Record Sales

"It is estimated that Elvis Presley has sold over one billion record units worldwide, more than anyone in record industry history. In America alone, Elvis has had 150 different albums and singles that have been certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), with more certifications expected as research into his past record sales continues and as current sales go on. Research is also underway to document his record sales achievements in other countries. It is estimated that 40% of Elvis' total record sales have been outside the United States."

...Literally hundreds of Elvis Presley albums have been released, most after his death in 1977. This is a list of hit albums that made national charts and/or received Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sales certification. The number of hit albums an artist had is an important measure of the artist's success and popular impact, though it is by no means the only measure. Elvis Presley had a worldwide impact on popular music and culture, as shown by his success on album charts throughout the world. His international success is even more remarkable considering that except for three 1957 Canadian concerts, Elvis did not perform outside of the United States.

Another measure of an artist’s popular impact is sales. While Elvis is recognized by many in the recording industry as the best selling artist of all time, the RIAA, the US recording industry’s official certifiing agent for sales, stirred up controversy in November 2007 when it announced that country singer Garth Brooks had become the best selling solo artist in US history .

Elvis Presley Enterprises has disputed the RIAA’s claim, pointing out several ommissions in the RIAA’s figures. The RIAA bases its claim on album sales only, and does not include single sales in determining the highest selling solo artist, despite the fact that the RIAA also certifies single sales. While Elvis’ album sales are significant, as can be seen in the tables below, his single sales were also significant. During much of Elvis’ career in the 1950’s and 1960’s, single sales were considered the primary market for the industry, while albums were a secondary market. It was not until the late 1960s and early 1970s that albums became the primary market for the industry.

RIAA does not certify sales of less than 500,000 units for albums and singles. Elvis has had numerous albums and singles which have sold hundreds of thousands of units each but have not reached the 500,000 threshold. Taken together, these could add up to millions in total sales that are not recognized by the RIAA.

RIAA sales certifications are not automatic. The record company must pay a fee and request an audit from the RIAA in order to certify sales. During Elvis’ life, RCA submitted few of Elvis’ recordings for RIAA certification. Instead of paying for RIAA certification, RCA and other companies would simply award their own “Gold Record” to artists based on their internal sales figures. As a consequence, some of Elvis’ early sales information has been lost. RCA and BMG have researched archives and old files in an effort to reconstruct Elvis’ sales figures. This has led to Elvis receiving numerous RIAA certifications posthumously.



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