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Forum - General - Sales Certifications - Then and Now

These days in the music industry, it only takes a catchy pop hook, a relevant artist persona and a decent fanbase to send a song flying up the charts. Sure, in the past few years there have been some party-ready bangers from the likes of Katy Perry and Kesha, timeless hits from Bruno Mars and Eminem, summery sing-alongs from Mumford & Sons and Brooke Fraser. But, despite this, the world of music charts hasn't always been as single-driven and airplay-heavy as it is now. In fact, this week's Top 40 Singles chart just five years ago contained only thirteen singles with a certification:

Rihanna - Only Girl (In The World) - 7Wks (GOLD)
Bruno Mars - Just The Way You Are - 15Wks (PLATINUM)
Brooke Fraser - Something in the Water - 14Wks (PLATINUM)
Cee Lo Green - F**k You - 10Wks (GOLD)
Stan Walker - Choose You - 16Wks (PLATINUM)
Usher feat. Pitbull - DJ Got Us Falling In Love - 16Wks (PLATINUM)
Katy Perry - Teenage Dream - 15Wks (PLATINUM)
Taio Cruz - Dynamite - 19Wks (PLATINUM)
Enrique Iglesias feat. Pitbull - I Like It - 17Wks (GOLD)
Eminem feat. Rihanna - Love The Way You Lie - 20Wks (PLATINUM)
Travie McCoy feat. Bruno Mars - Billionaire - 23Wks (PLATINUM)
Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg - California Gurls - 26Wks (PLATINUM)
Flo Rida feat. David Guetta - Club Can't Handle Me - 19Wks (PLATINUM)

So as we can see, three of those hold a GOLD certification, while the other ten hold a PLATINUM certification. Notably, Brooke Fraser's 'Something in the Water' has spent less time on the charts than Enrique Iglesias' 'I Like It', yet the former holds a PLATINUM certification over the latter's GOLD certification, which makes sense considering the former was a number-one single and much bigger hit. My point, though, is that in 2010 for a single to receive at least a GOLD certification, it basically had to be a stable top ten. Even in the median days of the digital age, longevity (especially in the upper chart region) + song popularity + artist popularity all had a part to play in achieving multi-platinum status, which, as we can see in the former chart, wasn't as common and as quickly achieved as it is today. Take this week's certified singles, for example:

Adele - Hello - 2Wks (PLATINUM)
Justin Bieber - Sorry - 2Wks (GOLD)
Justin Bieber - What Do You Mean? - 10Wks (2x PLATINUM)
Robin Schulz feat. Francesco Yates - Sugar - 6Wks (GOLD)
The Weeknd - The Hills - 21 Wks (PLATINUM)
Charlie Puth - One Call Away - 5Wks (GOLD)
Rudimental feat. Ed Sheeran - Lay It All On Me - 6Wks (GOLD)
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - Downtown - 10Wks (PLATINUM)
Ellie Goulding - On My Mind - 7Wks (GOLD)
Naughty Boy feat. Beyoncé and Arrow Benjamin - Runnin' (Lose It All) - 7Wks (GOLD)
The Weeknd - Can't Feel My Face - 21Wks (2x PLATINUM)
Disclosure feat. Lorde - Magnets - 6Wks (GOLD)
Nelly feat. Jeremih - The Fix - 6Wks (GOLD)
Calvin Harris feat. Disciples - How Deep Is Your Love? - 16Wks (PLATINUM)
Fetty Wap feat. Remy Boyz - 679 - 12Wks (GOLD)
Alessia Cara - Here - 8Wks (GOLD)
R. City feat. Adam Levine - Locked Away - 12Wks (PLATINUM)
Nick Jonas - Levels - 7Wks (GOLD)
Major Lazer & DJ Snake feat. MO - Lean On - 35Wks (3x PLATINUM)
Hailee Steinfeld - Love Myself - 7Wks (GOLD)
Felix Jaehn feat Jasmine Thompson - Ain't Nobody (Loves Me Better) - 10Wks (GOLD)
Kygo feat. Parson James - Stole The Show - 26Wks (PLATINUM)
Skrillex & Diplo feat. Justin Bieber - Where Are U Now? - 33Wks (2x PLATINUM)
Meghan Trainor feat. John Legend - Like I'm Gonna Lose You - 20Wks (2x PLATINUM)
Disclosure feat. Sam Smith - Omen - 14Wks (GOLD)
One Direction - Drag Me Down - 14Wks (PLATINUM)
Lost Frequencies - Are You With Me - 13Wks (PLATINUM)
Fetty Wap - Trap Queen - 22Wks (PLATINUM)
Nico & Vinz feat. Kid Ink and Bebe Rexha - That's How You Know - 14Wks (GOLD)

