Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) seal that appears on award plaques

In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) award certification based on the number of albums and singles sold through retail and other ancillary markets.[1] Other countries have similar awards (see music recording certification). Certification is not automatic; for an award to be made, the record label must first request certification.[2] The audit is conducted against net shipments after returns (most often an artist's royalty statement is used), which includes albums sold directly to retailers and one-stops, direct-to-consumer sales (music clubs and mail order) and other outlets.

Description and qualifications

RIAA certifications for Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Lynyrd Skynyrd on display at Julien's Auctions.

A Gold record is a song or album that sells 500,000 units (records, tapes, and compact discs). The award was launched in 1958;[3] originally, the requirement for a Gold single was one million units sold and a Gold album represented $1 million in sales (at wholesale value, around a third of the list price).[4] In 1975, the additional requirement of 500,000 units sold was added for Gold albums.[4] Reflecting growth in record sales, the Platinum award was added in 1976, for albums that sold one million units and for singles selling two million units.[4][5] The Multi-Platinum award was introduced in 1984, signifying multiple Platinum levels of albums and singles.[6] In 1989, the sales thresholds for singles were reduced to 500,000 for Gold and 1,000,000 for Platinum, reflecting a decrease in sales of singles.[7] In 1992, RIAA began counting each disc in a multi-disc set as one unit toward certification. Reflecting additional growth in music sales, the Diamond award was instituted in 1999 for albums or singles selling ten million units.[3] Because of these changes in criteria, the sales level associated with a particular award depends on when the award was made.

Nielsen SoundScan figures are not used in RIAA certification; the RIAA system predates Nielsen SoundScan and includes sales outlets Nielsen misses.[citation needed] Prior to Nielsen SoundScan, RIAA certification was the only audited and verifiable system for tracking music sales in the U.S.; it is still the only system capable of tracking 100% of sales (albeit as shipments less returns, not actual sales like Nielsen SoundScan).[citation needed] This system has permitted, at times, record labels to promote an album as Gold or Platinum simply based on large shipments. For instance, in 1978 the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band soundtrack shipped Platinum but was a sales bust, with two million returns.[8] Similarly, all four solo albums by the members of Kiss simultaneously shipped Platinum that same year but did not reach the top 20 of the Billboard 200 album chart.[9] The following year, the RIAA began requiring 120 days from the release date before recordings were eligible for certification, although that requirement has been reduced over the years and currently stands at 30 days. Sony was widely criticized in 1995 for hyping Michael Jackson's double album HIStory as five-times Platinum, based on shipments of 2.5 million and using the RIAA's recently adopted practice of counting each disc toward certification, while SoundScan was reporting only 1.3 million copies sold.[10] A similar discrepancy between shipments and sales was reported with The Lion King soundtrack.[11]

In the digital era, changes in the way music is consumed resulted in changes in the certification criteria. Actual album sales had dropped significantly, while digital download followed by streaming became increasingly dominant. On-demand audio and video streams started to be counted towards Digital Single units consumed in 2013.[12][13] Track downloads and audio and video streams were then included in album certification in 2016 using formulas converting downloads and streams into the album units for certification purpose.[14]

List of certifications

Records

Starting from February 1, 2016, each album unit may be one of the following:[14][15]

  1. Each permanent digital album or physical album sale;
  2. 10 tracks from the album downloaded;
  3. 1,500 on-demand audio or video streams of songs from the album.

Multi-disc

Multi-disc albums are counted once for each disc within the album if it is over 100 minutes in length or is from the vinyl era. For example, the Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (running time of 121:39) and OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (running time of 134:56), both double albums, were counted twice, meaning each album was certified diamond after 5 million copies were shipped. Pink Floyd's The Wall and the Beatles' White Album, both vinyl-era, are also counted as double even though their running times are under the minimum requirement. Rules may or may not apply depending on most recent staff within the Distributions position.

Latin

Since 2000, the RIAA also awards Los Premios de Oro y De Platino (Gold and Platinum Awards in Spanish) to Latin albums which are defined by the RIAA as a type of product that features at least 51% of content in Spanish.[16]

List of certifications, showing name and units required[17][18]
Certification Units required
(as of December 20, 2013)
Units required
(before December 20, 2013)
Disco de Oro 30,000 50,000
Disco de Platino 60,000 100,000
Disco de Multi-Platino 120,000 200,000
Disco de Diamante 600,000 1,000,000

Note: The number of sales required to qualify for Oro and Platino awards was higher prior to January 1, 2008.[17] The thresholds were 100,000 units (Oro) and 200,000 units (Platino). All Spanish-language albums certified prior to 2008 were updated to match the current certification at the time.[17][19] "La Bomba" by Bolivian group Azul Azul is the only single to receive a Latin certification based on shipments before the creation of the Latin digital singles awards in 2013.[20] The Disco de Diamante award was introduced after the RIAA updated the thresholds for Latin certifications on December 20, 2013. The Disco de Diamante is awarded to Latin albums that have been certified 10× Platinum.[21][22]

