MILLION ELVIS FANS CAN T BE WRONG, OR CAN THEY???
Tony Galvin (UK)
the music if there is one area of Elvis’ career that
fascinates me it is the question of how many records
he has sold. This is a vexed subject with many fans
and to question the holy grail of one billion sales
is to open yourself up to accusations of blasphemy.
many years now I, along with Brian Quinn & Kelvin Wilson,
have been trying to shed light on this thorny issue
and unfortunately just as many questions have been thrown
up by our research as answers.
I would like to give you a quick rundown on what has come
to light regarding the sales issue particularly in relation
to Elvis US album sales, of which there are supposed to somewhere
in the region of 600 million by all accounts.
is my own opinion on the sales issue, Brian & Kelvin may have
a completely different interpretation.
I sincerely want to believe that the figure (600 million US
Sales) touted by BMG & the Estate is accurate and I set out
with the intention of getting as close to this figure as possible.
Patterson who has worked very hard on this issue and is as
good a fan as you could possibly get took a lot of flak when
he simply pointed out that there did not seem to be enough
hard data out there to back up the figure claimed and accepted
by the Elvis world in general. His loyalty was questioned
by some fans on internet forums because he wanted this claim
backed up by factual evidence which in turn could be used
to further enhance Elvis‘ credibility in the music world.
penned a fine
article on this subject on the ELVIS INFORMATION NETWORK
site and many valid points were made. I would like to put
out in this article the US sales data that we feel is important
and might help build a circumstantial case towards the 600
million figure but from what I've been able to come across
the evidence is far from conclusive.
the official story is that Elvis has sold one billion plus
units worldwide which was first claimed as early as 1981.
This is made up of 600 million US Sales and 400 million sales
for the rest of the world. To back this up we essentially
have the official RIAA sales certifications giving Elvis just
under 120 million sales in the US.
than that all we seem to have is an article printed in the
official Elvis site stating why BMG & the Estate feel Elvis
has sold another 480 million albums in the US. Some of the
points made were valid and I will look at them a little later
but it was conjecture rather than solid fact. We are all aware
of the sales claims for the year after Elvis died as well
as the fact that there are many albums not covered by the
would like to outline below the main facts that we uncovered
relating to US sales. The sources we used were the usual suspects,
Elvis magazines, BILLBOARD, CASHBOX, VARIETY, GOLDMINE, RCA/BMG
press statements, RCA/BMG promotional trade leaflets, CD liner
notes, on line interviews with the likes of Ernst Jorgensen
& Michael Omansky, as well as books like WHEN ELVIS DIED/ A
TOUCH OF GOLD/ ELVIS No 1 s/ FOR CD FANS ONLY/ SOLID GOLD ELVIS/
ELVIS INC/ ALL ABOUT ELVIS/ A LIFE IN MUSIC & many more from
the 670 Elvis books in my collection.
of you will also be aware of the RIAA method of counting
which doesn’t allow for sales up to or between milestones.
(for example sales up to 499,999 are not counted) This
it must be said affects all artists but it is especially
hard on Elvis due to the sheer number of album releases
in his catalogue.They
are some of the reasons why BMG would claim much higher
sales for ELVIS but the question is just how many???
magazine, NEWSWEEK also carried features on Elvis that included
sales data, plus many US newspapers also carried stories with
sales data much of which was pertaining to their local area
especially after Elvis died. Statistics are also available
from SOUNDSCAN regarding Elvis’ over the counter sales in
data from Joel Whitman who produces the US version of The
GUINNESS BOOK OF HIT RECORDS has shed light on the US sales
system. We have also come across some of the record plants
used by RCA in 1977 when they needed the extra capacity to
keep with demand. Also financial records relating to RCA post
August 1977 are in the public domain that also throws light
on the sales.
we have here is a complicated jigsaw puzzle where we only
have half the pieces and because of this you can draw conclusions
either way. In looking at US album releases we have catalogue
numbers for 426 Elvis releases from 1956 to the present. As
well as those we have also 22 titles that we cannot as yet
verify catalogue numbers for. They may well be variations
on existing titles but again we cannot validate this.
the 426 albums we found we have no genuine solid sales data
for 212 releases. For some of these we can confidently speculate
ballpark figures but this is where you start to lose perspective.
