In 2015, only four new albums were certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America: Adele's 25, Drake's If You're Reading This It's Too Late, Justin Bieber's Purpose, and Meghan Trainor's Title. Some might have found the news indicative of the music industry's pallor — evidence that the sky is falling — while others noticed it simply highlighted an outdated metric. The RIAA doesn't count streams. Until today.
Since 1958, the RIAA has awarded gold and platinum certifications based on the quantity of record sales. Gold is half a million units moved. Platinum is awarded for records that sell one million copies. But those milestones are rarely met when most new music is now streamed (available by on-demand services), not bought outright. But today, the RIAA announced it will count on-demand audio and video streams, like Apple Music and Spotify plays, alongside traditional album sales.
“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 Chairperson and CEO Cary Sherman said in the statement. “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.”
By some — perhaps arbitrary — reasoning, the Association will count every 1,500 song streams as one album sale. That means there are some new honours to confer. Big Sean, Coldplay, Kendrick Lamar, Shawn Mendes, and The Weeknd (whose Beauty Behind The Madness was awarded double-platinum) join the winner's circle.
And another congratulations goes out to the RIAA itself: welcome to the year 2016. Glad to have you.