CSPC: Elton John Popularity Analysis

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Original Albums Sales

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Peachtree Road (2004)
  • America
    • US – 375,000
    • Canada – 40,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – 10,000
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 10,000
    • Japan – 5,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 10,000
    • New Zealand – 2,000
  • Europe – 350,000
    • UK – 225,000
    • France – 15,000
    • Germany – 35,000
    • Italy – 15,000
    • Spain – 3,000
    • Sweden – 3,000
    • Netherland – 2,000
    • Switzerland – 10,000
    • Austria – 5,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 820,000

59 thoughts on “CSPC: Elton John Popularity Analysis”

  1. wow i am actually surprised about him being below 200 million. huge body of work and i can see why it took so long to get him out. still on the fence on whether CITW should be added to his total or not. It adds 10 million CSPC right?
    amazing work as usual. One more artist above the 190 million mark: Elvis 🙂

    1. Why not include it? It is his song, re-written for Diana, but his song regardless.

      An amazing total. Glad he will be over 200M soon.

  2. Vow 86 pages! Huge task! Well done!
    Don’t Go Breaking My Heart pushing CSPC sales of Rock in the Westies does Seem a bit odd..

    Anyway, amazing career, and I do love Your Song! (And Saturday Night’s Alright btw :-))

  3. Thanks for the analysis. As usual, I enjoyed it thoroughly.
    I think Elton is one of the very few artists ever, who can make “196 million albums” look like a disappointment.
    Still an outstanding total.

  4. Great work, Thank you for your wonderful stuied. It’s a surprise his figure below 200 M, but he really is the King of 70s, I can’t wait to read analysis of the empress of 70s-Barbra

  5. Thanks all for your nice comments!

    About him being below 200 million, apart for CITW which as a charity single can’t really be included as a normal single, Elton really suffers from an exploitation of his catalog that doesn’t benefit sales units. First, he never had a major selling box set. The only one close to that, To Be Continued…, was a ‘new’ package rather than already existing sets put together.

    Second, since 2002 his catalog has been exploited with double best of albums instead of a Volume 1 and Volume 2. Considering the size of his catalog, it is some kind of a waste. The issue for him is that his truly big songs that can sell a compilation by themselves are Your Song, Tiny Dancer and Rocket Man, plus GYBR singles, all songs from the same era. Songs 1976-1989 wouldn’t generate as many sales, so splitted best ofs per era wouldn’t be well balanced. The best solution for him could have been a up tempo set and a mid-tempo one, basically, adding a partner with catchy hits to Love Songs with no track in common would have been perfect to get two strong ongoing catalog sellers.

  6. Congratulations on your massive work MJD!

    His total sales are massive in Australia. How high would he rank on a list of top selling albums acts there?

    I can only think of AC/DC, John Farnham, ABBA and perhaps The Beatles bring above.

    1. Hi Innocent Eyes!

      Elton’s album sales in Australia are definitely extraordinary. Among Artists with comprehensive album sales figures, only 2 artists break the 5 million threshold in this country- Elton and Michael, with the latter falling behind the former by 80,000.
      I am not sure about The Beatles, but according to their article, their 13 studio albums and 15 compilations sold a collective 4,735m, so adding the others would probably break the 5m mark, though chances of surpassing Elton are rather slim. Abba’s 8 studio albums and Gold sold collectively 3,5m albums, while adding other albums might also break the 5m too.

      So in conclusion, Elton is perhaps so far the biggest selling album artists in Australia among analyzed artists. AC/DC, will definitely top Elton as their certifications from their 16 studio albums and 2 compilations add for a groundbreaking 6m copies!

  7. Great work as usual, MJD. Frankly speaking, I’m not surprised at all with the Elton’s slightly lower CSPC numbers. Because he was outstanding in the 70’s, but in the later decades he was a quite average artist. Of course he achieved occasionally some success after the 70′ as well, but he was far from his earlier success.

  8. He released thirty(30) studio albums, the Eagles released seven(7) studio albums. But still, there is not a big difference between their total CSPC numbers.

  9. His american sales are truly impressive. On the contrary, I thought he had been a much bigger seller in the UK so I’m kinda disappointed. Thank you !
    How is he ranked among Australia’s best selling male singer ? Second (Michael Jackson being #1, I guess) ?

    1. Actually, he outsold MJ in Australia. In fact, of all the analyses that do that kind of distribution by countries, i haven’t found anyone who sold more than him in the land down under. I’m guessing The Beatles sold more there, but it’s just a guess.