We did not count re printed albums as different releases only
new catalogue numbers.
the official Elvis site there are a total of 81 albums certified
by the RIAA meaning a total of 345 albums ARE TOTALLY UNACCOUNTED
FOR. It is this massive number of albums that gives many of
us our basis for belief in the 600 million figure. In total
we have sales data mainly based on INITIAL FIRST YEAR SALES
for some 131 titles excluding the RIAA certificated releases.
figures came mainly from RCA/BMG with for example many initial
sales figures alluded to in the excellent book A LIFE IN MUSIC
by Ernst Jorgensen as well as his ELVIS DAY BY DAY written
with PETER GURALNICK. (I will give you some examples later)
Adding these figures to the official RIAA numbers I feel I
can genuinely stand over a sales figure of 160,000,000, forty
million added sales to the official total but still a long
way to 600 million.
rest comes down to informed speculation. There are areas where
Elvis has lost sales that have been documented and this would
also add to his overall total. For instance the RIAA came
into being in late 1958 and all pre 59 sales for all artists
have been excluded from the current listings. To my knowledge
this situation still exists and the approximately five million
album sales from 1956-58 that Elvis sold are not included
in his RIAA certifications.
give a more definite example, RCA claimed that Elvis sold
2.75 million albums by the end of 1956. This was cited by
RCA as well as reported in major US newspapers including the
MIAMI HERALD. This figure also appeared in the book ELVIS
DAY BY DAY quoting RCA sources and it also turned up on the
sleeve notes for the album ELVIS 56 (1996).
were only two Elvis albums released in 1956 (ELVIS PRESLEY
LPM 1254 & ELVIS LPM 1382) and between them they officially
only have a gold award each. The official figures for these
two albums were obviously understated and it is clear to me
that these gold awards were based on post 1958 sales leaving
nearly three million units out of the equation.
early sales for LOVING YOU/ ELVIS GOLDEN RECORDS/ ELVIS
XMAS ALBUM & KING CREOLE have been omitted from the RIAA certifications.
That would bring another five million units into Elvis’ total
regards to Elvis uncertified movie albums there are widely
accepted figures in the public domain that would put initial
first year sales for just about all these albums well over
the 350,000/375,000 mark. It would be safe to assume that
with continuous availability, the 1977 sales boom (most of
these movie albums had been re issued in early 77), as well
as the transition to CD, all these albums are now hovering
around the gold certification mark.
my 160 million figure I only included the initial sales given
by the likes of Ernst Jorgensen in his superb book EP A LIFE
IN MUSIC (ISBN 0-312-18572-3). As a BMG insider I would assume
the figures he quoted are reliable.
thing that I am confused about is the various catalogue number
changes, do the RIAA treat these releases as separate or are
they all combined? For example take the album GI BLUES, a
platinum selling movie album only, but it sold 750,000 copies
in it s first two months, 1.2 million copies by mid 1964 and
it spent 111 weeks on the BILLBOARD HOT 100 ALBUM CHARTS.
It also received three separate in house gold awards before
1969. (more about these in house awards later).
originally as LPM 2256 (MONO) & LSP 2256 (STEREO) in 1960,
it also turned up as a four track KSP 3130 in 1966, an 8-TRACK
also in 1966 P8S 1169 as well as on seven inch spool TP3 1052
also the same year. In 1968 it appeared on a double 8 TRACK
P8S 5043 and two years later it turned up on cassette for
the first time PK 1169. (RCA produced 50,000 initial units
on cassette for seven Elvis releases in May 1970 according
was re issued early in 1977 as AFL1 2256 and was caught up
in the massive sales surge after Elvis died. Again according
to BILLBOARD this was one of the biggest sellers post 1977
even appearing on the official sales chart. In 1982 it moved
to the BEST BUY budget series with a new catalogue number,
AYL1 3735, issued on vinyl as well as cassette. (the BEST
BUY SERIES was widely promoted in the States especially in
the larger WALMART type stores and sales were significant
but unfortunately not forthcoming from BMG.
first CD version appeared in 1988 as RCA 3735-2-R and there
were four pressings of this disc with slight catalogue number
changes, 3735-2-RRE & 3735-2-RRE-1. In 1997 the set was reissued
on CD again with another new number 07863 66960-2 with eight
new alternate takes added to the package. This according to
the RIAA rules has to be treated as a new release as the number
of tracks has increased by more than fifty per cent.
add to the confusion BMG issued a deluxe version of this set
containing the same tracks but having a new catalogue number
07863 67460-2. There was also a cassette version of the former
CD release under the number 07863 66960-4.
is impossible in my mind to believe that this set in all it
s forms has not sold over two million copies, and probably
much more, in the US given the sheer variety of releases as
well as the very strong initial sales of 1.2 million by 1964.
