Elvis Presley’s EP sales

Jailhouse Rock

It’s hard to not forget about Elvis Presley’s EP sales. Not that they are weak, but this format disappeared so long ago that when talking about records sales we tend to think about singles and albums only. Introduced to the market in 1952 by his upcoming label, RCA, EPs were still struggling until the arrival of the legendary rocker.

In fact, it’s precisely Presley who fueled sales of this format. Created as a competition to the LP, itself a fairly young format by then, EPs had a hard time to find their place. The general public was going after singles for pricing reasons while rich people liked LPs since they were regarded as a luxury item during the 50s. When the singer exploded in 1956, teenagers wanted everything of him, but LPs were just too expensive to afford. That’s when RCA deconstructed his early LPs into multiple EPs, selling massive numbers with them.

The example of his second album Elvis is striking. This 12-songs LP sold half a million units stateside during its promotional life. While that’s already a stunning number for that time, it was also divided into a trio of 4-songs EPs, Elvis Vol 1, Elvis Vol 2 and Strictly Elvis (titled Elvis Vol 3 abroad). These EPs moved 1,75 million units combined in the US alone.

Geographically speaking, the format had a very different evolution in several countries. In the US, it was very short lived. While by 1956, Presley was the only one already able to sell well with them, from early 60s it was also collapsing. In various markets, the format never took off. In a few others though, led by France, EPs represented almost the entire ‘singles’ markets. They were also strong in Spain and Italy. Our focus artist was a fairly weak seller there by then yet.

The UK got into EPs when Americans were giving them up. In 1960, Cliff Richard and the Shadows got the first 150,000 units seller with Expresso Bong. Presley was the second to get there a couple of years later with Follow That Dream. It must be said that this EP along with the follow up Kid Galahad, were original soundtracks. The singer had too few songs to fill LPs with them, thus dropping new material through EPs which was quite unnatural at the time. It did wonders with both records topping the UK EP Chart of Record Retailer for 20 and 18 weeks, respectively.

It’s time to check his career EP sales, both in the US and abroad.

Sales per record

Presley issued 29 EPs from 1956 to 1967 in the US, 16 of which went at least Gold which represented 250,000 units in this format. Please notice that Loving You Vol.1 is only Gold while Loving You Vol.2 is Platinum as per the RIAA. Both Ernst Jorgensen’s internal figures and Billboard EP charts suggest this is an error, the correct awards must be reversed.

In total, these 16 EPs add for 7,5 million units certified. In the UK, he amassed 15 charting EPs from the introduction of that ranking in March 1960, 10 of which went Top 10. Results for each record is listed below. When there is two titles separated with /, the one at the left is the US naming while the one at the right is its UK partner.

Jailhouse Rock is easily the top seller. The monster single was quickly issued as an EP too, destroying the competition. This record led its format chart for a stunning 28 weeks, storming over a million in the process. It kept reentering the Top 10 during 18 months. That period was really the peak of Presley‘s hype. In December 1957, Jailhouse Rock was #1, Sings Christmas Songs #2 and 7 more EPs from him were going in and out the Top 10.

*remaining EPs refer to various records locally released that got no US version. There is 8 German titles, 22 French EPs, 5 Italian, 15 from Spain and about 20 more from remaining markets like New-Zealand. There is no trace of them in local charts so their individual numbers would be from 0 to 10,000 copies sold, with possibly a few exceptions. Averages linked to the market size, from 1,000 units sold for New-Zealand releases to 10,000 for German ones, have been assumed, concluding on 370,000 cumulative sales.

Sales per year & area

N/A includes all local releases plus years that saw no US release. We can easily see how that country jumped into Presley‘s EPs before anyone else while foreign sales took over through the years. By the 60s, he was already selling as many EPs abroad than in his native country.

The total falls close to 16 million units sold. That’s no surprise since every NME / Joseph Murrels publication assigned him with 15 million EPs sold during his career. With a 0,5 weighting on our CSPC formula, these sales are worth nearly 8 million EAS which may be key to define Presley‘s final ranking.

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