      1. I believe ABBA is the best selling group/artist in the Australia, ever. E.g “Best of ABBA” is considered the biggest selling album in Australia and New Zealand history. “ABBA Gold” is among the top five best selling albums ever in Australia and New Zealand. Furthemore, at least four of ABBA albums are certified 10x platinum in Australia

        1. To confirm all doubts, here are the top selling album artists in Australia for artists studied so far, with figures provided by MJD:

          1. ABBA 5,705,000
          2. Elton John 5,440,000
          3. The Beatles 5,377,000
          4. MJ 5,360,000 (without J5, who sold 1,100,000)

          These 4 artists are the only artists studied so far that have crossed the impressive 5m mark. AC/DC are real contenders to top this list with certs at over 6m, though they are sometimes often misleading. Artists below the list who crossed 4m include Pink Floyd (4,82m), Billy Joel (4,63m) and Madonna (4,36m)

          As for Elton, what is most intriguing is that he doesn’t have a huge selling album (relatively speaking) compared to the other artists on this list, though his consistency there is truly magnificent! His biggest selling studio album there (GYBR) is “only” at 350K, but he managed to achieve platinum albums even when he was doing poorly in the main markets. And while he was achieving platinum albums in the 80’s and 90’s in the US, most of them were 3XP or close in Australia. His compilations are definitely better sellers, but even the biggest of them (TVBO 1990) sold “only 550K, while MJ, Madonna, Mariah etc. all achieved 10XP sellers despite totals falling behind Elton. To summarize, Elton remained relevant and sold decent to good numbers in Australia for a very long time, accumulating to the great total everyone is talking!

  10. He has released more than 30 albums but only one album has sold more than 10 million copies. And his best-selling single didnt at least reach more than 15 million

    1. Hi RLAAMJR!

      I assume you’re talking about the units showed on page 85.

      Firstly. those numbers refer to success of the song rather than sales (meaning using ratios in the analysis to calculate the success of a song), in case you didn’t know that!

      Second, having a song at nearly 19m equivalent units is already huge! Think of the most streamed pre-2000 song on Spotify, Wonderwall by Oasis. Even that song has equivalent sales of under 15m units! The same case for all Mariah Carey singles, but are they not hugely successful? Absolutely not! In the case of Elton’s Your Song, its figure are truly extraordinary as it consists 95% of its parent albums’ success, an album which sold relatively low units initially but managed to accumulate sales from compilations on the back of that one song!

      Third, one reason why most artists like Elton don’t have singles at 20m+ units is because their biggest albums contains lots of hits. Take Elton’s GYBR as an example, it has a huge 31m+ equivalent units, but its biggest track is at 13m. That’s because the success of the album was divided by many songs on the album that each had decent success, lowering the share of units from the biggest single. Even MJ’s Billie Jean, although at a huge 40m+ units, barely represents 35% of Thriller’s success!

  11. I read the total album sales page first, and it didn’t really look that impressive. But when I read the CSPC results, it was a totally different story. Guess he is a better single seller and better compilation album seller.

  12. But can we call him a legend even when he hasnt really had extraordinary sales? i mean i know he currently ranks 9th best selling music artists ever and has total eas of nearly 200 million but again, he also released more than 35 albums.

    Even Prince who has a lower total is being considered as a legend. I cant blame people saying Elton John is a legend cos at least his total eas shows it but Prince for me isnt.

    And i agree with Justin Bieber saying Prince is not the last living legend and people were mad at Bieber about his comment even if what Justin said was true. We still have Celine and Mariah and if you dont consider them legends, then definitely you would agree that Madonna is a legend and still living.

    1. The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Brian May, AC/DC, Metallica, Guns N Roses, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, Dave Gilmour, Roger Waters, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Black Sabbath. These guys are living legends!

      1. Every generation has own legends/idols, whether we like it or not. For many (older) people the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elton John…e.g. are not a true legends, but Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Muddy Waters….Legends never Die! 🙂

    2. Hi RLAAMJR!

      How can it not be extraordinary? It isn’t enough to pile albums to reach 200m. To get up to 35 albums you already need to be a legend. It isn’t easy to get a contract to get global releases, let alone 35 different ones. Look at recent albums of stars from 15 years ago, they are barely adding a thing to their career to date total. It takes success to make a new release valuable, especially when you aren’t on your hey-days anymore.

