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Why BPI’s New ‘Billion’ Certification Hits Different

The "BRIT Billion" award makes the United Kingdom the first country in the streaming era to recognize the milestone of drawing 1 billion career streams.

LONDON — Mariah Carey, Lewis Capaldi and Sam Smith are among the recipients of the new BRIT Billion award, which recognizes artists who have surpassed one billion career streams in the United Kingdom.  

U.K. labels trade body BPI, which also runs the Brit Awards, is naming the honorees, using the Official Charts Company to verify the data. Certification is based on tracks being streamed on music services like Spotify and video platforms such as YouTube where an artist has appeared either as the main performer or as a featured artist. 


Around 140 acts have passed the one billion U.K. streams milestone to date, but BPI has only named 13 recipients of the award initially, a spokesperson tells Billboard. The other artists are ABBA, Coldplay, Whitney Houston, AJ Tracey, Headie One, Anne-Marie, Ellie Goulding, George Ezra, RAYE and Rita Ora

BPI says the United Kingdom is the first country in the world in the streaming era to run a certifications scheme that recognizes an artist’s success across their entire career and multiple projects, as opposed to individual recordings. 

Carey said in a statement that she was honored to be one of the first recipients of the BRIT Billion award and thanked her U.K. fans “for their endless and enduring support.”

Capaldi said in a statement that he was “buzzing,” adding that “never in a million years did I think any of this stuff would happen, but now [that] it is I will gladly accept each and every award.” 

The new sales certification category recognizing one billion career plays reflects how streaming has completely upended the recorded music industry over the past decade. 

Previously, the biggest sales awards issued in the U.K. were platinum, granted to albums that sell 300,000 chart equivalent units, and multi-platinum (multiples of 300,000 sales). Below that is gold (100,000 sales) and silver (60,000 sales). For singles, platinum recognizes 600,000 chart equivalent sales. Gold is 400,000 and silver is 200,000.   

Those totals are, however, dwarfed by the huge number of streams that the world’s biggest artists increasingly generate with many acts racking up millions and, in some cases, hundreds of millions of streams every year. But artists must generate several multiples of more streams to make the same money they made per unit in the physical era.

In November, Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved” overtook Ed Sheeran‘s “Shape Of You” to become the most-streamed song of all time in the U.K. with over 600 million audio and video streams, according to the Official Charts Company. George Ezra’s “Shotgun” has been streamed just under 500 million times since its release in 2018, reports BPI, which first began certifying silver, gold and platinum-selling records in 1973. 

The labels trade body says the number of audio music streams in the U.K. crossed 160 billion last year with streaming now accounting for more than 85% of all U.K. music consumption.  

“For a recording artist, there can be few greater sources of pride than having a platinum or gold disc on their wall,” Sophie Jones, BPI chief strategy officer/interim chief executive, said in a statement. “But in an era when success in measured in the hundreds of millions and indeed billions of streams, it was clear that we needed a new and additional way to recognize and celebrate outstanding achievement in recorded music.”