The description Gold Album is applied to recorded music albums that have sold a minimum number of copies (in the US, currently 500,000 sales). Originally applied to LP records, they are now most commonly awarded for compact discs.
A larger number of sales qualifies for the award of a Platinum Album (in the US, currently 1,000,000 sales). Similar awards are also less commonly quoted for individual recordings (singles), videos and increasingly for DVDs.
The number of sales required for these awards vary depending on the population of the territory in which the album is released. Normally they are awarded only to albums released at least nationally, and are awarded individually for each country in which the album is sold.
The original 'gold record' awards were presented to artists by their own record companies to publicise the achievement of 1,000,000 sales. For example, Elvis Presley received one of these for the single Hound Dog in 1956. However, several different thresholds have been in use at different times and places for both album and single awards. Some of these were based on units sold and others on the value of retail sales.
This has led to controversy over how to determine the placings for the biggest selling artists of all time, and claims that some gold albums should be disregarded or even retrospectively withdrawn although they were legitimately awarded at the time.
Like many record industry awards and rankings, the measurement is usually based on wholesale shipments to all types of retail outlets, not actual retail sales or financial transactions. This means that an early award or ranking for a new release reflects a distributor's expectations for the album and their market power.
Examples of thresholds
In Australia, gold and platinum albums are certified by the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA). In 2003 the thresholds for albums were 35,000 sales for gold and 70,000 for platinum. For music videos including Audio Visual DVDs, gold represents 7,500 sales, platinum 15,000.
In Germany, the recognitions are given by the record labels, who report to the IFPI Deutschland/Bundesverband Phono. The thresholds for Gold are 150,000 albums or 300,000 singles; To get Platinum, 300,000 albums or 500,000 singles have to have been sold. (2003)
In Ireland, awards are certified by the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA). In 2003 the thresholds for albums were gold 7,500 sales and platinum 10,000. For singles three categories are recognised; Silver is 7,500 sales, gold 10,000 and platinum 15,000.
In the United Kingdom, awards are made by the British Phonographic Institute, with required sales of 60,000 for a silver album; 100,000 for a gold album, and 300,000 for a platinum album. Singles are also classified : 200,000 for silver, 400,000 for gold, and 600,000 for platinum.
In the USA, awards have been certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) since 1958. The RIAA issues trophies to the artists to reflect their achievement. Since the most recent rule change in 1975 a gold album has been awarded for 500,000 album sales. The platinum album award was added in 1976 for 1,000,000 sales, matching the original concept of a 'gold record', although with the increased market it is arguably less of an achievement. Other awards have been added subsequently. For other awards and thresholds see RIAA certification.
- List of national recording industry associations (http://www.ifpi.org/site-content/directory/national_groups.html)