 [49]
Kenny Chesney 14 - - 14 [50]
Prince 12 2 - 14 [51]
Flo Rida 7 4 7 18 [52]
Monica 7 6 1 14 [53]
Paul McCartney 12 1 - 13 [54]
Olivia Newton-John 11 2 - 13 [55]
Brad Paisley 10 3 - 13 [56]
Celine Dion 9 4 - 13 [57]
TLC 9 4 - 13 [58]
Tim McGraw 8 3 2 13 [59]
Barbra Streisand 8+Gold 12 inch 5 - 14 [60]
T-Pain 7 5 2 14 [61]
Alicia Keys 7 4 2 13 [62]
Diddy 7 4 2 13 [63]
Fergie 5 5 3 13 [64]
Bruno Mars 5 4 4 13 [65]
50 Cent 10 2 - 12 [66]
Notorious B.I.G 8 4 - 12 [67]
Shakira 7 4 1 12 [68]
Christina Aguilera 14 8 - 22 [69]
Kelly Clarkson 11 4 - 15 [70]
Jason Aldean 9 5 4 19 [71]
Sugarland 8 3 1 12 [72]
Avril Lavigne 8 2 1 11 [73]
Nicki Minaj 7 4 2 13 [72]
Ne-Yo 6 5 - 11 [74]
The Carpenters 10 - - 10 [75]
L.L. Cool J 8 2 - 10 [76]
John Mayer 8 2 - 10 [77]
Destiny's Child 19 9 - 28 [78]
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony 6 3 1 10 [79]
Red Hot Chili Peppers 6 3 2 11 [80]
Rascal Flatts 6 4 - 10 [81]
Fall Out Boy 5 4 2 11 [82]
Natasha Bedingfield 5 3 2 10 [83]
Ke$ha 4 4 2 10 [84]

RIAA Diamond certifications[edit]

Diamond (10+ million) certified[85]

