Not all that glitters is platinum or gold

Online streaming success in the music industry can now earn artists the coveted Gold or Platinum status for singles and albums. The way consumers listen to music has changed in recent years, but is this an appropriate adjustment to how we measure quality music?

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is an organization that acts as a parent company or umbrella for 85 percent of nearly all the music recorded in the U.S., according to their website.

Besides protecting artists’ rights and pursuing music theft justice, they track and distribute the Gold and Platinum awards that have become well-known in the music business.

For example, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album remains atop their charts having sold 32 Million copies and thus earning 32 times Platinum Status.

Now, as a way to adapt to the status quo of music streaming dominance, RIAA has come up with a formula to award sales figures in a market virtually without sales:

1,500 on-demand audio and/or video song streams equals ten track sales, equals one album sale, according to the RIAA website.

So now, if an artist can get their song or album clicked on 1.5 billion times, they will be awarded a Platinum status record. And that is where I find a problem with the RIAA changes.

Theoretically speaking, all an artist would need to do is make one good song on the album and that album can get to Gold or Platinum status.

I do not mean to take away from the accomplishment of making a catchy song. I believe creating an entire album worthy of listening is a greater feat and should be recognized as such.

I would almost welcome an entirely separate award system for modern music than this adjustment.

In albums that top the RIAA sales Charts such as Thriller, Zeppelin IV and Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” there certainly were stand out tracks, but in the end the albums as a whole were solid and deep in quality.

In my opinion, Thriller has earned every one of its 32 million units sold, as every song on the album is nearly perfect.

An album sale used to mean someone saw the whole album’s content as worth the price, while now one or two standout songs can make an entire album rewarded.

Consider a soccer team with one star player compared to a team that operates as a cohesive whole, utilizing each other’s strengths and covering for each other’s weaknesses.

One deserves an MVP award and the other deserves to win the game.

To conflate classic album sales with one-click streaming plays makes the entire award system feel arbitrary.

The merit earned by an album like Zeppelin IV isn’t the same as a one-hit wonder on today’s radio.

Thousands of people clicking on a song or album does not necessarily mean they liked it or would buy that album. That being said, As of February 1st, Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” and Hozier’s self-titled album both reached platinum status for their streaming achievements, which I think were much earned.

A gold or platinum album lacks a certain luster it used to hold.

The way we listen to music has changed greatly over the years and the way we measure success should be reevaluated. But my advice would be to focus on what hasn’t changed; live music.

To me, the way musicians travel and spread their art live means more than how many sales their records get.

Let’s see awards for ticket sales were, or how often fans pay to see artists live. That is a conversation that I would much rather have when it comes to giving out awards to musicians.