That's a whopping twenty nine certified singles, with fifteen GOLD, nine PLATINUM, four double PLATINUM, and one triple PLATINUM. The entire top ten holds a certification for the first time in the history of the New Zealand charts; the last time the charts have been closest to this was on the chart dated 3rd August 2015, when all singles but Dawin's 'Dessert' were certified at least GOLD. That only leaves eleven singles without certification, which is one of the lowest numbers I've seen, but understandable considering they've either peaked in the lower region of the chart or they're still fairly new singles with steady sales. The rule of longevity + song popularity + artist popularity to achieve multi-platinum selling singles still applies, but on a much larger scale in terms of sales numbers, considering we've only just passed the peak of single sales as it stands and the fact that music streaming (which was accounted for along with sales for chart positions from the end of 2014) is keeping songs in the charts longer than sales alone would.

It's not exactly hard to believe that singles are awarded certifications much more quickly in today's market compared to five years ago, if you take into account that singles weren't selling as fast and sales numbers weren't as high back then as they are now, and the fact that we have many more increasingly popular outlets to buy music from today (and much easier and faster access to them). With the rise of free and pay-per-month music streaming services, I predict that the already unstable future of single sales could be on the decline.

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Don't quote me on this but I think streaming figures also are factored into certifications, a certain amount of streams = 1 sale. I think the inclusion of streaming is ridiculous, there are songs with ridiculously long chart runs such as Lean On and Where Are U Now, while songs that are unavailable on certain platforms fall off the chart fast (see Taylor Swift's last singles for example).

What I find bewildering is some of the certifications for songs that are coming through for tracks with very little or no chart action. For example:

KYGO - Firestone (feat Conrad) PLATINUM did not chart
SIX60 - Purple GOLD did not chart
AWOLNATION - Sail PLATINUM peak #33 weeks on 7

Those are three off the top of my head, there are others - if songs are 'selling' so well to be able to be certified that much, I think we would be better returning to an official top 50 or more! Certifications are devalued when they're handed out as often as they are now.
Good points! Chart positions and certifications are two completely separate things, so just because a song hasn't sold enough copies in a single week to chart in our official Top 40, that doesn't mean that it hasn't sold enough total copies to be certified. The chart positions themselves are a comparison between the weekly volume of sales for each single, whereas a certification is awarded to a single that has sold a certain amount of copies in total.

'Sail' was originally released at the beginning of 2011, however didn't chart until the beginning of 2013. Over the course of the two years of its release before charting, the song was still selling copies but not enough to establish a chart position. It eventually entered the chart with a GOLD certification because it had already sold 7,500+ copies and enough to finally chart in the Top 40. It re-entered the chart again later in the year with a PLATINUM certification because it had already sold 15,000+ copies in its time outside the chart and also sold enough to re-enter the chart that week.

'Purple' has had a very steady run in the New Zealand Artist singles chart (36 Wks and counting) ever since Six60 released its parent album. It's been holding a decent position in that chart for quite some time without charting in the Top 40, and that tells us that although its WEEKLY sales haven't been high enough to chart, its TOTAL sales have been enough to earn it a GOLD certification.

