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there is less than 20% of his albums for which we do own that key sales indicator, and for most of them the number is outdated.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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Joolzz

Neither did Sinatra Nathan. Tom Waits put it best: “Who cares who wrote the song, just kill me with it…”

Nathan

Here’s a big point about Elvis vs Beatles/MJ………..Elvis never wrote his own music

Donald Miller

SJ, the US is the world’s biggest music market and it’s the world’s most important music market; for better or for ill. Robbie Williams has 12 number one albums in the UK and with Take That, he had 12 number one singles. But he’s not going to come close to the chartmasters top ten, because he’s never cracked the US market. Michael and Madonna are huge, but someone is eventually going to eclipse them too. These numbers are not a value judgement on the artistic quality of the music. How about we wait for the final result before we start… Read more »

Stephon Jackson

And I’m not mocking Elvis Presley. He is a LEGEND and one of the most recognized names/voices/faces of all TIMES. I just think his sales/fame (especially globally) was eclipsed by Michael & Madonna. Elvis impact bigger than MJ? Ion know, I think its pretty equal. Elvis was one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen tho.

Girlruntheworld

Barbra is one of underrated great artist of all time, not only in music industry, but Hollywood, Broadway, TV show and fashion, every female artist would do and look different from them now if Barbra never chang the pop culture, Elvis sold more , Yes twice? ten times than follow male , Never! Barbra sold less, but more than follow #2, #3 divas’ combined, it’s a male world them, but Barbra and Diana did wonder 60s, it’smuch more great and bigger than man should did

Pablo

LOL at people mocking Elvis’ number of releases. There are many artists who released tons of records (like Tony Bennett or Nana Mouskouri), but did they even had a fraction of Elvis’ success? Absolutely not! Please remember that Elvis’s prime was in the “SINGLES era”, so of course at that time albums were less relevant. And because of his many chart-topping hit singles, for latter years compilation albums are naturally more appealing for his buyers. Michael Jackson’s peak was in albums era (CD album was booming). Of course he is benefited from the album sales, much more than Elvis. But… Read more »

ABJ

Wont lie though, he was a strikingly beautiful person.

ABJ

His US sales are HUGE! But Michael is still much more successful, he had like a quarter of Elvis’s album total output and sold like 235 million albums. If Presley surpasses him it wont matter as he had a much more spread out career output with a massive result.

Donald Miller

Garyt, I call BULL-loney on that. IF RCA had lost sales data on the scale you describe, it would have been the biggest lawsuit in human history when his estate hauled them into court.

Donald Miller

SJ, why do you keep saying “was”? She’s still alive.

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