Why can't Elvis compete?

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Following the recent RIAA announcement that Garth Brooks has again assumed the mantle as the #1 solo artist, album seller in the US, EIN decided to look at the biggest selling (=certified) albums for the Beatles, Garth Brooks and Elvis in America.

The issue of Elvis' certified sales has long been one which has roused strong opinions and debate:

More on the Elvis' sales dilemma

Ernst & Roger's persuasive argument for Elvis' sales

Is this the way it should be?


Both the Beatles and Garth Brooks have 6 "Diamond Awarded" albums so we elected to list the top 6 selling (certified) albums for each artist. When one considers the massive marketing push for Elvis 30 #1 Hits, sadly Elvis does not stack up well against the Beatles and Garth Brooks.

Even at the time of his record sales resurgence in the late 1960s-early 1970s, Elvis was still not a mega seller of albums, with other top acts (the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, David Bowie etc) outselling him by a margin of up to 5 to 1. And as Elvis' record sales again declined by the mid 1970s a number of his albums performed very poorly.

If you don't believe EIN, check the sometimes dismal album sales figures published by Peter Guralnick & Ernst Jorgensen in their absorbing book, Elvis Day By Day The Definitive Record Of His Life And Music.

While Elvis releases can, with substantial marketing, reach 2-3 million sales in the US, few are able to scale even close to the rarified atmosphere of Diamond Award territory of 10 million +.

And when we consider Elvis' biggest selling/certified album is a budget Camden Christmas album originally released in 1970.....it begs a number of questions!

What this all suggests is that in today's music buying world Elvis has less fans interested in buying his albums than fans of the Beatles and Garth Brooks.

There is strong anecdotal evidence many Elvis fans are satisfied with their two or three Elvis Greatest Hits albums, and prefer to spend their money not on the music, but on miscellanea such as mass produced trinkets and so-called collector's plates. Therein lies a big clue to what is an apparent artist contradiction!!

RIAA Certification Figures (at early November 2007)

The best selling (in the US) albums by Elvis, the Beatles and Garth Brooks

Album Title
RIAA Certification
The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles 1967-70
The Beatles
The Beatles 1962-66
The Beatles
Abbey Road
The Beatles
Sgt Peppers
The Beatles
83m (total)
Garth Brooks
Double Live
Garth Brooks
No Fences
Garth Brooks
Ropin' The Wind
Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks
The Hits
Garth Brooks
82m (total)
Elvis' Christmas Album (Camden 1970)
Elvis' Golden Records Vol. 1
Elvis 30 #1 Hits
Top Ten Hits
The Number One Hits
50 Gold Award Hits Vol. 1 (boxset)
29m (total)

EIN has argued several times in recent years that Sony BMG should be pushing Elvis' biggest selling album, Elvis' Christmas Album*, and getting it past the magical 10 million units mark to qualify Elvis for his first ever Diamond Award. The 9 million mark was certified in 2004 so it shouldn't take much too much effort to reach the 10 million unit mark.

Next cab of the rank would be Elvis' Golden Records Vol. 1 or Elvis 30 #1 Hits, the latter title favored for obvious reasons.

While some argue Diamond Awards are of little importance the reality is the mass media laps up and promotes news bytes such as this. And in today's fast paced, news byte world it is this sort of information which is remembered and which shapes thought, views, and opinions....and media space.

Is the relative failure of Elvis 30 #1 Hits is indicative of a sales malaise or structural weakness for the King? The album sold a stunning 10 million copies globally on the back of a massive marketing campaign, but its sales pale compared to the 30 million copies sold of the Beatles "1" album.

The argument that there have been too many Elvis greatest hits albums released (thereby diluting sales of the 30 #1 Hits) has merit, but EIN notes the Beatles have 3 different greatest hits albums all certified at Diamond Award level!

The top 5 Elvis greatest hits packages have sold/been certified for a combined 20 million units in the US.

The top 3 Beatles greatest hits packages have sold/been certified for a combined 41 million units in the US!!!!

