Elvis Presley’s US album sales

ELVIS PRESLEY

Follow That Dream (FTD) catalog

If you are an Elvis fan, you have been wondering all along this article what about FTD releases? They are so numerous that myths quickly emerged about them.

FTD is a music label created by Ernst Jorgensen which issues exclusively Presley‘s albums. Based in Denmark, the first release came out in 1999 and 208 more followed since. “At 50,000 units a piece, that’s over 10 million!” we can hear here and there. The point is, FTD isn’t Sony BMG. It’s a small sub-branch aimed for collectors. Had an album enough appeal to sell 50,000 units, or even half that number, it would have been released by the main label.

In fact, Jorgensen himself acknowledges the situation, aiming at average sales to avoid entering in conflict with the parent label:

WorldWideElvis: Yeah, it is. You can put out these collector label CD’s and you’re lucky to sell eight or ten thousand.
ERNST: That’s also what we’re aiming at selling. We’re not aiming at selling 30,000. We do nothing, there’s no advertising, nothing at all going on, other than working with a very small group of people making sure that those who really care about it can find it.

Actually, all FTD albums were and still are limited:

This release is a strictly LIMITED EDITION. Due to manufacturing costs, there will be no reprint.

The first numbers were limited to 10,000 units a piece. Jorgensen confirmed in June 2000 the top sellers were up to 8,000 units:

WorldWideElvis: Are they all still available?
ERNST: Yeah.

WorldWideElvis: All four of them.
ERNST: We will cut them out at some stage […] We know the bootlegger figures very well, we know the bootleggers, we know who they are, where they did them, and we thought we would basically sell the same, but we don’t. I think Todd Slaughter was one of those people who said you are going to sell a lot more, because there are a lot of Elvis fans who will not buy a bootleg. […] Apparently, the market is more than twice as big as the best selling bootleg ever. Not counting the great old days, but in recent ideas.

WorldWideElvis: The 2000 or whatever they sell.
ERNST: There were a few that sold four.

By now, the earliest albums are sold out. The initial deal was to drop 4 albums a year, limited at 10,000 units a piece. They were sold around $20 each. Both the pace of releases and the price went up dramatically, naturally decreasing sales per title. In 2012, as many as 19 came out with a price going from $33 for the cheapest ones to over $120. The 6th and 7th releases failed to sell out and the limit per title went down. At 3,000 units, or 1,500, recent titles’ availability is low.

Obviously, out of 200 plus releases, not all have the same appeal. There is some hyped releases but also others much less anticipated like the weakest original soundtracks which must be running well under 1,000 units to date. In spite of the limited releases, only 77 out of the 209 titles are sold out so far and only 1 from the last 30.

One would expect 3,000-ish sales per number, which would amount to over 600,000 albums sold. The point is, only 86 releases matter. Indeed, 26 numbers are books rather than CDs. Then, 97 numbers are reissues of Classic Albums (46), Movie Soundtracks (24) and LP versions (27), which are all eligible for RIAA certifications as soon as they are sold in the US…

…and that’s the last big thing. These releases are sold online to a global fanbase, they aren’t US-only albums. If we assume that each relevant title moved an average of 2,000 copies in the US, we are looking at 172,000 units. If we assume newly named titles sell more than expanded reissues then we can expect anything from 200,000 to 250,000 US sales by FTD albums that aren’t already accounted for on RIAA awards.

You likely noted that I have set Soundscan figures for all albums in order to top 39,5 million without caring about FTD releases while it would be ludicrous to expect Jorgensen to not provide sales figures to the American tracking company, plus these albums are also sold at general retailers like Amazon. Basically, no matter how many units one expect that FTD albums shifted in the US, that number would need to be removed from previously listed Soundscan assumptions.

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Colin Bratkovich

It looks like CHARTMASTERS needs a better look at 1969s double -FROM MEMPHIS TO VEGAS/FROM VEGAS TO MEMPHIS (490,000).As on CHARTMASTERS (PAGE 13 of 13).The separate ‘studio’ & ‘live’ is muddy. The original 1969-70 charted success (12 on Billboard),found BOTH LPS charting (lower-as ELVIS IN PERSON (BILLBOARD 183) CHARTMASTERS (1,025,000) & BACK IN MEMPHIS (BILLBOARD 80) CHARTMASTERS (175,000) ,in the last half of 1970-as REISSUED LP PRODUCT. This may have (even) confused Whitburn’s Billboard 200?This LP was also a huge C&W charted item, as a double entity. As ‘live’/’studio’ (2) or an single issues ,the physical sales of EACH just… Read more »

Petri Makkonen

I would rate RCA Victor’s “Elvis’ Christmas Album” from 1957 and RCA Camden’s “Elvis’ Christmas Album” from 1970 as two separate albums, because while 8 songs out of 10 were same on both albums, the 1970 release has “If Every Day Was Like Christmas” and “Mama Liked the Roses” songs which were not even recorded in 1957.

Anthony Britch

I dont see anywhere in the Elvis articles where its noted that RIAA certification of 1 million is units not copies shipped. up to 1974 a GOLD LP is when sales reached $1 million of the wholesale price. That is 33% of $3.98 (1956-1970, 1970-1974 an LP was $4.98). $1 million was equal to about 760,000 copies and 608,000 copies at $4.98. after 1974 a GOLD LP had to sell $1 million AND 500,000 copies. Platinum was introduced in 1975. An LP had to sell $2,000,000 at the wholesale price (1975 LPs increased to $5.98 and $6.98) AND a minimum… Read more »

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