The RIAA® Gold® and Platinum® Awards program was launched in 1958 to honor artists and create a standard by which to measure sales of a sound recording. First awarded to LP recordings but expanded to a variety of formats as technology advanced to include cassette tapes, CDs, digital tracks, digital albums, and ringtones, more than 14,000 titles have been certified Gold by the RIAA since 1958.
In the beginning, there was only a Gold® album award for the sale of 500,000 copies. As the industry grew, other awards were developed. The Platinum® award (1,000,000 sold) was created in 1976 and with the advent of the compact disc and the subsequent increase in sales, the Multi-Platinum™ award was created in 1984. In 1999, the RIAA® launched the Diamond® Awards, honoring sales of 10 million copies or more of an album or single.
Spanning more than 55 years, the Gold®, Platinum®, Multi-Platinum™ and Diamond® award programs are the longest-running objective measure of achievement for sound recordings in the United States, and provide an unmatched historical perspective on the success of countless recording artists. The RIAA® has charted the entire careers of such veteran artists as Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, The Beach Boys, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and the Backstreet Boys, as well as documented the popularity of soundtracks, live albums, multi-disc sets and music videos.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) administers a "Platinum Europe Award" which recognizes album titles that reach sales of one million across Europe (IFPI has members in 65 countries and six continents). While other countries have a program similar to ours, the RIAA® Gold & Platinum® Program continues to have the highest standards for sales achievements.
On March 14, 1958, the year the awards were launched, the RIAA® awarded the very first Gold plaque to Perry Como for his hit single, "Catch A Falling Star" (RCA Records). Four months later, the cast album to Oklahoma! sung by Gordon Macrae (Capitol Records) became the first official Gold® album.
Fueled in part by the disco craze and the volume of music sales, Gold awards skyrocketed by the mid-1970s, prompting the RIAA® to introduce the Platinum® award category in 1976, for sales of one million albums. By the mid-1980s, the music industry was enjoying another boom, this time from the introduction of the CD, and the RIAA® instituted Multi-Platinum™ awards for sales of two million or more.
Johnnie Taylor's "Disco Lady" is the first Platinum® single. The first Platinum™ album certified by the RIAA® was The Eagles' Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975. Today Michael Jackson’s legendary album “Thriller” (Epic/Legacy) joins the Eagles’ “Eagles - Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975” (Elektra/Warner Bros.) as the highest album certification in G&P history (29x multi-Platinum).
The advent of MTV, VH-1 and other music networks brought more artists into the Multi-Platinum™ winners circle, prompting the RIAA® to establish music video awards in 1981.
On March 16, 1999, the RIAA® launched the Diamond® Awards, honoring sales of 10 million copies or more of an album or single. Of all the artists in attendance, Sir Elton John best described the significance of the award when he said "I think this is the biggest accolade you can be given because it means your fans have gone out and bought your records. And that's why we make records - for our public."
The list of Diamond® titles represents some of the best and most influential recordings in history. From The Beatles to Shania Twain to Eminem, it is truly an audio timeline of the last 50+ years. Representing all genres of music, these titles total more than 10 million in U.S. sales, and counting.
In 2001, the RIAA Premios de Oro y Platino Sales Award was launched to celebrate latin music sales, specifically albums that contain more than 50 percent Spanish language. The thresholds for certification requirements are Oro - 50,000 units, Platino - 100,000 units, and multi-Platino - 200,000 units (in increments of 100,000 units).
In 2004, the RIAA announced the formal launch of the Digital Single Sales Award. Developed in recognition of the significant sales of emerging digital music formats, 45 titles were included in the initial group of certifications, encompassing tracks from each major record company and representing nearly every genre in music.
In 2006, the RIAA launched the Master Ringtone Sales Award, updating its 47-year old Gold and Platinum program to recognize the growing popularity of enjoying music through cellular phones. Some 84 titles were included in the inaugural group of certifications, encompassing tracks from artists on all the major music companies and representing a variety of musical genres. Specifically, the RIAA awarded 84 Gold, 40 Platinum and four Multi-Platinum Master Ringtone certifications. Ringtones are the original recording, rather than a synthesized instrumental version, of a song.
On May 9, 2013 the RIAA launched the “Combined” Digital Single Award counting both downloads and on-demand streams in recognition of the increasing popularity of streaming. On-demand audio and/or video song streams are now counted towards the 500,000 (Gold), 1,000,000 (Platinum) and 2,000,000 plus (multi-Platinum) thresholds required for G&P’s Digital Single Award certification.
56 titles, encompassing songs from dozens of music labels and spanning many musical genres, were included in the inaugural certifications for the newly expanded Digital Single Award. This includes streams from on-demand services like MOG, Muve Music, Rdio, Rhapsody, Slacker, Spotify, Xbox Music and others, plus video streaming services like MTV.com, VEVO, Yahoo! Music, YouTube and more.