Singles

Standard singles are certified:

Note: The number of sales required to qualify for Gold and Platinum discs was higher prior to January 1, 1989. The thresholds were previously 1,000,000 units (Gold) and 2,000,000 units (Platinum).[23]

Digital singles are certified:

From 2004 through July 2006, the certification level was 100,000 downloads for Gold and 200,000 for Platinum. When the RIAA changed the certification standards to match retail distribution in August 2006, all Platinum and Multi-Platinum awards for a digital release were withdrawn. Gold certifications, however, were not, meaning a song that was downloaded over 100,000 times and certified so by the RIAA during that time frame retains its Gold status.[24]

Starting May 9, 2013, RIAA certifications for singles in the "digital" category include on-demand audio and/or video song streams in addition to downloads at a rate of 100 streams=1 certification "unit".[12][25] On January 2, 2016, this rate was updated to 150 streams = 1 certification unit.[13]

Latin digital singles are certified:

The Latin Digital Single Awards began on December 20, 2013. As with the digital sales, 100 streams count as one download sale.[18]

Video Longform

Along with albums, digital albums, and singles there is another classification of music release called "Video Longform." This release format includes DVD and VHS releases, and certain live albums and compilation albums. The certification criteria are slightly different from other styles.[26][27]

Video Single

For Video Single certification, the title must contain no more than two songs and must have a running time of no more than 15 minutes. The certification criteria are:[27]

As of 2021, the titles certified the most Video Single awards are "Here Without You" by 3 Doors Down and Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation", both winning 6× Platinum for 300,000 copies.[28] Since 2010, only 5 titles have been certified Video Single. The latest Gold was awarded to "R40" by Rush in 2017.[29]

Video Box Set

The Video Box Set (or Multi-Box Music Video Set) award is a classification for video compilations that include three or more videos that are grouped and marketed together as a set. Like Video Longform, this includes DVD and VHS releases and the certification criteria are the same. Each individual video within set is counted as one toward certification.[27]

The best-selling video box set as certified by the RIAA is the Rolling Stones' Four Flicks DVD compilation from their Licks World Tour, with a 19× Multi-Platinum designation. This was likely achieved due to exclusive distribution rights owned by retailer Best Buy by their short-lived music production company, Redline Entertainment.[30][31]

Master Ringtone

Master Ringtone (mastertone) awards were introduced in 2006.[32] Certification levels are identical to those of singles, 500,000 for Gold and 1,000,000 for Platinum and Multi-Platinum.

Many Master Ringtone certifications were awarded until 2009, but since then only ten certifications were awarded in 2010, three in 2012 and three in 2019, all three to AC/DC.[33]

Records

Lists from RIAA site showing current status holders of RIAA Certifications:

Artists with the most album certifications

Most Platinum

Elvis Presley is the artist with the most platinum albums.

This list show the artists with at least 10 platinum albums (excluding compilations)

Artist #
Elvis Presley 30
George Strait 24
The Beatles 19
The Rolling Stones 18
Barbra Streisand 17
Elton John 16
Reba McEntire 15
Alabama 15
Luther Vandross 15
AC/DC 14
Rush 14
Kenny Rogers 14
KISS 13
Rod Stewart 13
Jay Z 13
Bruce Springsteen 13
Chicago 13
U2 12
Alan Jackson 12
Prince 12
Mariah Carey 12
Garth Brooks 11
Aerosmith 11
Bob Dylan 11
Billy Joel 11
James Taylor 11
Willie Nelson 11
Linda Ronstadt 11
Kenny Chesney 11
Madonna 10
Neil Diamond 10
Celine Dion 10
John Mellencamp 10
Metallica 10
Van Halen 10
Eminem 10
Taylor Swift 10

Most Diamond

Garth Brooks is the artist with the most diamond albums.

This table tracks artists with at least two Diamond certified albums.

Artist #
Garth Brooks 9
The Beatles 6
Led Zeppelin 5
Eminem 3
Shania Twain
Whitney Houston
The Eagles
2Pac 2
Adele
Backstreet Boys
Billy Joel
Britney Spears
Celine Dion
Def Leppard
Journey
Madonna
Mariah Carey
Michael Jackson
NSYNC
Pink Floyd
The Chicks
Van Halen

Artists with the most single certifications

Most Platinum

Drake is the artist with the most platinum singles.

This table tracks artists with some number of singles that have received at least 10 digital platinum certifications (excluding features).

