CSPC: Elton John Popularity Analysis

Elton John

Original Album Sales – Comments

1969 Empty Sky – 710,000
1970 Elton John – 2,650,000
1970 Tumbleweed Connection – 2,090,000
1971 Friends – 440,000
1971 Madman Across the Water – 3,270,000
1972 Honky Château – 3,280,000
1973 Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player – 5,460,000
1973 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – 12,510,000
1974 Caribou – 3,760,000
1975 Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – 5,910,000
1975 Rock of the Westies – 2,290,000
1976 Blue Moves – 2,410,000
1978 A Single Man – 2,410,000
1979 Victim of Love – 620,000
1980 21 at 33 – 1,400,000
1981 The Fox – 1,010,000
1982 Jump Up! – 1,330,000
1983 Too Low for Zero – 3,350,000
1984 Breaking Hearts – 2,530,000
1985 Ice on Fire – 2,390,000
1986 Leather Jackets – 750,000
1988 Reg Strikes Back – 1,880,000
1989 Sleeping with the Past – 5,540,000
1992 The One – 5,680,000
1993 Duets – 3,550,000
1995 Made in England – 3,690,000
1997 The Big Picture – 3,120,000
1999 The Muse – 100,000
2000 The Road to El Dorado – 300,000
2001 Songs from the West Coast – 1,940,000
2004 Peachtree Road – 820,000
2006 The Captain & the Kid – 390,000
2010 The Union – 500,000
2013 The Diving Board – 310,000
2016 Wonderful Crazy Night – 240,000

Some 88,63 million studio album sales across 35 releases. The average may not seem impressive for a singer as popular as John, but there are several reasons to explain this situation.

During the first half of the 70s he was undoubtedly the biggest pop star in English-speaking countries. This preceded the real explosion of the LP format though. At the time even the Platinum award was still not invented as 500,000 units was already a tremendous achievement. Most mega-sellers from the years 1970-1975, led by the likes Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd) and IV (Led Zeppelin) achieved the largest part of their sales thanks to catalog appeal. The point is that except Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which is still widely available and frequently promoted, the remaining studio albums by John are ignored. Both by his labels and by his fans. Original marketing campaigns of those albums were also axed around only two single releases at most, with new LPs coming out every semester. The lack of success in key markets like Japan, Germany and France didn’t help either. All these elements combined limited the potential of early 70s albums, the biggest ones.

In fact, as early as in 1974 John had a monster selling compilation, Greatest Hits. This very early choice of releasing compilations destroyed any kind of chance for his studio albums to amass relevant amounts in the long run to make up for the limited market initially available.

Then his flamboyant years came to an end. From A Single Man at last he started to enjoy some success in continental Europe and in Latin America, but it was also his first album to fail to reach the Top 10 altogether in the US. Victim of Love was a disaster everywhere and the next 3 albums remained fairly low sellers by his standards.

Too Low for Zero operated a strong comeback with 3,35 million sales in part thanks to the hit I’m Still Standing. Albums such as Breaking Hearts and Ice On Fire all had their own hits with Sad Songs and Nikita respectively pushing them to more than 2 million units each. Leather Jackets shot down this nice string with chaotic results.

John then managed to revive his success thanks to the smash Sacrifice from the album Sleeping with the Past. This opened the door to an extraordinary decade for the singer. During the 90s his studio albums mostly failed to register big hits, but he did achieve several hits like Can’t You Feel The Love Tonight from the Lion King Soundtrack and the Candle In The Wind tribute to Lady Diana, a song initially released on the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The market was so big in the 90s that all the old glories regarded as cool were registering 3-5 million album sales per record on their name alone. This happened to the Rolling Stones, to Bruce Springsteen, to Eric Clapton, …, to Elton John. For this reason the song Sacrifice was really essential to the success of the latter part of John‘s career.

Late 90s Soundtracks and the rough failure of Peachtree Road killed this positive momentum. For the last 15 years the singer hasn’t managed to recover. Now nearly 71, we can hardly blame him for not being a fresh pop star anymore. His successful period already outlasted most artists with 30 years of great showings. This was also visible inside the Singles charts that we are going to examine right now.

