What Is The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)?

What Is The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)?
There was a time when I believed in music magic. I thought that as a consumer I played at least a small part in the outcome of a CD’s success or failure. I would buy the CD and my sale would count toward the total sales figure and then, that figure would determine whether or not the CD went to gold or platinum—maybe even diamond status. It just happened with no fuss or muss.

I was wrong.

In order for a CD to be certified and the financial figures to count toward an award status such as gold or platinum, the recording company that released the CD must be a member of the RIAA—The Recording Industry Association of America. And . . . the sales figures are based on the music sent to retailers, not necessarily the CDs that are bought by consumers. The record label who releases the recording has to pay to request certification and the label then takes care of all the paperwork involved in tracking sales. This means keeping records of the singles and/or CDs that have been shipped to retailers – it does not necessarily count the sales of the music that is purchased by consumers. Yikes, I think I bought six copies of Clay Aiken’s “Measure of a Man” when it came out.

Now, the certification does not come quickly. There is usually a waiting period of four weeks after the music is shipped before a CD can be certified for an award. The waiting period covers the possibility that some shipments may be returned.

Here is a simple crash course on the RIAA and the different award status categories.

Created in 1958, the objective of the RIAA was to measure the sales of sound recordings.

A recording would be certified as Gold once sales reached 500,000 copies sold. As technology changed and the music industry grew, the RIAA created new awards. Here is a quick reference list.

RIAA Awards
*Gold created in 1958 for sales of 500,000.
*Platinum created in 1976 for sales of 1,000,000.
*Multi-Platinum created in 1984.
*Diamond created in 1999 for sales of 10 million or more.

Most recently a category was also added to recognize the sales for Latin music.

A “double album” set is considered as 2 separate CDs. If a set sells 1 million copies, the “double Album” can be certified as double platinum.

I get excited for artists when their CDs turn gold or platinum. I mentioned Clay Aiken earlier and I can tell you from experience that his fan base was ecstatic when he reached multi-platinum level.

However, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the RIAA. Some critics have said it leaves no room for indie labels and the issue of downloading and digital piracy laws has also been a sore subject at times.

Below you will find the link to the RIAA’s official website. You will find press releases on the award status of specific bands and artists as well as ongoing legal issues involving consumers and artists. Also, if you are a college student looking to do research on the music industry and the rights of artists and their music, this is a wonderful resource as the articles even provide contact information.

By the way, here is some extra fun stuff.

*Last June, 128 songs were RIAA certified as gold and platinum for being downloaded as ringtones.

*You know how I love music in commercials – has anyone seen the Alltel Wireless commercial with the “Secret Lover” ringtone.

Have a great weekend and I will talk to you next week.


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