1,500 YouTube plays now officially counts as an ‘album’ in the US

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We live in a confusing era.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has controversially introduced video and audio streaming equivalents into its Album Award methodology for the first time.

Effective from yesterday (February 1), plays on the likes of YouTube, Vevo, Apple Music and Spotify in the US will count towards the RIAA’s Gold & Platinum Album Awards.

A quick reminder of the criteria to win such accolades:

  • 500,000 sales (Gold)
  • 1,000,000 sales (Platinum)
  • 2,000,000-plus sales (multi-Platinum)

Here’s the important bit.

The RIAA has said that after ‘a comprehensive analysis of a variety of factors’, it has decided to introducing a new Album Award formula to count towards these Gold and Platinum awards.

Here’s that formula in all of its glory:

  • 1,500 on-demand audio and/or video song streams = 10 track sales = 1 album sale.

Opponents of this kind of move will point out that 1,500 YouTube plays of a single song from an album is hardly akin to the experience of buying and listening to a full LP.

It also arguably takes far less commitment on the behalf of a customer.

One label boss recently phrased it like this to MBW:

“So let’s get this straight: If 100 different people nip into a book store and each skim-read a chapter of a novel on their lunch break, does that then count as a book sale?”

In addition, the streaming equivalent ratio for the RIAA’s Digital Single Award in the US is lengthening, to ‘reflect streaming’s enormous growth in the two plus years since the ratio was [originally] set.’

150 on-demand streams will now be equivalent to a single download. Previously, 100 on-demand streams did the job.


In late 2014, Billboard updated its historic Billboard 200 chart so that it took into account streams for the first time.

Like the RIAA’s update, Billboard’s chart equates 1,500 song streams from an album equated to one LP sale, but currently just from audio subscription services, including Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and others.

“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,” said Cary Sherman, Chairman and CEO, RIAA.

“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.”

Seventeen titles, encompassing albums from dozens of music labels and spanning many genres, are included in the inaugural certifications for the newly expanded Album Award.

The RIAA has awarded the following artists with new certifications:

  • Alt-J “An Awesome Wave” (Atlantic Records) – Gold
  • Big Sean “Dark Sky Paradise” (Def Jam Recordings) – Platinum
  • Brett Eldredge “Bring You Back” (Atlantic Nashville) Gold
  • Coldplay “Ghost Stories” (Atlantic/Parlophone) – Platinum
  • Elle King “Love Stuff” (RCA) – Gold
  • Fifth Harmony “Reflection” (Epic) – Gold
  • Halsey “Badlands” (Astralwerks) – Gold
  • Hozier “Hozier” (Columbia) – Platinum
  • Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” (Top Dawg Entertainment/Interscope) – Platinum
  • Michael Jackson “Thriller” (Epic/Legacy) – 32X Multi-Platinum
  • Miranda Lambert “Platinum” (RCA Nashville) – Platinum
  • Romeo Santos “Fórmula Vol. 2” (Sony Latin) – 11X Diamante/RIAA Latin G&P Program
  • Sam Hunt “Montevallo” (MCA Nashville) – 2X Multi-Platinum
  • Shawn Mendes “Handwritten” (Island Records) – Platinum
  • The Weeknd “Beauty Behind the Madness” (XO/Republic Records) – 2X Multi-Platinum
  • Vance Joy “Dream Your life Away” (Atlantic Records) – Gold
  • Wale “Ambition” (Atlantic Urban) – Gold

The RIAA created its Gold & Platinum Awards Program in 1958 to ‘honor artists and create a standard to measure the commercial success of a sound recording’.

First awarded to LP recordings but expanded to a number of formats over time to include cassette tapes, CDs, digital tracks, digital albums, ringtones, and streams, nearly 30,000 certifications have been awarded by the RIAA during the last 58 years.Music Business Worldwide

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  • dinocelotti

    This is getting ridiculous. NuffSaid.

  • Bruce Hawes

    Not so much @dinocelotti:disqus. It makes perfect sense to me to have a measuring stick for an Internet count of plays/spins for an album collection. It had to be measured. As much as we romance downloads and Vinyl / CDs packaging for the distribution of music products the sale of music production via streaming sites must be addressed. RIAA is doing just that with its new set of rules. The industry must increase the streaming rate of the spins in order to get an improved ROI for making new music products. The legislation reintroduced by congressman Doug Collins (R) of GA. will bring more revenue to publishers and its clients from Internet steaming spins. If you are an independent label or publisher, this new set of rules will help determine a product’s value. IPOs will also be able to better able to collect and calculate long past or presently due, unpaid royalties from music subscription service companies. I don’t think that this is a bad thing for the industry. It’s only a bad thing for a CEO of a subscription service company who is paying out 85% of its annual company revenue so far, and still owes royalties to the industry dating back to 2013 Hint: (D. E.)

  • Catherine Hol

    I bet they had to bring this in partly because hardly anyone would make platinum sales otherwise!

  • Alkomb

    Lame.

  • Unless the compensation (royalties) of 1,500 streams/views equal the sale of an album, then the streams/views are not an equivalent measure of sales. Many people buy/bought an album for one song so to say that one song isn’t an album experience is a little idealistic. The bottom line is sales. If the money is equal, then the awards should be equal.