Are you a fan of Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, The Weeknd, Michael Jackson, Wale and increasingly desperate attempts by the RIAA to remain relevant? Then today is a great day for you.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the trade group that represents the mainstream music industry and officially hands out platinum plaques, have finally realized in the year of our lord 2016 that streaming music on the internet is kind of a whole thing and has updated the way they count album sales to include song and video streams. Beginning today, 1,500 streams of a song will effectively count as an album sale, and they will also be including video views in that count. Most immediately, that elevates a number of albums to a new status, including:
- Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly: Now Platinum
- Big Sean, Dark Sky Paradise: Now Platinum
- The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness: Now 2X Multi-Platinum
- Michael Jackson, Thriller: Now 32X Multi-Platinum
- Wale, Ambition: Now Gold
Congratulations to those artists, I'm genuinely happy to see them receiving some well-earned accolades, and it's not their fault that the platinum album system has been irreparably broken for years and that the RIAA's latest attempts at catching up to the times only render the award more convoluted. Oh really, 1,500 streams of a song equals an album sale? Not 1,000, or 2,000, or 10,000 or 1,501? Great, 1,500 it is. That means that this video of cats singing a Rihanna song is equivalent to 2,933 album sales.
And are they only counting streams via official channels, or anywhere the song is streamed? This stream of Drake's "Know Yourself" has been streamed 27 million times on YouTube via an unofficial account. If we really want to figure out how popular Drake's music from his IYRTITL album was, we need to count that 27 million too, right? Should we count it when a giant corporation purchases one million copies of an album in bulk, like Samsung did for Rihanna's instantly platinum new album Anti? And of course that doesn't take into account all of the times albums are streamed and downloaded via sites like BitTorrent which, you know, only accounts for 70 percent of all internet traffic. No big deal.
I don't know what to tell you, people. I know it's a hard thing to let go of, especially for those of us music industry watchers who grew up before the internet changed everything, but platinum and gold album awards are now essentially meaningless. Even ten years ago the RIAA could still fairly reasonably track and accurately assess how popular an artist's music was, but those days are over. Dead. Buried. Gone. You can grieve, it sucks that we can't really directly compare artists across eras anymore in terms of album sales, but that's the reality. You have to let go of those platinum plaques and move on with your life. It's gonna be ok, I'm here for you.
These streaming updates don't bring the RIAA any closer to figuring out how much an artist's album was actually listened to, they're just a dinosaur's desparate attempts to take shelter under a tree as the meteor approaches.
UPDATE: It looks like TDE agrees with me. Good company to be in.