For the past 60 years, the Recording Industry Association of America has honored music’s best through its Gold & Platinum Awards Program. When an artist earns a Gold & Platinum certification, they join the ranks of an elite group of beloved musicians. Let’s look back on a rich history of recorded music during the last six decades, and check out our corresponding playlist to hear some of the biggest hits in Gold & Platinum history.
The vinyl record begins to take off, and the RIAA launches the Gold & Platinum Awards Program to honor artists and create an official standard to measure the commercial success of a sound recording.
RIAA unveils the Gold & Platinum Awards Program to honor artists and set a commercial standard for success in the music marketplace. The program trademarks the Gold record and formalizes the industry practice of awarding artists with plaques memorializing their sales successes. Sixty years and more than 17,000 certified musical titles laterfrom vinyl records to cassettes to CDs to downloads to streamsthe iconic Gold & Platinum brand remains the preeminent form of recognition for success in the music marketplace.
First Gold song certification goes to Perry Como for his single “Catch a Falling Star” (RCA Records).
First Gold album certification is awarded to the cast album of “Oklahoma!” sung by Gordon MacRae (Capitol Records).
The iconic Elvis earns his first Gold Award for the song "Hard Headed Woman," launching his epochal climb to his current status as the number two certified solo artist in Gold & Platinum Program history. With 146.5 million cumulative Album Awards, spanning 101 separate Gold (or higher) albums, Elvis has earned the most Gold Album Awards of any artist in RIAA history.
Did You Know?
In 1948, Columbia Records introduced the first ever 12-inch microgroove disc which could hold up to twenty-three minutes of music per side, allowing for the rise of the modern day album.
The Beatles earn their first Gold Album Award for "Meet The Beatles!" (Capitol Records). More than 50 years later, the band is the most-awarded band in Gold & Platinum Program history. The Beatles have tallied 178 million cumulative album certifications, spanning 48 separate albums.
"The Second Barbra Streisand Album" (Columbia Records) becomes Streisand's first Gold Album Award. With 68.5 million album awards, spanning 52 albums, the music legend holds the record for the most Gold Album Awards for any female recording artist in RIAA history.
The Platinum Album and Single Awards are introduced signifying one million copies sold. The Eagles' "Eagles/Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975" (Elektra) becomes the RIAA’s first Platinum Album, while nearly 50 more albums achieve the prestigious status that year.
Did You Know?
The peak year for vinyl sales was 1978. Nearly 30 years later, in 2006, the format experienced a resurgence and has continued its steady growth for 11 consecutive years.
Johnnie Taylor's "Disco Lady" (Columbia) earns the RIAA's first Platinum Single Award in 1976, while five additional songs went on to achieve Platinum that year: The Associations' "Windy" (Warner Bros. Records), The Manhattans' "Kiss & Say Goodbye" (Columbia), Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" (Epic),and Rick Dees' "Disco Duck" (RSO).
Fleetwood Mac’s “Mystery To Me” (Reprise) earns the band its first Gold Album Award. Fast forward more than 40 years, and Fleetwood Mac is still going strong. "Rumours" (Warner Bros. Records) is the band's highest-certified album, standing at 20X multi-Platinum. That makes it one of the top 10 albums of all time.
Cassettes emerge as the most popular format with the decline of 8-track players and the introduction of the Sony Walkman in 1979. For the first time in music history, fans can now take their music with them.
Another one of music's iconic albums is released: Pink Floyd's “The Wall” (Atlantic Records) hits stores, eventually becoming one of the RIAA's top five certified albums of all time at 23X multi-Platinum. A catalogue spanning 19 separate records has earned the band more than 75 million Album Awards.
The seminal Australian rock band release “Back In Black” (Epic Records) and rock 'n' roll is changed forever. The album currently stands at 22X multi-Platinum, one of the top 10 albums of all time. Additionally, AC/DC's 72 million Album Awards, spanning 22 separate records puts the band in the top 10 musical acts of all time.
Did You Know?
Between 1987 and 1997the height of the Sony Walkman's popularitythe number of people who said they walked for exercise increased by 30%.
Epic Records/Legacy Recordings releases Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Almost 40 years later, "Thriller" is the highest certified album ever at 33X multi-Platinum. Additionally, Michael Jackson is the RIAA's fourth most certified solo artist with 81 million Album Awards across 15 separate records.
