Elton John albums and songs sales

It’s not necessary to believe that the freshly announced Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour is the last Elton John will ever do. After all, it’s a basic marketing trick. Michael Jackson, Cher and John himself announced on numerous occassions a final tour yet ended up going back on the road. What we can believe though is that the British pop star has enjoyed an incredibly successful career.

Elton John 2009

It all started in early 1971 with Your Song, a Top 10 hit in both the US and the UK. Soon Rocket Man, then Crocodile Rock, then Daniel confirmed the new status of John as a big pop star. This was only the beginning of a success story that was going to last for 30 years.

John wasn’t always an evergreen seller though. He had various flop albums, he struggled an awful lot to break several markets, and his studio albums are mostly ignored today. He may not have been one of the very top sellers throughout his career, but his ability to rebound again and again has been amazing concluding on impressive totals today.

ChartMasters’ method: the CSPC

As usual, I’ll be using the Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept (CSPC) in order to relevantly gauge the act’s results. It will not only bring you sales information for all albums, physical and download singles, as well as audio and video streaming. In fact, it will really determine the act’s popularity.

If you are not yet familiar with the CSPC method, below is a nice and short video of explaining the concept. I recommend watching it before reading on and to the sales figures. You’ll get the idea in just two minutes.

And if you want to know the full method as well as formulas, you can read the full introduction article.

Now let’s get into the artist’s detailed sales figures!

Elton John’s original albums sales

Empty Sky (1969)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john empty sky"
  • America
    • US – 500,000
    • Canada – 35,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – N/A
    • Japan – N/A
  • Oceania
    • Australia – N/A
    • New Zealand – N/A
  • Europe – N/A
    • UK – N/A
    • France – N/A
    • Germany – N/A
    • Italy – N/A
    • Spain – N/A
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – 20,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 710,000

Elton John (1970)

  • America
    • US – 1,650,000
    • Canada – 175,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 155,000
    • Japan – 100,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 75,000
    • New Zealand – 15,000
  • Europe – 510,000
    • UK – 175,000
    • France – N/A
    • Germany – N/A
    • Italy – 30,000
    • Spain – N/A
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – 60,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 2,650,000

Tumbleweed Connection (1970)

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  • America
    • US – 1,250,000
    • Canada – 115,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 115,000
    • Japan – 75,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 75,000
    • New Zealand – 15,000
  • Europe – 450,000
    • UK – 150,000
    • France – N/A
    • Germany – N/A
    • Italy – 40,000
    • Spain – 25,000
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – 45,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 2,090,000

Friends (1971)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john friends"
  • America
    • US – 250,000
    • Canada – 20,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 45,000
    • Japan – 30,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 20,000
    • New Zealand – 5,000
  • Europe – 90,000
    • UK – N/A
    • France – N/A
    • Germany – N/A
    • Italy – N/A
    • Spain – N/A
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – 25,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 440,000

Madman Across the Water (1971)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john madman across the water"
  • America
    • US – 2,400,000
    • Canada – 200,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 155,000
    • Japan – 100,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 60,000
    • New Zealand – 10,000
  • Europe – 380,000
    • UK – 150,000
    • France – N/A
    • Germany – N/A
    • Italy – 20,000
    • Spain – 25,000
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – 15,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 3,270,000

Honky Château (1972)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john honky chateau"
  • America
    • US – 2,150,000
    • Canada – 220,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 125,000
    • Japan – 75,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 75,000
    • New Zealand – 15,000
  • Europe – 600,000
    • UK – 230,000
    • France – 50,000
    • Germany – 50,000
    • Italy – 50,000
    • Spain – 50,000
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – 35,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 3,280,000

Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player (1973)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john don't shoot me i'm only the piano player"
  • America
    • US – 3,150,000
    • Canada – 325,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 245,000
    • Japan – 150,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 200,000
    • New Zealand – 30,000
  • Europe – 1,340,000
    • UK – 610,000
    • France – 75,000
    • Germany – 120,000
    • Italy – 100,000
    • Spain – 75,000
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – 75,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 5,460,000

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john goodbye yellow brick road"
  • America
    • US – 8,100,000
    • Canada – 650,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 375,000
    • Japan – 225,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 350,000
    • New Zealand – 60,000
  • Europe – 2,630,000
    • UK – 1,300,000
    • France – 200,000
    • Germany – 250,000
    • Italy – 150,000
    • Spain – 125,000
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – 50,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 12,510,000

Caribou (1974)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john caribou"
  • America
    • US – 2,400,000
    • Canada – 225,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 125,000
    • Japan – 75,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 200,000
    • New Zealand – 30,000
  • Europe – 680,000
    • UK – 325,000
    • France – 50,000
    • Germany – 60,000
    • Italy – 40,000
    • Spain – 50,000
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – 15,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 3,760,000

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john captain fantastic and the brown dirt cowboy"
  • America
    • US – 3,800,000
    • Canada – 475,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 140,000
    • Japan – 80,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 150,000
    • New Zealand – 25,000
  • Europe – 1,130,000
    • UK – 405,000
    • France – 180,000
    • Germany – 100,000
    • Italy – 60,000
    • Spain – 75,000
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – 35,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – 20,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 5,910,000

Rock of the Westies (1975)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john rock of the westies"
  • America
    • US – 1,250,000
    • Canada – 150,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 75,000
    • Japan – 45,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 90,000
    • New Zealand – 15,000
  • Europe – 610,000
    • UK – 185,000
    • France – 100,000
    • Germany – 60,000
    • Italy – 40,000
    • Spain – 35,000
    • Sweden – 30,000
    • Netherland – 25,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 2,290,000

Blue Moves (1976)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john blue moves"
  • America
    • US – 1,250,000
    • Canada – 150,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 70,000
    • Japan – 40,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 100,000
    • New Zealand – 15,000
  • Europe – 710,000
    • UK – 205,000
    • France – 125,000
    • Germany – 50,000
    • Italy – 50,000
    • Spain – 35,000
    • Sweden – 20,000
    • Netherland – 75,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 2,410,000

A Single Man (1978)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john a single man"
  • America
    • US – 650,000
    • Canada – 90,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 80,000
    • Japan – 40,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 100,000
    • New Zealand – 20,000
  • Europe – 1,270,000
    • UK – 350,000
    • France – 310,000
    • Germany – 150,000
    • Italy – 60,000
    • Spain – 45,000
    • Sweden – 15,000
    • Netherland – 60,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 2,410,000

Victim of Love (1979)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john victim of love"
  • America
    • US – 300,000
    • Canada – 50,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 25,000
    • Japan – N/A
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 35,000
    • New Zealand – 5,000
  • Europe – 180,000
    • UK – 35,000
    • France – 45,000
    • Germany – N/A
    • Italy – N/A
    • Spain – N/A
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – N/A
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 620,000