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Elton has surpassed 10M in streaming EAS. Of the current top 50 best selling artists, he is the 14th best in streaming.


A lot of these artists are from the streaming era though (Drake, BTS…etc) so I wouldn’t compare their streams with Elton’s.

Top 10 pre-2000s acts :

Queen – 21.6m
The Beatles – 16m
Michael Jackson – 14.4m
Metallica – 11.9m
AC/DC – 10.2m
Elton John – 10m
Bob Marley – 9.1m
Guns N’ Roses – 8.8m
Nirvana – 8.6m
Pink Floyd – 8.3m

Not including Mariah Carey (8.8m) and 2Pac (8.4m) because they had a lot of success with their 21st century music.


Nice list! Great achievement also, although 2Pac has less streams (1.2m) with his 21st century music than Elton (1.7m), and also less than Metallica (1.4m) and MJ (1.3m). And as Mariah Carey has only slightly more (1.9m), I think it would be fair to let them both be part of the comparison.


Well, first off you can’t have both Mariah and 2Pac in the top 10 since the #10 would be Nirvana (8.6m). And what I meant is that they both have a bigger share of their success from the 21st century, if you remove that share they would be behind the others when it comes to pre-2000 songs.

Speaking of which, I hadn’t realized Elton had 1.7m streaming EAS from his recent stuff, I assume it’s mostly The Lockdown Sessions from last year ? I’ve no search credit left 🙁


Fair enough! It’s mostly The Lockdown Sessions indeed, you can also visit the artist pages and look at the auto update totals per album ;-).


Yeah but a lot of his songs would be in the “orphan” category (Ghetto Gospel…etc). His albums alone total 1.8m actually (1.6m for TLS), and with the orphan stuff it’d be well over 2m, maybe 2.4m ? A lot of features so it’s complicated…


I think it’s far more difficult to decide what counts as pre/post 2000. Take say the RHCP, is it fair to exclude them just because they have been very successful in the 00s. Metallica debuted in 83, the RHCPs in 84 and both released 7 studio albums in the 00s, but they’re penalised because they’ve managed to stay more relevant, for longer. Again, is it fair to exclude say Shakira, who released her first album in 91, just because her international success is prominently in the 2000s. On the other hand, should all be excluded because they are all still… Read more »


would it not just be easier to look at all acts that debut beofre 2000 and minus anything they released after 2000?


You can do, you can do what ever you want but there will always be caveats needed, context needed. Take say AC/DC, I’d say their 00s return Black Ice and subsequent World Tour, were responsible for a great upturn in their popularity, as was the Iron Man soundtrack. So, even though Black Ice, Rock or Bust and Power Up are excluded, the studio albums, World Tours and soundtracks, all significantly benefited the popularity of their pre 2000 work. Take Queen, you can exclude The Cosmos Rocks, but you can’t subtract the impact We Will Rock You, Bohemian Rhapsody or the… Read more »


Good idea 😉 Approximately :

Queen – 21.5m
The Beatles – 16m
Michael Jackson – 12.7m
Metallica – 10.6m
AC/DC – 9.1m
Bob Marley – 8.7m
Guns N’ Roses – 8.6m
Nirvana – 8.6m
Pink Floyd – 8.1m
Elton John – 7.6m


Sorry but I’m really not sure what you’re getting at… Shakira ? 😕 She has like 2m streaming EAS from the 90s, why would she be included in a pre-2000s list ?

There’s nothing “difficult” about this, it’s just a list of acts who had most of their success before 2000, that’s all.


The list is about acts that debuted pre 2000, Shakira debuted in 1991. The list was never how successful their pre 2000 work was. Strange you have problems understanding that, seems quite simple to me.

How can you seriously say an act that debuted in 1991 or even worse 1984, is from the streaming era. You’re just making up your own selective rules about this as you go along.

Last edited 3 months ago by Martin

You realize I’m the one who made the list, right ? As I said it’s about acts who had most of their success before 2000, that’s why I didn’t include Eminem or Shakira or whatever…

And I never said acts who debuted in 1984 are from the streaming era, I specifically mentioned Drake and BTS, so you’re the one making things up (for some reason).