WELL BLESS-A MY SOUL! The folks at Sony/RCA are acting wild as a bug and may, in fact, be all shook up. Why? Because the RIAA just presented them with more Gold and Platinum Record Awards for Elvis and the two organizations are sending mixed signals on the Internet. Basically, one of them appears to be using incorrect dates.
But first, back to the awards: over the past year, Sony/RCA requested the RIAA to audit several Presley titles. On March 8, 2018, seventeen titles were certified for eighteen Gold and Platinum Record Awards.
While this increases Presley’s total for the most albums certified by the RIAA (see below), he remains in third place on their totem pole. But the RIAA has only audited a small portion of the Presley catalog: the sales of approximately three-fourths of his albums are unaccounted for!
In terms of RIAA sales of album units—which are a very, very different thing than actual total sales for some artists—here are their five biggest sellers:
Garth Brooks: 148,000,000
Elvis Presley: 139,000,000 1
Led Zeppelin: 111,500,000
HITSTORY (2005) repackages two earlier titles, 30 #1 HITS and 2ND TO NONE, along with a third disc of yet more hit singles. While all of these tracks are available on a variety of previously released 45s, EPs, LPs, and CDs, this remains the definitive collection of Elvis hits. It was certified Platinum last week.
Elvis’s ongoing impact
Here is the official news release from Sony Music/Legacy dated March 8, 2018:
“Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, and RCA Records acknowledge the astounding ongoing impact of the music and artistry of Elvis Presley, whose all time RIAA certified album awards in the US now top 146.5 million units.
As Presley’s catalog achieves new Gold, Platinum and multi-Platinum sales awards as certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Elvis continues to inspire, inform and transform popular culture.
For more information on RIAA Gold and Platinum Record Awards, click here.
Elvis—the second most awarded solo performer and third most awarded act in RIAA history (after the Beatles at #1 and Garth Brooks at #2)—has racked up more Gold Records (101) than any other act and is the only artist still earning RIAA certifications whose connection to the association dates back to its founding.
In 1958, the inaugural year of the RIAA Gold & Platinum program, Elvis’ Hard Headed Woman became one of the RIAA’s first three Gold singles and the very first in Elvis’ ongoing string of Gold, Platinum and multi-Platinum certifications.
Over the past year, 17 Elvis Presley catalog titles have been awarded RIAA certifications, with 11 of those albums reaching Gold (or Platinum) status for the very first time.”
If you read the Sony press release or any article using their info, you will read that the certifications were made on three dates spanning almost six months:
• Two were awarded on July 31, 2017.
• Five were awarded on September 13, 2017.
• Eleven were awarded on January 13, 2018.
Yet the RIAA website lists the date of certification for all eighteen Awards as March 8, 2018, the same day as Sony/RCA sent its news release. And that’s why I suggest that the folks at Sony/RCA may be all shook up, as surely they would have notified the media in July and September of new Awards.
Maybe we shouldn’t ask them what’s on their minds as they seem a little mixed up. Unlike them, my tongue doesn’t get tied when I try to speak.
And I assure you that my insides ain’t shaking like a leaf on a tree. That’s why I am giving the nod to the folks at the RIAA and listing the March date below.
ROCK (2006) used this monochromatic photo of Elvis from the Milton Berle Show in June 5, 1956, to equally fine effect. (This was the show where Elvis did his bump-and-grind routine to a souped-up Hound Dog, which may have been the genesis of the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis.”) It was certified Gold last week
The new awards
When the RIAA audits a title, they count sales of LPs, tapes, and CDs. A ‘unit’ is one LP or one CD or one tape: subsequently, a two-record album counts as two units, while a boxed set of five compact discs counts as five units. So multi-disc albums do not sell the actual minimum amount as albums, they meet the RIAA’s minimum amount in units. 2
The first column is the year of the album’s release, the second column is the album’s title (notations for multi-disc sets follow in parenthesis), and the third column is the minimum number of copies each album (not units) had to sell to qualify for the Award.
ULTIMATE GOSPEL (2005) used a 1969 photo of Elvis in a reflective mood to nice effect. It was certified Platinum last week.
The following albums received Gold Record Awards for sales of 500,000 units:
1990 The Great Performances 500,000
1997 An Afternoon In The Garden 500,000
1997 Elvis’ Greatest Jukebox Hits 500,000
1999 Artist Of The Century (3-disc set) 167,000
1999 He Touched Me (2-disc set) 250,000
1999 Peace In The Valley (3-disc set) 167,000
2000 White Christmas 500,000
2003 Christmas Peace (2-disc set) 250,000
2005 Hitstory (3-disc set) 167,000
2006 Elvis Rock 500,000
2008 Christmas Duets 500,000
THAT’S THE WAY IT IS (1970) sports one of my favorite Elvis covers of all time, with this photo from Elvis on stage at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. It was taken from the MGM documentary movie of the same title in 1970. The album was certified Platinum last week.
The following albums received Platinum Record Awards for sales of 1,000,000 units:
1970 That’s The Way It Is 1,000,000
1995 Heart And Soul 1,000,000
2004 Ultimate Gospel 1,000,000
2005 Hitstory (3-disc set) 334,000
AN AFTERNOON IN THE GARDEN (1997) features one of the most dramatic and tasteful photos on any recent Elvis release. It was certified Gold last week
The following albums received Multi-Platinum Record Awards for sales of 2,000,000 or more units:
1974 A Legendary Performer Volume 1 3,000,000
1999 It’s Christmas Time 4,000,000
2002 30 #1 Hits 6,000,000
A LEGENDARY PERFORMER, VOLUME 1 (1974) at the top had a textured white jacket with a die-cut circular window in the front cover. Through it was seen the cover photo of an informative bonus book included in the album. It was certified 3xMulti-Platinum last week. 3
Some kind of perspective
Elvis now has 117 albums that have received a Gold Record from the RIAA. To put this in some kind of perspective, 117 is more than the combined number of Gold Records for albums that the Beatles, Garth Brooks, Led Zeppelin, and the Eagles have combined!
Of those 117 Gold Records, 67 have received Platinum Records.
Of those 67 Platinum Records, 27 have received Multi-Platinum Records.
Of those 27 Multi-Platinum Records, one has received a Diamond Record for sales of 10,000,000 units.
FEATURED IN IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was taken at the Wall of Gold in Graceland. I lifted it from the Exhibition List website, where the caption reads, “You can then go on to see what must be one of the largest collections of gold and platinum records in the world … there was the corridor pictured above and then a whole other room.”
POSTSCRIPTUALLY, I will write an article explaining why the RIAA tally for Elvis’ accounts for the sales of less than 20% of his released albums! It is ludicrously low and comparing his sales to post-’70s artists is even more ludicrous. 4
1 Presley’s album total (LPs, tapes, and CDs) was recently reduced from 146,500,000 to 139,000,000 and is a topic of conversation in the comments section below.
2 In 2013, the RIAA began counting paid streaming towards certification, but I don’t understand their criteria at this time.
3 There were three more volumes in the Legendary Performer series; each used the same packaging technique.
4 Hell’s Belles! By this time it may be less than 10%—there have been so many titles released in these here United States (I gave up counting years when it was somewhere around 530) that I’m not sure that any source anywhere has a complete list of all of them.