Compared to the 1950s, today there is a much larger consumer base supporting record/CD sales. In this context, sales of Elvis albums are still not competing with sales for the Beatles or Garth Brooks! While there are a lot more record buyers today the increase in buyer numbers has translated itself to the Beatles and Garth Brooks, but not Elvis!

A "reality" in the debate is that there are more than 10 or even 20 million USA based fans of the Beatles and Garth Brooks willing to buy at least one or more of their albums.

In recent times there have only been around 4 million USA based fans willing to buy an Elvis album!

The issue - how many regular album buying fans?: Elvis may have the MOST Platinum and Gold award albums but if it is the SAME 2-3 million fans buying those albums compared to 10 million + fans buying the latest Beatles and/or Garth Brooks album, who is actually the most popular artist?

Sadly, it doesn't appear to be Elvis!

* Due to RIAA certification rules around pricing parameters, around 1 million unit sales of Elvis' Christmas Album are excluded from the RIAA figures...ie. the album has already surpassed the 10 million units mark but because of its low price circa 1970 some sales figures are excluded! However, the issue is not black and white!

8 Nov 2007

Has EIN got it wrong?

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NB: The author of this article possesses all 6 of the RIAA top selling Elvis albums, three of the Beatles albums and one of the Garth Brooks albums

Garth Brooks overtakes Elvis as best-selling solo artist (album sales) in the USA: Country star Garth Brooks has overtaken Elvis Presley to become the bestselling solo artist in history, according to new record industry figures. The singer has sold an amazing 123 million units in his career, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) confirmed yesterday, while awarding Brooks Diamond Awards for his albums Sevens and Garth Brooks.

Four of the country crooner's albums have received Diamond Awards, for sales of more than ten million copies each (Elvis is yet to receive a Diamond Award, although he holds the record for the most Platinum & Gold Awards).

In 1999, the RIAA declared Brooks the 20th century's most successful male recording artist, and indeed, its biggest selling solo artist. At the time, Brooks clocked in at 89 million albums sold. Presley, who was lauded for releasing the most gold- and platinum-selling albums, came in behind Brooks, and ahead of Barbra Streisand (the top-selling female artist), with 77 million. (All figures reflect only United States sales.)

But then Brooks, who made it big with the help of "Friends in Low Places," retired. And in 2004, the dead but still-working-it Presley was named the RIAA's top solo act, with 117.5 million albums sold. That announcement was made, as such announcements are wont to be made, on the occasion of what would have been Presley's 69th birthday. It followed a new count of Presley's old albums.

Meanwhile, Brooks took time away from Leisure World in 2005 to seal a deal with Wal-Mart to exclusively peddle all of his recorded wares, including his then-new collection, Garth Brooks: The Limited Series. With the about-to-be released Ultimate Hits, Brooks has released five albums since vowing to enjoy his golden years.

The Standing Outside the Fire singer accepted the latest accolade for his work at a ceremony held at his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, outside the Capitol Records tower.

"This award reflects the magnitude of the country audience and what they can accomplish when they act together," Brooks said at the presentation.

RIAA figures place Elvis' sales at 118.5 million units, with only the Beatles ahead of Brooks with 170 million units sold.

"He has always been true to country music as a format," observed Ed Benson , chief strategic officer of the Country Music Association.

"He's never decided to cross over and be anything else, and so it's great that the number one selling solo artist of all time is a country music artist."

The RIAA tracks albums shipped plus digital downloads sold. (News, Source: inthenews.co.uk/EOnline!)

EIN Comment: With Brooks' "Ultimate Hits" compile soon for release the country singer will increase his lead over Elvis. Brooks' affiliation with Wal-Mart is important - it highlights the importance and potential of effective, strategic marketing.

It is likely that over time Elvis will peg back and overtake Brooks through a combination of ongoing sales, reissues and new album titles (of recycled material). EIN does not see consumer demand for Garth Brooks albums rivalling Elvis in the long term, although we note demand for Elvis albums is currently generally in decline.