Also three in house gold awards (possibly awarded for dollar
value) by RCA up to 1969 indicate continual healthy sales.
To have not added a further half a million units over the
next 35 years is inconceivable to me. There must have been
a strong six figure sale for 1977 alone.
have been told but cannot confirm that one of the pressing
plants contracted by RCA in 1977 to supply the massive demand
for Elvis albums was the GREEN VALLEY RECORDS plant outside
of Nashville Tennessee which had a capacity of 3000/5000 albums
a day. This plant was supposed to have been contracted to
produce only the GI BLUES album. For how long I do not know.
is a similar story regarding new catalogue numbers as well
as multiple formats for many of Elvis movie albums and I genuinely
have difficulty believing that these albums have not managed
to add an average of 100,000 odd sales in thirty years plus.
If RCA/BMG kept these albums in continuous print for all that
time they would have had to have sold less than 5000 copies
a year to go over the gold mark.
begs the question what exactly is an economical pressing of
an album? Would it be 500 or 5000 copies or more?? I myself
would be inclined to believe the latter but it would shed
a lot of light on Elvis’ sales if we had an answer to this
question. Another interesting film album from the sales point
of view is FRANKIE & JOHNNY (ACL 7007). I believe it was the
1976 PICKWICK re issue of the soundtrack that received the
PLATINUM award and it is also my belief that the sales of
the original album LPM 3553 (approx 350,000 initial sales)
are being treated separately.
brings me on to another point made by the ESTATE in their
statement explaining why they think Elvis is the greatest
selling artist and this is the disqualification of certain
albums because the wholesale trade price dropped below what
the RIAA considered the acceptable norm for an album release.
The Estate cited the 900,000 plus sales of THE ELVIS CHRISTMAS
ALBUM (CAL 2428) as an example. According to BILLBOARD nine
Elvis budget albums were affected by this rule and as these
titles were among the most popular of Elvis’ releases in the
seventies there is potentially anywhere up to five million
sales disqualified. This rule affected many other artists
besides Elvis and I came across an article in a country music
magazine that claimed a JIM REEVES Xmas album lost nearly
1.7 million sales because of this rule.
the Xmas album gaining another platinum award in the last
series of up grades, it is possible that the missing sales
were now being applied or was the new award for new sales,
I can’t answer that myself other than to say that I have seen
no indication anywhere to indicate that the RIAA has changed
their policy on this issue.
Xmas album just mentioned is probably Elvis’ only chance for
a diamond award for ten million sales and it would be nice
to see this happen in the future.
sales related theme I want to return to is the issue of in
house gold awards given internally by record companies. This
seemingly was a common practice up to the early nineties and
was commonly used by RCA and Elvis’ catalogue received more
than its fair share. While not accepted by the RIAA it nonetheless
seems to me to be a legitimate avenue to explore when looking
at the sales issue. Why bother to issue an award if the album
in question didn’t t sell sufficient quantities, I cannot
imagine that RCA would claim extra sales if their financial
records were to audited and they ended up paying royalties
for sales that did not exist. From what we know of the shady
dealings by RCA during Elvis’ lifetime that would be the last
thing they would do.
have no idea just how many in-house awards were given to Elvis’
catalogue but many albums would also have the official RIAA
award so these releases are not that important in the scheme
is the non certified albums that really interest and bit by
bit the awards are turning up. For instance in the HARD ROCK
CAFÉ in CHICAGO ILL, there is on the wall a gold award for
the album ELVIS TODAY issued in 1977.
