Today In Pop Culture: Como Goes Gold, But What Does That Mean?

Published on March 14th, 2016 in: Media, Music, Today In Pop Culture |

By Jeffery X Martin

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“Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket/Never let it fade away…”

Scientifically and astronomically, this is a terrible idea. Not only will you get burned, but that thing could be radioactive. While these instructions are no way to treat a meteorite, they are enough to get you a gold record. “Catch A Falling Star” by Perry Como was the first single ever to be awarded the RIAA status of gold record, and it happened on this date in 1958.

We hear the term “gold record” a lot, and it’s come to mean just a popular song, a big hit. But there are specific criteria that must be met before a release can truly be called a gold record, and it goes even higher than that.

If a song sells 500,000 copies, it’s gold. If it sells 1 million copies, it’s platinum. Two million copies means it’s double-platinum. Over that, it counts as multi-platinum until you hit ten million, and then the album is diamond. The record label has to request any kind of precious metal or gem descriptor for the record. Double albums get counted twice, meaning a two-disc set could go diamond after selling only five million copies.

Right. Only five million copies. That is not chump change, my friends.

Even though we look at Perry Como as a relic from a bygone era now, it makes sense that he was the first recipient of a gold single. Como had his own musical variety show on television. He was the first singer to sell over a million copies of ten different records. He may have been fond of wool cardigans, but as far as selling music, that guy was a powerhouse.

He doesn’t have the most gold singles, though. That happiness belongs to Elvis Presley, with a whopping 55 gold records. Behind him, in second place, is Rihanna with 41 gold singles. Lil Wayne has 29, more than Mariah Carey or BeyoncĂ©, who both have 28. Whitney, Kanye, and Madonna are tied at 27 each. Rounding at the top ten are Jay-Z with 26 and, finally, the Beatles with 24 gold singles.

Selling 500,000 of anything is worth of recognition, to be sure, but the system isn’t infallible. When the soundtrack to the legendarily lousy film version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band came out, pre-orders allowed it reach stores already at the platinum level. However, two million angry customers can’t be wrong, because that’s how many of them returned the record to their local retailers or were shipped back as unsold. If you’ve heard the album, you can’t really blame them. As the saying goes, “You can’t polish a turd,” even if you’re using platinum.

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