Artist #
Drake 76
Kanye West 51
Taylor Swift 49
Post Malone 45
Rihanna 44
Eminem 40
Beyoncé 40
Chris Brown 38
The Weeknd 37
Justin Bieber 32
Lil Wayne 32
Juice Wrld 32
YoungBoy Never Broke Again 32
Future 28
Elvis Presley 27
Blake Shelton 26
Lil Baby 26
Luke Bryan 26
Maroon 5 25
Kendrick Lamar 25
J. Cole 24
Katy Perry 24
Carrie Underwood 24
Ariana Grande 24
Selena Gomez 24
Mariah Carey 24
Michael Jackson 22
Lady Gaga 21
Britney Spears 21
Whitney Houston 20
XXXTentacion 20
Lil Uzi Vert 20
Trippie Redd 20
Ludacris 20
Cardi B 20
Billie Eilish 19
Jason Aldean 19
Keith Urban 19
Tim McGraw 19
A Boogie 19
DJ Khaled 19
Eric Church 18
Sam Smith 18
21 Savage 17
Ed Sheeran 17
Halsey 17
Kenny Chesney 17
Bruno Mars 16
Jason Derulo 16
Usher 16
Florida Georgia Line 16
Panic At The Disco 16
Pitbull 15
Jay-Z 15
Nicki Minaj 15
Demi Lovato 15
Thomas Rhett 15
Dierks Bentley 15
Calvin Harris 15
Imagine Dragons 15
ASAP Rocky 15
Janet Jackson 14
Sam Smith 14
Polo G 14
Chris Young 14
Twenty One Pilots 14
Travis Scott 13
Ne-Yo 13
Zac Brown 13
Justin Timberlake 12
Lee Brice 12
Miranda Lambert 12
Queen 12
Alicia Keys 12
Adele 11
Shawn Mendes 11
Linkin Park 11
R. Kelly 11
Flo Rida 11
Camila Cabello 11
T.I. 11
Ciara 11
Train 10
Akon 10
Billy Currington 10
Kane Brown 10
Fall Out Boy 10
Destiny's Child 10

Most Diamond

Post Malone is the artist with the most diamond singles.

This table tracks artists with some number of singles that have received at least 2 Diamond certifications.

Artist #
Post Malone 8
Bruno Mars 6
Drake 5
The Weeknd
Katy Perry 4
Imagine Dragons
Justin Bieber
Cardi B 3
The Chainsmokers
Ed Sheeran
Eminem
Kanye West
Maroon 5
Lady Gaga
Swae Lee
Florida Georgia Line 2
Michael Jackson
Halsey
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Twenty One Pilots
Rihanna
XXXTENTACION
Pharrell Williams

Note: The RIAA provides the Detailed List of Artists with Most Singles Certified Units

RIAA Diamond certifications

See also: a comprehensive list of certified works with Diamond status at RIAA's website.

Albums

See also: List of best-selling albums in the United States

Highest certified Diamond albums
Year of release Artist(s) Title Certification Year of certification
1976 Eagles Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) 38× Platinum 2018
1982 Michael Jackson Thriller 34× Platinum 2021
1976 Eagles Hotel California 26× Platinum 2018
1980 AC/DC Back in Black 25× Platinum 2019
1971 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin IV 24× Platinum 2021
1968 The Beatles The Beatles 24× Platinum 2019
1985 Billy Joel Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II 23× Platinum 2011
1998 Garth Brooks Double Live 23× Platinum 2023
1979 Pink Floyd The Wall 23× Platinum 1999
1977 Fleetwood Mac Rumours 21× Platinum 2023
1994 Hootie & the Blowfish Cracked Rear View 21× Platinum 2018
1997 Shania Twain Come On Over 20× Platinum 2004

Singles

See also: List of best-selling singles in the United States

Highest certified Diamond singles (digital)
Year of release Artist(s) Title Certification Year of certification
2018 Post Malone & Swae Lee "Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)" 20× Platinum 2023
2019 Lil Nas X "Old Town Road" (Featuring Billy Ray Cyrus) 17× Platinum 2022
2018 Drake "God's Plan" 16× Platinum 2023
2014 Ed Sheeran "Thinking Out Loud" 16× Platinum 2023
2012 Imagine Dragons "Radioactive" 16× Platinum 2023
2016 The Chainsmokers "Closer" (Featuring Halsey) 15× Platinum 2022
Highest certified Diamond singles (physical)
Year of release Artist(s) Title Certification Year of certification
1997 Elton John "Candle in the Wind 1997" 11× Platinum 1997
1956 Elvis Presley "Hound Dog" / "Don't Be Cruel" 4× Platinum 1999
1992 Whitney Houston "I Will Always Love You" 4× Platinum 1992
1992 Los del Río "Macarena" 4× Platinum 1996
1968 The Beatles "Hey Jude" 4× Platinum 1999
1993 Tag Team "Whoomp! (There It Is)" 4× Platinum 1999
1993 Bryan Adams "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" 3× Platinum 1991

RIAA Diamante Latin certifications

See also: a comprehensive list of certified works with Latin Diamond status at RIAA's website.