21 at 33 (1980)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john 21 at 33"
  • America
    • US – 600,000
    • Canada – 75,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 50,000
    • Japan – 30,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 70,000
    • New Zealand – 15,000
  • Europe – 510,000
    • UK – 80,000
    • France – 130,000
    • Germany – 90,000
    • Italy – 30,000
    • Spain – N/A
    • Sweden – 10,000
    • Netherland – 20,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 1,400,000

The Fox (1981)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john the fox"
  • America
    • US – 375,000
    • Canada – 30,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 30,000
    • Japan –  N/A
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 80,000
    • New Zealand – 10,000
  • Europe – 420,000
    • UK – 80,000
    • France – 100,000
    • Germany – 60,000
    • Italy – 20,000
    • Spain – N/A
    • Sweden – 15,000
    • Netherland – 20,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – 10,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 1,010,000

Jump Up! (1982)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john jump up"
  • America
    • US – 650,000
    • Canada – 65,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 40,000
    • Japan – N/A
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 70,000
    • New Zealand – 20,000
  • Europe – 420,000
    • UK – 80,000
    • France – 100,000
    • Germany – 60,000
    • Italy – 15,000
    • Spain – N/A
    • Sweden – 20,000
    • Netherland – 25,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 1,330,000

Too Low for Zero (1983)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john too low for zero"
  • America
    • US – 1,100,000
    • Canada – 125,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 105,000
    • Japan – 50,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 220,000
    • New Zealand – 40,000
  • Europe – 1,600,000
    • UK – 580,000
    • France – 150,000
    • Germany – 355,000
    • Italy – 25,000
    • Spain – 80,000
    • Sweden – 15,000
    • Netherland – 25,000
    • Switzerland – 70,000
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 3,350,000

Breaking Hearts (1984)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john breaking hearts"
  • America
    • US – 1,050,000
    • Canada – 120,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 80,000
    • Japan – 40,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 180,000
    • New Zealand – 25,000
  • Europe – 980,000
    • UK – 300,000
    • France – 75,000
    • Germany – 210,000
    • Italy – 20,000
    • Spain – 65,000
    • Sweden – 20,000
    • Netherland – 20,000
    • Switzerland – 75,000
    • Austria – 20,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 2,530,000

Ice on Fire (1985)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john ice on fire"
  • America
    • US – 600,000
    • Canada – 120,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 65,000
    • Japan – 25,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 80,000
    • New Zealand – 15,000
  • Europe – 1,390,000
    • UK – 330,000
    • France – 120,000
    • Germany – 310,000
    • Italy – 40,000
    • Spain – 70,000
    • Sweden – 50,000
    • Netherland – 60,000
    • Switzerland – 110,000
    • Austria – 25,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 2,390,000

Leather Jackets (1986)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john leather jacket"
  • America
    • US – 200,000
    • Canada – 50,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 20,000
    • Japan – 10,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 80,000
    • New Zealand – 10,000
  • Europe – 350,000
    • UK – 110,000
    • France – 40,000
    • Germany – 55,000
    • Italy – 30,000
    • Spain – 10,000
    • Sweden – 10,000
    • Netherland – 15,000
    • Switzerland – 15,000
    • Austria – 5,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 750,000

Reg Strikes Back (1988)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john reg strikes back"
  • America
    • US – 900,000
    • Canada – 200,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 40,000
    • Japan – 20,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 45,000
    • New Zealand – 5,000
  • Europe – 580,000
    • UK – 60,000
    • France – 130,000
    • Germany – 85,000
    • Italy – 100,000
    • Spain – 15,000
    • Sweden – 15,000
    • Netherland – 10,000
    • Switzerland – 25,000
    • Austria – 10,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 1,880,000

Sleeping with the Past (1989)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john sleeping with the past"
  • America
    • US – 1,600,000
    • Canada – 230,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – 150,000
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 110,000
    • Japan – 30,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 300,000
    • New Zealand – 35,000
  • Europe – 2,880,000
    • UK – 980,000
    • France – 510,000
    • Germany – 350,000
    • Italy – 150,000
    • Spain – 130,000
    • Sweden – 45,000
    • Netherland – 80,000
    • Switzerland – 110,000
    • Austria – 35,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 5,540,000

The One (1992)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john the one"
  • America
    • US – 2,400,000
    • Canada – 300,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – 100,000
  • Asia – 120,000
    • Japan – 50,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 165,000
    • New Zealand – 25,000
  • Europe – 2,260,000
    • UK – 240,000
    • France – 385,000
    • Germany – 390,000
    • Italy – 380,000
    • Spain – 140,000
    • Sweden – 40,000
    • Netherland – 30,000
    • Switzerland – 115,000
    • Austria – 55,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 5,680,000

Duets (1993)

  • America
    • US – 1,100,000
    • Canada – 150,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 150,000
    • Japan – 75,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 60,000
    • New Zealand – 10,000
  • Europe – 1,800,000
    • UK – 480,000
    • France – 235,000
    • Germany – 200,000
    • Italy – 200,000
    • Spain – 150,000
    • Sweden – 40,000
    • Netherland – 25,000
    • Switzerland – 75,000
    • Austria – 60,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 3,550,000

Made in England (1995)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john made in england"
  • America
    • US – 1,300,000
    • Canada – 200,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 295,000
    • Japan – 175,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 65,000
    • New Zealand – 10,000
  • Europe – 1,580,000
    • UK – 170,000
    • France – 225,000
    • Germany – 300,000
    • Italy – 160,000
    • Spain – 150,000
    • Sweden – 50,000
    • Netherland – 25,000
    • Switzerland – 85,000
    • Austria – 65,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 3,690,000

The Big Picture (1997)

  • America
    • US – 1,050,000
    • Canada – 125,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 130,000
    • Japan – 60,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 80,000
    • New Zealand – 15,000
  • Europe – 1,470,000
    • UK – 330,000
    • France – 130,000
    • Germany – 145,000
    • Italy – 300,000
    • Spain – 110,000
    • Sweden – 45,000
    • Netherland – 20,000
    • Switzerland – 65,000
    • Austria – 25,000
    • Finland – 21,000
  • World – 3,120,000
Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john the muse"

The Muse (1999)

  • America
    • US – 75,000
  • World – 100,000
Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john the road to el dorado"

The Road to El Dorado (2000)

  • America
    • US – 225,000
    • Canada – 25,000
  • World – 300,000

Songs from the West Coast (2001)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john songs from the west coast"
  • America
    • US – 650,000
    • Canada – 70,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 45,000
    • Japan – 20,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 45,000
    • New Zealand – 5,000
  • Europe – 1,020,000
    • UK – 600,000
    • France – 60,000
    • Germany – 70,000
    • Italy – 75,000
    • Spain – 20,000
    • Sweden – 30,000
    • Netherland – 10,000
    • Switzerland – 20,000
    • Austria – 10,000
    • Finland – 2,000
  • World – 1,940,000

