Elvis Presley’s US album sales

Elvis Presley

A few days ago we went through the 101 albums by Elvis Presley that have been certified by the RIAA in the US. While it was already an enormous task, that was only one part of the picture. In fact, less than a third of his official US releases achieved a Gold award or better.

We can read virtually anything when we talk about the number of albums the King issued in the US. After going through thousands of releases on Discogs, Biwa and Elvisoncd, I concluded on 341 non-promotional albums that have been sold at some point. This insane number is made of 23 pure studio albums, 17 original soundtracks, 23 Christmas-related releases, 39 box sets, 29 live efforts, 200 compilations and 10 records tagged as “other” which include interviews and spoken discs. Please notice that these statistics do not include Follow That Dream releases – they will be treated later on this same article. One more important notice is that reissues aren’t counted as new releases, instead they are added to original albums.

If you do the math, that’s 341 minus 101 equals 240 albums completely unaccounted for under Presley’s RIAA tally. Of course, we already saw that assuming 250,000 sales on average for each – mid-way to Gold – is not an accurate method. Luckily, we have much more data about each of them.

A huge frustration for people interested into Presley‘s US album sales is the lack of Soundscan data. As a reminder, Soundscan is the process which scans every sale at retailers since the start of 1991. All told, there is less than 20% of his albums for which we do own that key sales indicator, and for most of them the number is outdated.

Another frustration is the absence of information about non-traditional releases. These are albums which were never sold on standard retailers but instead by mail order or at Christian book stores. RCA permitted a large number of them through various licensing deals from the 70s to the 00s.

Then, of course, there is Music Clubs, which used to be a significant actor of the music industry during the 90s and that is out of Soundscan’s panel. To add some complexity, releases aren’t automatic on them, some albums were issued at BMG Music Club, others at Columbia House, some at both and some at none.

This article will answer basically all these issues. We will start by listing each and every release. This list will point out for all of them if they were available at Columbia House and / or BMG Music Club. Then we will get into every non-RCA releases – Time-Life, Provident Music, Razor & Tie, etc – to see which ones were tracked by Soundscan or left out. For all those which weren’t, we will provide sales information to fill in the hole. Once we will be up there, having a clear view of the full list of albums that were scanned, we will dispatch appropriately the career total of Presley into every release with the help of various known data.

The final step will consist in crossing the data from all indicators – chart runs, certifications, Soundscan, external sales data – to establish how many albums the rock ‘n roll legend moved in his native country.

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KantClark

Why is Aretha overrated?

RLAAMJR.

I don’t think Elvis is overrated. Barbra is underrated. Aretha Franklin is overrated.

Winston68

“Overrated” ? Really ?… So sad for you, one more time. Really !

Wk1

Hey MJD
The detail in your work is amazing. I have tremendous respect for what you do.
There once was a saying at RCA that every Elvis release guaranteed 100,000 sales. That probably was from his lifetime, yet was the basis of many overblown estimates by bloggers around the world.
Keep up the good work.
W

Nathan

If his international sales (outside of U.K.) are pretty low………..there’s NO way he’s coming close to MJ

Tommy

Michael jackson cant even come close to Elvis, dont even need mention in same breath

SkkyWill

How date someone underratethe mothers of all Divas and King-Barbra Streisand? And female singers should have sold more without sexualgender discrimination

BP

What is basically and absurdly embarrassing is the FACT that Elvis has countless albums and singles, BUT literally only a few of them are generally known , the rest is almost unknown for people and only the most known singles (4-5 singles) people can name by heart, almost nobody except die-hard fans can name a title of his major albums, see the point why he is mega overrated…. poeple just know that there is the Elvis Presley…. who loves us tender and dont be cruel cos we can get to the jailhouse rock but he will be always on our… Read more »

Dan

Thank you for this tremendous effort. I’m sure it’s your toughest analysis to date.

Jazmine

BP,

Hmm. Overrated? You have to remember that this was the 50s, 60s, and having a gold disc sales in the US is already a big huge achievement. If you compare his performance in the 60s, vs other big singers such as Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, etc. Their sales weren’t even nearly as impressive as Elvis. The fact that he could sold 1 million copies literally everytime he released an album and managed to went as high as 3 million is already a big achievement for his era.

Tommy

You right back in Elvis day money was a lot harder to come by, now days seems like everyone got a debit or credit card with lot more speding power, you can down load or stream a record, unheard of back in the 50s and 60s, with that said the amount of records elvis sold is so remarkable!

Rell

Wow ! Thank you !
When will we see the whole CSPC ? I’m kind getting tired of Elvis.

Nathan

Damn “a week to 10 days” ……………16 days ago

Tom Riise

So Elvis will surpass Michael Jacksons 235 million album sales ?.

Tommy

If you get tired of Elvis you need to get tired of music, its him that moves tbe needle!

BP

So we can all see that his average sales and numbers of released albums and compls just prove how MEGA OVERRATED Elvis has been. Tens of albums and compls with low sales can add together a big number which means that Elvis has not been as popular and selling as the propaganda wants us to believe. There are many artists who were,/have been/are selling far more albums/copies/pieces (only that counts to success and popularity) per album with far less numbers of officially released allbums than Elvis aka, in reality, they are more successful and popular then Elvis with countless records…… Read more »

Tommy

Elvis sold records in the day when other artist sold a third of his sales in the 50s he sold more than the other artist combind, also money was a lot harder to come by, no one hardly had credit cards , no one had computers, or cell phones as kids and everyone have today, if you wanted to buy a record you had to save to buy it! Elvis has always been underrated not overrated, what he did back in the 50s was unbelievable!

Frank

U have no idea what ur talking about ridiculous elvis was is one of the top selling artist of all time

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