It also needs to be noted that Elvis' "lost" album sales (due to poor record keeping by RCA in the 1950s and 1960s and the 1977-78 year) would arguably place him ahead of Garth Brooks. The real issue is whether or not the quantum of "lost" sales would put Elvis on a par with the Beatles in the US. Traditionally, sales of Elvis albums have not compared to sales of albums by the Beatles.

Another important point is that the RIAA figures relate only to album sales, not sales of singles and EPs. In the 1950s and 1960s sales of (particularly) singles were the dominant product. This was of course the period when Elvis ruled supreme on the sales charts.

More on the Elvis' sales dilemma

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As we expected, our article provoked a strong reaction from readers. There are many excellent, and valid, points made below:


Added 18 November 2007

Don Cooper #2: i don't buy this explanation for the simple fact that if elvis was selling as poorly as the article suggests rca would've terminated his contract (noting that despite their legendary status john denver and johnny cash were let go by their labels when they were selling poorly). instead rca kept renewing elvis contract for as many as three new albums a year. rca also had no incentive to pass along sales data to billboard or anyone else. they were making huge money on elvis' sales and if they did release any more data they would've had to pay more taxes to the i.r.s. elvis fans can do something to correct this.

everytime we buy an elvis album we keep the receipt from the store we bought it from or if an elvis fan downloads an album copy and print the page where you bought it. we can use this as proof of elvis' sales. also if elvis fans have proof of past sales records keep them as well. we can do our own auditing and present them to billboard and the r.i.a.a. (recording industry association of america). also there's the little matter of the cashbox charts. if you count the number one albums on the cashbox charts elvis would have a total of 18 number one albums (billboard top 200, billboard top country album charts, cashbox pop albums and top country albums charts). 

the website http://jamesleeky.tripod.com/elvispresleytop40hitsworldwide/id27.html will attest to this. there is also the small matter of the billboard e.p. (extended play album) chart. back in 1957 when the chart first appeared elvis debuted in the top spot (crushing the myth that elvis never had an album debut at number one until "30 number one hits") plus he had three more top spots in the top 10. you don't refuse to acknowledge an accomplishment just because the forum or chart that it once appeared on no longer exists. how would beatles fans feel if the billboard top 200 ceased to exist in a few years because albums sales kept falling? it can happen.

billboard likes to pick and choose which charts they recognize and you can't do this if you're going to be honest about seriously charting songs and albums. billboard must recognize every chart they've ever published or they take away from the credibility of their publication. elvis fans need to start a "be fair to elvis" campaign. we need to write to radio stations, billboard magazine and the r.i.a.a. until give in to our demands.

Don Cooper #1: it seems to me that for years the music industry (not the fans) has tried to find a way to discredit elvis' accomplishments and make people forget about elvis and now they think they've figured it out. back in the 1990s by changing their rules on how songs and albums place on the music charts they've given an unfair advantage to artists like madonna (who just a few years ago tied elvis for most top ten hits on the billboard top/hot 100), mariah carey (who tied elvis in 2006 for most number one songs on billboard's top/hot 100), jay-z (who just tied elvis for most number one albums on the billboard 200) and garth brooks (who just took back the title of "best selling artist in u.s. history").

none of these artists have sold nearly as many singles or albums as "THE KING" but the  people in the music industry have sure done their best to make it look that way. if the industry would've let things take their natural course and other artists would've came along and tied or broke elvis' records i believe elvis' fans wouldn't have said anything but the people at billboard magazine felt they needed to help things along. with music sales in a huge slump since the early 1990s the music industry has tried everything to get fans excited about buying music again. nothing has worked.

music sales keep falling because the fans are fed up. rap and hip-hop are a big reason for this. most people are turned off by untalented people who can't sing and the only thing they can do is write words that rhyme together demeaning women,  killing people and doing drugs. at the same time they made sure an artist like elvis presley (who still has a huge following) can never take his records back by making sure he gets virtually no airplay to qualify for the billboard airplay chart. this is because of the huge payola scandal in music today. people talk about the payola scandal of the late 1950s but the one going on today (which makes the payola scandal of the late 1950s a small blip on the radar) has been kept hush, hush.

why? the industry knew that they would never get another elvis or beatles so they figured records are meant to be broken and who's going to know or care anyway? we the real music fans care. if billboard and the recording industry of america wont do the right thing what we real music fans can do is start a new music publication to chart songs and albums and start new radio stations that give artists living or dead a chance as long as they still have a following (as in elvis' case). several rules should be made. for instance rap and hip-hop would be disqualified and not allowed because you have to be able to sing. another rule would be that no artists would be allowed that are married or were married to record executives (like when mariah carey married tommy mattola).