Peachtree Road (2004)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john peachtree road"
  • America
    • US – 375,000
    • Canada – 40,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – 10,000
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 10,000
    • Japan – 5,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 10,000
    • New Zealand – 2,000
  • Europe – 350,000
    • UK – 225,000
    • France – 15,000
    • Germany – 35,000
    • Italy – 15,000
    • Spain – 3,000
    • Sweden – 3,000
    • Netherland – 2,000
    • Switzerland – 10,000
    • Austria – 5,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 820,000

The Captain & the Kid (2006)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john the captain and the kid"
  • America
    • US – 180,000
    • Canada – 15,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – 5,000
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 6,000
    • Japan – 3,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 10,000
    • New Zealand – 2,000
  • Europe – 160,000
    • UK – 70,000
    • France – 10,000
    • Germany – 25,000
    • Italy – 10,000
    • Spain – 2,000
    • Sweden – 3,000
    • Netherland – 4,000
    • Switzerland – 7,000
    • Austria – 3,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 390,000

The Union (2010)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john the union"
  • America
    • US – 325,000
    • Canada – 25,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – 5,000
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 10,000
    • Japan – 5,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 5,000
    • New Zealand – 1,000
  • Europe – 120,000
    • UK – 55,000
    • France – 10,000
    • Germany – 20,000
    • Italy – 5,000
    • Spain – 2,000
    • Sweden – 2,000
    • Netherland – 2,000
    • Switzerland – 2,000
    • Austria – 2,000
    • Finland – 1,000
  • World – 500,000

The Diving Board (2013)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "elton john the diving board"
  • America
    • US – 150,000
    • Canada – 15,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – 5,000
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 5,000
    • Japan – 2,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – N/A
    • New Zealand – N/A
  • Europe – 130,000
    • UK – 70,000
    • France – 10,000
    • Germany – 15,000
    • Italy – 5,000
    • Spain – 3,000
    • Sweden – 1,000
    • Netherland – 2,000
    • Switzerland – 4,000
    • Austria – 2,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 310,000

Wonderful Crazy Night (2016)

  • America
    • US – 115,000
    • Canada – 10,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – 5,000
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 5
    • Japan – 2,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 5,000
    • New Zealand – 1,000
  • Europe – 90,000
    • UK – 40,000
    • France – 5,000
    • Germany – 15,000
    • Italy – 3,000
    • Spain – 2,000
    • Sweden – 1,000
    • Netherland – 1,000
    • Switzerland – 4,000
    • Austria – 2,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 240,000

Original Album Sales – Comments

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.

Elton John

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

Elton John’s physical singles sales

As a reminder, the weighting is done with a 10 to 3 ratio between one album and one physical single.

1969-71

From the first 5 albums we might be surprised to notice that Your Song was the only proper hit managed by John, moving past a million units. He was still not a confirmed singer by then though, and the quick succession of records wasn’t helping either. This situation was soon going to change…

Empty Sky (1969) – 68,000 equivalent albums

Lady Samantha – 25,000
It’s Me That You Need – 200,000

Elton John (1970) – 375,000 equivalent albums

Your Song – 1,020,000
Border Song – 110,000
Rock and Roll Madonna – 50,000
Your Song – 70,000

Tumbleweed Connection (1970) – 9,000 equivalent albums

Country Comfort – 10,000
Love Song – 20,000

Friends (1971) – 93,000 equivalent albums

Friends – 310,000

Madman Across the Water (1971) – 159,000 equivalent albums

Tiny Dancer – 170,000
Levon – 360,000

1972-75

Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time). Yes, it’s going to be a long, long time of success for the new Rocket Man. This song cemented the status of the British star. The song reached #2 in the UK and #6 in the US en route to selling 1,38 million units Worldwide. Honky Cat retained the attention of the public by hitting the US Top 10.

In 1973 back to back releases of Crocodile Rock and Daniel were even stronger. The former became his first US #1 smash while the second came close at #2. Both songs were UK Top 5 hits too. They moved a combined 4,44 million units.

From that point there was no stopping the new pop icon. Singles from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road did wonders, selling more than 4,7 million units in their first form plus nearly 1 million for the live reissue of Candle In The Wind in 1987.

Singles from both Caribou and Captain Fantastic moved more than 4 million units each. The hit-making machine could do no wrong during these years.

Honky Château (1972) – 624,000 equivalent albums

Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time) – 1,380,000
Honky Cat – 700,000

Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player (1973) – 1,338,000 equivalent albums

Crocodile Rock – 2,970,000
Daniel -1,490,000

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) – 1,713,000 equivalent albums

Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting – 640,000
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – 2,230,000
Bennie and the Jets – 1,600,000
Candle in the Wind (original) – 260,000
Candle in the Wind (1987, Live) – 980,000

Caribou (1974) – 1,314,000 equivalent albums

The Bitch Is Back – 830,000
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me – 1,060,000
Pinball Wizard – 160,000
Step into Christmas – 90,000
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me (with George Michael) – 2,240,000

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975) – 1,323,000 equivalent albums

Someone Saved My Life Tonight – 980,000
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – 1,400,000
Philadelphia Freedom – 2,030,000

1975-79

With Island GirlSorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word and Song for Guy, John continued to register big hits from every album, although from that point on his success wasn’t as consistent as previously in the US. Nothing could be saved from the era of Victim of Love though.

Rock of the Westies (1975) – 675,000 equivalent albums

Island Girl – 1,820,000
Grow Some Funk of Your Own – 430,000

Blue Moves (1976) – 780,000 equivalent albums

Crazy Water – 80,000
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word – 1,390,000
Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance!) – 310,000
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word (with Blue) – 820,000

A Single Man (1978) – 582,000 equivalent albums

Return to Paradise – 50,000
Part-Time Love – 690,000
Song for Guy – 880,000
Ego – 320,000

Victim of Love (1979) – 102,000 equivalent albums

Johnny B. Goode – 50,000
Victim of Love – 290,000

1980-82

John‘s difficult years continued in the early 80s. Most singles flopped with the exception of Little Jeannie, a US #3 hit. Blue Eyes wasn’t a smash but it did nicely in many countries including in France, Italy and Australia, enough to amass a million sales in the world.

21 at 33 (1980) – 474,000 equivalent albums

Little Jeannie – 1,280,000
Sartorial Eloquence – 290,000
Dear God – 10,000

The Fox (1981) – 242,000 equivalent albums

Just Like Belgium – 25,000
Nobody Wins – 500,000
Chloe – 280,000

Jump Up! (1982) – 470,000 equivalent albums

Ball and Chain – 10,000
Blue Eyes – 1,020,000
Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) – 530,000
Princess – 5,000

1983-86

After low-par records John returned to form with the era Too Low For ZeroI Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues and I’m Still Standing were both solid hits with 3 million units combined.

With singles now selling frequently more copies in Europe than in the US, the string of success continued with Sad Songs (Say So Much). and then the smash hit Nikita, his first multi-million seller in nearly a decade!

