In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) awards certification based on the number of albums and singles sold through retail and other ancillary markets. Certification is not automatic; for an award to be made, the record label must request certification and pay a fee to have the sales of the recording audited. The audit is conducted against net shipments after returns (most often an artist’s royalty statement is used), which includes albums sold directly to retailers and one-stops, direct-to-consumer sales (music clubs and mail order) and other outlets.
Catalog product, specifically pre-1972 album releases, are eligible for certification by meeting either the unit shipment or manufacturer’s dollar requirement for each award level. The purpose of this rule is to make certain exceptions for older albums that have very little supporting documentation substantiating that they meet both the unit requirement and the dollar requirement. Without the rule, these titles would potentially be unable to meet the dollar requirement based on the limited documentation available from sales that occurred decades ago.
Multi-disc albums are counted once for each disc within the album if it is over 100 minutes in length or is from the vinyl era. For example, each copy of The Smashing Pumpkins’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (running time of 121:39), OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (running time of 134:56), and Shania Twain’s Up! (145:44), all double albums, were counted twice, meaning each album was certified diamond after 5 million copies were shipped. Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Beatles’ White Album, both vinyl-era, are also counted double even though their running times are under the minimum requirement.
#/Millions Title Artist Label
29 EAGLES/THEIR GREATEST HITS 1971 – 1975 EAGLES ELEKTRA
29 THRILLER MICHAEL JACKSON EPIC/LEGACY
23 LED ZEPPELIN IV LED ZEPPELIN ATLANTIC
23 THE WALL PINK FLOYD COLUMBIA
23 GREATEST HITS VOLUME I & VOLUME II BILLY JOEL COLUMBIA
22 BACK IN BLACK AC/DC EPIC
21 DOUBLE LIVE GARTH BROOKS CAPITOL NASHVILLE
20 COME ON OVER SHANIA TWAIN MERCURY NASHVILLE
20 RUMOURS FLEETWOOD MAC WARNER BROS.
19 THE BEATLES THE BEATLES APPLE