On 1 January 1975, the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) — which was founded as the Canadian Record Manufacturer’s Association in 1964 and renamed Music Canada in 2011 — began certifying sales of singles and albums in Canada. The organization uses a scale of gold and platinum levels based on the system created in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 1958. Sales certification criteria are adjusted according to market conditions and are indicative of music industry trends.
Since Canada has approximately 10 per cent of the population of the US, CRIA’s certification benchmarks were set at the same ratio as those used by the RIAA in the US, which was 500,000 (gold) and 1,000,000 (platinum) units sold. Hence, Canadian album sales certifications were set at 50,000 (gold) and 100,000 (platinum). Records that sold at multiple levels of platinum were also recognized (i.e., an album that sold 300,000 copies was certified triple-platinum). A diamond standard was established for million-selling albums in 1978.
The softening of album sales in the first decade of the 21st century led to a 20 per cent reduction in their certification levels to 40,000 (gold), 80,000 (platinum) and 800,000 (diamond) on 1 May 2008.
Since popular singles outsold albums in Canada in the mid-1970s, they originally had a higher certification level of 75,000 (gold) and 150,000 (platinum). Sales of singles slowed in the early 1980s, so on 1 February 1982 their respective gold and platinum certification levels were dropped to 50,000 and 100,000 to match album standards.
When the market for singles on vinyl, compact disc and cassette largely collapsed early in the 21st century, their certification standards were further reduced to 5,000 (gold), 10,000 (platinum) and 100,000 (diamond) in September 2002.
Music Video and DVD Certifications
CRIA started certifying the sale of music videos in 1990 at levels of 5,000 (gold), 10,000 (platinum) and 100,000 (diamond). Certifications for DVDs featuring music videos or concerts were introduced in 2001 using the same scale.
Digital Download Certifications
As digital downloads became the primary means of purchasing singles, sales standards of gold (20,000), platinum (40,000) and diamond (400,000) were established for them on 8 March 2006. Those figures were doubled on 1 May 2008 to reflect the increased popularity of digital downloads.
As mobile phones became increasingly ubiquitous, record companies started selling master recordings of their songs to be used as ringtones as a means of generating extra income to compensate for sagging album sales. Ringtone benchmarks were set at 20,000 (gold), 40,000 (platinum) and 400,000 (diamond) on 3 July 2007.
Certifications are issued after an application, including proof of sales, is submitted by a record company to Music Canada. Certifications are calculated on net shipments, less returns, and are subject to audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Promotional copies for radio and press review purposes are not included.
Compact disc, vinyl, cassette and digital sales can be combined to reach album certification benchmarks. Certifications of albums with more than one compact disc or vinyl long-playing (LP) record are calculated on a per-disc or LP basis, provided that pricing reflects multiple units.
First Gold Certifications
John Denver, Back Home Again (1 August 1975)
Paul Anka, “I Don’t Like To Sleep Alone” (1 August 1975)
Kelly Clarkson, “Breakaway” (8 May 2006)
George Michael, Faith (1 January 1990)
Mims, “This Is Why I’m Hot” (3 July 2007)
Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill (12 November 1996)
Eagles, Their Greatest Hits 1971–1975 (30 July 1987)
Fleetwood Mac, Rumors (27 June 1995)
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV (28 June 1995)
Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell (31 August 1995)
Michael Jackson, Thriller (1 April 1984)
Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (14 March 2003)
Pink Floyd, The Wall (31 August 1995)
Shania Twain, Come On Over (21 January 2000)
Shania Twain, The Woman in Me (9 April 1999)
Shania Twain, Up! (21 December 2004)
Elton John, “Candle in the Wind 1997” (1 December 1997)
The Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling” (22 April 2010)
Celine Dion, Live in Las Vegas – A New Day … (22 January 2008)
Akon, “Smack That” (24 September 2007)