Suddenly, everything went wrong with the release of Leather Jackets which John himself considers his worst album. Both of its singles bombed.

Too Low for Zero (1983) – 1,074,000 equivalent albums

I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues – 1,250,000
I’m Still Standing – 1,750,000
Kiss the Bride – 490,000
Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year) – 50,000
Too Low for Zero – 10,000
Crystal – 30,000

Breaking Hearts (1984) – 702,000 equivalent albums

Who Wears These Shoes? – 420,000
Breaking Hearts (Ain’t What It Used to Be) – 10,000
Passengers – 330,000
In Neon – 230,000
Sad Songs (Say So Much) – 1,350,000

Ice on Fire (1985) – 927,000 equivalent albums

Cry to Heaven – 40,000
Nikita – 2,460,000
Wrap Her Up – 500,000
Act of War – 90,000

Leather Jackets (1986) – 81,000 equivalent albums

Slow Rivers – 50,000
Heartache All Over the World – 220,000

1988-93

Some 20 years into his career the singer was still able to register million selling hits. I Don’t Wanna Go On with You Like That did just that, likewise SacrificeThe One came close while True Love sold over half a million units. While nothing ground-breaking, these figures are fairly good for an act that is now regarded as a mature Adult Contemporary singer.

Reg Strikes Back (1988) – 530,000 equivalent albums

Town of Plenty – 10,000
A Word in Spanish – 420,000
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, Part Two – 25,000
I Don’t Wanna Go On with You Like That – 1,310,000

Sleeping with the Past (1989) – 870,000 equivalent albums

Healing Hands – 550,000
Club at the End of the Street – 460,000
Sacrifice – 1,770,000
Whispers – 120,000
Blue Avenue – 1,000

The One (1992) – 450,000 equivalent albums

Simple Life – 240,000
The One – 840,000
Runaway Train – 90,000
The Last Song – 330,000

Duets (1993) – 240,000 equivalent albums

True Love – 540,000
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – 230,000
Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing – 30,000

1995-2004

Although Candle In The Wind 1997 sold record amounts thanks to its charity nature, John‘s sales with songs from 1995 to 2004 slowed down severely. The collapse of the market, and the always more mature target audience of the pop star, led his singles to struggle to sell even 10,000 units by the mid-00s.

Made in England (1995) – 345,000 equivalent albums

Believe – 590,000
Made in England – 210,000
Please – 10,000
Blessed – 340,000

The Big Picture (1997) – 102,000 equivalent albums

Live Like Horses – 140,000
If the River Can Bend – 20,000
Something About the Way You Look Tonight – 20,000
Recover Your Soul – 160,000

The Muse (1999) – 0 equivalent albums

No single released

The Road to El Dorado (2000) – 36,000 equivalent albums

Someday Out of the Blue (Theme from El Dorado) – 110,000
Friends Never Say Goodbye – 10,000

Songs from the West Coast (2001) – 42,000 equivalent albums

Original Sin – 10,000
I Want Love – 120,000
This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore – 10,000

Peachtree Road (2004) – 15,000 equivalent albums

Turn the Lights Out When You Leave – 10,000
All That I’m Allowed – 20,000
Electricity – 20,000

2006-16

From 2006 physical singles were rare and sales granted by John were exclusively units sold for collection purposes.

The Captain & the Kid (2006) – 2,000 equivalent albums

The Bridge – 5,000

The Union (2010) – 2,000 equivalent albums

If It Wasn’t for Bad – 5,000

The Diving Board (2013) – 2,000 equivalent albums

All Singles – 5,000

Wonderful Crazy Night (2016) – 2,000 equivalent albums

All Singles – 5,000

Orphan songs

Although John issued plenty of albums he still issued various stand-alone singles. The Motown tribute Don’t Go Breaking My Heart was a terrific smash with more than 4 million sales. Mama Can’t Buy You Love sold close to 900,000 while at 380,000 comes Donner Pour Donner, a duet with the late France Gall aimed to confirm his breaking of the French market at last, a strategy which succeeded.

His contribution to Dionne Warwick‘s That’s What Friends Are For, as well as his theme song for the Lion King, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, are both well over one million. In various markets 2Pac‘s posthumous song Ghetto Gospel did wonders. In total, those songs bring his career tally to an outstanding 65,34 million physical singles sales. Of course, this doesn’t include the 1997 version of Candle in the Wind

Orphan – 3,842,000 equivalent albums

I’ve Been Loving You – 25,000
From Denver To L.A. – 50,000
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – 4,190,000
Are You Ready For Love – 30,000 (1979) + 220,000 (2003)
Mama Can’t Buy You Love – 890,000
Donner Pour Donner – 380,000
J’veux d’la Tendresse – 160,000
I Saw Her Standing There – 30,000
That’s What Friends Are For – 1,740,000
Flames of Paradise – 450,000
Through the Storm – 370,000
You Gotta Love Someone – 410,000
Easier to Walk Away – 140,000
Can You Feel the Love Tonight – 1,500,000
Circle of Life – 730,000
You Can Make History – 160,000
Written in the Stars – 430,000
A Step Too Far – 10,000
Ghetto Gospel – 590,000
Remaining Singles – 300,000

About Candle in the Wind

I know what you are thinking: how can I ignore the best selling single of all-time?

On September 6 1997, the world was watching on TV the funeral of the beloved Lady Diana who had passed away one week earlier. The song Candle In The Wind, originally written for Marilyn Monroe, was adjusted to fit to the late Princess of Wales and performed by John at the event.

While the TV coverage was insane, only topped by the emotion due to Lady Diana‘s passing, this was still one mere TV performance of a 25-year old song. How has it generated a single that sold way beyond 30 million units according to the press?

Did people buy a physical single… or donated to a charity?

In order to understand the phenomenon, we need to get back to 1997’s context. The internet was barely starting to be used by non-professional people. Most organizations didn’t have official internet websites. If most developed countries had already instituted tax deductible laws for charities donations, there was no easy-to-go process. Thus, TV-powered campaigns to support a charity product available in regular shops were incredibly efficient to fill this need. In the US, We Are The World by USA For Africa sold immense numbers that way. In the UK, Band Aid achieved similar showings, while in France it was the song Ethiopie. The more poignant was the reason to highlight the donation, the better were the results.

Back in 1997, there was no physical single market anymore in various countries like Canada. There had been 2,9 million singles sold in 1997 in this country. Among these units, nearly 2 million were sold by Candle In The Wind. Extraordinary? For charity purpose, definitely.

In terms of the music industry though, this is nonsense. Nonsense because such numbers can’t represent the success of a music record at all. They are so vastly out of touch with the market that it is clear that people haven’t bought a music single, instead they gave money for Diana’s Foundations. In other words, sales of this single do not represent John‘s popularity, nor the popularity of its song – which has very average downloads and streams nowadays, further confirming the lack of meaning of these physical sales – but instead donations to charity.