Bob Marley & The Wailers’ iconic “Legend” album is released on Island Records, eventually becoming the band’s highest certified album at 15X multi-Platinum. Bob Marley & The Wailers have certified 11 separate albums to accumulate more than 21.5 million Album Awards. Want further proof? Check out the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston.
Prince & The Revolution debut "Purple Rain (Soundtrack)" on Warner Bros. Records. The album is Prince's top certified, reaching the coveted 13X multi-Platinum status in 1996. Today only 40 total albums are 13X multi-Platinum or higher.
RIAA introduces the multi-Platinum category in 1984. The popularity of cassettes and introduction of CDs leads to the implementation of this award for album sales of two million and counting.
Did You Know?
Barbra Streisand has more Gold albums than any other female artist. She has 52 separate Gold (or higher) albums!
Columbia Records' song "We Are The World" by USA For Africa becomes the RIAA's very first multi-Platinum song at 4X multi-Platinum. Later in the year, the album by the same title certifies 3X multi-Platinum.
Pearl Records' country icon Garth Brooks earns his very first Gold Album Award for his eponymously named album. The king of country is now the RIAA's top certified solo artist in history with 148 million Album Awards across 30 albums. Garth is also the first and only artist to earn seven separate Diamond Album Awards.
The CD revolution arrives. By 1992, sales of CDs have exceeded sales of cassette tapes.
Whitney Houston's "The Bodyguard (Soundtrack)" (RCA Records) is released and takes the world by storm. The album is now the highest certified soundtrack ever at 18X multi-Platinum. Whitney Houston is also the fourth most certified female artist with 58.5 million Album Awards across ten separate records.
Music superstar Sir Elton John releases "Candle in the Wind 1997/Something About the Way You Look Tonight" (Rocket), the only physical single Diamond Award in Gold & Platinum program history at 11X multi-Platinum, as well as the highest certified song released in the ‘90s. Sir Elton is a top 10 RIAA certified artist, accumulating more than 78 million Album Awards, spanning 37 separate records.
Jay-Z earns his first Platinum solo studio Album Award for " Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life" (Roc-A-Fella Records). Jay-Z now has 13 Platinum or higher Album Awardsmore than any other hip hop artist. Jay-Z is also the only hip hop artist with more than 10 RIAA Platinum (or higher) studio albums.
The Diamond Award is established to honor sales of 10 million copies or more of an album or song.
Did You Know?
In 2000, at the peak of CD sales in America, consumers bought 943 million CDs.
Arista Records' 1999 "Supernatural" release earns Santana 10X multi-Platinum stature within one year of release. "Supernatural" is now 15x Multi-Platinum, making it one of the Top 30 awarded albums. In total, Santana has achieved more than 43.5 million Album Awards, spanning 21 separate records.
RIAA introduces the Premios de Oro y Platino Award to celebrate Latin music sales, specifically titles that contain more than 50 percent Spanish language. Since the program's launch, more than 900 Latin albums and songs have been certified.
Azul Azul receives the first Oro y Platino Award for their hit song “La Bomba” (Sony Discos).
Apple launches the iTunes store and digital music sales begin to soar. RIAA creates the Digital Single Award to recognize Gold & Platinum sales achievements in the digital download market.
Country music superstar Shania Twain’s album “Up” (Mercury Nashville) joins “The Woman In Me” and “Come On Over” as RIAA Diamond certified, making Shania the only female in Gold & Platinum Program history to achieve three Diamond Albums – a title she keeps to this day. Furthermore, “Come On Over” is the number one certified album by a female artist in program history at 20X multi-Platinum.
The Digital Single Award is introduced in recognition of the significant sales of emerging digital music formats.
Did You Know?
Any artist, label or other affiliated party who contributed to an RIAA certified title can purchase a physical plaque. RIAA has four licensed framers that enjoy exclusive rights to prepare our official awards: Dejay Gold/Products in Seattle, WA; Jewel Box Platinum in Marina Del Ray, CA; Milestone Awards in Burbank, CA and Metro Pro LLC in Pine Brook, NJ.
The RIAA's first Platinum Digital Single Award goes to Gwen Stefani for her “Hollaback Girl” (Interscope) selling more than one million downloads.
The legendary Stevie Wonder certifies the transformative "Songs In The Key Of Life" (Motown Records) 10X multi-Platinum in 2005. Stevie Wonder has now certified 12 separate albums to accumulate more than 19.5 million Album Awards.
