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From gold records to gold MP3s

Record industry issues first gold, platinum, and multiplatinum certifications for digital downloads. And the winners are...

It might not be the same as having a big gold record on the wall, but the Recording Industry Association of America has issued its first gold, platinum, and multiplatinum certifications for digital downloads.

The first obvious winner? Outkast's "Hey Ya!" is the only multiplatinum single so far, with more than 400,000 downloads. Six songs qualified for platinum, or sales of 200,000 singles, and 45 titles got gold status, for selling 100,000 songs.

These awards "are a reflection of both the commitment of the entire music community to consumer-friendly legitimate digital services and fan appetite for high-quality music," RIAA Chief Executive Officer Mitch Bainwol said in a statement.

The awards are a sign of a maturing online music market, and a clear message that the business has a long way to go before reaching full mainstream status.

The standards for reaching certification are much lower online, reflecting the fact that far fewer consumers buy music online, and that online sales remain just a small fraction of the overall music business.

An album ordinarily requires sales of 1 million units offline to be certified platinum, for example. A gold album requires sales of 500,000 units.

The RIAA recently said that nearly 59 million digital singles were sold in the United States in the first half of 2004.

Outkast accounted for three of the six platinum awards, while Hoobastank, D12 and Maroon 5 each picked up one. Bands including Coldplay, The Darkness, Sheryl Crow and Britney Spears all won gold certifications.

The RIAA based its certifications on sales made through digital download services operated by companies including Apple Computer, Musicmatch, Napster, RealNetworks and others.