Usually large institutions, especially those that are pillars of an industry, do not enact proactive, sweeping change. In fact, their ways usually get lambasted for being antiquated—because they usually are. When the RIAA acquiesced to Jay-Z's insistence on New Rules - in that his Samsung sponsored album would go instantly platinum - it shocked us.
"They are really going to allow this?" we thought. "He's going to release an album that is certified platinum on release date?"
"Yep," the RIAA retorted.
However, relevance is all any entity wishes to procure these days… well, that and data, our sweet, precious private data… so it makes sense the RIAA would attempt to seek modernity (It's interesting to note that Jay-Z attempted to get Billboard to adjust their chart rules, and they denied him). The RIAA began tracking digital sales in 2004. Ringtones in 2006. Earlier this year, the RIAA took on-demand streams into consideration for certifications, accumulating metrics from music-streaming services like MOG, Xbox Music, Rhapsody, Rdio, Slacker, Spotify, etc., and video-streaming services like YouTube, VEVO, MTV.com, and more. Essentially, defining that the value of one download equates to 100 streams. All of these amendments have been to keep up with the evolution of consumer behaviour. The entire process certainly contains its flaws: tracking "albums shipped" instead of "albums sold" and counting multi-disc albums as multiple sales each (e.g. The Weeknd's triple-disc Trilogy being certified Gold despite selling 289,000 copies), but all of the changes seem to be made with the best intentions of moving the music business forward while keeping up with consumer behavior.
With all that said, we travelled into the future, not to buy a sports almanac and become billionaires, but to observe the evolution of the RIAA. Here are our findings:
2013: Corporate-Backed Album Pre-Release Wholesales of Albums are eligible for certification. Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail certified as platinum on release date.
2014: Download counts of illegally uploaded albums from MediaFire, HulkShare, SendSpace, Zshare, etc. are factored into eligibility. J Cole's third album Monotony goes platinum two weeks before release date.
2015: Facebook statuses that contain lyrics from an album are factored into certification. Every 500 Facebook Statuses made by a male equate to one download. Every 250 Facebook Statuses made by a female equate to one download. Drake's fifth album LAVENDER is certified triple platinum six months before his album drops.
2016: The number of Instagram pictures of females whose caption includes "#gymflow" that also contains lyrics from an album are factored into certification. Every 1,000 equate to three downloads. Drake's fifth album LAVENDER gets certified sextuple platinum.
2019: The amount of tweets posted that include a link to an illegal download of an album are factored into certification. Every 100 tweets equates to one "lost sale." Lauryn Hill's second album Yakety Tax goes dodecuple platinum. She is immediately put back into jail because she can't pay the IRS.
2023: The amount of times an artist's twitter account gets repossessed by their PR firm is factored into certification. Lupe Fiasco's tenth album White Liberals & Bill Cosby gets certified undecuple platinum seven years before it is released. Azealia Banks' Insufferable goes septuple platinum.
2025: Ad-lib phrase popularity is factored into certification. Jim Jones' Hustler's P.O.M.E. (Product of My Environment) retroactively goes decuple platinum. Gucci Mane becomes the top-selling artist of all time of any genre.
2032: Haters are factored into certification. Every 111.2 haters an artist has counts as one download. Wale's ninth album For Once, Stop Picking On Me. I'm Very Serious, Guys. Please. Seriously. not only goes centuple platinum but Wale is sealed in platinum a la Han Solo in carbonite.
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