The ultimate symbol of record-business success is finally getting a much-needed facelift, and Kendrick Lamar is one of several artists who will benefit. The Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA, said Monday it will begin counting streams of songs, in addition to the physical and digital sales it has tallied for decades, in determining which releases are eligible for gold and platinum certifications.
“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,” RIAA Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman said in a statement. He added:
“We know that music listening — for both for 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 in the continued evolution of Gold & Platinum Awards, and doing so enables RIAA to fully reward the success of artists’ albums today.”
Based on this change, the RIAA announced it would bestow new platinum certifications on eight releases, including Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” the Weeknd’s “Beauty Behind the Madness,” Sam Hunt’s “Montevallo” and Miranda Lambert’s “Platinum.” Another seven albums would receive gold certifications, including Alt-J’s “An Awesome Wave,” Halsey’s “Badlands” and Wale’s “Ambition.” And several more platinum certifications would be piled onto Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Romeo Santos’ “Fórmula Vol. 2,” iconic records that had already gone platinum the old-fashioned way. A full list of releases that are now certified as gold or platinum can be found on the RIAA website.
The move may enable the RIAA to do a better job accounting for how people listen to music today. For example, Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” which sold 324,000 copies in its first week of release, has enjoyed healthy, sustained interest on streaming services. Its most recent single, “Alright,” has been streamed nearly 47 million times on Spotify.
The move, coming a year and a half after Billboard and Nielsen revised their own accounting practices in 2014 to include streams, will count 150 on-demand streams of a song as equivalent to one download. Ten of those, or 1,500 streams, counts as the equivalent of one album. Half a million albums purchased earns a gold certification, while 1 million albums purchased earns a platinum certification. Streams that are not begun on demand, such as those that users get from radio-style services such as Pandora or iHeartRadio’s app, do not count.