'Firestone' is a bit more puzzling to me, but if streams are being converted to equivalent sales (I have contacted someone from RMNZ in regards to this), then I'll attribute it to the fact that it's been released for almost a year now, so it's had plenty of time to sell and be streamed, although not enough in a single week to chart.

My argument is the PLATINUM certification of Lost Frequencies' 'Are You With Me' at 11 weeks in the chart compared to One Direction's 'Drag Me Down' being only certified GOLD at 12 weeks, when the latter was a number-one single and spent more time in the top ten and on the chart in total, and the former only hit number nine and had spent one less week on the chart.

I personally think that with the greater number of single sales and the addition of streaming that the total sales required for GOLD (7,500) and PLATINUM (15,000)certifications should be increased.

Great to see people taking an interest in my analyses. Hope this puts your mind at ease!

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Great answer and well written NxtGenration. I can see your point too Alley. Maybe he bar needs to be lifted in the certifications game. In a way the singles chart has been increased to a Top 50 with the arrival of the new Heatseekers chart. The album chart is the complete opposite with just about anything getting in the Top 40 now and virtually no certifications (this week just 8). Also a large number of albums only last one week. Just shows you who the casualty in this digital age.
Albums are a different story altogether in terms of sales versus streaming. I'm not 100% on how the whole system works with streaming an album and having it count towards its sales (or if it does count at all towards sales), but my theory is that if an album is being streamed, then it has to be played in its entirety at least once without skipping songs for it to count as a 'sale'. As for albums that debut in a higher chart position then begin to move down the chart at a rapid rate and drop off within a few weeks, I'll use Demi Lovato's newest release 'Confident' as an example.

MY OPINION: The album debuted at #2 due to primarily high first week sales and being streamed in its entirety (because curious consumers always want to listen to fresh, new, and exciting music from A-list popstars). It then slipped straight out of the top ten down to #12 because album sales had declined and more people were streaming songs from the album that they wanted to listen to (e.g. their favourite song), which wasn't enough to be counted towards an album 'sale'. The same thing happened the week after when the album dropped to #20; less people were buying or streaming the whole album and more people were picking and choosing to stream the songs they wanted.

Because albums like these are being listened to in individual songs via streaming and aren't particularly selling very well as a whole after their first week, it would be quite difficult for them to receive certifications if streaming is taken into account for album sales.
On the flipside, however, I'll use Cilla Black's 'The Very Best Of: Remastered' as an example here.

MY OPINION: The album spent five weeks at #1 and was certified GOLD in its 7th week because, although streaming may have been taken into account, Cilla Black is an artist who is typically enjoyed by older people who were fans of her music when she was considered a popular artist, and they would rather buy a physical (or digital) copy of the album than use a service which they don't know much about or have the time or patience to use, so pure album sales had a much bigger threshold for this particular album.

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Streams now count toward single certifications (not albums) in the same way that they count toward chart positions each week. The conversion ratio for certification is identical to the ratio for chart position, which is 175:1.

A gold single remains 7,500 sales (OR the stream-based equivalent) and 15,000 sales (or equivalent) for platinum. So this means a single would have to be streamed 1,312,500 tunes to theoretically go gold on streaming alone or 2.6 million times for platinum. That scenario is unlikely though. What actually happens, of course, is that songs now go gold or platinum as a result of simultaneous sales and streaming consumption by music fans.

This does tend to mean that singles now reach gold or platinum faster than they once did. It also means that older singles have a greater likelihood of going gold or platinum thanks to recurring streaming play, even after their sales peak has been and gone. This was true to an extent before, because sales can continue to trickle in, but is much more pronounced now due to the effect of consumers’ playlisting habits on streaming platforms.

Certification of albums remains purely sales-based (7,500 for gold, 15,000 for platinum).
Thanks for that info NxtGenration, really good to read. It seems to be quite difficult to find valid info on the topic around the web!!

