Tue | Dec 1, 2020

Don’t wait on Billboard for a plaque - Qualified acts can get one made

Published:Saturday | October 31, 2020 | 12:12 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
Producer Sean ‘Contractor’ Edwards and young members of the Wu-Tang Clan show off their most recent Billboard plaques, ordered for the album ‘Tropical House Cruises to Jamaica: The Reggae Collector’s Edition’. Getting your hands on one of those c
Producer Sean ‘Contractor’ Edwards and young members of the Wu-Tang Clan show off their most recent Billboard plaques, ordered for the album ‘Tropical House Cruises to Jamaica: The Reggae Collector’s Edition’. Getting your hands on one of those coveted awards may be a bit easier than imagined. In fact, some artistes with the most elaborately designed Billboard plaques, while they have earned the right to its acquisition, didn’t get it directly from the organisation.

In the world of musical achievements, a Billboard plaque is considered the barometer of international success, right next to the Holy Grail – the Grammy Award. Little wonder then that it is much sought after by record companies, artistes, producers and the entire gamut of musicians involved in a production. But, getting your hands on one of those coveted awards may be a bit easier than imagined. In fact, some artistes with the most elaborately designed Billboard plaques, while they have earned the right to their acquisition, didn’t get them directly from the organisation.

Producer Sean ‘Contractor’ Edwards told The Gleaner that these gems can actually be purchased, as long as the artiste meets the required qualifications, as set out by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). “Many artistes are waiting on the record companies to provide them with plaques, but they don’t realise that they can get it made for themselves,” Edwards said.

“The Billboard plaques are made by licensed and certified manufacturers in the USA who have obtained the rights from Billboard to make the plaques using the Billboard logo. Once the artiste contacts one of these manufacturers and they can verify who they are and the project that hit the Billboard chart, they can order their custom-made Billboard plaque at a cost,” he explained, outlining the steps to be taken.

Edwards and young members of the Wu-Tang Clan ordered Billboard plaques for the album Tropical House Cruises to Jamaica: The Reggae Collector’s Edition, fronted by Ghanaian artiste, Shatta Wale. “Our album hit number 16 on the Billboard Compilation Album chart, and this was a great feat, as it was up there with albums from labels like Motown and Disney,” Edwards said. The authentic Billboard logo and the number 16 are boldly engraved on the plaques he and others posed with in the pictures.

He pointed out that the weekly Billboard charts don’t publish the entire list of songs that make the cut in any given week. But, record companies have access to the full list and can therefore determine if they want to purchase plaques for a particular record. On the Billboard Reggae Album chart, for example, it is only the top 10 albums which are published on Billboard.com weekly, but the chart goes way beyond that.

Edwards further explained, “With the Billboard Reggae Album charts, they only publish top 10 in streams on the website and not the top ones in sales. This album, Tropical House Cruises to Jamaica, actually has been on the top 10 in Sales of Reggae Album charts for 17 weeks, but that info is not available online.”

For reggae and dancehall artistes, the Billboard Reggae Album charts are the benchmark by which their album’s success is judged. It is a long-held belief that presence on this chart can influence the outcome for the Grammy award.

The Billboard chart, when it was introduced in the March 24, 1945 issue of the music publication, ranked the most popular songs by record and sheet sales, disk jockey, and jukebox performances, as determined by Billboard’s weekly nationwide survey. Streaming and other 21st century elements have now been added to the weekly surveys.

COST OF PLAQUES

Billboard plaques vary in cost, depending on the size, and only a small group of companies has the RIAA certification needed to produce them. In a 2016 article titled ‘Chasing History: The World of Collecting, Gold, Platinum and Diamond Records’, Billboard noted that originally, all awards were made by New York Frame & Picture Co. Currently, Jewel Box Platinum in Marina Del Ray, California, manufactures awards, along with Dejay Gold/Products in Seattle, Wa; Milestone Awards in Burbank, Ca and Metro Pro LLC in Pine Brook, NJ. The normal price range is between US$200 and US$500.

It also mentioned that the look of the plaques has changed as well. Before 1964, the record was mounted on a plaque of walnut wood. In the ensuing years, various changes were made to the presentation plate, which indicates who the award is for. Starting in 1985, the plate comes with an official RIAA hologram, which itself has changed over the years.

A design specification form from one of the licensees, which is used to order the plaque, emphasises that authorisation must come from the certified title’s music label before the plaque can be manufactured.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com