While in terms of records sales it makes sense to consider this single into John’s tally, in terms of CSPC units, they represent an outlier, a value which distorts the accurate perception presented by a comprehensive set of data. I must point out that all figures are gross-like figures with ratios mostly reflecting the price of all formats. The general public hasn’t invested their money for John while buying this record, although the singer cleverly gave away the money from the B-Side, Candle in the Wind, but not from the A-Side, so it becomes logical to exclude its sales.

How to account for the way Candle In The Wind contributes to Elton John’s success?

Can we completely ignore that Candle In The Wind‘s status was increased by this exposure? Obviously, we can’t, but ignoring sales of the 2-track CD doesn’t ignore it.

1974’s Greatest Hits, 1987’s Live in Australia, 1990’s The Very Best Of, 1995’s Love Songs and the original 1972 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road were all fueled by this event. So was The Big Picture, an album issued two weeks after the funeral and which included the A-side of the single, Something About the Way You Look Tonight. It is difficult to know precisely how many units were achieved thanks to this performance, but the number is for sure over 5 million albums. These units are representative of people that went after John‘s music, unlike the sales of the single.

In all fairness I should also point out that John already benefits from charity boosts. Both That’s What Friends Are For led by Dionne Warwick and Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me with George Michael were sold with the charity tag, and secured nearly 4 million units combined. Clearly, AIDS related campaigns weren’t as efficient as the brutal death of Lady Diana in order to create a wave of emotion among the general public, so those singles are much closer to standard releases which is why they are still considered.

How many units did Candle In The Wind sell?

Oh, I almost forgot: how many units has the single Candle In The Wind 1997 sold? It’s still interesting to answer this question.

The truth is that we can’t really know. It is impossible because of a combination of factors never seen before. The first factor is an insane amount of units shipped in no time, coupled with the sale of the disc in plenty of retailers which weren’t selling music items at all during regular times, thus outside panels of companies were tracking sales for chart purposes.

We end up with the case of a single certified for at least 11 million units in the US after only 18 days, but with Soundscan sales on 8,84 million units. We can’t tell how many of those 2,16+ million units are due to extra shipments that were returned and how many come from sales in stores outside of the Soundscan panel. The song is over 8,9 million for sure, but it’s also under 12 million for sure too, but anyone telling you precisely where it stands between those two numbers will be lying unless they worked for the Rocket label and got their hands on its bills at the time.

The situation is the same in the UK with the single quickly going 9xPlatinum, representing shipments somewhere between 5,4 million and 6 million units, but with DUS scanned sales at 4,87 million. In Canada, Billboard reported 2 million units shipped while its Soundscan tally is stopped at 1,3 million. The best we can do with available information and using median figures among possible spans is the following list of estimations:

  • North America – 12,150,000
    • US – 10,200,000
    • Canada – 1,950,000
  • Latin America – 400,000
    • Brazil – 250,000
  • Asia – 875,000
    • Japan – 675,000
  • Oceania – 1,205,000
    • Australia – 980,000
    • New Zealand – 225,000
  • Europe – 14,950,000
    • UK – 5,285,000
    • France – 2,050,000
    • Germany – 4,500,000
    • Italy – 550,000
    • Spain – 200,000
    • Sweden – 210,000
    • Netherland – 450,000
    • Switzerland – 450,000
    • Austria – 300,000
    • Finland – 55,000
    • Belgium – 350,000
    • Norway – 160,000
    • Poland – 100,000
  • World – 29,730,000

The most widely repeated figure is 33 million units sold. It is quite likely that 33 million units were indeed shipped globally during the first month of sales. Some of them though were necessarily returned at some point as it was impossible for Rocket to guess exactly how many units were going to be sold.

Is Candle In The Wind the best-selling single of all time?

It raises a question often mentioned: is it the best selling single of all-time? or is Bing Crosby‘s White Christmas? This latter song has been claimed to be at over 100 million units by the Guinness Book of Records. I can give you the answer – the top seller is John‘s single. In fact, before the Rock era, the way of counting sales was completely different. EPs were counted as 2, albums as 6, but also singles sales weren’t at all the same subject as post-60s. By then, there was no singer-songwriter, and every new popular composition was immediately covered by dozens of famous singers. Countings of White Christmas were all-inclusive, meaning with all covers from all singers, every album and compilation which included all these versions plus sheet music units as well. When we speak about the best selling physical single by one artist, Crosby‘s White Christmas is nowhere near 30 million, let alone 100 million. Although It is a contender for the crown of best selling single in the US, worldwide Candle in the Wind 1997 has a clear lead.

Indeed 30 million units sold is too mind-blowing to be topped, so mind-blowing that it turns out to be irrelevant at the same time since it doesn’t mean much inside the music industry spectrum.

Elton John’s digital singles sales

As a reminder, the weighting is done with a 10 to 1,5 ratio between one album and one digital single.

1969-73

Instant smashes aren’t always the ones which remain the most popular tunes. Crocodile Rock or Daniel were far bigger than Tiny Dancer at first, but time did its work and now the situation is completely reversed. The latter song sold a stunning 4,2 million units in digital sales.

It isn’t the only iconic song of the singer’s catalog. Your Song is up to 2,7 million downloads and ringtones, while Rocket Man is close behind at 2,6 million.

Empty Sky (1969) – 9,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 60,000

Elton John (1970) – 444,000 equivalent albums

Your Song – 2,710,000
Remaining tracks – 250,000

Tumbleweed Connection (1970) – 15,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 100,000

Friends (1971) – 0 equivalent albums

All tracks – 0

Madman Across the Water (1971) – 702,000 equivalent albums

Tiny Dancer – 4,180,000
Remaining tracks – 500,000

Honky Château (1972) – 426,000 equivalent albums

Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time) – 2,590,000
Remaining tracks – 250,000

Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player (1973) – 152,000 equivalent albums

Daniel – 580,000
Crocodile Rock – 430,000
Remaining tracks – 0

1973-79

Bennie and the Jets is the biggest digital track among the songs which first came out from 1973 to 1979. It sold over 2 million units. Various songs are in the 700,000-1,100,000 range including Candle in the Wind, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Step Into Christmas and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) – 695,000 equivalent albums

Candle in the Wind – 900,000
Bennie and the Jets – 2,080,000
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – 1,120,000
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting – 280,000
Remaining tracks – 250,000

Caribou (1974) – 263,000 equivalent albums

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me – 800,000
Step into Christmas – 800,000
Remaining tracks – 150,000

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975) – 48,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 320,000

Rock of the Westies (1975) – 113,000 equivalent albums

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – 700,000
Remaining tracks – 50,000

Blue Moves (1976) – 47,000 equivalent albums

Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word – 310,000
Remaining tracks – 0

A Single Man (1978) – 11,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 75,000

Victim of Love (1979) – 1,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 5,000

1980-86

Among 1980-1986 songs, I’m Still Standing is easily the most remembered one with more than 1 million digital sales. The runner up is another song from the same album, I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.

