Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Every artists goal is to increase their reach and fan base after each release, and some even have the stated goal of reaching the Billboard charts or reaching Gold record status. With streaming becoming the primary method for accessing and discovering new songs and albums, the music industry has had to adapt its certification process to reflect this shift in consumer behavior.
This includes the criteria and methodology behind Gold, Platinum, and Diamond certifications, so let’s explore the number of streams required to achieve these prestigious milestones.
The rise of digital streaming
According to recent reports, streaming now accounts for the majority of music consumption globally. It has surpassed physical sales, downloads, and other traditional formats of music listening. In 2020, global recorded music revenue from streaming reached $13.4 billion, representing a quarter of the industry’s total revenue.
Advantages and disadvantages of streaming
While streaming has opened new avenues for artists and listeners, like anything, it comes with advantages and disadvantages:
Advantages of music streaming
- Increased accessibility. Streaming platforms provide instant access to a vast library of music from various genres and artists.
- Discoverability. The algorithms and personalized recommendations on streaming platforms can help listeners easily discover new artists that are most likely to appeal to them.
- Global reach. Streaming platforms enable artists to instantly reach a global audience.
- Royalty rates. Streaming royalties are relatively low, which has sparked debates around fair compensation.
- Monetization challenges. With millions of songs available for streaming, standing out and generating significant revenue can be challenging for emerging artists.
- Impact on album sales. The dominance of streaming has led to a decline in physical album sales (though there are signs of a CD revival), affecting revenue potential for artists and record labels.
Certification criteria and methodology
Certifications are awarded by music industry organizations, such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), to recognize the commercial success of music releases. The RIAA’s certification methodology has evolved to accommodate the streaming era. Here’s an overview of how certifications are currently calculated.
Album equivalent units
Certifications are based on the concept of “album-equivalent units” (or “album equivalent”), which considers a combination of album sales, track downloads, and streams. The RIAA defines specific conversion rates for each format to determine the total number of units accumulated.
On-demand audio and video streams
For streaming, the RIAA takes into account both on-demand audio streams (from platforms like Spotify and Apple Music) and on-demand video streams (from platforms like YouTube and Vevo) and makes distinctions between subscription streams and free (ad-supported) streams. The specific number of streams required for certification varies depending on the format (single, album) and the certification level (Gold, Platinum, Diamond).
How many streams does it take to go Gold, Platinum, and Diamond?
A gold certification in the United States signifies that a song or album has reached 500,000 album sales (or 500,000 album equivalents). In terms of streaming, the RIAA considers 1,250 on-demand audio and/or video streams as equivalent to one album unit for paid subscriptions and 3,750 streams to one album on free (ad-supported) platforms.
Therefore, to achieve a gold certification, a release would need to accumulate 625 million subscription streams or 1.875 billion free streams. Of course, album sales also contribute to these totals, so the number of SPS (sales plus streaming) is what counts towards certification, and it takes all these units into consideration.
Recent Gold-certified albums include:
- Good Kid, M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar
- Lover by Taylor Swift
Recent Platinum-certified albums include:
- Purpose by Justin Bieber
- ÷ by Ed Sheeran
The highest level of certification is diamond, which represents 10 million equivalent album units. In terms of streaming, this equates to between 12.5–37.5 billion streams.
Diamond-certified albums include:
- Greatest Hits by Queen
- The Bodyguard soundtrack by Whitney Houston
Tips to increase digital streams
Increasing your digital streams requires a strategic approach to marketing and promotion. Here are a few tips to help you boost your streaming numbers.
- Build your social media presence. Leverage social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube to connect with your audience and build a dedicated fan base. Engage with your followers, share updates, and create compelling content that encourages them to stream your music.
- Seek playlist placement. Try to get your songs featured on popular playlists within streaming platforms. Playlist placements can significantly increase exposure and attract new listeners to your music.
- Work on collaborations and features. Collaborating with other artists or being featured on their tracks can introduce your music to new audiences and expand your streaming reach.
- Advertise online. Consider running targeted online advertising campaigns to reach potential listeners who may be interested in your genre or style of music.
There’s no question that these are massive numbers to attain and there’s no quick or easy way to achieve Gold, Platinum, or Diamond sales status — as an indie or a major-label artist. But the journey starts with the first steps, which likely will include making CDs and vinyl LPs to sell to your fans. Disc Makers has got you covered, and we’ll be with you all the way to the top!
Philip Kinsher is a writer, editor, and musician with a predilection for YA Sci-fi Fantasy books and rock and roll. And golf and pickleball.
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