Maker Studios' "Epic Rap Battles of History" YouTube series has snagged a Gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America, due in large part to its online video views.
The award is being bestowed to "Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney", a video in the Epic Rap Battles series that is also available as a digital track download on iTunes and Amazon.com's MP3 store and through streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio and Xbox Music. But it was primarily the video's 71 million YouTube views that earned the song its Gold. Maker Studios, which produced the video featuring Peter Shukoff (who goes by Nice Peter on YouTube) and Lloyd Ahlquist (EpicLLOYD), says it is the first independent multi-channel network on YouTube to earn Gold.
In May, the month the RIAA integrated on-demand streams into its Gold & Platinum Program, a record number of digital singles earned certification, including Justin Bieber's "Baby," which was awarded a 12x Multi-Platinum Award, the highest ever in the history of the 55-year program. The new rules count 100 on-demand streams as equivalent to a single sale.
Historically, to earn Gold certification, a single or an album must sell 500,000 copies, while Platinum requires 1 million and Diamond is 10 million.
Many songs that have popular music videos have earned awards prior to RIAA's rule changes, and even more garnered Platinum and Gold certifications after RIAA began counting on-demand video views on YouTube, Vevo, MTV.com and Yahoo! Music.
Still, the "Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney" video, which was posted Oct. 15, 2012, was unusual because it wasn't conceived as a traditional piece of music whose primary method of monetization is sales. It was a comedy video with a rap battle format, making money through premium advertising, but one that also happened to sell audio downloads. The distinction blurs the line between video and music.
The Epic Rap Battles series has amassed more than 1.2 billion views and 6.8 million subscribers since it debuted in September 2010. Each video in the series features two "rap battlers" vying to out-insult each other with as many humrous rhymes as possible. Other videos include "Moses vs Santa Claus" featuring Snoop Dogg in costume as Moses, which had 38.3 million views as of Wednesday night.