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Goodbye, 2004. Hello, 2005!

Usher Earns Top Honors as RIAA Looks Back at Certified Albums of 2004 RIAA Celebrates Online Sales with Digital Sales Award Program

WASHINGTON, December 21, 2004 - With more than eight million in certified U.S. album sales, Usher's Confessions earned the distinction as the highest certified album of 2004 according to the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) year-end wrap-up.

In addition to earning a whopping 11 Grammy nominations, Confessions is now the best selling album in Usher's catalog, topping the six times Platinum certification of 1997's My Way. In addition, Usher was part of the inaugural group of artists to earn an award under the RIAA's newly launched Digital Sales Award. Similar to the existing Gold and Platinum program, tracks are awarded Gold (100,000 downloads), Platinum (200,000) and multi-Platinum (400,000+) certifications. Usher's "Yeah!" was certified Gold and subsequently Platinum while "Burn" was certified Gold. Finally, Usher earned another Digital Gold award for his duet with Alicia Keys, "My Boo."

Country's living legend, George Strait, saw his latest release, 50 #1's certified five times Platinum, good enough to make it the second highest certified recording and highest certified country title of 2004. In all, the Pearsall, Texas native has earned 32 Gold, 28 Platinum and 13 multi-Platinum albums during his four- decade career representing more than 60 million in certified U.S. album sales.

Norah Jones returned in 2004 with Feels Like Home which having been certified quadruple Platinum, was the highest certified album by a female artist in 2004. Her 2002 debut, Come Away With Me, is currently certified nine times Platinum. In addition, Jones earned her first Digital Gold award for "Sunrise" which has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

Sony's Gretchen Wilson took country music by storm and saw her debut, Here For The Party, certified triple Platinum, good enough to tie her with Ashlee Simpson for highest certified debut by a female artist. Simpson's Autobiography was certified for sales of three million copies in September. Wilson and Simpson also each earned Digital Gold awards for "Redneck Woman" and "Pieces of Me," respectively.

Following a two year hiatus, Eminem returned with the critically acclaimed Encore which was certified Gold, Platinum and quadruple Platinum after a month in stores. Overall, the man born Marshall Mathers has sold more than 25 million records in the United States.

Country megastar Shania Twain had another amazing year in 2004. Her 2002 studio album, Up!, was certified 11 times Platinum while her 1997 blockbuster, Come On Over, was certified 20 times Platinum, easily remaining the best selling country album of all time. Twain's Greatest Hits closed out the year certified triple Platinum.

Outkast took 2004 by storm with an additional four million in sales to their smash Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which has now earned an RIAA Diamond award after being certified 10 times Platinum. The hip-hop duo showed their dominance in the digital realm as well as they earned the honor of being one of only two artists (along with Usher) to receive three Digital Sales awards in 2004 including the only multi-Platinum award for "Hey Ya!" Both "Roses" and "The Way That You Move" both earned Platinum awards under the new program.

The ever popular Now That's What I Call Music! series showed no signs of slumping as the three latest installments (Vol. 15-17) were each certified multi-Platinum in 2004. Vols. 15 and 16 were both certified double Platinum while Now That's What I Call Music!, Vol. 17 has sold more than three million copies. In all, the series is responsible for more than 38 million in album sales.

In addition to his multiple Grammy nods, hip-hop newcomer Kanye West earned double Platinum honors for The College Dropout, the highest certified debut by a male artist in 2004.

Muzik Mafia members "Big" Kenny Alphin and John Rich spread the love all year with the release of their Warner Bros. Nashville debut Horse of a Different Color, which was certified Platinum. Additionally, Big & Rich were the first country artist to earn an RIAA Digital Gold sale award for "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy."

Tim McGraw added another four million in sales to his catalog, which now stands at more than 26 million in album sales. His latest, Live Like You Were Dying, finished the year certified triple Platinum as did Tim McGraw and The Dancehall Doctors. His Greatest Hits disc was certified quadruple Platinum.

McGraw's former tour opener, Kenny Chesney, has evolved into one of music's biggest stars, having sold more than 15 million albums, four million of which came in 2004. When The Sun Goes Down added another two million in sales and is now triple Platinum, while No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems and Greatest Hits each added another million and are certified quadruple Platinum.

Ray Charles posthumously earned both the first Platinum and multi-Platinum albums of his career for his final recording, Genius Loves Company, which crossed the two million sales mark in November.

