RIAA Certifications: Streaming included on Albums awards

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KNOWING

Knowledge is Power

1. What is it about?

Before commenting, we need to detail what’s the exact subject. RIAA announcement focuses on streaming of tracks counted as part of Albums certifications, but song sales are being added as well. Below is the exact quote from RIAA website:

“The new Album Award counts album sales, song sales and on-demand audio and/or video song streams at the formula of 1,500 on-demand audio and/or video song streams = 10 track sales = 1 album sale.”
2. Are changes retrospective?

Yes. As always, new rules of RIAA can be applied to old releases. Most notable case happening today itself is the historical 32x Platinum award received by the bestselling album of all-time, Michael Jackson‘s Thriller.

3. Are songs certified as part of both studio and greatest hits albums?

No. Song downloads and streams may be counted as part of a studio album or a greatest hits album, but not as part of both. It is up to the label to define which album will be receiving each songs’ results. For song downloads and streams tracked before the greatest hits release, they can only be certified as part of the studio album. The RIAA clarified this doubt on its requirements document:

“For certifications for Greatest Hit albums, only track sales and streams that occur after Greatest Hits albums’ release date can count towards RIAA album certifications. If the label chooses to have track sales and streams applied towards Greatest Hits certifications, then those track sales and streams are precluded from future inclusion in the original studio album. The RIAA and GR&F will require labels to confirm in writing that no track sales and streams are counted towards both a studio album and a Greatest Hits album, and the RIAA and GR&F may request additional testing of system reports to ensure validity. Due to the complicated nature of monitoring whether a track sale and/or stream has already been considered for album certification, Greatest Hits audits may require significant delays in the certification process.”

As for compilations not specific to artists, like Now series, downloads and streams of its songs are not eligible on its own certification as soon as they have been part of an artist release already.

6 thoughts on “RIAA Certifications: Streaming included on Albums awards”

  1. Hi MJD, What about GHs albums? How do they know which GH to credit the streams to when an artist has more than 2 compilation albums?

    1. Hello Jeff!
      Very good point you end up raising – I added section 3 on page 2 to answer it. To summarize, when a song appear on several albums of an artist, it is up to the label to decide on which package its results must be attributed. If they will tend to elect the largest selling compilation or the newest one has yet to be seen!

  2. Vow. I’ve “been away” so long I didn’t even realize this rules change came, LOL!
    I suppose it makes sense, people consume music differently now than before.

    Your CSPC for Michael Jackson uses a US sales template of 30.4m, when it’s already been certified 33xP. The change is obviously the reasen why. Anyway you then add downloads/streaming in your analysis yourself, so that’s all good.
    But 20 years from now when it’s certified 40xP isn’t it gonna be difficult for you to update your CSPC? How many of those next 7 platinum discs are from album sales? How are you gonna determine your sales template then?

    1. Hi Thomas!

      For now, there is still enough material to distinguish sales from all formats. The US Top Album Sales is available, the UK has both individual rankings, same for France, Australia and Japan.

      Obviously it is going to become harder and harder to track those sales, but luckily they are also getting smaller and smaller. Once the info isn’t available anymore, I’ll have to set automatic ratio as per market figures, for example using 10% sales / 90% TEA/SEA or whatever. We also have enough experience now to know which albums / artists are going to do well/poorly on each format, so I’m not worried really.

      The main struggle we may face is the lack of consistency from recording industries of all countries since they all use distinct convertion ratios. That’s why so far I prefer sticking to individual raw data and apply my own formula to make sure to avoid overweighting some markets.

  3. Hi MJD,

    There is an ongoing discussion in UKMIX on whether an album’s popularity should be measured by the least streamed song in the album. Luv to have your views!

    1. I don’t know if it is the answer, to measure an albums popularity by it’s least streamed song but it does throw up a few questions & issues I’ve seen.

      If you take total streams as your key indicator of an albums popularity, it doesn’t really show the albums true popularity IMO. As an example;

      QUEEN – HOT SPACE (1982)
      UNDER PRESSURE — 225,489,899 — 94.33%
      LAS PALABRAS DE AMOR — 3,513,335 — 1.47%
      COOL CAT — 2,971,267 — 1.24%
      BODY LANGUAGE — 1,374,849 — 0.58%
      STAYING POWER — 1,129,254 — 0.47%
      BACK CHAT — 966,908 — 0.40%
      ACTION THIS DAY — 893,387 — 0.37%
      CALLING ALL GIRLS — 864,816 — 0.36%
      PUT OUT THE FIRE — 683,011 — 0.29%
      LIFE IS REAL — 592,647 — 0.25%
      DANCER — 567,180 — 0.24%
      HOT SPACE TOTAL — 239,046,553

      LED ZEPPELIN – LED ZEPPELIN I (1969)
      GOOD TIMES BAD TIMES — 77,296,456 — 36.42%
      BABE I’M GONNA LEAVE YOU — 36,878,537 — 17.38%
      DAZED & CONFUSED — 30,657,239 — 14.44%
      COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN — 19,822,168 — 9.34%
      I CANT QUIT YOU BABY — 13,613,097 — 6.41%
      YOU SHOOK ME — 12,258,181 — 5.78%
      HOW MANY MORE TIMES — 8,383,294 — 3.95%
      YOUR TIME IS GONNA COME — 6,954,355 — 3.28%
      BLACK MOUNTAINSIDE — 6,381,490 — 3.01%
      LED ZEPPELIN I TOTAL — 212,244,817

      Looking at the overall totals, HS is clearly the more successful/popular album, in fact, it’s most listened to track UP at 225,489,899, has more listens on it’s own, than the entire LZI album.

      UP accounts for a massive 225,489,000 (94.33%) streams of HS, while the other 10 tracks only account for 13,556,654 ( 5.67%). It has only 1 track above 4m streams and 6 below 1m.

      LZI doesn’t have a mega smash like UP but GTBTs still has a respectable 77,296,456 (36.42%), while the other 8 tracks account for 134,981,361 (63.58%). It has every track above 6m and 6 of it’s 9 above 12m.

      Admittedly UP beats LZI on it’s own, but LZI’s least listened to track BM at 6,381,490, has been streamed more times than every track on HS bar UP and approximately 700,000 more times than the bottom 7 (of 11) tracks on HS. (5,697,203).

      It is hard to take away the insane popularity of certain tracks on certain albums but from a streaming perspective, I’d say they skew an albums actually popularity in some cases, if just looking at the overall total.

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