The soaring success of streaming music audio and video online is causing the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to now include on-demand audio and video streams in the sales figures when determining Gold and Platinum album awards.
The RIAA announced its policy change on Feb. 1, giving the organization’s 58-year-old Gold & Platinum Program its first recognition of streaming music and video sales for albums released by recording artists. The RIAA had already updated its certification rules in 2013 for digital singles. The changes for album certifications mean that streaming music will now count toward the sales of 500,000 tracks needed to achieve Gold status and the 1million sales needed to hit Platinum status. The streaming contributions will also now apply to sales over 2 million needed to achieve multi-Platinum status, according to the group.
“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,” Cary Sherman, chairman and CEO of the RIAA, said in a 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.”
With the new certification changes, 17 albums are now immediately eligible for Gold or Platinum awards based on their sales.
Receiving awards are Alt-J for “An Awesome Wave” (Atlantic Records), Gold; Big Sean for “Dark Sky Paradise” (Def Jam Recordings), Platinum; Brett Eldredge for “Bring You Back” (Atlantic Nashville), Gold; Coldplay for “Ghost Stories” (Atlantic/Parlophone), Platinum; Elle King for “Love Stuff” (RCA), Gold; Fifth Harmony for “Reflection” (Epic), Gold; Halsey for “Badlands” (Astralwerks), Gold; Hozier for “Hozier” (Columbia), Platinum; and Kendrick Lamar for “To Pimp a Butterfly” (Top Dawg Entertainment/Interscope), Platinum.
Also receiving new certifications are Michael Jackson for “Thriller” (Epic/Legacy), 32X Multi-Platinum; Miranda Lambert for “Platinum” (RCA Nashville), Platinum; Romeo Santos for “Fórmula Vol. 2” (Sony Latin), 11X Diamante/RIAA Latin G&P Program; Sam Hunt for “Montevallo” (MCA Nashville), 2X Multi-Platinum; Shawn Mendes for “Handwritten” (Island Records), Platinum; The Weeknd for “Beauty Behind the Madness” (XO/Republic Records), 2X Multi-Platinum; Vance Joy for “Dream Your life Away” (Atlantic Records), Gold; and Wale for “Ambition” (Atlantic Urban), Gold.
Streaming music is being counted for recording artists based on a formula that counts 1,500 on-demand audio and/or video song streams as equal to 10 track sales, which are equal to one album sale, according to the RIAA. Also announced was that the RIAA’s Digital Single Award ratio has been updated from 100 on-demand streams being equal to one download to 150 on-demand streams being equal to one download “to reflect streaming’s enormous growth in the two plus years since that ratio was set.”
The Gold & Platinum Awards Program was created by the RIAA in 1958 to honor artists and create a standard to measure the commercial success of a sound recording.
Streaming music continues to grow as the market expands with additional services including Apple Music, which launched in June 2015. Apple Music passed the 10 million subscriber plateau in January, hitting that mark in just six months—which is 10 times faster than the six years it took competitor Spotify to hit the same milestone, according to a recent eWEEK story.
Apple launched Apple Music on June 30, 2015, in 100 countries, including the United States, to join the iTunes store as a means to give music lovers a new way to find a huge catalog of music in one destination. Individual memberships are priced at $9.99 per month, while a family membership for up to six family members is priced at $14.99 per month.
Success of Streaming Music Pushes RIAA to Change Award Policies
By diving into the streaming music business, Apple took on competitors including Spotify, Pandora, Google Play and others in offering subscribers the ability to listen to almost limitless music collections in real time from anywhere.
Spotify reached the 20 million subscriber mark in June 2015, barely a year after hitting the 10 million subscriber mark in May 2014. The company claims about 75 million active users, including a majority who use its free ad-supported streaming services.
Before it even launched, Apple Music was embroiled in a controversy after the company announced that it would not pay royalties to musicians on music it provided during free 90-day trials it provides to subscribers. The company quickly changed its mind after megastar musician Taylor Swift (pictured) posted an eloquent argument about the unfairness of the company’s actions.
By withholding those payments, Apple’s proposed action would have been most harmful to new musical artists who are still struggling to find success, wrote Swift. “This is not about me. … This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field … but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.”
Swift also reminded Apple that the company doesn’t give away its own products on a whim. “We don’t ask you for free iPhones,” she wrote. “Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”
After Swift posted a link to her Tumblr post on Twitter, Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for Internet software and services, responded to her post and said the company heard her argument and would pay the musicians even during the trial periods.