21 at 33 (1980) – 6,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 40,000

The Fox (1981) – 1,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 5,000

Jump Up! (1982) – 18,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 120,000

Too Low for Zero (1983) – 266,000 equivalent albums

I’m Still Standing – 1,120,000
I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues – 620,000
Remaining tracks – 30,000

Breaking Hearts (1984) – 8,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 50,000

Ice on Fire (1985) – 39,000 equivalent albums

Nikita – 240,000
Remaining tracks – 20,000

Leather Jackets (1986) – 0 equivalent albums

All tracks – 0

1988-99

Since most hits by John during the 90s were outside projects, it isn’t surprising to see virtually no hit except for Sacrifice in this list.

Reg Strikes Back (1988) – 5,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 30,000

Sleeping with the Past (1989) – 96,000 equivalent albums

Sacrifice – 590,000
Remaining tracks – 50,000

The One (1992) – 15,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 100,000

Duets (1993) – 4,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 25,000

Made in England (1995) – 12,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 80,000

The Big Picture (1997) – 41,000 equivalent albums

Something About the Way You Look Tonight – 240,000
Remaining tracks – 30,000

The Muse (1999) – 0 equivalent albums

All tracks – 0

2000-16

Nothing to highlight here. New songs also completely failed to do well on digital formats.

The Road to El Dorado (2000) – 0 equivalent albums

All tracks – 0

Songs from the West Coast (2001) – 26,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 170,000

Peachtree Road (2004) – 8,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 50,000

The Captain & the Kid (2006) – 8,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 50,000

The Union (2010) – 12,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 80,000

The Diving Board (2013) – 4,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 25,000

Wonderful Crazy Night (2016) – 2,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 10,000

Orphan songs

A last set of songs with every Orphan track. Can You Feel the Love Tonight easily leads the pack with nearly 1 million digital sales.

Orphan – 441,000 equivalent albums

Are You Ready For Love – 180,000
That’s What Friends Are For – 250,000
Can You Feel the Love Tonight – 930,000
Circle of Life – 370,000
Ghetto Gospel – 460,000
Remaining Singles – 750,000

Elton John’s streaming sales

Streaming is made up of two families – audio and video. Our CSPC methodology now includes both to better reflect the real popularity of each track. The main source of data for each avenue is respectively Spotify and YouTube. As detailed in the Fixing Log article, Spotify represents 132 million of the 212 million users of streaming platforms, while YouTube is pretty much the only video platform generating some revenue for the industry. Below is the equivalence set on the aforementioned article:

Audio Stream – 1500 plays equal 1 album unit
Video Stream – 11,750 views equal 1 album unit

Equivalent Albums Sales (EAS) = 212/132 * Spotify streams / 1500 + YouTube views / 11750

Streaming Part 1

The striking element in John‘s streams is the lack of consistency among the tracks. He is able to get stunning results with some songs such as Your Song which adds for 300 million streams between Spotify and YouTube. At the same time most of his album tracks fail to reach even 1 million streams on Spotify. This creates very irregular totals album by album with the eponymous LP on 175,000 equivalent album sales while the remaining two combine for only 16,000 units!

Streaming Part 2

The Soundtrack Friends is long forgotten as shown with such dreadful numbers. The following albums have similar showings with one song well over 100 million streams on Spotify, Tiny Dancer and Rocket Man, a pair of multi-million streamed songs, and then album tracks which all fail to reach 1 million. These results are worth over 300,000 equivalent album sales combined for Madman Across the Water and Honky Château.

Streaming Part 3

Considering how strong several of these songs were, it is somewhat surprising to see only Bennie and the Jets topping 40 million on Spotify. Even Candle in the Wind fails to reach this mark, which shows well that the song isn’t as popular as suggested by its 1997 sales. We must note that various album tracks from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road are on 1 to 2 million Spotify streams, nothing impressive for a classic rock album, but definitely enough to explain why it remained the highest selling catalog studio album of the singer. It tops 200,000 equivalent album sales from streams.

Streaming Part 4

Caribou is well supported by two decent hits, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me and Step Into Christmas, generating more than 100,000 equivalent album sales overall.

The story isn’t so good for Captain Fantastic which sees all its former monster sellers in physical format do very poorly on streaming platforms. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Philadelphia Freedom and Someone Saved My Life Tonight were all fairly weak sellers upon release in various markets, which may explain partially why their streaming results are so low since the US isn’t as dominant anymore in that format.

Rock of the Westies enjoys the addition of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart to its track list which occurred with the reissue of the album in 1995.

Streaming Part 5

Chaotic. Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word feels lonely in this list of irrelevant songs. Streams of Victim of Love are especially dramatic with some tracks remaining below 20,000 plays on Spotify.

Streaming Part 6

21 at 33, The Fox and Jump Up! are all under 10,000 equivalent album sales from streams given none of them has a song reaching 5 million.

Too Low for Zero‘s hits do much better with its two biggest songs combining for more than 71,000 equivalent album sales, even if its album tracks are still truly weak.

Streaming Part 7

This time the lonely track is Nikita with a decent 15 million streams on Spotify and 30 million on YouTube. The remaining numbers show that the general public isn’t interested in John‘s studio albums, even some like Breaking Hearts or Reg Strikes Back which were decent sellers upon release.

Streaming Part 8

The flow of hits lost in the middle of various forgotten album tracks continues. In some countries Sleeping with the Past had as many as 5 singles, still nowadays Sacrifice is responsible for 95% of the album’s 49,000 equivalent album sales in this format.

Streaming Part 9

Something About the Way You Look Tonight has okay streams thanks to the exposure it received in 1997, amassing 8 million streams on Spotify to date. Flop soundtracks The Muse and The Road to El Dorado have been basically deleted from the available catalog.

Streaming Part 10

More of the same with mostly awful results. Those 3 albums combined add for barely 20,000 equivalent album sales in spite of being fairly recent records.

Streaming Part 11

Incredibly enough, even albums from 2013 and 2016, after the boom of streaming, have no track which reaches even 3 million plays on Spotify or YouTube.

Streaming Part 12

Some 92 Orphan tracks with mixed fortunes. Most of them are unknown tracks, but there are a few sizable hits in there. The two main ones are Can You Feel the Love Tonight at 69 million streams on Spotify and Ghetto Gospel at 82 million.

Elton John’s full length related record sales

It sounds fairly logical to add together weighted sales of one era – studio album, physical singles, downloads, streams – to get the full picture of an album’s popularity. For older releases though, they also generate sales of various live, music videos and compilation albums.

All those packaging-only records do not create value, they exploit the value originating from the parent studio album of each of its tracks instead. Inevitably, when such compilations are issued, this downgrades catalog sales of the original LP. Thus, to perfectly gauge the worth of these releases, we need to re-assign sales proportionally to its contribution of all the compilations which feature its songs. The following table explains this method.