Added 12 November 2007

Christopher Tyler: I know you are a big Elvis fan and I greatly appreciate what you do, but at the same time I would like to see you be a bit more assertive as to making IT CLEAR, that Elvis is indeed - based on world record sales estimations by those with the greatest knowledge on the matter (Ernst Jorgenson, Guiness Book of World Records etc.) , the greatest selling artist or band of all time and that in the US, even via the RIAA, the greatest selling solo artist. And I do know that "here or there you will add in some qualifying information in parentheses," but those who only read the BOLDED HEADLINES are going to take away a faulty picture of things. 

Because as to the Garth Brooks issue, you know as well as I do, that Elvis is way ahead of Garth Brooks in TOTAL AMERICAN RECORD SALES because of the accumulation of his SINGLES TOTALS. 

And this of course does not even take into account how hurt Elvis is by the way Certified numbers are counted, rounding up only at the 500,000 sales point or million mark etc.  So because we know that Elvis has many more titles than either Garth or the Beatles, he is penalized in this way much much more severely. 

Then of course, as you know from Ernst, Elvis has approximately 220 albums that are not accounted for in sales in anyway, shape, matter or form.  And given low sales total estimates of 200,000 sales per album - on average - would give Elvis an additional 44 million album sales bringing him roughly on par to the Beatles in that area. 

But the truth of the matter is, as those albums have been out for so long, the probability is much greater than not that 44 million is an extremely low and conservative number and could be as much doubled that if you then take into account the fact that sales of records from Graceland are not counted and the several million albums sold by both Brookeville Records and Time Life are not accounted for either. 

Adding in the fact regarding Billboard's estimation of Elvis album sales following the year or two after his death. And yes, I know we don't have DEFINITIVE PAPERWORK to look at because of shoddy record keeping, but when RCA closed down their manufacturing base to produce nothing but Elvis product for so long following his death, you know as well as I do that the number sold must be STAGGERING.   

You also know as well as I do that since 2004 Elvis' Christmas album has been sitting at 9 million sold and clearly, as Elvis' Christmas album sells like hot cakes each Christmas, he is very well over the 10 million point there by now. Also, compared to Garth Brooks, internationally Elvis is much more well received though your sentiments as to the U.S. are correct in my opinion. 

However, OVERALL, when being honest about the data we do have and - yes - making some admittedly lowball assumptions - Elvis is the greatest selling musical force of all time and it doesn't seem to be particularly close.   It was nice of you to spotlight Ernst's basic repetition of what I have said here, but as you have an Elvis site I believe you should do more to make it clear that Elvis is indeed the greatest selling artist and/or band of all time for the above stated, very common sense related reasons. 

Also, do you know Paul Monroe?  He seems to be a bit of a unique character and has somehow or another contacted me saying that some guy named Elvis Jr. is impersonating me.

Ron Trudell: hello...what about all that stuff about putting his records together they would go around the world 2 in ahalf times, & the HUGE record display at his house don't forget in the 50's 60s 70's there were no  i pods  no WALMART promoters  vidieo games where your music is played  a million radio stations  

it started with a radio & then a tiny record player then it sprang from that & caught fire back in 1954  i am a HUGE elvis fan & i think of all the garbage elvis had to do, how unsatisfied he was with where he was going  & what he was doing  he needed to GROW & they would NOT let him what shame can you imagine if someone could of  took that guy got his act together managed him right [greedy tom parker he thought he had like a hank snow or something] gave him songs written by lennon  dylan  on on on , let him do great movies like RED says elvis didn't give a shit 

maybe all thrugh it  he new  & felt he was packaged & thought the hell with it , who knows  & he always did his best with what he had  for HIS FANS the next thing i'll be hearing is garth brooks has more fans & is better looking  elvis has PROVED he is the MAN  650,00  people  go  to his grave every year  30 YEARS later think about that & like Sammy Davies Jr. said  in 69 when they put his FIRST name on the sighn  in LAS VEGAS  THEY CAME FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD  i never heard of that & iv'e been here a long time .