      1. If Elton is legend with 35 albums, then what to say about Frank Zappa? Frank Zappa has released 119 albums! 100 studio albums, 13 compilations and 6 rock operas. MJD can you imagine the time needed for Zappa’s CSPC? 🙂

        1. Legends aren’t based soley on numbers of albums sold.
          It is about so many things………many of them intangible.
          Creating a new style of music, making a style of music popular that wasn’t before, being one of the most popular stars of their generation, longevity over decades, timeless songwriting, stage presence, influence on other artists, things they do outside of music…….like charity and philanthropy, being versatile outside of music………like acting, etc.etc.

          Nirvana are Legends( One could argue that Jane’s Addiction paved the way for grunge……….making them Legends)
          Frank Zappa could be considered a legend
          Bob Marley could be,……….no, IS a Legend
          Miles Davis……….IS a Legend (what you think his album sales are? Haha, 10 million?) Doesn’t matter, he’s a GOD
          etc,etc,………..and oh yeah, Elton John is ABSOLUTELY a Legend……….even if he sold half the albums he did

          1. Hi again Nathan!

            I agree with everything you said – just a small comment on Miles Davis, I’m sure his CSPC total would be at the very least 40 million, if not more! 😉

          2. Of course, legends aren’t based soley on numbers of albums. Syd Barrett is a LEGEND, although he only participated in the two of Pink Floyd studio albums.

    3. Hi RLAAMJR!

      With all due respect, although this is a site about charts and sales, the matter of a fact is that legendary status is not solely based on commercial success. As MJD pointed out, having a vast catalog and being able to produce music for so long is a proof of a long lasting appeal of an artist.

      Moreover, aside from commercial success, legendary status, while subjective sometimes, is also based on a mix of cultural impact, longevity, artistic influences etc. Take MJ as an example, when people think of the legacy of Thriller, most would not automatically think of its sales or success first, but the cultural impact and innovative videos of the album. Most people would also think of the legacy of Michael as a groundbreaking performer with influence on practically every artist that debuted after him than his legacy as a best selling act. In fact, a “legendary music seller” is rarely heard than a “legendary artist”, because the latter is the more important aspect.

      Prince, Mariah, Celine, Elton etc, all of them can be considered legends as they have all been in the game for so long and have laid the foundation for many artists of today, and they were all successful before. I hope you may respect the legacy of these artists, especially that of one who passed away not that long ago using a claim from a relatively new artist. Only time can tell whether Justin on any artist from this generation will be considered legend in the future, but as of right now, the case is very obvious.

      1. A little unrelated, but how do Raffi, MJD and some other people have a profile pic, while the rest have just a white figure? It that just for the site’s managers? 🙂

  13. MJD, so if we actually include Candle In The Wind for Queen Diana’s death then, then Elton John should have reached more than 200 million EAS right?

    Also i thought Skyline Pigeon is one of his bestselling singles. I was wrong.

  14. MJD, you included ‘Somebody to Love’ live, 1993 – (400,000) in the Queen’s physical Singles sales. This version was played at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, and was performed by George Michael. The track was released on an EP called Five Live (George Michael and Queen). If this version of ‘Somebody to Love’ is included in Queen’s CSPC, then maybe Elton’s version of CIDW from the 1997 should also be included in the Elton’s CSPC as well?

  15. I think AC/DC may have a shot at 200 million! Only them and Elvis are left. There are sources on the net that say AC/DC sold more albums than Queen, U2 or The Stones. It’s gonna be close folks! Prepare for a surprise!

  16. I also think Candle in the Wind (the charity single) should be included in Elton John’s total. It may be an outlier and not truly reflective of his popularity but Elton’s popularity coupled with his musical ability in co-writing the song and adjusting the lyrics helped it sell 30 million copies. If that song had been recorded by any other singer (Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, George Michael, Billy Joel, Liam Gallagher etc) it would not have sold any where near that number. The original was written about Marilyn Monroe and this version adapted for Lady Di, both women who were victims of hierarchal systems. This contributed greatly to the impact and sales of the Lady Di version. Elton is at 205 million for me.

    1. I can see why MJD didnt include sales of the Titanic album soundtrack to Celine Dion’s name but not including Candle In The Wind to Elton John’s is definitely unacceptable.

        1. You have a point. The Bodyguard sales was added to Whitney Houston’s sales. And since Kevin Costner’s name is also on the album cover, then Kevin Costner should also share the sales with Whitney.

