Kendrick Lamar Receives Platinum Ranking With Thanks To New RIAA Rules

In an effort to keep up with the age of streaming music, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has announced a new formula for their Gold and Platinum rankings program to include streaming. The program will now count streams for single and album certification.

This new formula for Album Awards will see 1,500 video or song streams = 10 track sales = 1 album sale. Their new Digital Single Award formula is 150 streams = 1 download.

“For nearly six decades, whether it’s vinyl, CDs, downloads or now streams, the Gold & Platinum Program has adapted to recognize the benchmarks of success in an evolving music marketplace,” RIAA Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman said.

“We know that music listening – for both for albums and songs — is skyrocketing, yet that trend has not been reflected in our album certifications. Modernizing our Album Award to include music streaming is the next logical step in the continued evolution of Gold and Platinum Awards, and doing so enables RIAA to fully reward the success of artists’ albums today.”

The new policy has already seen Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed To Pimp a Butterfly and Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise automatically hit the Platinum status they deserve. Several more platinum certifications have been awarded including Michael Jackson’s Thriller iconic record that had already gone platinum the old-fashioned way and The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness.

  • 32X Diamond: Michael Jackson — Thriller
  • 2X Platinum: The Weeknd — Beauty Behind the Madness
  • Platinum: Big Sean — Dark Sky Paradise
  • Platinum: Coldplay — Ghost Stories
  • Platinum: Hozier — Hozier
  • Platinum: Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly
  • Platinum: Sam HuntMontevallo
  • Platinum: Miranda LambertPlatinum
  • Gold: Alt-JAn Awesome Wave
  • Gold: Elle King — Love Stuff
  • Gold: Fifth Harmony — Reflection
  • Gold: Halsey — Badlands
  • Gold: Wale —  More About Nothing
  • Gold: Wale — Ambition

A full list of releases that are now certified as gold or platinum can be found on the RIAA website.

The move now allows the RIAA to do a better job accounting for how people listen to music today. However, the change is not welcomed by all, particularly the CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment (also known as TDE – home to Kendrick Lamar himself) Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith; see his tweets below.



To Pimp a Butterfly sold 324,000 copies in its first week of release, and since then the album has seen a continual interest on streaming services. Its single, Alright, has been streamed nearly 47 million times on Spotify. Surely, that’s worth a Platinum award? But in a digital age, this kind of change is needed to better award today’s artists. Maybe Top Dawg has picked the wrong battle? If Spotify was to pay its artists better, maybe he would see royalties for TDE songs and albums, and the streams would better ‘count’ as sales in his eyes?

Kendrick Lamar has yet to speak out about his thoughts of going digitally Platinum, but I imagine it’s like any job – the work’s not done until the boss is happy. He did, however, in an interview from December with Time, say “It’s not a concept I want you to grasp in one day. I want it to live forever. To Pimp a Butterfly, twenty years from now it’ll probably be more relevant to your life than it is today.”

I welcome the change, and hope to see Drake and A$AP Rocky’s Wu-Tang Forever (remix) see Platinum status off my streams only.