When an artist goes platinum, it signifies a major accomplishment in their career. But what does it actually mean when you see certifications like 17x platinum or 34x platinum? How rare are they and how much are they worth? Let‘s explore the history and meaning behind these coveted certifications.
A Brief History of RIAA Certifications
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) began issuing gold and platinum certifications for albums and singles in 1958. This was designed to celebrate artist success at reaching set sales milestones.
Over time, the program expanded to include multi-platinum awards for 2 million, 3 million, and beyond. The diamond award for 10 million units sold was introduced in 1999.
Here‘s a quick overview of the certification levels:
In the age of streaming, the RIAA now factors in on-demand audio and video streams, converted to album unit equivalents:
- 1,500 on-demand audio streams = 1 album unit
- 3,750 on-demand video streams = 1 album unit
This change has allowed songs to quickly rack up platinum plaques based on streaming popularity.
Rare Air: Songs Above 10 Million Units
Getting to regular platinum status alone is an impressive feat, achieved by only the biggest hits. But certain smash hits have rocketed into uncharted territory above 10 million units.
Here are some of the ultra-high platinum singles:
- "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X Feat. Billy Ray Cyrus – 17x platinum (17 million units)
- "Candle In The Wind 1997/Something About The Way You Look Tonight" by Elton John – 16x platinum (16 million)
- "Lose Yourself" by Eminem – 13x platinum (13 million)
- "I‘m Yours" by Jason Mraz – 12x platinum (12 million)
- "Iris" by Goo Goo Dolls – 12x platinum (12 million)
- "You Were Meant For Me/Foolish Games" by Jewel – 12x platinum (12 million)
Meanwhile, these albums have achieved jaw-dropping certifications above 15 million units:
- Their Greatest Hits by The Eagles – 38x platinum (38 million units)
- Thriller by Michael Jackson – 34x platinum (34 million)
- The Wall by Pink Floyd – 23x platinum (23 million)
- Legend by Bob Marley – 22x platinum (22 million)
The Prestigious Diamond Club
The RIAA diamond award recognizes the crème de la crème – albums or songs that have passed 10 million units sold. This elite status has been achieved by fewer than 200 albums and 100 songs.
Some iconic diamond certified albums:
- Their Greatest Hits by The Eagles (38x diamond)
- Thriller by Michael Jackson (34x diamond)
- Hotel California by The Eagles (26x diamond)
Some all-time diamond singles include:
- "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X Feat. Billy Ray Cyrus
- "Candle In The Wind 1997/Something About The Way You Look Tonight" by Elton John
- "Lose Yourself" by Eminem
- "I‘m Yours" by Jason Mraz
- "Iris" by Goo Goo Dolls
- "You Were Meant For Me/Foolish Games" by Jewel
Even hugely popular songs fall short of diamond status, like "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi (9x platinum) and "Shape of You" by Ed Sheeran (8x platinum). This demonstrates how exceptionally rare it is.
The Business Value of Platinum Certifications
So what‘s the actual monetary value of achieving platinum or diamond status?
The plaque itself holds mostly symbolic value. While reaching set sales thresholds is meaningful, artists make money from royalties not certifications. A 17x platinum single does not directly translate to $17 million in artist income.
However, these awards signal success and popularity. For fans, platinum certifications show their favorite artist has made the big time. For artists, displaying shiny plaques commemorates career accomplishments.
According to some estimates, reaching platinum may generate around $1-2 million in royalties. But this varies widely based on the artist‘s individual record deal. For legacy acts,深入 income often continues decades later from greatest hits compilations. Ultimately the awards mark iconic success more so than direct financial windfalls.
The Fast Track to Platinum in the Streaming Era
In the past, only the very biggest hits could reach elite certifications like diamond. For example, fewer than 30 singles were certified diamond in the entire decade of the 2000s.
But streaming has accelerated certifications exponentially. Songs go viral on TikTok and quickly rack up hundreds of millions of streams. This has propelled recent hits like "Old Town Road" and "Savage" by Megan Thee Stallion past 10 million units in record time.
The ease of streaming has democratized music distribution and listener access. However, some argue that platinum plaques feel less meaningful when they can be achieved through passive listening rather than active purchases. While valid critique, the core purpose remains – to benchmark career success and resonate with fans.
Platinum Songs That Defined Generations
Finally, it‘s important to recognize how certain massively successful songs have defined generations and marked major cultural moments. For example:
- "Candle In The Wind 1997" Became an elegy for Princess Diana‘s death (16x diamond)
- "Lose Yourself" Epitomized Eminem‘s early 2000s hip hop reign (13x platinum)
- "Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)" Drove a global dance craze in the 90s (11x platinum)
- "We Are The World" United stars for African famine relief in 1985 (10x platinum)
Not every platinum single has such profound impact. But certifications connect to our shared experiences and memories. They reflect the soundtracks to our lives.
So while the plaques themselves hold mostly symbolic value, ultra-high certifications mark a place in music history. Next time you see a 17x platinum announcement, appreciate the rare air achieved through that artist‘s undeniable connection to fans across the globe.