he had no fancy gimmics like flying in on cables it was him in the flesh & you were MESMERIZED by him  seen him once with 68,000 others & you could feel him there . elvis is & always will be the TRUNK of the music world & EVERYONE ELSE sprang from it elvis was & still is the greatist artist of the 20 centry HAS TO BE  pop -rock- gospel -oh yea country- ballads - how in 54 he TIED black music  gospel ect, ect. all together as ONE  that was on heard of then & even today. can the beatles [ love the beatles]  or garth do that .

we will see where he  garth is 30 years from NOW or 30yrs. after he is gone      elvis will still be THE MAN  not bad for a little poor kid from the slums of mississippi so the RIAA   CIA  FBI  or others can say what they want  i do NOT believe it. 

Regeena Q: Who the hell is Garth Brooks anyways i seriously have no idea!!?? :-/
Elvis is the King will always be maybe his sale records in US aren't the best but even here in Egypt everybody buys his records they "fly" of the shelves here in Virgin!!

Added 10 November 2007

Tom Eammons: BMG has done a good job of improving Elvis's certified sales. With some of the data now more than 50 years old it's hard to expect them to find much more to further his cause.

Ida Ritter: I just wanted to say what some other fans already said, "one more time they came up again with this subject, and as far as I am concern, this will not be the last time.  The counting is correct or incorrect, the way they did things in those days is not the same now, are they going to get the record streight once and for all?  But my opinion, they are all pale next to the King.

John (Canada): Interesting and well argued article. I see none of the experts addressed EIN's issue about the relative numbers of fans for Elvis, Beatles & Garth Brooks.

Dianne Dawes: Elvis will ALWAYS be #1 no matter what some crummy certification company says.

Added 9 November 2007

Guillermo Perez Arguello: We can talk, and write about,  for days on end,  regarding the reasons why the marketing of this, or that artist, is geared towards attaining bigger sales of the respective artists.                  

But the unvarnished truth regarding Elvis appearsing as having sold 118.5 million albums, and Brooks having sold 123m is known to virtually anyone of us here: and that is the lack of certification of albums which have yet to hit the 500,000 benchmark, as well as not counting any sales that take place in between levels;moreover, the RIAA calls Garth, in 1999, then Elvis (in his case, rightly, a few years later), the top solo artist in US history, and now calls Garth again the top artist, when in reality  i) it fails to either call it like it really is, namely the top solo album seller, or ii) it does not add their album tallies to those they may have in the singles department.              

I would have nothing to say, if they named Brooks, right now, the top album seller in US history. I could point out, as I did once to the RIAA, that it is  not in their best interest to keep awarding gold records, platinum records, to people issuing singles, as they still do, whilst simultaneously disregarding the millions upon million of singles they have already audited. In fact, a similar list of "Best selling" artists, for the singles, should exist, and be counted towards a total. If that was the case, Presley would be second, but closer to the Beatles' total, since they have 30 million audited singles, against 52 of Elvis, and 3 of Garth Brooks.          

The list would rank them as follows             

...............Albums    Singles

Beatles     170             30    

Elvis         118.5          52

Brooks      123              3 

Even if, say, a "weight" of 1/6 be given to the singles towards the reaching of an over-all total, the ranking would be as follows:  

Beatles: 170 plus 5 (one sixth of 30) equals 175

Elvis: 118.5 plus  8.6 (one sixth of 52) equals127

Brooks: 123 plus 0.5 (one sixth of 3) equals 123.5

Now, in order to really be as credible as possible, regarding sales of albums, and of singles, of course, the RIAA should already have instituted a Silver Award, corresponding for 250,000 audited sales. The way the music industry is going, they may have to, in the near future...                   

