Oklahoma 1955 still 2 1500

wikipedia really messed up “music recording certification”

I LEFT WIKIPEDIA ALONE for the past few months, even though cri­tiquing their en­tries is like shooting fish in a barrel. When it comes to “de­f­i­n­i­tions” of per­sons and terms re­garding pop­ular music, Wikipedia’s theme song seems to be a well-known song by Elvis: “If you’re looking for trouble, you’ve come to the right place. “Sub­sti­tute “bone­headed state­ments” for “trouble” and you’ve got Wikipedia nailed.

Mind you, I don’t go there looking for bone­headed state­ments. Hell’s Belles, I don’t go there much at all but nonethe­less find my­self there on oc­ca­sion and when I do—lo and behold!—there are bone­headed state­ments, posing as facts! I was ac­tu­ally looking up some­thing for an ar­ticle I am working on when I found a ref­er­ence on Google to a Wikipedia entry.

I found my­self reading “Music recording cer­ti­fi­ca­tion” where, aside from the usual awk­ward writing, I found the usual fac­tual er­rors. So, in need of a new ar­ticle for this blog that was quick and easy to write, I am ad­dressing that entry. For this ar­ticle, I am going to ig­nore sev­eral boners in the Wiki piece—such as Belafonte’s CALYPSO being the first LP to sell a mil­lion copies—as they lack credits for their source. 1

 

While I favor Wikipedia’s being written col­lab­o­ra­tively by anony­mous vol­un­teers in theory, it just ain’t working all that well in prac­tice.

 

It’s more fun checking out those boners that are sourced so I can see what kind of ma­te­rial the Wiki con­trib­utor thinks jus­ti­fies the entry. So, scroll down to the fifth para­graph in the ar­ticle, which reads:

At the in­dustry level, in 1958 the Recording In­dustry As­so­ci­a­tion of America in­tro­duced its gold record award pro­gram for records of any kind, al­bums or sin­gles, which achieved one mil­lion dol­lars in re­tail sales. These sales were re­stricted to U.S.-based record com­pa­nies and did not in­clude ex­ports to other coun­tries.[3][4] For al­bums in 1968, this would mean ship­ping ap­prox­i­mately 250,000 units; for sin­gles, the number would be higher due to their lower re­tail price.[4] The plat­inum cer­ti­fi­ca­tion was in­tro­duced in 1976 for the sale of one mil­lion units for al­bums and two mil­lion for sin­gles, with the gold cer­ti­fi­ca­tion re­de­fined to mean sales of 500,000 units for al­bums and one mil­lion for sin­gles.[5]

 

PerryComo CatchAFallingStar 600

Perry Como’s Catch A Falling Star was re­leased in the final days of 1957 and reached #2 on both the Bill­board and Cash Box Top 100 sur­veys in March 1958. It was the first single to be cer­ti­fied by the RIAA for their then-new Gold Record Award. There was nothing spe­cial about this record or its selling a mil­lion; it just hap­pened to be the first record that any of the record com­pa­nies sub­mitted for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Good sources or bad?

There are three sources cited are in the para­graph above. Please keep in mind that while any new piece of in­for­ma­tion sub­mitted to Wikipedia, in­cluding cor­rec­tions, re­quires the URL of the source of the new in­for­ma­tion, no one is re­quired to check the ve­racity or ac­cu­racy of those sources. The sources are the blue num­bers in su­per­script, each of which is a link to an­other web­site:

[3]   Shannon Ven­able: Gold – A Cul­tural En­cy­clo­pedia

Venable’s book is an en­cy­clo­pedia that “con­sists of more than 130 en­tries that en­com­pass every as­pect of gold, ranging from the an­cient met­al­lur­gical arts to con­tem­po­rary economies. The con­nec­tions be­tween these in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary sub­jects are ex­plored and an­a­lyzed to high­light the many ways humankind’s fas­ci­na­tion with gold re­flects his­tor­ical, cul­tural, eco­nomic, and ge­o­graphic de­vel­op­ments.”

I have no idea why anyone would cite this book as a re­li­able source for in­for­ma­tion about gold record awards.

[4]   Robert Shelton: No Di­rec­tion Home – The Life And Music Of Bob Dylan

Shelton was a music and film critic for The New York Times in the ’60s, cov­ering folk music but branching out into pop, rock, and country music. No Di­rec­tion Home was a “se­rious” look at Dylan and ar­guably the most im­por­tant book ever written about Dylan as an artist and not merely a pop star.