I agree with your point re Drag Me Down, perhaps Lost Frequencies accumulated some chart points prior to charting. It seems that songs below #40 are still getting really decent chart points, hence why these certs are quick in some cases - another case this year was with You Know You Like It going gold within its first month of charting, I'm sure there are a few more.

I would really like to see in the future a separated chart for Single Sales and Streaming, like our Official Top 40 could still be the amalgamated chart, but just a separate Top 40 Sales or something like that would be great (similar to what they have in Australia).

Regarding streaming and certifications, it will be interesting to see how much retrospective certifications will be included. I'm thinking, if a song like 'Crazy' by Gnarls Barkley re-entered the chart in the future, how much of a cert would it have now. It left after 29 weeks with only a Gold cert, when sales were as low as I've ever seen! It would be awfully difficult, near impossible I'd say, to be able to factor in streaming for a song like that or another popular old school hit.

Very interesting stuff though

I want to know is the streaming conversion ratio for chart position is still 175:1?

AFAIK the the singles streaming conversion ratio for chart position on
UK - 100:1
France - 150:1 (Note: Haven't officially included streaming figures into the chart yet and planned to do so on summer 2016)
Germany - 100:1
Italy - 100:1
Spain - 250:1 on January 2015 (Note: Ratio reviewed every 6 months)
Australia - Between 175 to 250:1 (Note: Ratio reviewed on a quarterly basis)

Edit: To NxtGenration, could I have your permission to quote the RMNZ info to the link I posted above.
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Hi 911130,

I'm not quite sure if the streaming conversion ratio is still the same as when this post was made, as GOLD and PLATINUM certification thresholds have now doubled to 15,000 and 30,000, respectively, for singles, and streaming is now also a factor where the albums chart is concerned. I'll email RMNZ some time tomorrow and post what I've found out here when I get the information.

As for that previous information it's not a problem with me, but it'll be easier to wait until I've got that email back from RMNZ to confirm so that there's nothing lost in translation
Hi guys, I was wonder why RMNZ doesn't publish the figures for the charts? I'm actually very interested in how NZ prefers their music and what our actual sales/streaming numbers are for the Top 40 album/singles

Also I'm a bit puzzled on how Beyoncé's Lemonade Album was certified Gold after 7 weeks, but Rihanna's ANTI still hasn't been certified after 28 weeks? Also the exact same with Drake's Too Good & Rihanna's Love On the Brain both have been selling extremely well on ITunes and excellent streams on Spotify..
All I know Rihannaxhe is that sales figures are extremely confidential in New Zealand. It's got me wondering at how an entry can be certified gold or platinum so quickly in one case and so slowly in others too. I guess streaming plays a big part in how they tabulate the charts these days. Until they show actual figures we will never know. It's important to note too that the figures on the iTunes chart does not represent actual sales. As they say on the New Zealand page: "Since actual sales figures are no longer available, the following figures have been generated by a statistical model." You can find that at this link: http://www.digitalsalesdata.com/diydsd.php?Region=143461
I've had my own bouts of confusion over chart positions versus certifications, but it's not an entirely complicated situation in this case. Before album streaming figures were factored in on the chart dated June 20th, 2016, 'Lemonade' was a massive and consistent seller for several weeks after the beginning of its chart run, spending its first five weeks in the top two (including two weeks at #1) whilst experiencing fiercely tough competition from Prince's posthumous sales spike, Adele's blockbuster album '25', and new albums from big artists like Drake, Radiohead, Flume, and Ariana Grande. On the other hand, 'ANTI' came at a time when huge sellers weren't as plentiful (apart from '25' and David Bowie's back catalogue) but disappointingly still wasn't a massive seller itself, as seen by the album spending only seven weeks in the chart before dropping out completely (6-5-9-11-29-24-37). Consequently, after the introduction of album streaming into the charts, 'ANTI' has been performing significantly better, making several returns to the top ten, while 'Lemonade' hasn't appeared to benefit much at all from the addition.
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