a JIMMY VELVET auction in 1998 I believe two in house gold
awards for FRANKIE & JOHNNY as well as PARADISE HAWAIIAN STYLE
were offered for sale. The awards were issued in 1968 & 1970
respectively. The JERRY OSBOURNE BOOK OF ELVIS & BEATLE COLLECTIBLES
has a gold award for PROMISED LAND dated 1976. The book SOLID
GOLD ELVIS has details on an in house gold award for the BEST
BUY version of the album, HOW GREAT THOU ART (AQL1 3758).
of these awards turned up at the BONHAMS AUCTION and while
most have now received official awards from the RIAA, these
in house gold discs all date back to the seventies & early
eighties. DOUBLE DYNAMITE had an award for $2,000,000 in sales
as had the ELVIS XMAS album while THE 68 TV SPECIAL, the BOULEVARD
album, OUR MEMORIES OF ELVIS and a TV advertised album called
ELVIS (I believe this to be the BROOKVILLE RECORDS DPL 2 0056
released in 1973) had an award for 1,000,000 sales.
Elvis collector PAUL LICHTER always came up with a few of
these awards including ones for FUN IN ACAPULCO/ POT LUCK
& KISSING COUSINS which is very interesting. Obviously the
RIAA are not going to accept these awards as proof even though
they are most definitely genuine.
would appear that with the closure of many pressing plants
by RCA in the mid to late eighties many of the sales data
went with them.
appeared to be some outside help in documenting the sales
for these in house gold awards with a company called CRANE
MORRIS MARKETING responsible for the internal audit of at
least some of the discs. In total I have come across 22 titles
that received in house awards and I have no doubt that there
are many more. What is most interesting is the seven titles
that as yet have no official RIAA certification. That adds
up to another 3.5 million sales to be added to the official
mentioned the BROOKVILLE RECORDS TV advertised double album,
ELVIS (DPL 2 0056) released in 1973 and this baby is to the
US, the equivalent of what the 40 GREATEST HITS was to the
UK. This was a monster seller over four years and was probably
the best selling TV advertised compilation in the States during
the 1970 s.
at the time with the largest ever advertising budget in the
history of the industry Stateside, it is widely believed to
have been a winner for everybody with some claims of sales
nearing ten million. The most conservative estimate I have
seen is 3.5 million but unfortunately we really don’t have
any solid sales data as this type of release wasn't eligible
for the charts at that time.
we do know however is that BROOKVILLE went on to re licence
this album twice and followed up this release with another
album called ELVIS IN HOLLYWOOD. (APL2 0168) in 1976. BROOKVILLE
RECORDS announced at the time of release that they were spending
3.5 million dollars on TV advertising a record for that time
and with inflation today the budget would be the equivalent
of twenty five million dollars.
is conceded by everybody that this set was a lucrative venture
especially for RCA & BROOKVILLE and if this was the case the
sales would have to have been well above the five million
mark if not higher. I would base this assertion on the cost
of manufacture, distribution, over the counter retail margin,
licence costs to RCA and the massive advertising budget.
on a five dollar retail price BROOKVILLE would have had to
sell over five million copies of the set to make a million
dollars profit! At the time of Elvis’ death RCA reissued 100,000
special commemorative copies of this set in a gatefold gold
vinyl numbered edition which flowed off the shelves at a retail
price of eight dollars fifty.
set also turned up as part of a box set with two other TV
advertised albums and again this package which was supposed
to be for the Canadian market was widely available in both
the US & Europe. The ROCKAWAY pressing plant in NEW JERSEY
with a capacity of 60,000-80,000 albums a day was supposed
to have exclusively concentrated on this album in the two
months after Elvis died, according to BILLBOARD magazine.
of pressing plants the INDIANAPOLIS plant run by RCA was the
largest in the States at the time of ELVIS death and had the
capacity confirmed by a number of sources (BILLBOARD/ CASHBOX/
the book WHEN ELVIS DIED) of producing 250,000 albums a day.