I sup­pose there could be in­for­ma­tion in this book that could cause a neo­phyte rock re­searcher to be­lieve that Shelton was a re­li­able source for in­for­ma­tion about gold record awards.

[5]   Adam White: The Bill­board Book Of Gold & Plat­inum Records

White’s book is an ideal source for data about gold record awards! In fact, I left a re­view of White’s book on Amazon in 2016: “This may be the only book ever pub­lished that gives ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion on the RIAA’s orig­inal cri­teria for de­ter­mining a Gold Record Award. 90% of writers and web­sites get this in­for­ma­tion in­cor­rect when writing about al­bums from the ’60s and ’70s! A trea­sure for re­searchers.”

Again, White’s book is an ideal source for data about gold record awards pro­vided you cite White’s ac­tual words (see below).

De­spite these sources—or per­haps be­cause of them—there are seven er­rors in those five sen­tences! To make it easier to follow my crit­i­cisms, I have broken up Wikipedia’s one para­graph into three sec­tions for ease in reading.

 

ShannonVenable Gold book 300

The only in­for­ma­tion on au­thor Shannon L. Ven­able that I could find on the in­ternet is one line on Amazon: “Shannon L. Ven­able, vet­eran writer and ed­u­cator, is an au­thority on the eco­nomic and so­cial im­pli­ca­tions of luxury and wealth.” That is, Mr. or Ms. Ven­able may not exist and the name may be a pseu­donym or a house name.

Records of any kind?

Here are the first two sen­tences from the Wikipedia para­graph above. The su­per­script num­bers in bold print are mine and ba­si­cally mark the er­rors. Each is ad­dressed below: “At the in­dustry level, in 1958 the Recording In­dustry As­so­ci­a­tion of America in­tro­duced its gold record award pro­gram for records of any kind (1), al­bums or sin­gles, which achieved one mil­lion dol­lars in re­tail sales (2). These sales were re­stricted to U.S.-based record com­pa­nies and did not in­clude ex­ports to other coun­tries.”

(1)   The orig­inal RIAA Gold Record Awards ap­par­ently did not in­clude “records of any kind.” The awards cov­ered 45 rpm sin­gles (the 78 rpm single was ef­fec­tively ex­tinct by 1958) and 33rpm LP al­bums only. (For some weird reason, pre-recorded tapes were not counted until 1970.) I cannot find any ev­i­dence that the RIAA awards cov­ered 45 rpm extended-play al­bums (or EPs).

The EP album was in­tro­duced by RCA Victor in 1952 and had been a com­mer­cial dis­ap­point­ment until 1956 when Elvis Presley ‘s EPs started selling like hot­cakes. By 1958, at least one Elvis EP had passed the mil­lion mark in sales in the US and a second one was on its way. Yet the first EPs to be cer­ti­fied for any RIAA Awards did not occur until 1992!

(2)   More im­por­tantly, the RIAA Awards were not made to “al­bums or sin­gles which achieved one mil­lion dol­lars in re­tail sales.” Not even close! Here are the basic cri­teria as ex­plained on page 3 of the Adam White book:

From 1958 through 1988, a single had to sell a min­imum of one mil­lion copies to qualify for gold cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. From 1958 through 1974, the min­imum re­quire­ment for a gold album was $1 mil­lion dol­lars in sales at man­u­fac­turer whole­sale prices, based on 33⅓ per­cent of the list price for each album. From Jan­uary 1, 1975, an ad­di­tional re­quire­ment was that an album sold a min­imum of 500,000 copies.”

 

RobertShelton NoDirectionHome 600

In 1961, Robert Shelton wrote a re­view of Bob Dylan for The New York Times that ef­fec­tively “dis­cov­ered” the young singer. He and Dylan be­came friends, which may have helped make this an in­ter­esting book but not nec­es­sarily a re­li­able source for in­for­ma­tion of the RIAA.

Lower retail price?

Here is the third sen­tence from the Wikipedia para­graph above: “For al­bums in 1968, this would mean ship­ping (3) ap­prox­i­mately 250,000 units (4); for sin­gles, the number would be higher due to their lower re­tail price (5).”

(3)   In 1968, RIAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion was based on how many copies ac­tu­ally sold in stores, not on how many copies the record com­pany “shipped” to dis­trib­u­tors.

(4)   The 250,000 figure is based on the in­cor­rect as­sump­tion that the re­tail price was counted. So let’s re­member that the min­imum re­quire­ment for a gold album in 1968 was$1 mil­lion dol­lars in sales at man­u­fac­turer whole­sale prices, based on 33⅓ per­cent of the list price for each album.”