Rock megastars Led Zeppelin's "Led Zeppelin IV" (Atlantic Records) album achieves historic 23X multi-Platinum stature, placing it among the top five certified albums of all time. Led Zeppelin has earned more than 111.5 million Album Awards across 19 separate albums, placing the rock legends in a special pantheon: one of the top five certified bands of all time.
The Eagles hit album "Eagles/Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975" (Elektra) achieves coveted 29X multi-Platinum status. More than 40 years later, one of music's essential albums is the RIAA's second highest certified ever. Additionally, the Eagles are the fifth most certified band with 101 million Album Awards across 13 separate records.
Big Machine Records artist Taylor Swift releases her "Fearless" album which will go on to become her first Diamond Album in 2017. Notably Taylor is one of just three artists in history to surpass RIAA's 100 million cumulative single awards threshold. To date she has achieved 106.5 million cumulative single awards across 52 separate songs.
Lil Wayne's ringtone "Lollipop" (Cash Money/Universal) becomes the highest certified ringtone to date at 5X multi-Platinum.
Did You Know?
Ringtones and ringback tunes enjoyed a brief moment in the sun, surpassing $1 billion in revenues in the format's first three years, from 2005-2007.
Pop sensation Lady Gaga releases "Bad Romance" (Interscope/Streamline). The song is later certified Diamond, making Gaga the first female Digital Diamond Award recipient.
Billy Joel's "Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II" (Columbia Records) album reaches 23X multi-Platinum stature, placing it among the top five certified albums of all time. Billy Joel has certified more than 82.5 million Album Awards across 17 separate albums, making the beloved piano man one of the top six certified acts of all time.
Streaming goes...mainstream. RIAA adds on-demand music streams to its single and album awards as services like Spotify, Rhapsody, Amazon, Tidal, Vevo, Apple Music and more become the dominant way that fans enjoy music.
The RIAA adds on-demand music streams to its Digital Single Award to better reflect artists’ commercial success in a changing music marketplace.
Did You Know?
Nearly all RIAA Awards certified today include both sales and streams at the 500,000 Gold, 1,000,000 Platinum and 2,000,000 and counting Multi-Platinum threshold.
RIAA announces multiple Premios de Oro y Platino/Latin Gold & Platinum Program updates including creating the program's first-ever Latin Digital Single Award including streams.
Interscope/Shady Records rapper Eminem becomes the first artist to earn two Digital Diamond Awards for his smash songs "Not Afraid" and "Love The Way You Lie (feat. Rihanna)." Eminem now has three Diamond songs with the addition of "Lose Yourself" at 10X multi-Platinum.
J Balvin earns the first-ever Latin Digital Diamond honor. Balvin's songs "6 AM" and "Ay Vamos" (Capitol Latin/Universal Music Latin Entertainment) both achieve the coveted 10X multi-Platino Latin Gold & Platinum Program status.
Westbury Road Entertainment LLC/Roc Nation/Def Jam sensation Rihanna makes RIAA program history as the first artist to surpass 100 million cumulative song awards. She remains the RIAA’s number one certified digital singles artist with 121 million cumulative single awards across 43 separate songs.
RIAA updates its Album Award to include song sales and on-demand streams. Nearly 20 titles, encompassing albums from dozens of music labels and spanning many genres, are included in the inaugural certifications for the newly expanded Album Award.
Did You Know?
In 2016, streaming services generated more revenue ($3.9 billion) for the music business than album and singles sales ($3.5 billion) for the first time in history.
The RIAA recognizes Big Machine Records/BMX duo Florida Georgia Line as the first and only country genre act in program history to earn a Diamond Award for a song: “Cruise” (BMX, 2012) at 10X multi-Platinum.
Capitol Records star Katy Perry becomes the first artist to earn three Diamond Song Awards with the certification of her hit "Roar," following previously Diamond-certified songs, "Dark Horse" and "Firework." During the course of Katy's career, a total of 23 of her songs have achieved RIAA certification to reach 98 million song awards, and three studio albums have also been certified Platinum or multi-Platinum.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" on Universal Music Latino/Republic Records is certified Diamond, becoming the first Latin song to achieve the coveted status in Gold & Platinum history.
From Andra Day to Zedd, artists all over are wishing a happy 60th anniversary to the RIAA's Gold & Platinum Program. Here's to another 60 years of celebrating the best in recorded music. Click through the gallery below for videos and photos from your favorite artists!