When Elvis died the plant went into a seven day shift that
exclusively manufactured Elvis albums until February 1978
the first two weeks/one month (I cannot confirm the time
span) this pressing plant only manufactured copies of
the album MOODY BLUE. Based on a two week cycle that would
mean 3,500,000 copies of the album found their way onto
the market. Remember there were solid sales of MOODY BLUE
particularly on the country market and sales up to Elvis’
death were running over 400,000 with perhaps another 100,000
copies still on the shelves. So what happened to the other
two million copies, why is this album only certified double
I do not have a set in stone answer but I believe that this
plant manufactured this album for the CANADIAN market as well
as the US.
of MOODY BLUE in Canada were much higher than probably anywhere
else in the world as a proportion of population, with over
800,000 copies sold there in the year after Elvis died. (BILLBOARD)
I also believe that the plant also supplied copies South of
the border. As well as that there appeared to be a massive
uptake of the album shipped to overseas bases for US troops
in South Korea/ Japan/ Germany & the Philippines many of which
found their way onto the civilian market. The US army at that
time had changed from the draft system to an all volunteer
army and as it is today there is a much higher percentage
of soldiers from the South where the military tradition is
strong. It seems that a high eight figure total of the album
found its way out of the country via the US army. That would
account for three of the four million copies but as for the
missing million they probably were lost to the pandemonium
of the sales rush following Elvis’ death.
add to the above there was a vinyl reissue in 1985, a cassette
reissue the same year, the first CD came out in 1988 with
another CD reissue in 1991 and with had an upgrade a few years
ago with tracks from the BOULEVARD added for completion. I
firmly believe that the case for three to four million sales
could be argued for this album, the figures seem to be there
and that is excluding the sales that went abroad.
has been made of the massive sales that occurred when Elvis
died, twenty million sold the day after, the week after, one
hundred million sold in the year after he died etc., etc..
I have touted these figures off by heart many times to cite
my case for Elvis being the top seller but it is the one area
we really have very little data to work on.
by the RIAA awards for 1977-78 Elvis did indeed sell strongly
but nothing to indicate anywhere near 100 million albums.
In fact we are talking about RIAA certifications for approximately
ten to fifteen million album sales, so where have all the
other sales gone to???
we accept the RCA dictate that sales records were lost due
to the massive rush to get the product on the shelves? What
do we really know about those critical twelve months?
is made of the fact that RCA had to subcontract out to approximately
forty plants to keep pace with backorders. While this is true,
it has to be said that most of the pressing plants were small
independents with limited capacity of 5000-10000 daily. Most
were based in the South and were family run country labels.
The twenty million records sold claim that has appeared in
print often enough to be quoted religiously by fans (myself
included) could not have happened as there would have been
no more than a couple of million Elvis albums on the shelves
the day he died.
more realistic figure appeared in BILLBOARD quoting an RCA
executive, BILL RANDALL, who said that they shipped 8,000,000
albums the first week after Elvis died. This claim also appeared
in the excellent book WHEN ELVIS DIED. He went on to say that
they had the capacity to ship twenty million albums a week
Stateside as long as the demand exists.
were many reports in BILLBOARD in the six months after Elvis
died giving impressive sales figures across the entire Elvis
catalogue. Perhaps that is the key to the whole sales question
during this time. There were at least fifty eight Elvis titles
fighting for attention during this time with the more recent
& new releases grabbing the big numbers sales wise. WELCOME
TO MY WORLD/ MOODY BLUE/ ELVIS IN CONCERT/ THE ELVIS STORY/
WORLDWIDE GOLD AWARD HITS CLUB EDITION & THE LEGENDARY PERFORMER
VOL 2 grabbed over eleven million sales between them.
how many sales did each other album accrue? That is the fifty
million dollar question but there are some small indicators
that have turned up over the years that sheds some light on
this subject. MICHAEL OMANSKY claimed in an internet interview
that the GOLD RECORD series sold over 200,000 yearly, I’m
sure that 1977-78 saw considerably higher sales for that particular
magazine claimed that the ARMY & AIRFORCE EXCHANGE CENTRE
ordered more than 300,000 Elvis albums during the last six
months of 1977. A BILLBOARD editorial during November 1977
claimed that Elvis was SOLELY responsible for the revival
of the US RECORD INDUSTRY, shipping twenty million albums
a week from late August. (I have to admit that this is second
hand information and I have not seen a copy of it).
the end of the 1977 financial year RCA had turned around
a ninety million dollar loss of the previous year into
a $247 million profit, with the record manufacturing
division of RCA responsible for 39% of the turnover
up over one hundred & forty per cent on the previous
year, all due to sales of Elvis records.
