(AllHipHop News) Late last month, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) received some criticism for its decision to certify Rihanna's 8th studio album Anti as platinum just days after its release.
The recognition was based on 1 million sales of the project to Samsung and not directly to consumers. Billboard spoke with RIAA executives about the controversial Anti certification as well as the changes to the organization's formula for rewarding platinum, gold, and diamond plaques.
"There are two key requirements for the certification program. That there is consumer demand and that the artist and label get paid a certain minimum amount. We satisfied both of them with Rihanna," said RIAA director of the certification program Liz Kennedy. "We got the data from the service, we saw the redemption of the download codes. They couldn’t just send the album to consumers, the consumer had to initiate the acquisition. The redemption is the indication of the demand.
When asked about reports that some of the 1 million Samsung free downloads were given to customers overseas - which would not count toward RIAA certifications - chairman/CEO Cary Sherman stated 1 million downloads were confirmed to take place in the United States.
There has also been some push back against the RIAA altering its Gold/Platinum/Diamond Awards program to include on-demand audio/video streams and track sale equivalent totals. Numerous artists instantly earned plaques when the announcement was made on February 1.
Among the performers to see their albums certified platinum under the new rules were TDE's Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp A Butterfly) and G.O.O.D. Music's Big Sean (Dark Sky Paradise). However, TDE label head Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith rejected the idea of his artist accepting a Platinum Award without actually selling 1 million units of his project.
"For a while we've recognized that we would need to put streaming in the mix as consumption changed -- but we needed to do it carefully. So we started with the easiest one to change, the singles awards," explained Sherman about the RIAA rule changes. "We watched that and made sure it worked out, and then after about a year, we started on the albums. While looking at how to implement for the album, we went through an elaborate process, getting feedback form the industry, and going through the same data analysis that we did for the single.
According to the exec, ten years ago nearly 90% of the albums sold in that year reached gold status (500,000 units shipped), but now only about 30% were eligible. The RIAA suspects around 40% of the top 200 best-sellers for the year will be eligible for gold certification under the new rules.
This was not the first time the Recording Industry Association of America adjusted the requirements for its awards. Proof of 500,000 units sold or an equivalent of $1 million in sales was needed to gain gold certification in 1958. The Platinum Award was instituted for albums selling over one million units in 1976, and the Multi-Platinum Award was instituted in 1984. Then 1999 saw the arrival of the Diamond Award for sales over 10 million.
Catalog LPs are also being affected by the new RIAA rules. Michael Jackson's classic 1982 album Thriller - the highest selling album of all time - went up by 2 levels. It is now certified 32X platinum.