If that were to happen, I would venture to say that an additional 50 of Elvis' still uncertified 150 album releases would qualify for a theoretical RIAA Silver Award, representing an additional 12.5 million units, with neither Brooks or the Beatles getting any additional units, since all of their albums are already certified.   Thus, a more realistic picture would appear, as follows 

Beatles: 170 plus 5 (one sixth of 30), plus nil equals 175

Elvis: 118.5 plus  8.6 (one sixth of 52) plus 12.5 equals 139.6

Brooks: 123 plus 0.5 (one sixth of 3) plus nil equals 123.5.               

Moreover, if Silver Complementary Awards could be given for any increase of 250,000 at any level, here Elvis would also benefit the most, as he has more than twice the number of albums already certified as Brooks and the Beatles do (thrice in Brooks case). Some 10 million units more than the Beatles could be taken from this particular operation.             

Additionally, because there would still be 100 of his albums which could also be initially certified, his totals in this particular operation would increase by at least an additional 25 million  

In the end, if all of these reasonable demands could be met by the RIAA,   I believe there would be no question of who is the biggest solo selling recording artist in US history really is, and perhaps, Elvis could hope to be, give a take a few million, on a par with the Beatles, too.

Marty Lacker: You are correct in the fact that RIAA doesn't take into account the lost RCA records, it also doesn't take in consideration all of Elvis' single record sales, that was the prominant method of releasing a record back in the 50's and early 60's.  Most of all RIAA is just counting the records sold in the US not worldwide.  If they counted worldwide sales Garth would be nowhere near Elvis because he is not quite as well known or popular outside the US.

Bryan Gruszka: I read your article on the whole Elvis/Garth Brooks/Beatles thing, and although I usually refrain from replying to internet articles, the subject of Elvis’ RIAA certifications is near and dear to me, and I do think it’s important to point out that this is not strictly an “apples to apples” comparison. As I’m sure you know, I could comment on this subject all day (and I have in the past), but suffice it to say that, in the case of the Beatles and Garth Brooks, their entire album catalogs (save a few items) are represented in their certifications. This is not true for Elvis. Elvis’ record sales, from the beginning, were based on a quantity model and not a quality model. That is, it was more focused on getting as much in front of the public as often as possible. This is reflected in Elvis’ sheer number of certifications. Whereas the Beatles, for example, have about 60 albums in their entire U.S. catalog, Elvis has over 90 certified albums alone, and another 200 or so that aren’t certified.

Thus, there is a significant loss of CERTIFIED (and CERTIFIED is the key here) album (and single) sales. Keep in mind, as Ernst and Roger point out in their article on your site (and as others have pointed out as well) that if these uncertified totals were allowed to be included in RIAA totals (which they are not unless an album reaches the next certification point), even those “dismal” album sales figures you mention would count for something. I would also point out that, despite the “dismal” album sales of some of Elvis’ recent studio material in the later 1970’s, the Camden/Pickwick budget albums released concurrently during that period  (items such as Burning Love and Hits from His Movies, Separate Ways, Double Dynamite, Frankie and Johnny, I Got Lucky, et al) and other, non budget releases such as the Legendary Performer series and Pure Gold, sold exceptionally well, with the majority of them being certified at least platinum.

Again, to me, the problem is one of quantity. In 1972, for example, Elvis’ Madison Square Garden album was on the charts at the exact same time as Burning Love and Hits from His Movies, with the former reaching #11 and the latter #22. This type of saturation is evident throughout Elvis’ recording career. One has to wonder how sales (and chart positions) would have fared without Elvis facing competition from himself and his record company’s output policies.

