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RIAA starts counting streams towards album certifications, 17 albums go gold or platinum

riaa album awards streaming kendrick lamar
Christian Bertrand /
Streaming has changed the face of the music industry, and now it has altered how the Recording Industry Association of America determines which albums go gold and platinum. RIAA announced Monday that on-demand audio and video streams will now be included in the Gold & Platinum Program’s methodology, effective February 1.

A stream doesn’t carry the same weight as the sale of an album, of course. It takes 1,500 on-demand streams to equal 10 track sales, which is the equivalent of a single album sale. (The Digital Single Award ratio will now be 150 on-demand streams to one download.) Artists must still reach the traditional benchmarks for their album to be certified gold, platinum, or multi-platinum (500,000, one million, and two million, respectively). The change comes in recognition of the “evolving music marketplace,” according to RIAA Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman.

“We know that music listening — both for albums and songs — is skyrocketing, yet that trend has not been reflected in our album certifications,” said Sherman in a press release. “Modernizing our Album Award to include music streaming is the next logical step in the continued evolution of Gold & Platinum Awards, and doing so enables RIAA to fully reward the success of artists’ albums today.”

Thanks to the change to the 58-year-old program, 17 albums from a variety of genres scored certifications, including Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, Coldplay’s Ghost Stories, and Miranda Lambert’s aptly-titled Platinum. Interestingly, the change wasn’t all that well received by Lamar’s label, Top Dawg Entertainment, as Complex pointed out. TDE CEO Anthony Tiffith criticized the new methodology on Twitter and wrote that people should save their congratulations until To Pimp a Butterfly reaches 1 million in straight album sales.

Like it or not, though, it’s not just RIAA that’s taking streaming seriously. Billboard began incorporating on-demand streaming plays late last year, using the same 1,500:10:1 ratio for on-demand streams, track downloads, and album sales. Streaming is just too big to ignore.

Stephanie Topacio Long
Stephanie Topacio Long is a writer and editor whose writing interests range from business to books. She also contributes to…
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