Part 1 – Global compilations #1

How to understand this table? If you check for example the Greatest Hits line, those figures mean it sold 22,410,000 units worldwide. The second statistics column means all versions of all the songs included on this package add for 602,000 equivalent album sales from streams of all types.

The second part on the right of the table shows how many equivalent streams are coming from each original album, plus the share it represents on the overall package. Thus, streaming figures tell us songs from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album are responsible for  30% of the Greatest Hits track list attractiveness. This means it generated 6,686,000 of its 22,410,000 album sales and so forth for the other records.

This first list of compilations includes the 3 successive Greatest Hits albums, each of which covered different songs. We can point out that songs from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road were the main strength of Greatest Hits but they also had a great impact on Greatest Hits II. An interesting observation is also that Greatest Hits III was almost exclusively powered by songs from Too Low For Zero.

Love Songs is the first career-spanning global compilation of the artist, although it focused on love songs only as suggested by its title. The album Elton John is its main provider since this package includes Your Song but not the likes of Tiny Dancer and Rocket Man.

Full Length related record Sales – Part 2 – Global compilations #2

Greatest Hits 1970-2002 was the first comprehensive and global compilation of John‘s career. Unsurprisingly, it became a solid catalog seller and isn’t closer to 10 million only because it was replaced a few years later by Rocket Man. These packages, as well as Diamonds, are similar which is visible with the same patterns of distribution of sales. Albums Elton John, Honky Château and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road are the main providers of appeal of all those compilations. We can see how prolific John‘s career has been since even his biggest albums provide way less than 20% of his best of albums’ attractiveness.

Full Length related record Sales – Part 3 – Local compilations #1

Over the years many compilations were released locally. In Japan, like the first two on this list, in Spain like the 3rd one, in Germany, in the US, and in Australia etc… while not top sellers due to their limited releases, these sets amount for a good total of copies sold once merged together. The main providers of sales are the usual suspects, Elton John, Honky Château and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but also Madman Across the Water and Rock of the Westies.

Full Length related record Sales – Part 4 – Local compilations #2

Most local releases are low sellers, but some may perform incredibly well. The Very Best Of Elton John from 1990 was never released in North America but its sales in Europe have been stunning with 5,8 million units sold in the UK, Germany and France alone and well past 9 million across the entire continent.

Interestingly, while early 70s albums weren’t all smashes in Europe, The Very Best Of did so well with 79% of its attractiveness coming from 1970-1975 albums. It perfectly used the popularity of Sacrifice, and later Can You Feel Your Love Tonight and Candle in the Wind, to sell the valuable catalog of the singer in CD format to people who had only collected one or two singles in the past.

Full Length related record Sales – Part 5 – Live Albums

John isn’t known to own a big selling live album. He did release 4 great sellers which add for more than 7 million units combined however. Live albums reflect the track list of a show and thus tend to focus on truly big hits plus a few recent songs. This excludes mid-sized hits from the map, which explains why some albums are responsible for relevant parts of some sets.

Full Length related record Sales – Part 6 – Boxes, EPs, Remixes

Sales of box sets are assigned to all the albums which are included into it. Once again, John didn’t issue a monster selling box set, but large sets still add decent numbers here and there.

Full Length related record Sales – Part 7 – Music Videos #1

The distribution of sales of music videos is roughly the same one as the compilation or the live album to which it was related. This first batch of videos sold a million units combined.

Full Length related record Sales – Part 8 – Music Videos #2

More than 1 million sales again with additional music videos, including his biggest success in this format with One Night Only.

Full Length related record Sales – Part 9 – Music Videos #3

More of the same with a third batch of music videos which also generated more than 1 million sales.

Full Length related records Sales – Summary

Here is the most underestimated indicator of an album’s success – the amount of compilation sales of all kinds it generated. Due to the dependency of sales of the original studio albums on these releases, they are a key piece of the jigsaw.

We can see that both Elton John and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road fueled more than 16 million sales of compilations each in spite of the former selling five times less than the latter in its original form. A powerful release is also Honky Château at 11,5 million. Next come Don’t Shoot Me, Caribou, Rock of the Westies and Too Low For Zero, all responsible for about 5 million sales of long formats outside of their original format. The lack of catalog sales on their own by these records becomes easier to understand.

Elsewhere albums such as Victim of Love or Leather Jackets have been erased from his discography.

BONUS: Compilation Albums Sales

Greatest Hits (1974)

  • America
    • US – 17,025,000
    • Canada – 1,750,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 415,000
    • Japan – 250,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 400,000
    • New Zealand – 100,000
  • Europe – 2,350,000
    • UK – 1,000,000
    • France – 200,000
    • Germany – 250,000
    • Italy – 100,000
    • Spain – 150,000
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – 100,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 22,410,000

Greatest Hits Volume II (1977)

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  • America
    • US – 5,200,000
    • Canada – 550,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 30,000
    • Japan – N/A
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 120,000
    • New Zealand – 30,000
  • Europe – 770,000
    • UK – 325,000
    • France – N/A
    • Germany – N/A
    • Italy – N/A
    • Spain – N/A
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – N/A
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 6,810,000

The Very Best of (1990)

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  • America
    • US – 200,000
    • Canada – 30,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – 200,000
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 400,000
    • Japan – 150,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 550,000
    • New Zealand – 150,000
  • Europe – 9,270,000
    • UK – 2,875,000
    • France – 1,735,000
    • Germany – 1,200,000
    • Italy – 550,000
    • Spain – 450,000
    • Sweden – 175,000
    • Netherland – 225,000
    • Switzerland – 250,000
    • Austria – 170,000
    • Finland – 50,000
  • World – 11,770,000

Love Songs (1995)

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  • America
    • US – 3,250,000
    • Canada – 350,000
    • Argentina – 125,000
    • Brazil – 175,000
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 750,000
    • Japan – 450,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 240,000
    • New Zealand – 80,000
  • Europe – 5,210,000
    • UK – 1,325,000
    • France – 775,000
    • Germany – 750,000
    • Italy – 500,000
    • Spain – 210,000
    • Sweden – 200,000
    • Netherland – 200,000
    • Switzerland – 135,000
    • Austria – 100,000
    • Finland – 65,000
  • World – 10,540,000

Greatest Hits 1970-2002 (2002)

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  • America
    • US – 2,900,000
    • Canada – 300,000
    • Argentina – 25,000
    • Brazil – 70,000
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 210,000
    • Japan – 100,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 200,000
    • New Zealand – 50,000
  • Europe – 2,830,000
    • UK – 1,575,000
    • France – 180,000
    • Germany – 250,000
    • Italy – 180,000
    • Spain – 100,000
    • Sweden – 55,000
    • Netherland – 45,000
    • Switzerland – 55,000
    • Austria – 40,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 6,790,000

Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits (2007)

