RIAA Gold and Platinum Awards Now Count Streaming

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Marc Cohn RIAA Award

The Gold album award that Best Classic Bands’ founder received for Marc Cohn’s 1991 self-titled debut album

This from the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA): audio and video streams now officially count toward gold and platinum album awards. The benchmarks remain the same (an artist must sell 500,000 units to be certified gold, one million for platinum), but now there’s a new formula to bring the system into the 21st century. After numerous consultations and analyses, the RIAA has determined that one album sale will be equal to 10 track sales which is equal to 1,500 on-demand audio and/or video song streams. For the Digital Single Award, 150 on-demand streams equal one download.

Last year was a big one for pretty much every format except the compact disc. Vinyl sales picked up the pace, and music streaming figures doubled. (Check out Best Classic Bands’ most recent coverage of the vinyl revival here.)  “For nearly six decades, whether it’s vinyl, CDs, downloads or now streams, the Gold & Platinum Program has adapted to recognize the benchmarks of success in an evolving music marketplace,” says Cary Sherman, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA. “We know that music listening – for both albums and songs – is skyrocketing, yet that trend has not been reflected in our album certifications. Modernizing our Album Award to include music streaming is the next logical step.”

Billboard revamped their album charts to incorporate streams and sales of digital tracks in late 2014, using the same 1,500 to 10 to 1 ratio. Back when they made the changes, the company’s vice president of charts and data development Silvio Pietroluongo made the fair point that, “While an extremely valuable measurement, album sales would mostly capture the initial impulse only, without indicating the depth of consumption thereafter. Someone could listen to the album just once, or listen to one track or a number of tracks 100 times. We are now able to incorporate those plays as part of an album consumption ranking throughout one’s possession of an album, extending beyond the initial purchase or listen.”

In our opinion, the whole thing seems to water down the guidelines. Certifications have never used radio airplay, for instance, when determining an album’s sales. And to us that’s the key word: sales – not listening sessions.

The RIAA’s recent announcement resulted in 17 albums from a variety of genres qualifying for new certifications, including Elle King’s Love Stuff (gold), Hozier’s Hozier (platinum) and Michael Jackson’s Thriller (wait for it… 32x platinum).

Best Classic Bands Staff

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