•  The re­tail price for a pop LP was ap­prox­i­mately $5.00. 2
•  33⅓ per­cent of $5 is ap­prox­i­mately $1.50.
•  1,000,000 di­vided by 150 is ap­prox­i­mately 667,000.

And 667,000 is how many copies a single record had to sell in 1968 to be cer­ti­fied by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award.

(5)   Nei­ther the re­tail nor the whole­sale were ever a part of the cri­teria for RIAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of a single.

 

AdamWhite GoldAndPlatinumRecords book 300

Adam White is also the co-author of two other books on pop­ular music: Mo­town: The Sound Of Young America (with Barney Ales) and Bill­board Book Of Number One Rhythm & Blues Hits (with Fred Bronson). The Bill­board Book Of Gold & Plat­inum Records be­longs on every pop music researcher’s shelf along­side Joseph Mur­rells’ book Mil­lion Selling Records From The 1900s To The 1980s.

Sales of 500,000 units?

Here is the fourth sen­tence from the Wikipedia para­graph above: “The plat­inum cer­ti­fi­ca­tion was in­tro­duced in 1976 for the sale of one mil­lion units for al­bums and two mil­lion for sin­gles, with the gold cer­ti­fi­ca­tion re­de­fined to mean sales of 500,000 units for al­bums (6) and one mil­lion for sin­gles (7).”

(6)   This may seem like nit­picking, but the cri­teria for a gold album still called for $1 mil­lion in sales at the whole­sale level. In 1976, the RIAA added a re­quire­ment: that a min­imum of 500,000 units also be sold.

(7)   Gold cer­ti­fi­ca­tion had al­ways been one mil­lion for sin­gles. 3

 

Oklahoma sdtk Capitol 600

The first 33⅓ rpm LP album to be cer­ti­fied by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award was Capitol’s 1955 sound­track to the mo­tion pic­ture OKLAHOMA (SAO-595). As the album was a deluxe package with a gate­fold jacket, it car­ried a re­tail price one dollar higher than the usual $3.95 of the time. So it would have to have sold at least 667,000 copies by 1958 to qualify for a Gold Record Award. Ac­cording to Joseph Mur­rells’ book Mil­lion Selling Records From The 1900s To The 1980s, it reached a mil­lion copies sold in 1959.

How do they do that?

That’s seven er­rors in four sen­tences. Wikipedia ef­fec­tively got every­thing im­por­tant wrong. How do they do that? I mean, maybe I could do that if I con­sumed a bottle of Jack Daniels.

In one hour.

On an empty stomach.

Fi­nally, here’s a little test for you all: Mosey on over to “Music recording cer­ti­fi­ca­tion” on Wikipedia. Scroll down “RIAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion” and read this sen­tence:

As music sales in­creased with the in­tro­duc­tion of com­pact discs, the RIAA cre­ated the Multi-Platinum award in 1984.”

Okay, now what’s wrong with this state­ment?

De­spite citing three sources, there are seven fac­tual er­rors in one para­graph in Wikipedia’s entry for ‘Music Recording Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.’ Click To Tweet

Oklahoma 1955 still 2 1500

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is Gordon McRae and Shirley Jones in the RKO pro­duc­tion of Ok­la­homa! (with the ex­cla­ma­tion mark). It was the first fea­ture film pho­tographed in the Todd-AO 70 mm widescreen process (and was si­mul­ta­ne­ously filmed in Cin­e­maS­cope 35mm. It won the Academy Award for Best Mu­sical Pic­ture Score of 1955.


FOOTNOTES:

1   A boner is “a clumsy or stupid mis­take” (Merriam-Webster) and is pretty much an an­ti­quated term today, seeing as how everyone as­so­ciates it with some­thing else.

2   In 1968, the manufacturer’s sug­gested re­tail price for LPs varied from com­pany to com­pany. For some, the price was as low as $4.79 while for others it was as high as $4.98.

3   Due to the drastic de­cline in the sales of 45 rpm sin­gles, the cri­teria for sin­gles was dropped to only 500,000 copies in 1989. This was ap­plied retroac­tively.

 

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Perry Como was my first “col­lect them all” artist when I was a four year old. Still love him, and look at the wonder of that RCA 45! Awe­some silver print and “His Mas­ter’s Voice”. Next, came Rick Nelson and then the two of them si­mul­ta­ne­ously (still to this day). After that came the Wilson clan, fol­lowed with again si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the John Lennon re­view. With Stock­hausen, Ludwig Van, Kinks, Harry, is that you? and more wonder in/of the grooves!