Music recording sales certification
Music recording sales certification is a system of certifying that a music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

 recording has shipped or sold a certain number of copies, where the threshold quantity varies by type (album, single
Single (music)
In music, a single or record single is a type of release, typically a recording of fewer tracks than an LP or a CD. This can be released for sale to the public in a variety of different formats. In most cases, the single is a song that is released separately from an album, but it can still appear...

, music video
Music video
A music video or song video is a short film integrating a song and imagery, produced for promotional or artistic purposes. Modern music videos are primarily made and used as a marketing device intended to promote the sale of music recordings...

, etc.) and by nation or territory (for specific counts, see: List of music recording certifications).

Almost all countries follow variations of the RIAA certification
RIAA certification
In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America awards certification based on the number of albums and singles sold through retail and other ancillary markets. Other countries have similar awards...

 categories, which are named after precious materials:
  • Silver
    Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

     – moderate sales (about half the gold threshold) (used only in the UK)
  • Gold
    Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

     – high sales
  • Platinum
    Platinum is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Pt and an atomic number of 78. Its name is derived from the Spanish term platina del Pinto, which is literally translated into "little silver of the Pinto River." It is a dense, malleable, ductile, precious, gray-white transition metal...

     – very high (often 2–2.5 times gold threshold)
  • Diamond
    In mineralogy, diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at ambient conditions...

     – extremely high (rare, 2–10 times platinum).

The number of sales or shipments required for these awards varies depending on the population of the territory in which the recording is released. Normally they are awarded only to albums released at least nationally and are awarded individually for each country in which the album is sold. Additionally, widely different sales levels (perhaps 10 times lower) may exist for different music media, such as videos versus album
An album is a collection of recordings, released as a single package on gramophone record, cassette, compact disc, or via digital distribution. The word derives from the Latin word for list .Vinyl LP records have two sides, each comprising one half of the album...

s, singles, or downloads.

Originally applied to LP records, certification is now most commonly awarded for compact disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

 (CD) sales. Certification is usually awarded cumulatively, and it is possible for a single album to be certified Silver, Gold, and Platinum in turn. An album that becomes Platinum at least twice over is said to be "Multi-Platinum". Artists can also become Multi-Platinum sellers if they have at least two albums in the same territory both going single Platinum. A poor-selling record is often jokingly said to have "sold lead" (the heavy metal lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

), in contrast to attaining high status as a Gold or Platinum album.


The original Gold record awards were presented to artists by their own record companies to publicize the achievement of 1,000,000 sales. The first of these was awarded by RCA to Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller
Alton Glenn Miller was an American jazz musician , arranger, composer, and bandleader in the swing era. He was one of the best-selling recording artists from 1939 to 1943, leading one of the best known "Big Bands"...

 in February 1942, celebrating 1,200,000 sales of "Chattanooga Choo Choo
Chattanooga Choo Choo
"Chattanooga Choo Choo" is a song by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon . It was recorded in a big-band/swing manner by Glenn Miller and his orchestra and featured in the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade, which starred Sonja Henie, John Payne, Glenn Miller and his orchestra, The Modernaires, Milton Berle...

". Another example of a company award is the Gold record awarded to Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

 in 1956 for 1,000,000 sales of the single "Don't Be Cruel
Don't Be Cruel
-Legacy:"Don't Be Cruel" went on to become Presley's biggest selling single recorded in 1956, with sales over six million by 1961. It became a regular feature of his live sets until his death in 1977, and was often coupled with "Jailhouse Rock" or "Teddy Bear" during performances from 1969.Many...

." The first Gold record for an LP
LP album
The LP, or long-playing microgroove record, is a format for phonograph records, an analog sound storage medium. Introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry...

 was awarded by RCA to Harry Belafonte
Harry Belafonte
Harold George "Harry" Belafonte, Jr. is an American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist. He was dubbed the "King of Calypso" for popularizing the Caribbean musical style with an international audience in the 1950s...

 in 1957 for the album Calypso
Calypso (album)
Calypso is the 3rd album by Harry Belafonte, released by RCA Victor in 1956. The CD was released on April 28, 1992 . It is the first full-length gramophone LP to sell over one million copies...

(1956), the first album to sell over 1,000,000 copies.