RCA cancelled their Autumn country release schedule
to concentrate on filling the demand for Elvis product.
BILLBOARD article claimed that one in two country albums sold
was an Elvis title (Nov 77) and in January 78 the same magazine
claimed that one in three country albums sold during 1977
was an Elvis release, giving an estimated figure of thirty
five million albums.
have seen newspaper articles from many US newspapers that
gave many insights into the massive sales in the year after
Elvis’ death with localised stories on how difficult it was
to obtain Elvis albums, about having to buy albums at an auction,
how people were limited to two albums per person, on how a
record store in KNOXVILLE TENN, became the first recorded
store to open at midnight for the release of the ELVIS IN
CONCERT album. How advance orders for ELVIS IN CONCERT had
passed the three million mark and RCA were pressing five million
copies to ensure demand was satisfied. (remember this album
has a triple platinum award)
factor that may have clouded the sales data during this time
was the number of leased albums as well as record club issues
that appeared on the market. From mid 1978 until the present
RCA/BMG seem to have lost the run of themselves when it came
to leasing out Elvis tracks for compilation albums. This has
added significantly to the difficulty in obtaining sales data
as nearly all of these companies have no interest in verifying
the sales of Elvis’ back catalogue. Some of the companies
are no longer in existence while others have been taken over
or amalgamated, leading to lost files/financial statements.
like READERS DIGEST/ CANDLELITE/ AVON/ TIMELIFE/ GREENVALLEY/
HBO/ DCC/ RAZOR TIE/ K MART/ BLOCKBUSTER/ HEARTLAND/ K TEL/
BEST BUY/ QVC/ JC PENNEY/ SOLO CUP COMPANY/ RADIO SHACK/ FRANKLIN
MINT/ PAIR RECORDS/ BROOKVILLE RECORDS/ PICKWICK/ WALT DISNEY
RECORDS/ MADACY MUSIC/ GREENHILL PRODUCTIONS/ PROVIDENT MUSIC/
CASTLE MUSIC/ MUSIC MILL/ FRIEDMANN FAIRFAX all brought out
Elvis compilations with many of the above bringing out numerous
example TIMELIFE produced seventeen titles while GREENHILL
PRODUCTIONS a newer entry to the list have currently five
titles. We know that many of the releases from these companies
were heavily promoted on TV/SATELLITE as well as on the print
media and have contributed many millions of sales to the Elvis
catalogue, some officially recognised, most not. For example
TIMELIFE issued a series of double CDs from the mid to late
1990s which are still being offered for sale in the US today,
advertised extensively on cable & satellite TV channels. The
gimmick with this series was the availability of one unreleased
alternate take with each set. In the last advert I saw for
the series TIMELIFE claimed sales of 3.7 million by the middle
of 2002 and as the CDs were over one hundred minutes long
there was an accumulated total of nearly 7.5million units
it was claimed in 2000 that sales of this series was approximately
5.3million meaning that as long as TIMELIFE kept promoting
the series they were shifting some one million units a year.
These figures have not been added to Elvis’ official total.
other TIMELIFE releases have been available for much longer
and I dare say have notched up high six figure sales but unfortunately
no sales data have come to light for these releases. READERS
DIGEST & CANDLELITE have been reasonably documented as to
their potential sales although a significant proportion of
sales data for these companies remains to be unearthed.
TEL as with the LOVE SONGS /INSPIRATIONS/ ULTIMATE albums
in the UK would have heavily promoted their Elvis titles and
given the UK sales especially for the first LOVE SONGS set,
I would expect that sales for the equivalent US LOVE SONGS
would have been certainly in the very high six figure range
if not well over the million. Unfortunately K TEL in the US
were not the type of company to pay for the verification of
the sales of its product and were a strictly cheap & cheerful
companies tend to be more specialist aiming at target audiences
especially the massive Christian/born again population in
the States. For instance BMG claimed that licensed Gospel
CDs issued by GREENHILL & PROVIDENT have sold over 100,000
copies per CD and continue to show strong sales in the thousands
of Christian book stores Stateside.
it to say that there are tens of millions of sales in this
sector that need to be added to Elvis’ total sales but the
lack of data from this source is perhaps the most serious
impediment to advancing Elvis’ overall total. Another source
for missing sales are the RCA & BMG RECORD CLUBS which are
not to be under estimated as to their potential.