To paint a picture of Elvis as an artist unable to compete is somewhat unfair, especially given that Garth Brook in particular became a star at a time when the tallying of sales figures in retail outlets was changed from a more subjective model of having sales clerks report sales figures to the computerized SoundScan model, which accurately records sales electronically. Additionally, Garth Brooks has a very small catalog of albums, which makes it that much easier for those albums to sell more copies – less product to choose from increases the likelihood that more copies of a given album will sell. I won’t even comment on Garth Brooks’ past marketing efforts, which is another area altogether. Thus, it is not at all surprising to me that Garth Brooks has a large number of diamond albums, and it is not at all reflective of peoples’ interest in Garth as opposed to a lack of interest in Elvis. In this day and age, almost every debut album reaches #1. Prior to 1992 (when the new SoundScan system was put in place) not one album had ever debuted at #1. In subsequent years, however, countless albums have, and thus that distinction is now relatively meaningless. I would point out Michael Jackson’s HIStory album as a good example. It debuted at #1 (released after 1992) and sold 1 million copies. However, it was deemed a commercial failure. Why? In my view it was because the #1 debut didn’t last and it quickly moved down the charts. Thus, the entire issue of debuting at #1 has become a rather moot point overall.

In short, if Elvis’ uncertified sales were also included in the counts, at a conservative estimate, his sales would be somewhere around the 220 million mark (including singles). This does not take into account any of the infamous “lost” numbers, but rather the actual numbers of certified albums and singles that are in between the next certification level, and those that have not yet reached the initial certification level.

Lastly, I would point out the effect that multiple reissues of the same material has on Elvis’s individual album numbers. Currently, Elvis has no less than 7 Christmas albums that are certified, and approximately 5 more that are not. Certified sales account for 16 million alone, What this says to me is that Elvis’ Christmas recordings enjoy healthy sales, regardless of how many times they are repackaged. Consider then if they were simply reissued instead of being repackaged into new titles (as in the case of Elvis’ 1970 Christmas album, which (although essentially a repackage of the 1957 Christmas Album itself) has been in circulation almost annually since it’s initial release, often with different covers but the same content (which qualifies as the same title according to RIAA regulations). Given that, it is obvious why this title is Elvis’ largest selling album. The same holds true for other albums that, through the years, have been reissued but not repackaged (such as Aloha and MSG). People continue to buy these releases and continue to push the certification totals up. However, as mentioned before, the problem lies in the quantity model concerning Elvis’ releases, which still exists today.

Joe Carnavale: Your figures aside, what about the millions and millions of albums sold just after he died? Why aren't those on record, or properly credited to his sales figures?

Michel De Scheerder: In your comment you mention the existence of so-called "lost" sales. But isn't there another problem concerning Elvis, namely that the RIAA apparently only certifies sales which reach defined levels and therefore sales below their radar screen and between one level and the next level don’t count in their statistics?

This should mean that the RIAA numbers never correspond with the totality of albums sold by any artist, but result in a much bigger difference in the case of Elvis with his countless number of releases.

Anyhow, in the long run the real problem could be what you call the decline in demand.

Ronald: Well written article (but what is up with that pic of Elvis?).

You seem to make a strong and solid case. It appears that the schism between the urban legend and the musician continues to grow. Sadly, with feet like ducklings I can somehow understand why this is happening. And for I care, those so called ETA’s – however fascinating as a social phenomenon – should never ever have been brought into connection with EPE.

Surrounding the 30th anniversary there was talk of the fact that BMG canned a special release since BMG did not want anything to do with those ETA’s. As sad as it may be for the fans, in the end I think this was and is a very wise decision. Elvis has been milked long enough.

As long as EPE keeps on selling Elvis as a product instead of an artist, the quantity and quality of the releases and thus album sales will always come second. It is about time EPE starts to treat their reason for existing with the RESPECT he deserves. As long as EPE does not do that, why should anyone else?

That said, I still think it is remarkable that Elvis comes in 3rd. He was never an album artist and when he started out, concept albums like The Beatles poured out were not in existence as such.

Also, it would be my guess that the saturation for LP’s and record players were at a significant lower level in the 50’s and the beginning of the 60’s. Since then the saturation level of record players and cd players has boomed. So, in a way it is still a remarkable feat by Elvis.