RIAA certification

Several different thresholds have been in use at different times and places for both album and single awards. Some of these were based on units sold and others on the value of retail sales. The first official designation of a "Gold record" by the RIAA was established for singles
Single (music)
In music, a single or record single is a type of release, typically a recording of fewer tracks than an LP or a CD. This can be released for sale to the public in a variety of different formats. In most cases, the single is a song that is released separately from an album, but it can still appear...

 in 1958, and the RIAA also trademark
A trademark, trade mark, or trade-mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or...

ed the term "Gold record" in the United States. On March 14, 1958 the RIAA certified Perry Como
Perry Como
Pierino Ronald "Perry" Como was an American singer and television personality. During a career spanning more than half a century he recorded exclusively for the RCA Victor label after signing with them in 1943. "Mr...

's hit single "Catch a Falling Star
Catch a Falling Star
Catch a Falling Star, written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss, is a song made famous by Perry Como's hit version, released in 1957. It was Como's last #1 hit, reaching #1 in the Billboard "Most Played By Jockeys" chart but not in the overall top-100, where it reached #2. It was the first single to...

" as its first-ever gold record, and the Oklahoma!
Oklahoma! (soundtrack)
Oklahoma! is the original soundtrack album of the 1955 film Oklahoma!, an adaptation of the musical play of the same name. The soundtrack charted #1 on the Billboard Pop Album Chart in 1956 and has been in continual print...

soundtrack was certified as the first Gold album four months later. In 1976, RIAA introduced the Platinum certification, first awarded to Johnnie Taylor
Johnnie Taylor
Johnnie Harrison Taylor was an American vocalist in a wide variety of genres, from rhythm and blues, soul, blues and gospel to pop, doo-wop and disco.-Early years:...

's "Disco Lady
Disco Lady
"Disco Lady" is a 1976 single for Johnnie Taylor that went on to become his biggest hit. It spent four weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and six weeks on the Billboard R&B chart in the U.S. It was also the first single to be certified platinum by the RIAA...

" (single) and the Eagles' Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) (album).

Like many record industry awards and rankings, the measurement is usually based on wholesale shipments to all types of retail outlets, not actual retail sales or financial transactions. This means that an early award or ranking for a new release reflects a distributor's expectations for the album and their market power
Market power
In economics, market power is the ability of a firm to alter the market price of a good or service. In perfectly competitive markets, market participants have no market power. A firm with market power can raise prices without losing its customers to competitors...


Certifications no longer apply solely to physical media, and are now bestowed upon songs used in different ways. In June 2006, the RIAA certified 84 songs as Gold winners for ringtone downloads, 40 as Platinum and 4 as Multi-Platinum.

IFPI certification

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) awards the IFPI Platinum Europe Award for album sales over one million within Europe and (as of October 2009) the Middle East. Multi-Platinum Europe Awards are presented for sales in subsequent multiples of a million. The award, which was inaugurated in 1996, is not restricted to European group artists. Time is not a factor for an album to reach Platinum.

Manufacture of awards

The plaques themselves contain various items under the glass. Modern awards often use CDs instead of records. Most Gold and Platinum records are actually vinyl records which have been vacuum metallized and tinted, while trimmed and plated metal "masters", "mothers", or "stampers" (metal parts used for pressing records out of vinyl) were initially used. Rarely does the groove on the record match the actual recording being awarded. Individual plaque-makers produced their awards according to available materials and individual techniques employed by their graphic arts departments. The plaques, depending on size and elaborateness of design, cost anywhere between US$135 and $275, most often ordered and purchased by the record label that issued the original recording.

See also

  • RIAA certification
    RIAA certification
    In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America awards certification based on the number of albums and singles sold through retail and other ancillary markets. Other countries have similar awards...

  • Lists of best-selling albums
  • Lists of best-selling singles
  • Recording Industry Association of America
    Recording Industry Association of America
    The Recording Industry Association of America is a trade organization that represents the recording industry distributors in the United States...

  • Release (music)
    Release (music)
    In the music industry, a release is usually a term referring to the creative output from an artist available for sale or distribution; a broad term covering the many different formats music can be released in, and different forms of pieces .The word can also refer to the event at which an album or...

External links

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