Albums (Latin)

See also: List of best-selling Latin albums in the United States

Highest certified Latin albums
Year of release Artist(s) Title Certification Standard certification Year of certification
1995 Selena Dreaming of You 59× Platinum (Latin) 3× Platinum 2017
1994 Selena Amor Prohibido 36× Platinum (Latin) 2× Platinum 2017
2014 Romeo Santos Formula, Vol. 2 31× Platinum (Latin) N/A 2024
2017 Ozuna Odisea 28× Platinum (Latin) N/A 2022
2020 Bad Bunny YHLQMDLG 24× Platinum (Latin) N/A 2021
2019 Luis Fonsi Vida 22× Platinum (Latin) N/A 2019
2004 Juanes Mi Sangre 18× Platinum (Latin) N/A 2019
2002 Juanes Un Día Normal 18× Platinum (Latin) N/A 2022
2002 Selena Ones 18× Platinum (Latin) Gold 2017
1993 Gloria Estefan Mi Tierra 16× Platinum (Latin) Platinum 2000
2006 Maná Amar es Combatir 16× Platinum (Latin) Gold 2023
2011 Romeo Santos Formula, Vol. 1 15× Platinum (Latin) N/A 2022

Singles (Latin)

See also: List of best-selling Latin singles in the United States

Highest certified Latin singles
Year of release Artist(s) Title Certification Year of certification
2018 Nio García, Casper Mágico, Bad Bunny, Ozuna, Darell & Nicky Jam "Te Boté (Remix)" 71× Platinum (Latin)
10× Diamante
2023
2017 J Balvin & Willy William "Mi Gente" (Featuring Beyoncé) 68× Platinum (Latin) 2018
2013 Romeo Santos "Propuesta Indecente" 65× Platinum (Latin)
2× Diamante
2024
2017 Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee "Despacito" 55× Platinum (Latin)
13× Platinum
2017
2021 Farruko "Pepas" 52× Platinum (Latin) 2023
2017 Becky G & Bad Bunny "Mayores" 46× Platinum (Latin) 2021
2017 Maluma "Felices los 4" 44× Platinum (Latin) 2021
2018 Daddy Yankee "Dura" 43× Platinum (Latin) 2020
2019 Sech & Darell "Otro Trago" 42× Platinum (Latin)
Diamante
2023
2019 Daddy Yankee "Con Calma" (Featuring Snow) 41× Platinum (Latin)
Diamante
2020
2019 Karol G & Nicki Minaj "Tusa" 41× Platinum (Latin)
Diamante
2021
2014 Romeo Santos "Eres Mía" 39× Platinum (Latin)
Diamante
2022
2018 Becky G & Natti Natasha "Sin Pijama" 38× Platinum (Latin)
Diamante
2021
2018 DJ Luian, Mambo Kingz, Ozuna, Bad Bunny, Wisin & Almighty "Solita" 38× Platinum (Latin) 2023
2022 Karol G "Provenza" 36× Platinum (Latin) 2023
2018 Nicky Jam & J Balvin "X" 35× Platinum (Latin) 2019
2011 Romeo Santos "Promise" (Featuring Usher) 34× Platinum (Latin)
Diamante
2022
2014 Romeo Santos "Odio" (Featuring Drake) 34× Platinum (Latin)
Diamante
2022
2005 Shakira "La Tortura" 32× Platinum (Latin)
3× Diamante
2018
2013 Prince Royce "Darte un Beso" 31× Platinum (Latin) 2021

See also

References

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  5. ^ Grein, Paul (November 30, 2012). "Chart Watch Extra: Where "Thriller" Ranks". Chart Watch. Yahoo Music. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
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  14. ^ a b "RIAA Debuts Album Award With Streams". RIAA. February 1, 2016.
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  16. ^ "About". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  17. ^ a b c Lamy, Jonathon (February 14, 2008). "Country Takes The Crop". RIAA. Archived from the original on November 2, 2013. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
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  24. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2009). Top Pop Singles 1955-2008 (12th ed.). p. 14. ISBN 978-0-89820-180-2.
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  26. ^ "Billboard.com Latest Video Longform Certifications". Billboard. Archived from the original on May 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-14.((cite magazine)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) Retrieved on May 14, 2008
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  28. ^ "Gold & Platinum – Video Single". RIAA. Archived from the original on 2021-06-18. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
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  30. ^ Inc, Nielsen Business Media (2003-10-18). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. ((cite book)): |last= has generic name (help)
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  33. ^ "Gold & Platinum - Mastertone". RIAA. Retrieved 6 September 2021.