March 7, 2016 Vince Valholla

The RIAA ’s New Formula Doesn’t Cheapen the Accomplishment of Certifications

But, new awards that separate streaming + sales & sales alone should be considered

But, new awards that separate streaming + sales & sales alone should be considered

Steve Knapper of Rolling Stone recently asked “Have Gold Records Lost Their Luster?”. This question was asked because of RIAA ’s recent criteria change for Gold and Platinum certifications. I’ve seen mixed opinions about this online and many people think that it cheapens the accomplishment by including streaming into the new formula. I personally disagree and here’s why.

According to the IFPI, in 2014, the global recording industry had the same revenues from both physical formats and digital channels, for the first time in history (46% physical format sales / 46% digital revenue). Thanks to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, people are consuming music more than ever, digitally & legally. Consumption is up but less money is making it’s way to labels and artist due to streaming. Here’s how the new formula works from the RIAA: “1,500 on-demand audio and/or video song streams = 10 track sales = 1 album sale. Also, RIAA’s Digital Single Award ratio was updated from 100 on-demand streams = 1 download to 150 on-demand streams = 1 download to reflect the enormous growth of streaming consumption in the two plus years since that ratio was set. Just as RIAA announced when setting the initial formula in 2013, our analysis and the determination of a formula is based on comparative consumption patterns, not marketplace value.”

Lets face it, people aren’t buying music like they used to. I wish this wasn’t the case but the game changes. This new certification was bound to happen eventually. But, I do suggest the RIAA revisit of the kinds of certifications given though. Let me explain. For example, if an artist reaches a million albums sold, including streams, an artist should receive a “Digital Platinum” certification. 10 million albums sold including streams, “Digital Diamond” certification. An artist should also receive another certification if they can achieve original gold, platinum or diamond status without streams. This way, it gives artists different levels of achievement and doesn’t cheapen the original certification. As Adele proved, these original certifications are still possible.


Even if nothing changes, I still believe that the way the RIAA has its formula matches music consumption for this generation. The amount labels and artist receive per stream will eventually increase as more people move to streaming services. Whether your like the updates or not, we’re in a new era. What do you think, should the RIAA separate the certifications as explained? Or should it remain as is? Comment below or tell me on Twitter @VinceValholla.


Vince Valholla

Vince Valholla is Chairman/Chief Executive of Valholla Entertainment, Inc. Valholla is a full service Music Label & Management Company based in Miami, FL. Valholla's 2015 release of Kirby Maurier's "Doing The Most" was one of the highest selling independent R&B albums in the South Atlantic Region. His opinion is his own.