specific releases from the RCA RECORD CLUB attained very substantial
sales with for instance the club version of the WORLDWIDE
GOLD AWARD HITS VOL 1 & 2 achieving platinum status. So successful
were the sales of Elvis product through the clubs, RCA released
albums that were only available from this source.
like the 2CD ELVIS PRESLEY (SVL3 0710)/ ELVIS COUNTRY CLASSICS
(R233299e)/ FROM ELVIS WITH LOVE (R 234340e)/ LEGENDARY CONCERT
PERFORMANCES (R 244047e) & COUNTRY MEMORIES (R 244069e) were
all only available through the record club. What is interesting
to note about these albums is the fact that they can be acquired
easily in the States from a variety of sources at prices ranging
from ten to fifteen dollars, a sure sign that there were large
numbers in circulation.
more recent times BMG have had great success marketing
their four CD Elvis box sets (CLOSE UP as well as TODAY
TOMORROW & FOREVER ) through their direct buying networks
giving both sets combined domestic US sales of nearly
800,000 units. (source MICHAEL OMANSKY interview).
I finish I would like to point out a few more potential
sources where there are definitely considerable sales
to be had. In 1987 RCA issued a four cassette only series
which were launched at the same time, to cash in on
the tenth anniversary expected sales boom.
of the four, LOVE ME TENDER (CAK 2650) was awarded a gold
disc by the RIAA and I would argue that the other three are
not far off gold status based on the fact that they all came
out together and it would be highly unlikely that everyone
would opt for just one title, ignoring all the others. There
would have been an even spread over the four titles giving
Elvis potentially another million plus sales.
the record the other cassette titles were; COUNTRY FEELINGS
DPK1 0786 MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM ELVIS DPK10800 AN ELVIS CELEBRATION
DPK10807. Two other cassette only releases, SAVAGE YOUNG ELVIS
(DPK10679) & MEMORIES (DPK1 0904) also sold well into the
six figures through RADIO SHACK and JC PENNEYS.
GOLDEN CELEBRATION box set has not come up in the sales figures
which I find puzzling as it was touted by RCA when first released
as a major critical & commercial success. With the release
of the four CD version I was sure that this package would
have been awarded at least a gold certification but it hasn't
happened yet. The set went as high as number eighty on the
BILLBOARD album charts and that was based on the entire contents
of the box being counted as just one sale. As well as that
we have seen a report that giant US wholesaler COSCO purchased
15,000 copies of the CD when first released, that is sixty
thousand units. The only why I can make sense of it all is
to maintain that the vinyl six disc version is being classed
as a different release to the four CD version.
box sets like the QVC film set DOUBLE FEATURES (but this set
15,000 plus the non QVC version 10,000???, 100,000 units total.
COLLECTORS GOLD just short of gold if you believe BMG. The
ELVIS ARON PRESLEY eight album box set was claimed by RCA
to have sold by early 1981 the equivalent of a platinum and
a gold certification. Add
to that the sales of the CD box which again I believe are
being taken separately by the RIAA and you could argue the
bones of a double platinum sale for this set.
TIMELIFE set ELVIS 1954 to 1961 has been sold continually
on TV for the last twenty five years with fifteen & thirty
minute slots on cable/satellite TV. It is one of those releases
that I believe, based on what we know from other TIMELIFE
sets, has the potential to be a multi platinum seller. Why
purchase advertising time on a twenty five year old release
if it is not selling? There are so many other potentially
certifiable Elvis albums that I could go on & on but unfortunately
the hard data just isn't there.
HIS LIFE IN MUSIC (a four CD plus book package) was an interesting
box set originally sold as a numbered 39,000 edition but it
later turned up again with no limited number so I am assuming
that the first 160,000 units were sold. Another twin CD pack
that was heavily advertised on US TV was the GOOD ROCKING
TONIGHT (SVL2 0824) which was mention on BILLBOARD magazine
as being the best selling special TV package of that year,
1988. What they meant by special I really don’t know but this
is another interesting set that I would love to have some
sales data on.
question that comes up a lot in relation to Elvis’ sales is
the lack of chart action for most of the albums released especially
since the 1980s onwards. If we claim massive sales why are
there not the weeks of BILLBOARD chart sales to match them?
main reason I believe is that a great majority of Elvis’ sales
have come from areas which are not part of the national US
counting system run by SOUNDSCAN. Over the counter sales on
a yearly basis as registered by chart shops on the SOUNDSCAN
DATABASE average between 1.2 & 1.5 million.
the greatest source for Elvis’ CD sales are the shops
outside GRACELAND which are not part of the system.
