A Gold Record is the award given to a performing artist (typically musical artist) for the sale of 500,000 units of a record, CD, or cassette through legal distribution sources in the United States.ĘThe Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sets the criteria and presents these awards in the United States and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) sets the criteria for these awards worldwide in coordination with other industry organizations in each country. It is important to note that the criteria for earning a Gold Record is different depending upon nationality. So selling 40,000 copies of an album in Canada, for example, would be enough to earn a Gold Record.
This term got its start in 1942, when RCA Victor took one of the master copies of Glenn Miller's Chattanooga Choo Choo, and sprayed it with gold lacquer as a publicity gimmick to promote the success of the recording with over 1,200,000 records sold. This was the first Gold Record ever awarded to a recording artist. RCA presented several other Gold Record to their artists before the award became an industry-wide award. RCA awarded a Gold Record to Elvis Presley in 1956 for 1,000,000 sales of the single Don't Be Cruel, and to Harry Belafonte in 1957 for the album Calypso (1956), the first album to sell over 1,000,000 copies.
Several records sold over 1 million copies in the early 1900's, including recordings by Enrico Caruso and Al Jolson. Prior to Miller's recording in 1942, Gene Austin's recording of My Blue Heaven, in 1928, was reported to have sold over five million copies.
It was more than a decade later in 1958 when the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) trademarked the term Gold Record and created a standard award criteria. The first Gold Record single was awarded to Perry Como for his recording of Catch A Falling Star. Gordon McRae and the cast of Oklahoma! received the first Gold Record album for the soundtrack release that year. Eventually, the designation of Platinum Record was created for the sales of a million units and in 1998 the Diamond Record awards were created for the sales of ten million copies of an album or single. In 1996, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) began working with professional organizations in countries world-wide to provide similar awards in Europe and in 2009 adding the Middle East.
See also Platinum Record; Diamond Record.