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  • America
    • US – 1,400,000
    • Canada – 200,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – 80,000
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 40,000
    • Japan – 20,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 245,000
    • New Zealand – 30,000
  • Europe – 850,000
    • UK – 520,000
    • France – 25,000
    • Germany – 75,000
    • Italy – 45,000
    • Spain – 10,000
    • Sweden – 35,000
    • Netherland – 10,000
    • Switzerland – 25,000
    • Austria – 10,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 2,990,000

BONUS: Total Album (all types) Sales per Country

  • America
    • US – 84,530,000
    • Canada – 9,315,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 5,720,000
    • Japan – 3,320,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 5,440,000
    • New Zealand – 1,055,000
  • Europe – 53,790,000
    • UK – 18,170,000
    • France – 6,970,000
    • Germany – 7,090,000
    • Italy – 3,800,000
    • Spain – 2,705,000
    • Sweden – 1,380,000
    • Netherland – 1,685,000
    • Switzerland – 1,730,000
    • Austria – 905,000
    • Finland – 405,000
  • World – 167,640,000

Please note that some of the countries totals may be slightly incomplete when the figure is N/A for minor releases. Countries with too much missing information to be precise enough are listed as N/A.

Elton John’s Career CSPC Results

So, after checking all the figures, how many overall equivalent album sales has each album by Elton John achieved? Well, at this point we hardly need to add up all of the figures defined in this article!

In the following results table, all categories display figures in equivalent album sales. If different, pure sales are listed between parentheses.

'Av.' stands for Average, 'LD' for Last Day.

As a reminder:

  • Studio Album: sales of the original album
  • Other Releases: sales of compilations generated thanks to the album
  • Physical Singles: sales of physical singles from the album (ratio 3/10)
  • Download Singles: sales of digital singles from the album (ratio 1,5/10)
  • Streaming: equivalent album sales of all the album tracks (ratio 1/1500 for Audio stream and 1/6750 for Video stream)

Artist career totals

See where the artist ranks among remaining singers


With no surprise Goodbye Yellow Brick Road comes out on top with an impressive 31,35 million units, a figure that puts it almost on a par with albums like the Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Michael Jackson‘s HIStory. The album has strong results in every possible format.

The runner up was less expected. Elton John finishes with over 20 million comprehensive album sales generated, an incredible showing for an album which sold only 2,65 million sales with the proper studio album. It joins the likes of Billy Joel‘s Piano Man and Bob Marley‘s Natty Dread among early albums which haven’t sold that much upon release, but paved the way to an immense career with one iconic song that started it all. Honky Château is a solid third at 16 million.

Caribou and Too Low For Zero are almost tied at 10,6 million, followed closely by Rock of the Westies, Sleeping with the Past and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, all inside a 2 million range. Closing the Top 10 are The One and Blue Moves, which edges out Madman Across the Water by only 1,000 copies at over 6,2 million.

Not all his albums have done so well, with as many as 17 releases on 2,5 million equivalent album sales or less. Does it really matter though? The point is that John accumulated countless successful albums and singles with a catalog matched by very few.

In total, Elton John shifted 196,1 million equivalent album sales across his immense career. If we can’t know if his Farewell tour will really be the last, what’s safe to say is that it will help the icon to shoot to over 200 million during the upcoming years.

The following sections list his most successful songs as well as his records and achievements.

As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!

Sources: IFPI, Spotify, YouTube, Chartmasters.org.

BIGGEST TRACKS – Elton John

The list of most successful songs is compiled in album equivalent sales generated by each of them. It includes the song’s own physical singles sales with a 0,3 weighting, its download and streaming sales, and with appropriate weighting too, plus its share among sales of all albums on which it is featured.

1. 1970 – Your Song [Elton John]18,940,000
2. 1972 – Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time) [Honky Château]14,970,000
3. 1973 – Bennie and the Jets [Goodbye Yellow Brick Road]13,020,000
4. 1975 – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart [Rock of the Westies]10,100,000
5. 1989 – Sacrifice [Sleeping with the Past]8,160,000
6. 1973 – Candle in the Wind [Goodbye Yellow Brick Road]7,800,000
7. 1974 – Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me [Caribou]7,430,000
8. 1972 – Crocodile Rock [Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player]6,860,000
9. 1973 – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road [Goodbye Yellow Brick Road]6,090,000
10. 1983 – I’m Still Standing [Too Low for Zero]6,060,000
11. 1976 – Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word [Blue Moves]5,930,000
12. 1971 – Tiny Dancer [Madman Across the Water]5,440,000
13. 1973 – Daniel [Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player]4,720,000
14. 1992 – The One [The One]4,700,000
15. 1985 – Nikita [Ice on Fire]4,610,000
16. 1983 – I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues [Too Low for Zero]4,180,000
17. 1995 – Can You Feel the Love Tonight [Orphan]3,470,000
18. 1975 – Philadelphia Freedom [Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy]3,280,000
19. 1973 – Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting [Goodbye Yellow Brick Road]2,810,000
20. 1984 – Sad Songs (Say So Much) [Breaking Hearts]2,670,000
21. 1975 – Someone Saved My Life Tonight [Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy]2,640,000
22. 1997 – Something About the Way You Look Tonight [The Big Picture]2,620,000
23. 1978 – Song for Guy [A Single Man]2,190,000
24. 1974 – Step into Christmas [Caribou]2,100,000
25. 1988 – I Don’t Wanna Go On with You Like That [Reg Strikes Back]1,920,000
26. 1982 – Blue Eyes [Jump Up!]1,760,000
27. 1980 – Little Jeannie [21 at 33]1,750,000
28. 1995 – Believe [Made in England]1,690,000
29. 1993 – True Love [Duets]1,180,000
30. 2001 – I Want Love [Songs from the West Coast]1,140,000

Records & Achievements

  • At an estimated 29,730,000 units sold, Something About the Way You Look Tonight / Candle in the Wind 1997 is the greatest selling physical single of all-time. It holds the record in various countries including the UK, Canada, Australia and Germany.
  • Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy was the first album ever to debut at #1 in the US on charts dated June 7, 1975. He reproduced the feat with Rock of the Westies on November 8, 1975.
  • From July 14, 1972 to November 8, 1975, Elton John accumulated 7 US #1 albums.
  • At 30 years, Elton John has the longest streak of calendar years with at least one Top 40 hit inside the US Hot 100, from 1970 to 1999.
  • At 17,025,000 units, Greatest Hits is the highest selling solo compilation ever in the US, although Bob Marley‘s Legend is poised to top it during the next few years.
  • 1990’s compilation The Very Best Of is the second highest selling album ever that wasn’t released in the US.
  • At 129,340,000 million equivalent album sales from his 70s records, Elton John is the most successful solo artist from this decade, forth overall.
  • At 31,350,000 equivalent album sales, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is the second most successful album from 1973.
  • At 20,020,000 equivalent album sales, Elton John is among the Top 5 most successful albums from 1970.
  • At 18,940,000 equivalent album sales, Your Song is the most successful song from 1970.

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