ABOUT THE RIAA: The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents U.S. record companies, has been the official certification agency for single and album certifications since 1958. The gold award is bestowed on albums that have shipped 500,000 units. The RIAA added platinum awards, signifying shipments of one million copies, in 1976, multiplatinum awards, for 2 million units and above, in 1984, and Diamond awards, 10 million units for a single title, in 1999.
* The RIAA only certifies a record if that record company pays for its official certification; some companies do not consider this an important distinction and will not request certifications unless pressed by its active, still saleable artists. A full and complete list of RIAA-certified recordings would be a very incomplete list of popular American music.
* The RIAA only certifies a particular recording of a song. For example, sales of Elton John's original "Candle in the Wind" single are not counted towards the 1997 version's official total.
* Retroactive RIAA certification only goes back to 1958; thus, a record like Bing Crosby's "White Christmas", released in 1942 and reported in 1963 as having sold 30 million copies, and currently listed by the Guinness Book of World Records at 50 million sales, would not be eligible. Bill Haley and His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" is assumed to have sold more than 25 million copies since 1955. According to Billboard Magazine's statistician Joel Whitburn, other pre-1958 singles that would be affected by this cutoff point include Gene Autry's "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (8 million sales reported); Crosby's "Silent Night" (7 million); Vernon Dalhart's "The Prisoner's Song" (7 million); the Mills Brothers' "Paper Doll" (6 million); Patti Page's "The Tennessee Waltz" (6 million); Gene Austin's "My Blue Heaven" (5 million); and Ben Selvin's "Dardanella" (5 million); and another 21 single releases in the 2-3 million range. (That is, assuming their respective record companies would elect to bear the optional expense of an official RIAA certification. It is unlikely, for example, that Sony BMG Music Entertainment, which absorbed RCA Records, which in turn had long ago purchased the Victor Talking Machine Company, now sees any particular advantage in precisely determining the sales for Selvin's 1920 smash hit on Victor Records.) The first officially RIAA-certified million-selling single was Perry Como's "Catch a Falling Star", in March 1958.
* Prior to 1989, singles were awarded with a Gold certification for sales of 1,000,000 units and a Platinum certification for sales of 2,000,000 units. For certification dates after January 1, 1989, a Gold award represents sales of 500,000 units and a Platinum award represents sales of 1,000,000 units.