Year of Release Artist(s) Album Label(s) Certification
1982 Michael Jackson Thriller Epic 29× Platinum
1976 Eagles Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) Asylum 29× Platinum
1985 Billy Joel Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II Columbia 23× Platinum
1979 Pink Floyd The Wall Columbia/Capitol 23× Platinum
1971 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin IV Atlantic 23× Platinum
1980 AC/DC Back in Black Atlantic 22× Platinum
1998 Garth Brooks Double Live Capitol Nashville 21× Platinum
1997 Shania Twain Come On Over Mercury Nashville 20× Platinum
1968 The Beatles The Beatles (The White Album) Apple 19× Platinum
1977 Fleetwood Mac Rumours Warner Bros. 19× Platinum
1987 Guns N' Roses Appetite for Destruction Geffen 18× Platinum
1976 Boston Boston Epic 17× Platinum
1990 Garth Brooks No Fences Capitol Nashville 17× Platinum
1992 Whitney Houston The Bodyguard Arista 17× Platinum
1973 The Beatles 1967–1970 Capitol 17× Platinum
1991 Metallica Metallica (The Black Album) Elektra 16× Platinum
1974 Elton John Elton John's Greatest Hits Polydor 16× Platinum
1975 Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti Swan Song 16× Platinum
1995 Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill Maverick 16× Platinum
1976 Eagles Hotel California Asylum 16× Platinum
1994 Hootie and the Blowfish Cracked Rear View Atlantic 16× Platinum
1973 Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon Capitol 15× Platinum
1973 The Beatles 1962–1966 Capitol 15× Platinum
1988 Journey Greatest Hits Columbia 15× Platinum
1977 Soundtrack / Bee Gees Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track RSO 15× Platinum
1999 Santana Supernatural Arista 15× Platinum
1984 Bruce Springsteen Born in the U.S.A. Columbia 15× Platinum
1999 Britney Spears ...Baby One More Time Jive 14× Platinum
1997 Backstreet Boys Backstreet Boys Jive 14× Platinum
1977 Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell Epic 14× Platinum
1991 Garth Brooks Ropin' the Wind Capitol Nashville 14× Platinum
1972 Simon & Garfunkel Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits Columbia 14× Platinum
1986 Bruce Springsteen Live/1975–85 Columbia 13× Platinum
1978 Steve Miller Band Greatest Hits 1974–78 Capitol 13× Platinum
1999 Backstreet Boys Millennium Jive 13× Platinum
1984 Prince Purple Rain Warner Bros. 13× Platinum
1991 Pearl Jam Ten Epic 13× Platinum
1985 Whitney Houston Whitney Houston Arista 13× Platinum
1980 Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits Liberty 12× Platinum
1994 Boyz II Men II Motown 12× Platinum
1987 Def Leppard Hysteria Mercury Records 12× Platinum
1972 The Rolling Stones Hot Rocks 1964–1971 London 12× Platinum
1994 Soundtrack Forrest Gump Epic 12× Platinum
1992 Kenny G Breathless Arista 12× Platinum
1969 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin II Atlantic 12× Platinum
1985 Phil Collins No Jacket Required Atlantic 12× Platinum
1995 Jewel Pieces of You Atlantic 12× Platinum
1986 Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet Mercury 12× Platinum
1995 Shania Twain The Woman in Me Mercury Nashville 12× Platinum
1998 Dixie Chicks Wide Open Spaces Monument 12× Platinum
1996 Matchbox Twenty Yourself or Someone Like You Atlantic 12× Platinum
1969 The Beatles Abbey Road Apple 12× Platinum
1970 Elvis Presley Elvis' Christmas Album RCA Victor 12× Platinum
1980 Aerosmith Greatest Hits Columbia 11× Platinum
2002 Shania Twain Up! Mercury Nashville 11× Platinum
1997 Soundtrack Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture Epic 11× Platinum
2000 The Beatles 1 Capitol 11× Platinum
1994 TLC CrazySexyCool LaFace 11× Platinum
1998 Kid Rock Devil Without a Cause Atlantic 11× Platinum
1987 Soundtrack Dirty Dancing RCA 11× Platinum
1982 Eagles Eagles Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 Asylum 11× Platinum
1996 Celine Dion Falling Into You Epic 11× Platinum
1973 Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy Atlantic 11× Platinum
2003 Outkast Speakerboxxx/The Love Below LaFace/Arista 11× Platinum
1967 The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Capitol 11× Platinum
2000 *NSYNC No Strings Attached Jive 11× Platinum
1996 2Pac All Eyez On Me Interscope. 11.2 x Platinum
1976 James Taylor Greatest Hits Warner Bros. 11× Platinum
1999 Creed Human Clay Wind-up 11× Platinum
1989 Garth Brooks Garth Brooks Capitol 10× Platinum
1995 The Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness Virgin 10× Platinum
1967 Patsy Cline Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits Decca 10× Platinum
1993 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Greatest Hits MCA 10× Platinum
2000 Linkin Park Hybrid Theory Warner Bros. 10× Platinum
1990 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin (boxed set) Atlantic Records 10× Platinum
1984 Bob Marley & The Wailers Legend Island 10× Platinum
1997 Celine Dion Let's Talk About Love Epic 10× Platinum
1997 The Notorious B.I.G. Life After Death Bad Boy/Arista 10× Platinum
1999 Dixie Chicks Fly Monument 10× Platinum
1987 George Michael Faith Columbia 10× Platinum
1984 Van Halen 1984 (MCMLXXXIV) Warner Bros. 10× Platinum
1976 Doobie Brothers Best of The Doobies Warner Bros. 10× Platinum
1983 Lionel Richie Can't Slow Down Motown 10× Platinum
2002 Norah Jones Come Away With Me Blue Note 10× Platinum
2004 Usher Confessions Arista 10× Platinum
1995 Mariah Carey Daydream Columbia 10× Platinum
1994 Green Day Dookie Reprise 10× Platinum
1983 ZZ Top Eliminator Warner Bros. 10× Platinum
1984 Madonna Like a Virgin Sire 10× Platinum
1993 Mariah Carey Music Box Columbia 10× Platinum
1998 *NSYNC *NSYNC RCA 10× Platinum
1992 Eric Clapton Unplugged Reprise 10× Platinum
1995 No Doubt Tragic Kingdom Trauma 10× Platinum
1977 Billy Joel The Stranger Columbia 10× Platinum
2000 Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP Interscope 10× Platinum
1994 Soundtrack / Elton John The Lion King: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Walt Disney 10× Platinum
1987 U2 The Joshua Tree Island 10× Platinum
1990 Madonna The Immaculate Collection Sire 10× Platinum
1994 Garth Brooks The Hits Liberty 10× Platinum
2002 Eminem The Eminem Show Interscope 10× Platinum
1985 The Doors The Best of The Doors Elektra 10× Platinum
1971 Carole King Tapestry Ode 10× Platinum
1976 Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life Motown 10× Platinum
1997 Garth Brooks Sevens Capitol Nashville 10× Platinum
1983 Def Leppard Pyromania Mercury 10× Platinum
1990 MC Hammer Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em Capitol 10× Platinum
2000 Britney Spears Oops!... I Did It Again Jive 10× Platinum
1991 Nirvana Nevermind DGC 10× Platinum
1978 Van Halen Van Halen Warner Bros. 10× Platinum
1998 2Pac Greatest Hits Interscope 10× Platinum
2011 Adele 21 XL 10× Platinum

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ RIAA certification criteria. Retrieved on September 19, 2006
  2. ^ Hollie, Pamela. "Record Industry: Big Changes" The New York Times January 12, 1980: 27
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  5. ^ Philips, Chuck (January 15, 1995). "Sold, Shipped, What's the Diff? : About 2 million albums, in the case of 'The Lion King,' pointing up the disparity between industry's sales tally and SoundScan's". Los Angeles Times. p. 67. Retrieved June 24, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "RIAA Updates Latin Gold & Platinum Program". RIAA. December 20, 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c Lamy, Jonathon (February 14, 2008). "Country Takes The Crop". RIAA. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
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  9. ^ Cobo, Leila (August 18, 2001). "Latin Notas". Billboard (Prometheus Global Media) 113 (33): 32. Retrieved April 11, 2014. 
  10. ^ Grein, Paul (May 14, 1989). "New Golden Rule: 500,000 Sales Mark for All Singles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2009). Top Pop Singles 1955-2008 (12th ed.). p. 14. ISBN 0-89820-180-2. 
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