          1. I point Billboard recognizeed Titanic soundtrack as Celine’s album, present award to her: the name refer to the award

          2. Hi QueenBarbra!

            Come, let’s get real, nobody really serious credits Titanic as a Celine Dion album. The BMA are no authority and the Billboard themselves always ranked Titanic as a ‘Soundtrack’ album with no mention to Celine 😉

      1. Hi RLAAMJR!

        Why so? It is a charity product before being a music single. You are a big fan of Celine – you say it is unfair to remove CITW 1997 (since all other versions are included) into Elton’s tally. Do you think it is fair to delete 100% of Celine’s singles sales? Because allowing 30m singles sales just like that to one artist, only because he was the original singer of the song used for the biggest charity event of the 90s, is exactly the same as taking off 30m to every other artist, in other words it is the same as discounting all singles sales of artists like Celine or Mariah which sounds very wrong to me!

        1. I was thinking about this matter last night and today and thinking Madonna shouldnt be credited for the sales of Evite because it was for Evita. But when i tried to weigh things more, I have realized that you are more right than what i think is right. So im sorry but now, I agree with you. 🙂

    2. I agree that CITW should be added to Elton’s sales.
      I can certainly see the charity aspect, but it is:
      1. A Taupin/John penned song
      2. Performed by no one else but Elton John
      3. Released as a single by Elton John
      4. Performed live at Diana’s funeral in front of a billion people by Elton John

      But in my mind, I also add groups and solo artists for totals like MJ and Jacksons/J5 together, so no biggie

      1. Hi Nathan!

        There is no doubt that CITW is Elton’s song at 100%. While slightly different, the 1997 release can be compared to U2’s album Songs of Innocence when it was given away on iTunes. Obviously, the difference is that people buying Elton’s single took the decision of doing it, but it was felt almost as a mandatory move due to the emotion / good deed they were doing. It is really comparable in that that people hasn’t felt as giving money to the artist, but the artist still won plenty of it. U2 were paid very well by iTunes, which indeed bought those copies, while Elton’s was paid on the second song, while the public wanted to give money to the Foundation. That’s why from a music industry perspective, I see it as a freebie / non-event since the public wasn’t aiming to give them money at all.

  17. Wow, awesome article. I really thought Elton would finish higher, but still an amazing figure. One thing I was wondering about is why a box set, like “to be continued” is only counted as one unit in the CSPC. I remember buying that box set when it came out, because next to Led Zeppelin it was one of the most comprehensive box sets ever released, and as I recall it was in the neighborhood of $60.00, the equivalent of about 5 or 6 regular album sales at the time. On the other hand Queen’s Platinum Collection was counted 3 times in the CSPC, and on Amazon it is currently selling for about $17.00. Shouldn’t the box set by Queen be either counted as fewer units or the box set by Elton be counted as more units?

    1. Hi Lance!

      Interesting question there! Though MJD might explain it further, I believe the main reason for this is because of the nature of the 2 sets. Both are classified as box sets by Wikipedia, but here, Queen’s Platinum Collection is definitely a box set, while To Be Continued is classified as a compilation set.

      I believe the reason here is because the 3 discs on The Platinum Collection have the same track list as their 3 Greatest Hits Album (I,II and III). Thus, when this box set was released, it cannibalized the catalog sales of all those 3 albums. Thus, sales of that box set was assigned to those 3 compilations each. If counted only once, catalog sales of the 2 other compilations were neglected as that set also ate into the catalog sales of all 3 sets. When one purchased TPC, they would not need to buy their 3 Greatest Hits albums.

      As for To Be Continued, it is more of a simple compilation album than a box set as it only cannibalizes the catalog sales of its parent studio albums. Using Spotify streams of each song on TBC, sales are assigned to each studio album, as when one purchased TBC, they would not need to purchase the sales of the studio albums involved. Since the track list of each disc on TBC are not identical to any complete compilation or studio album of John’s, it can’t be counted more than once. Had TBC had each disc consisting of track lists identical to Greatest Hits (Vol I, II and III) of Elton’s, then perhaps it would receive the same treatment as TPC. As MJD pointed out, Elton is under the 200m mainly due to how his catalog was exploited. This is one example of how his catalog wasn’t benefited with sales units.

