Understanding: RIAA / Label audits – The case of Michael Jackson

MICHAEL JACKSON INVINCIBLE

VII) Years 2005-2008

The year 2005 was crucial for Jackson as he was acquitted of all charges during his trial that occupied gossip journalists for nearly two years. Even before the jury’s verdict Epic updated Thriller‘s award to 27xP.

JACKSON, MICHAEL THRILLER 04/25/05 EPIC M (27)
JACKSON, MICHAEL NUMBER ONES 11/18/05 EPIC P
JACKSON, MICHAEL GREATEST HITS: HISTORY VOLUME 1 11/30/05 EPIC G

As Thriller is the diamond of Epic’s catalog, their aim of keeping it updated day in day out is as clear as water. With indeed nearly 1 million copies scanned since its 26th platinum disc, this update was natural.

In an attempt to focus the attention back on his musical career now that the trial was over, Epic issued The Essential and soon certified both Number Ones and Greatest Hits HIStory Volume 1, respectively Platinum and Gold. The latter album had already scanned 840,000 copies by then which proves the label was really re-focusing on Jackson‘s catalog after letting it go for some years.

From 2006 to 2008, no album from him was certified. Epic as a whole certified less than 10 catalog albums during those years combined. Thriller had added nearly 1 more million in sales thanks largely due to its 25th Anniversary edition, but remained at 27xP. It could have been on 27,9 million so we can ignore this. Off The Wall too was close to a new award, now on a supposed 7,84 million, just like Bad with 700,000 units sold all told since its 8 million plus non-date specific award. Again, we can ignore it as it could have been on 8,8/8,9 million.

What we can’t overlook is the remaining albums. The Essential scanned over 370,000 units by the end of 2008. As a double album, it was eligible for Gold by the end of 2007 already. The Ultimate Collection also was now past 100,000, possibly high enough for Gold as a 4+1 discs box set. Greatest Hits HIStory Volume 1 was also pending its Platinum award by the end of 2008. During those years Epic was once again ignoring the RIAA certifications.

If Epic was as efficient as during the 90s to update awards, we could have understood that Bad had shipped at most 8,3 million by its 1994 certification. Their lack of updates corrupt this information though as we simply don’t know if it was eligible for 9xP or not.

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Heretis

RIAA makes record labels pay for audits and membership having no set rate. Most labels have reportedly said less than 10% of their releases have been profitable. Same kind of goes for soundscan. How much are these figures subject to manipulation and/or estimation? I’ve also read where Soundscan doesn’t contact every retailer, just the ones they believe are enough to get a good sample for weighted averages, even among its members. For instance, instead of calling all the WalMart stores, they’d call 1 or 2 and calculate the rest based on how many were sold but give less weight to… Read more »

John

A time for an update MJD? Some of these albums were re-certfied last year.

chris

double CDS count twice i wondered as a child that so many people bought MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE .. by smashing pumpkins it was certified 10xPLATINUM =DIAMOND but albums that sold half were higher in the year end charts in the US than that album but as a teen i found out that sales were just 4,4 million and that it was counted twice in every article it is said that it was their breakthrough. but one moment. SIAMESE DREAM was released in 1993 and was certified 4xPLATINUM and sales stand at 4,6 million ridicolous On the other hand… Read more »

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