Should The Idea Of “Gold Records” Be Sent To The Scrap Heap?

Dec 12th, 2006 // 6 Comments

USA Today blogger Ken Barnes made a list of last month’s gold and platinum album certifications today, and he gave his readers a bonus: hard-and-fast sales numbers. (Since RIAA certifications are given to the number of albums shipped, not the number of albums sold, there are often discrepancies between accolades and reality–for example, Scott Stapp’s craptastic The Great Divide was certified gold and platinum shortly after its release in late 2005, even though it’s only moved around 350,000 copies to date.) We noticed that there were a lot of certified-gold albums that seemed a little silvery to us; take a look at these certified-gold albums, and let us know which one has the best chance of really reaching the 500,000-sale mark:

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RIAA: November gold and platinum (and actual sales) [Listen Up]

  1. The Riffage

    Do people still follow these accolades? Seems like they just list numbers in press releases nowadays (2.1 million records, 1.3 million, etc.). And, as stated, the concept is bullshit to begin with because it’s what’s shipped and not sold.

    They should either reevaluate the system — which would of course cause serious problems/headaches with all albums previously certified — or abandon it entirely, in turn pissing off the entire hip-hop community by rendering any rhymes with platinum obsolete.

  2. The Riffage

    Do people still follow these accolades? Seems like they just list numbers in press releases nowadays (2.1 million records, 1.3 million, etc.). And, as stated, the concept is bullshit to begin with because it’s what’s shipped and not sold.

    They should either reevaluate the system — which would of course cause serious problems/headaches with all albums previously certified — or abandon it entirely, in turn pissing off the entire hip-hop community by rendering any rhymes with the word “platinum” obsolete.

  3. Chris Molanphy

    To be fair, the discrepancy between sales and shipments, between actual scans and gold/platinum certifications, is well documented. Open any issue of Billboard and they’ll tell you a double-platinum-certified CD is “1.7 million, according to SoundScan.” Indeed, since the start of the “SoundScan era,” as Billboard calls it, in 1991, the discrepenacy between wall metal and sales receipts has become painfully apparent.

    To me, though, the biggest scam in platinum game is the multidisc certification. A two-disc set needs to sell half as much to get certified – gold, or platinum, or diamond or whatever – as a single disc. This is regardless of how much the disc actually costs at retail. Garth Brooks, when he was chasing the Beatles’ certification total in the ’90s, routinely released multidisc sets at super-cheap prices solely to score fatter certs; one million copies of Double Live would automatically get certified at double-platinum, even though the set retailed for barely more than 10 bucks; his five-disc Limited Series box sold for less than $30 but went double-platinum instantly by selling just 300,000 copies in its first week. (Back in the day, I tried to pitch SPIN to let me write a little exposé on Garth’s platinum obsession, but the editor neg’d me, saying quite reasonably that no one would ever comment on the record and I’d never find a source to prove any of this. It was pretty baldly obvious, however.)

    Take a look at the RIAA’s list of the biggest-selling U.S. albums of all time, and you have to give about a quarter of the records on the list a sales haircut to get an accurate idea of how much they actually sold. The Wall is ranked #4, at 23-times-platinum, but that represents only 11.5 million in sales (which, in a fair system, would place it barely within the top 50). The Beatles’ three best-selling albums are supposedly the White Album, 1967-1970 (blue greatest hits) and 1962-1966 (red greatest hits), but that’s because each is a double; each of those titles sold fewer copies than Abbey Road (12 million) and Sgt. Pepper (10 million). And Physical Graffiti is ranked higher than Led Zeppelin II even though the former, a double, sold one-third fewer copies than the latter, a single. Shit like this drives me batty.

  4. The Riffage

    That double disc rule is ricockulous. That is even more complete and utter shite than I could’ve fathomed.

    On that note, Garth Brooks is even more of a prick than I could’ve fathomed, too.

  5. Miss Harvill

    That’s actually somewhat heartening. I’d always looked at gold record figures as solid proof that this nation has profoundly shitty taste. OK, the nation still has profoundly shitty taste, but perhaps not quite as unanimously shitty after all.

  6. antistar

    Garth ego was way out of hand a few years ago. Chris Gaines took care of most of that. You’re totally dead on about Soundscan and the double albums and box sets having different criteria. There is also different standards for EPs.

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