    2. Apparently, MJD also referred to this situation as well!

      MJD: Elton really suffers from an exploitation of his catalog that doesn’t benefit sales units. First, he never had a major selling box set. The only one close to that, To Be Continued…, was a ‘new’ package rather than already existing sets put together.

      I hope this answers your question!

      1. I see the logic in it, and I also understand that this site measures popularity and not necessarily the monetary value of sales created the way Billboard tries to, which I think is good because a double album that sells 7 million albums isn’t more popular then a single album that sells 13 million albums. However, I’d argue the 350,000 copies of “to be continued” cannibalized several times that number in studio albums and compilations because it was such a comprehensive set, just as Queen Platnum and the individual Greatest hits albums that made it up cannibalized it’s back catalog, as I bought both sets for the same reason, to avoid buying a bunch of studio albums. But I suppose that would be impossible to determine, and many of the people who bought “to be continued” probably, at best, would have bought one or two of his greatest hits albums had the box set not existed.

        I do think that Queen’s Platinum Box set cannibalized Greatest hits Volume I and II more then it did Volume III, and Volume III got taken along for the ride, to some extent, because of the value of buying all three together.

        But either way, this is a great site because you have figured out a fair way to make those determinations, and you are consistent about it. Thanks for the work you are doing here. It really is interesting and well done.

        1. Hi Lance!

          All your comments are fully valid. It has been a point of concern for me for quite some time. I’m blocked between my convictions, which led me to beieve for example that To Be Continued must be weigthed stronger than a random compilation, and the rules which need to be set and the same ones for all artists.

          If you check Renaud’s CSPC article, I tried exactly what you said on it. This French rock legend released several multi-disc compilations. They aren’t expensive, close of Queen’s PC, but shut down a lot his catalog since they include 2 or even 3 discs.

          A rule I’m thinking of right now could be weighting compilations as per their number of songs. I definitely don’t like weighting by the number of discs ‘in direct’. As you said, a double album selling 7m isn’t bigger than a stand alone CD selling 13m. I also don’t think that a cheap 3CD compilation should count as 3 proper studio albums especially since a handful of songs will provide most of the appeal (your comment on Queen’s GHIII is correct), so we can’t really go by discs only. The number of songs could be a solution through – after all, a 15 songs compilation will have singles from 5-7 albums, a 40 songs compilation will cover at least a dozen of studio albums, cannibalizing all of them.

          So the solution I’m thinking of is for compilations (technically To Be Continued is concerned since it isn’t a box of already existing products) cutting them after 30 songs which looks like a good threshold as it is the maximum number of songs you can put on one disc (Beatles’ or Elvis’ comps), but at the same time it avoids counting twice a 2-CD compilations which has only 12/13 songs per disc. To avoid inflating too much budget compilations with various discs, an extra weight of 0,5 per 20 songs can make sense.

          To summarize:
          – proper boxes (merges of existing discs), they are still assigned in full to each individual CD*
          – compilations under 30 songs, they are worth 1 unit
          – compilations with 31 to 50 songs, they are worth 1,5 units
          – compilations with 51 to 70 songs, they are worth 2 units
          – etc.

          * I still need to see how to handle Garth Brooks with his 10-CDs $25 boxes

          It sounds like a good way to be fair with artists like Elton who sold a lot of 2CD compilations while avoiding to inflate extremely heavy packages sold at a budget price. It also take into account that while a 50 songs set cannibalizes a lot of albums, all songs do not have the same worth, there is always 5-15 tracks convincing the buyer, so he doesn’t necessarily want all extra discs, thus “deep” songs (after the first 30) count for less. What do you think about it?

  18. I think that would be fair weight to the extra value of the good box sets. Certainally the people who bought”to be continued” wouldn’t have ran out and bought all the studio albums that made it up. They would have probably bought volume I, II and maybe III of his greatest hits, but the box set had some nice extras in it. So I think if that was given a weight of 2 albums that would be a logical offset. On the other hand, I think if the best of Led Zeppelin would have come out prior to the Led Zeppelin box set, the box set would have sold more in the range of “to be continued”. The Led Zeppelin box set benefited substantially from being, as I recall, the first career spanning compilation from them as well as being the first proper remaster of the recordings. However over 50 % of it’s value came from two albums, according to your statistics. It was brilliant marketing on the part of Atlantic, but I think it was just an expensive compilation in a market that was starved for one and unlike Elton, they didn’t have a greatest hits 1, 2 and 3 to compete against. But perhaps giving that the weight of 2 compilation albums would be fair also.

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