In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America awards certification based on the number of albums and singles sold through retail and other ancillary markets. Other countries have similar awards. Certification is not automatic; for an award to be made, the record label must request certification and pay a fee to have the sales of the recording audited. The audit is conducted against net shipments after returns (most often an artist’s royalty statement is used), which includes albums sold directly to retailers and one-stops, direct-to-consumer sales (music clubs and mail order) and other outlets.
Presently, an American RIAA-certified Gold record is a single or album that has sold 500,000 units (records, tapes or compact discs). Originally, the requirement for a Gold single was one million units sold and a Gold album represented $1 million in sales (at wholesale value). In 1975, the additional requirement of 500,000 units sold was added for Gold albums. Reflecting growth in record sales, the Platinum award was instituted in 1976 for albums selling one million units and singles selling two million units. The Multi-Platinum award was instituted in 1984, signifying multiple Platinum levels of albums and singles. In 1989, the sales thresholds for singles were reduced to 500,000 for Gold and 1,000,000 for Platinum, reflecting a decrease in sales of singles. In 1992, RIAA began counting each disc in a multi-disc set as one unit toward certification. Reflecting additional growth in music sales, the Diamond award was instituted in 1999 for albums or singles selling ten million units. Because of these changes in criteria, the sales level associated with a particular award depends on when the award was made.
BPI certified awards were originally introduced in April 1973 to measure the performance of individual titles based on sales to the trade each week.
Qualification for albums was initially on the basis of revenue received by manufacturers, but in January 1978 the BPI abolished the old monetary system for albums and replaced it with a unit system. This brought album awards into line with singles and also with other countries where qualification levels are based on unit sales. Multi-platinum awards, introduced in February 1987, are any multiple of the platinum level, e.g. quadruple platinum status for an album = 1.2m. The growth of digital formats saw a la carte singles and album downloads become eligible from 2004 onwards, while the first Music DVD certification was awarded in 2005.