Posted on Jul 20, 2011 in Entertainment
We’ve all heard the terms, but what’s behind that song or CD’s “gold” or “platinum” designation?
In the US, records are formally certified gold, platinum, multi-platinum or diamond by the Recording Industry Association Of America (RIAA) — yes, the company behind all those file sharing lawsuits.
Taking the expression “gold record” (meaning a hit single or album) from the figurative to the literal, the RIAA instituted a formal certification process in 1958 by creating the gold award, an honor earned when a single or album ships 500,000 units to retailers (minus returns) — not necessarily the actual sales. Platinum awards– meaning one million album units shipped — first appeared in 1976, multi-platinum awards in 1984, and the Diamond award in 1999.
Here’s what it takes for a single, EP or album to reach the award tiers in America:
The format of the actual award has changed over the years, from prominently featuring a gold-colored 12″ vinyl record including cassettes or CDs on the award. (In many cases, actual LPs and/or CDs are used — rejects and returns find a new life.)
All awards also feature a gold- or platinum-colored RIAA hologram logo and an inscription plaque with the album title, artist, record company, sales volume the award is commemorating, as well as the name of the recipient. Depending on the artist, parts of the album art, band’s logo or other elements may be incorporated on the commemorative album presentation.
The awards are given to the band members and usually also to everyone else who had a role in the album’s success: the producer, the record company, management, attorneys… personal trainers, hairstylists and so forth. (At right is the kind of award that used to hang in the office where I worked: one of Green Day’s first platinum awards. Ours was a little different, though — it also had a plastic pile of dookie under the glass.)
Elsewhere in the world, the terms signify sales more or less in proportion to the size of the country. For example, you can go gold in Canada for selling 40,000 albums or digital downloads, or in the UK for 100,000 single sales. (Great Britain also has a Silver award level as their lowest award tier.) In Latvia, if you sell 9,000 units, you’ve hit platinum… while you only need 70,000 to earn the same honor from ARIA in Australia.
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