There were a few other milestones in 2004 with several artists earning their first-ever RIAA multi-Platinum awards. Among them were The Black Eyed Peas' Elephunk (two million), Maroon 5's Songs About Jane (three million), Brad Paisley's Mud On The Tires (two million), Jill Scott's Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Volume 1 (two million), Keith Urban's Golden Road (two million), Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power (two million) and Switchfoot's Beautiful Letdown (two million).

Albums earning their first Platinum awards included Ciara's Goodies, Five For Fighting's America Town, Anthony Hamilton's Comin' From Where I'm From, Jet's Get Born, Josh Turner's Long Black Train, Velvet Revolver's Contraband, Michael McDonald's Motown, Yellowcard's Ocean Avenue and the self-titled debuts from Sony's Los Lonely Boys and Universal's JoJo.

Finally, 39 artists joined the ranks of the RIAA's Gold and Platinum program in 2004 with the certification of their respective first Gold record. Among them were The Darkness (Permission To Land), Gavin DeGraw (Chariot), The Killers (Hot Fuss), Alter Bridge (One Day Remains), Story of the Year (Page Avenue) and the self-titled debuts from Julie Roberts, Three Days Grace, Dierks Bentley, Finger Eleven, Buddy Jewell and Kevin Lyttle.

The RIAA awarded a total of 127 multi-Platinum, 124 Platinum and 261 Gold albums in 2004. All certifications are calculated by Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman.

December Highlights

More than 25 years after making their debut, U2 continues to make rock history. How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, the critically acclaimed follow up to 2000's blockbuster All That You Can't Leave Behind, was quickly certified Gold, Platinum and triple Platinum bringing their career total to more than 50 million albums in the United States. 1987's The Joshua Tree remains their best seller, having sold more than 10 million copies.

Sir Elton John earned the 36th Gold record of his legendary career when his latest, Peachtree Road, was certified for sales of more than half a million copies.

December saw some new certifications from some old rock favorites as two of Britain's biggest exports, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones earned Gold records. The Beatles received their 43rd Gold record for The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1 while The Rolling Stones earned their 40th for Live Licks.

With the release of Destiny Fulfilled, their fifth album for Columbia, Destiny's Child returned from their self-imposed hiatus as strong as ever. With sales of more than two million copies in one month's time, the double Platinum certification pushed their career album sales total to more than 15 million copies.

Gwen Stefani's eagerly awaited solo debut, Love, Angel, Music, Baby was quickly certified both Gold and Platinum for sales of more than one million copies.

Lava's Simple Plan saw their sophomore effort, Still Not Getting Any, certified Gold for sales of more than 500,000 copies making it the first DualDisc to qualify for certification.

One of the most prolific rappers in music, with eight solo albums in ten years, Snoop Dogg earned both his seventh Gold and Platinum album for R&G (Rhythm and Gangsta), his first album for Geffen.

The RIAA awarded a total of 20 multi-Platinum, 20 Platinum and 44 Gold albums in December.

Digital Sales Award Program

Among the artists that enjoyed early success under the RIAA's new award program were Maroon 5, who earned Gold and Platinum awards for "This Love" and "She Will Be Loved" and a Gold award for "Harder To Breathe" and Britney Spears who received a Gold and a Platinum award for "Toxic" and a Gold award for "Everytime."

"This has been an extraordinarily promising year in the evolution of legitimate online music," said Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA. "The early success of our Digital Gold and Platinum Program reflects a legal marketplace that continues to win new fans and is welcome news for the entire music community."

In addition, Beyonce picked up a pair of Gold digital awards for "Naughty Girl" and "Crazy In Love" while Jay-Z earned Gold honors for "Dirt Off Your Shoulder."

Capitol's Coldplay received a Gold award for "Clocks" while labelmates Yellowcard earned both a Gold and a Platinum award for "Ocean Avenue."

Three of Warner Music Group's hottest artists earned Gold awards when The Darkness' "I Believe In A Thing Called Love," Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" and Kevin Lyttle's "Turn Me On" were each downloaded more than 100,000 times.

In all, the RIAA awarded one multi-Platinum, 10 Platinum and 60 Gold Digital Sales Awards in 2004.

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The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and financial vitality of the major music companies. Its members are the music labels that comprise the most vibrant record industry in the world. RIAA® members create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legitimate recorded music produced and sold in the United States.

In support of this mission, the RIAA works to protect the intellectual property and First Amendment rights of artists and music labels; conduct consumer, industry and technical research; and monitor and review state and federal laws, regulations and policies. The RIAA® also certifies Gold®, Platinum®, Multi- Platinum™ and Diamond sales awards as well as Los Premios De Oro y Platino™, an award celebrating Latin music sales.

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