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In my blog, I often comment on the number of albums or singles sold. Ever wonder where this information comes from?
In the U.S., the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a trade organization formed in 1952, certifies the number of albums or singles sold through retail and other markets in the United States. Starting in 1958, if requested by a record label, they audit retail information to determine the number of units sold. In recent years, even streaming is counted – 150 streams counts as 1 unit sold.
An album or single is certified “Gold” if 500,000 units are sold in the United States. An album or single is certified “Platinum” if 1,000,000 units are sold. An album or single is certified “Diamond” if 10,000,000 units are sold.
So for example, if I blog that an album is 5x Platinum, it means that the RIAA has certified that at least 5 million albums have been sold in the U.S.
Other countries have their own organizations that monitor sales and award certifications in their countries. The thresholds for Gold, Platinum and Diamond are lower – for example, in Canada, an album is Gold at 40,000 units sold there, is Platinum at 80,000 units, and is Diamond at 800,000 units.
Here are some interesting RIAA sales records in the record business!
Albums that are at least 20x Platinum
Their Greatest Hits (1971 – 1975), The Eagles – 38x Platinum
Thriller, Michael Jackson – 33x Platinum
Hotel California, The Eagles – 26x Platinum
Back In Black, AC/DC – 25x Platinum
Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin – 23x Platinum
Cracked Rear View, Hootie & The Blowfish – 21x Platinum
Rumours, Fleetwood Mac – 20x Platinum
Come On Over, Shania Twain – 20x Platinum
3 double albums are 20x Platinum, but since they are double albums, each unit sold counts as two. As such, they are certified 20x Platinum, but their actual units sold are half the amount. These albums are The Beatles’ The Beatles (White Album – 24x Platinum), Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume 2 (23x Platinum), Pink Floyd’s The Wall (23x Platinum) and Garth Brooks’ Double Live, (21x Platinum).
Highest Certified Single of All Time in the U.S.
Old Town Road, Lil Nas X (featuring Billy Ray Cyrus) – 14x Platinum
All of Me, John Legend – 13x Platinum
Despacito, Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee – 13x Platinum
Closer, The Chainsmokers – 13x Platinum
Note – White Christmas by Bing Crosby has certainly sold the most singles in the U.S. (at least 25 million have been sold in North America, and over 50 million worldwide) – but RIAA has not certified the single.
Artists With the Most Diamond Albums
Garth Brooks – 9
The Beatles – 6
Led Zeppelin – 5
The Eagles, Shania Twain, Whitney Houston – 3
Best Selling Artists of All Time – Over 100 Million Albums Sold in the U.S.
The Beatles – 183 million
Garth Brooks – 157 million
Elvis Presley – 139 million
The Eagles – 120 million
Led Zeppelin – 111 million
Best Selling Singles of All Time – Over 100 Million Singles Sold in the U.S.
Drake – 164 million
Rihanna – 137 million
Taylor Swift – 134 million
Eminem – 108 million
Kanye West – 107 million
Katy Perry – 105 million
I’m sure that each of my readers have contributed to the sales numbers above.
Though not certified, the best selling single of all time is White Christmas – watch Bing sing it for the very last time. This version was the closing of his 1977 Christmas TV special – Crosby died in October that year, but the Christmas show was filmed in September. The broadcast of the show aired a little more than a month after his death. Merry Christmas everyone!