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there is less than 20% of his albums for which we do own that key sales indicator, and for most of them the number is outdated.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

Fan club sources are not the way to go Factual Fan as these would be heavily exaggerated due to the obvious bias toward Elvis. This seems to be a common theme with some music industry favoured acts like Elvis and The Beatles, I would also put Madonna , Led Zep, Pink Floyd and Frank Sinatra all in this category.

Marc John

Is Elvis the biggest selling artist of all time? Yes, he is. Elvis having sold over 1 billion records – only shows – to 140 million units by the RIAA! Lol. Certainly, he´s been declassified, counted lower, not given proper credits etc. Such suits the promotion of other and new artists! Obviously, it´s not true to the real figures of numbers for all of Elvis his categories of record sale. Also, besides being lower, the 140 million-figure-record is only suitable for one category of records, and it all, as only in the USA. Elvis has sold over 600 million records… Read more »

Al

And I can just as easily find a source for over 2 billion records for the Beatles too: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-beatles-by-the-numbers/

As well as almost 1 billion for Bing Crosby: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/bing-crosby-records-in-music/3528/

It doesn’t mean it’s true though…

Keith Smith

Taxation for sales is the key though. Elvis and The Beatles are quite alike. The RIAA has standards that change and that don’t include all either.

Auditings of official levels are different from overall fan-claims as we normly see.

John Nickname

It really depends on the ‘source’, not on a link alone specifically. Elvis, for example, has already been awarded for the sales of 210 million albums in the US into the past, as now, it only amounts for only 140 million. What happened then? Well, the RIAA created new rules and thus declassified around 70 million Elvis´ albums — nevertheless, such number only accounts for the USA! The RIAA is not the organ to certify sales of every kind for around the globe . . . The same happens for the singles and compacts real figures in the United States.… Read more »

Al

Elvis could be past the 200m mark if you multiply double albums, box sets and such as well as including EP sales. But even if the 430m US sales would have been true (which it definitely isn’t), where in the world would the 600m rest come from? His biggest market by far outside the US is the UK, even with weighted double albums etc and EPs included you wouldn’t even get 40m. Keep in mind that half of all of his European sales come from this market alone, if you’re VERY generous you can add 20m from Asia and Latin… Read more »

Keith Smith

Well… it doesn´t really matter if you multiply double albums etc., given the fact that they WERE considered two records . . . at the time! Changes occurred later on – so as to better classify newer singers and other band-heroes. Also, it´s not only that, many albums were declassified by their running time and or cost – which – got to be not acceptable by the RIAA’s newly created standards. I would never guess such is coherent to do, after all rules were followed when the albums were released. Not to mention the very fact that various Elvis´ albums… Read more »

Keith Smith

MJD!

It seems data has been faked by Sony´s employees (?) as others . . . probably, not in its name ( Sony ), but by the willingness of special characters.

Quite significant! I would have never figured that out – given their statuses in the industry.

Too bad they have chosen such path!

Thanks!!

Mika

Charts from Europe and Japan shoes, that Elvis album sales was surprising low. North America and UK sales was and still IS big.

Ron

No one will ever know how many records Elvis sold. RIAA does not count ever record sold only million selling albums. So if u sold 999,999 your total according to riaa would be zero. Who sold the most Elvis or the Beatles. No one will ever know for sure. RIAA does not take into account of 45 rpm being sold. Sound scan is fairly new since it started in the 90s. So who cares. None of us are going to get any money from the sells.

Tommy Watkins

Listen you got him at 114 million certified RIAA sales, which is wrong, they have him at 146,500,000 so you are off 32million, so add the difference between the 114million and 154million you should have him with at least 186million, dont you see!

Colin Bratkovich

MJD/Garyst/Tommy Watkins/ It’s been a while since I noted to this site that BILLBOARD’s (current) ‘all time LP listing,(starting in August,1963),has ,for the most part,dropped the pioneering CHARTED success of people like Frank Sinatra,Ray Charles,Rick Nelson & more so Elvis..More so than this,as of NOW,by it;s own ‘new’rules,it continues to omit the Elvis Presley no. one LP ‘ROUSTABOUT,in 1965.As well as it’s LP charted weeks.Where are you>People like Tommy Watkins,or Garyt or others who seem to have a taste for Elvis’s musical legacy,is it worth it to complain?Who cares?Or perhaps younger people who look to Billboard,almost look to BILLBOARD like… Read more »

Mika

Chartmasters IS most reliable site around and MJD and companys has made accurate Job very long. Only site ahead UK.mix what i follow. Remember one step closer to being accurate. And Elvis IS one of The biggest Giant in American music history or global music history.

Tommy Watkins

The real person that would no for sure are Elvis Presley, Vernon Presley, Tom Parker, who are all dead, they paid taxes and wanted there money, so they would know, and the record company, who are still around, they would not need to lie, because of taxes, that should take care of that, ask the record company, if they tell you they should know, if not you want ever know for sure!

Nathan

multiple discs should be counted………..especially if they are double the price. Their should be a formula like 1.5 value for a double c.d. /album. There certainly a formula you could come up with for boxed sets too. Like a 10 c.d. box set of garth brooks for $15 is still 1, but if a 10 c.d. box set of Zeppelin in $70 the value is 4. Just an idea worth considering.

Matrix

Elvis is the KING! It’s a shame he died quite young. 🙁

Tommy Watkins

What I want you to do is help me with elvis and the beatles record sales, let’s start with elvis, the riaa sales elvis has 146.5 million albums certified, ok now add the sakes in between the different levels, gold plantum, multi plantum, diamond, and add those to the total, these are the 117 albums certified, now had all the sales of the albums that were sold that didnt make gold, then you would have elvis album sales, simple, now do the same thing to the Beatles! Also do the same thing to there singles that they sold. This would… Read more »

Vernon Smith

So within your formula to calculate album sales you said 1 MUSIC video equals one album….so according to this equation.. Elvis release 5 music videos/avg. Per “movie”. We all know those movies were nothing but music videos..That was the purpose. So…… 5×32=116 videos He has sold in excess of 2 million total individual sales…that makes 232 million music video sales which equal 232 albums.Add to your bs total, based on your own ckaim that one music video equal one album. That makes your LIE RIAA STATISTIC of 146 million now total BASED ON YOUR FORMULA TOTAL ALBUM SALES FOR ELVIS… Read more »

Vernon Smith

math correction…32*5″160__160+2 million ”320 million, plus the 146__thats 466 million….”

poo man

i love elvis

Scott Emberson

When Elvis arrived in Indianapolis June 26th 1977,RCA gave him a copy of Moody Blue LP stating it was one billionth album pressed by RCA.They had three main pressing plants in the US. This where the one billin sales world wide for Elvis could have come from.

Vernon Smith

Scott, RCA presented EP enterprises in 1986 with one billion “Sold” worldwide. The Moody Blue album equaled one billion “shipped”. The sales were reported in the news throughout different sources in ’86.

Tony

Once again more fake news about Elvis, I pretty sure MJD explained this a while ago.

Khánh

somebody told me that Elvis sold 1 biillion album worldwide 🙂 Such a liar

Greg beers

No it’s not a lie!!!
In fact it’s now well over 1.5 billion records sold.

Tommy Watkins

Hes probally sold a lot more!

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