Have any Southern Gospel projects been certified Gold Records or Platinum Records?
Over the weekend, a reader asked for a column examining whether any Southern Gospel projects had ever been certified Gold or Platinum.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) instituted the Gold Record award in 1958. At the time, it was awarded to an album with $1,000,000 in retail sales. That came out to about 250,000 units. In 1976, they changed the criteria, instituting the Platinum Record award for 1,000,000 units, and awarding the Gold Record for 500,000 units.
Through the years, no Southern Gospel CDs or LPs have been certified gold or platinum. “Wait a minute,” you might ask. “The Chuck Wagon Gang’s website says that they have sold forty million units, and the Blackwood Brothers’ Wikipedia page says they have sold fifty million units. Surely, with a total like that, at least one record sold 250,000 or 500,000 units?”
In all likelihood, the Blackwood Brothers and the Chuck Wagon Gang each did have one or more records that sold 250,000 or 500,ooo units. And I have no particular reason to believe that the claim of the Sego Brothers & Naomi to have sold more than 1,000,000 units of “Sorry, I Never Knew You” is exaggerated, either.
But here’s the catch: The RIAA only tracks retail sales. Even in the 1950s and 1960s, a strong percentage of Southern Gospel records were sold at concerts. No matter how many total units were actually sold, groups like the Blackwood Brothers, Chuck Wagon Gang, Statesmen, Bill Gaither Trio, Cathedrals, and Gold City never sold enough units in stores to achieve Gold or Platinum certification.
However, there is an interesting side note. The RIAA’s certification for a Gold Video or Platinum Video only requires 10% of the number for a CD. A gold video only needs to sell 50,000 units, and a platinum video 100,000. Twenty-four Gaither videos have been certified gold, while six—Special Homecoming Moments, Church in the Wildwood, Going Home, Israel Homecoming, Jerusalem Homecoming, and Hymns—have been certified platinum. The Cathedrals had three certified video releases: The Best of The Cathedrals (gold), 50 Faithful Years (platinum), and A Farewell Celebration (double platinum). This double platinum certification is, to the best I can determine, the highest certification the RIAA has ever given to a Southern Gospel release.