Still, Elvis should be remembered for the brilliant artist and performer that he was and the ground breaking work he did in terms of studio production and the effect he had on they way songwriters were paid. To see him reduced to duck feet and ETA’s angers and saddens me. I hope I am not alone.

Sarah: I belong to four Elvis clubs. From talking to other members it seems there are a few fans who buy every release of Elvis's they can and most don't buy many at all.

Paul K: How many times do we have read about this? Who cares whether its Elvis or Garth Brooks. Elvis is and always will be the king of rock and roll and his legacy will remain for centuries. Who will be talking about Garth Brooks in centuries?

Nick Ruck Keene: As the writer of the article "For the Billionth and the last Time"  currently published on elvis.com.au  and hopefully to feature on the EPE site if BMG will permit it can I say that if you look at what I have said you might rephrase the EIN article somewhat. I am not concerned about such mistakes as the omission of "Aloha" from your list of best sellers or the like but where you get your evidence that Elvis was outsold by other artists (albums) in the late sixties to early seventies by as much as 5 to 1? Your sources seem so far removed from mine which basically involved a cross check between RCA figures of the day, trade journals of the day, guidance from Ernst Jorgensen and yes even the RIAA awards. You also know that Soundscan in the US-as pointed out by Cashbox- don't pick up many of Elvis' current sales which are sold through many more outlets than for other artists AND IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN THUS.

I suppose it is possible that RCA invented the sales figures  they issued often in great detail during Elvis' lifetime but what a risk to take with the suspicious old Colonel around! What is not believable is that a firm of outside auditors signing off annual company reports would as they did from time to time verify those figures in dollar terms if they were not correct.

Because of the Colonel's policy in keeping hit singles off  his regular albums and saving them for the gold disc series it is true that Elvis' best studio efforts sold less than the likes of the Beatles-I wish he hadn't done this but there we are. Whatever the aesthetic reservations one has RCA's approach worked flog the regular albums to the loyal fan base, bang out cheap Camden etc albums to the group of occasional fans picking up groceries in the supermarkets and blitz the general public with compilations through TV et al. The sheer quantity of product made available in say 1970 and its resultant success did not rely on the same 2-3 million fans but different groups with different degrees of attachment to the King. Sorry I just don't think you understand the market approach adopted.

There is no need to stir the fans up again just because Garth Brooks has crept ahead again in the RIAA stakes. BMG are contiuning to battle way with the RIAA over the many Elvis sales they can prove to the satisfaction of an auditor but which for historic reason don't comply with a strict interpretation of the RIAA rules. They are hoping that a change of personel will bring about a more flexible approach. I had better stop there before I get carried away!

Sue Turner: As a good ole Texas girl I like both Elvis and Garth Brooks. There is room for everyone and Elvis will one day be the best selling solo artist.

Kenny: When I was a kid growing up in Harlem music was the most important thing in my life. I devoured the wekly Billboard and Cashbox charts religiously. It was obvious Elvis was not a big seller of LPs as were other acts like the Beatles. I think the King has made up ground since he died.

James Slattery (UK): Elvis started the fire...Garth Brooks only stands outside it. So who is the greatest???

Francis O'Connell: The King will reign supreme. His record company has let him down badly. Even Garth Brooks himself has acknowledged Elvis as the greatest seller. But good on Brooks. I don't get it but a lot of other people sure do.

Penny Brown: I'm sick and tired of this subject. Can't we get on with enjoying Elvis' music which he has left the world forever.

Tony C: Elvis is #1 and we all know it. Garth Brooks is a pretender to the throne but he'll be shown up next time BMG releaes a good Elvis album.

Tinman: Elvis was always a singles artist and not an albums artist. Add in all of his singles sales and see whose number 1.

Frankie: Elvis will never be properly recognised for his fantastic record sales. In the 50s record companies had no reason to keep god sales figures as rock & roll wasn't expected to last long. It was a passing fad which the establishment thought would soon be long forgotten.






















































































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