Add to that the record clubs, sales through Elvis sites,
official & unofficial, Christian book stores which are
now a major outlet for Elvis product and the likes of
TIMELIFE plus other leased packages.
would be great if we could find out just how many CD
s are sold every year at GRACELAND.
650,000-700,000 people visiting every year there must be potential
sales running into six figures. I have been to GRACELAND five
times and normally would arrive home with ten to fifteen CD's
a trip. I realise that for every person who purchases a CD
another will put their money into a picture or other souvenir
but in the times I have been there I spent hours hanging round
the shops and the amount of product being sold was very substantial.
One could argue that Elvis would on a normal year sell three
million CD's a year Stateside and with a package like the
30 NUMBER 1s, he would potentially double that tally, if you
were to include all sources not just the SOUNDSCAN figure
that appears yearly.
chart action of a particular album has no relevance to the
amount it sells and this applies especially to Elvis and can
be demonstrated time & time again.
The AMAZING GRACE double Gospel CD is officially 2 x Platinum
and is according to BMG nearing another gold certification
yet it never went near the BILLBOARD HOT 100 ALBUM CHARTS.
It has actually sold more than many of their number one
same can be said for THE NUMBER ONE HITS which exploded onto
the charts at the high position of 143 and promptly vanished
yet again it managed to sell three million copies. The TOP
THE HITS nearly broke into the HOT 100 reaching the dizzy
heights of 117 but it still sold four million.
are dozens of examples when applied to Elvis and it proves
that chart action or the lack of it does not factor into the
sales equation. A mention must be given to Elvis’ YULETIDE
repertoire which has amassed some truly awesome sales figures.
RCA/BMG had stuck to the two original Xmas releases releasing
them every year they would have sold in excess of thirty million
copies by now (BMG publicity leaflet for the WHITE CHRISTMAS
set 2000). Instead we got a total of twenty six documented
Xmas albums in the States and as with the religious albums
they are continuing to prove to be the most consistent sellers
of the Elvis catalogue.
this down I would just like to add that it was not possible
to write in this article about every individual release there
are hundreds of interesting snippets that we gathered over
the last three years. We hope to release everything we have
found relating to the sales issue shortly and hopefully this
will generate some healthy debate on this fascinating subject.
have to say that it is MY opinion (Brian Quinn & Kelvin Wilson
may well have a totally different perspective on the same
figures) that it would be hard to put a case for 600 million
US sales based on what I’ve seen. I appreciate that half if
not more of the jigsaw puzzle is missing but there is enough
there to make an informed calculation and the only imponderable
there for me is exactly what was the extent of those massive
allowing for one hundred million sold in the year after Elvis
died I’m inclined to believe a figure of 300 to 350 million
sales are far more realistic.
it is generally held that the US is responsible for two thirds
of all Elvis’ sales I believe that the opposite is really
the case. The figures that I have seen both reliable as well
as speculative seem to indicate that sales outside of the
US since the early eighties have been on a higher level and
that brings me to believe that Elvis’ total world sales
(albums only) are between six & seven hundred million.
that the US sold a greater number than the rest of the world
pre 1980. Many of you will know doubt strongly disagree with
me which you are entitled to but bear in mind the fact that
a figure of 300,000,000+ US album sales is still twice that
of his nearest rivals, the BEATLES.
Elvis has sold at least that many I myself now, have no doubt,
but after adding the catalogue many times over comparing like
with like, albums with definite sales with similar albums
with no data I would be deceiving you if I came up with a
600 million figure.
would welcome comment from any source or if any of you out
there has genuine sales data relating to any Elvis release
in any part of the world please make it known.
to contact Tony Galvin
vs. The Beatles (Part 2)
Title Fight: Elvis vs. The Beatles