riaa certifies elvis for 18 new gold and platinum awards

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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:

Beatles:              178,000,000
Garth Brooks:  148,000,000
Elvis Presley:    139,000,000 1
Led Zeppelin:     111,500,000
Eagles:                101,000,000


Elvis Hitstory fc

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.


Elvis Rock CD fc

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.


Elvis UltimateGospel fc

ULTIMATE GOSPEL (2005) used a 1969 photo of Elvis in a reflective mood to nice effect. It was certified Platinum last week.

Gold Records

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


Elvis ThatsTheWay LP 600

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.

Platinum Records

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


Elvis AfternoonInTheGarden fc

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

Multi-Platinum Records

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


Elvis LegendaryPerformerVol1 fc

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.

The RIAA has audited only a fraction of Elvis’ vast catalog—literally hundreds of his albums are uncounted! Click To Tweet

Elvis Graceland WallOfGold2 copy

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.”


Elvis 1957 goldsuit standup 1000POSTSCRIPTUALLY, 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.


15 thoughts on “riaa certifies elvis for 18 new gold and platinum awards”

  1. I think it’s about time Garth Brooks was taken out of the picture as the “top selling solo artist of all time” when we all know it’s Elvis. Sony should get their figures sorted out with the RIAA. It’s demeaning that the King has to take second place wrongly. He may have even outsold the Beatles in reality, but even if not he is a solo artist and should be top of that list.

    • DAVID

      Thanks for the comments.

      I agree, but I don’t now if Sony even has all the paperwork needed to prove sales of Elvis records during Presley’s lifetime. So much of the paper trail of those sales have been lost by the carelessness of previous RCA people. You’d never know that for a brief period in 1977, it was almost impossible to buy an Elvis record in a legitimate retail outlet anywhere in the world because they were all SOLD OUT!

      The RIAA has accounted for the sales of approximately 90&% of the Beatles albums issued in the US. Conversely, they have accounted for less than 20% of the Elvis albums issued in America. But that too may never be rectified. It’s up to us fans to carry the beacon of truth into the future . . .


  2. Thank you for that.It really is sad if we are stuck with Garth Brooks at number 1 in the States but it looks like there is nothing to be done but just hope some details emerge from a basement in Salt Lake City or some such obscure storage facility.

    • DG

      Those people who believe that the RIAA exists to keep track of an artist’s record sales will believe whatever they believe. Think of yourself as belonging to an elite group that knows better.


      PS: Apologies for taking so long to respond but this one just slipped past me all this while . . .

  3. I have always said Elvis record sales were way too low. And I know he has more than one Album to sell more than 10,000,000. They way they count records is a laugh. Like Billboard comes up and changes the rules on his #1 records.

    There only one solo artist that is #1 and that Elvis. One one number #1 group as far as record sells and that the Beatles. These were the only two acts that change music History.

    Elvis being King of it all. He was the first to take R&R to a new level that had never been seen in History. And is still unmatched today. I don’t really compare Elvis and Beatles together. Different kinds of musical sounds. But to me, in music Elvis is the Best.

    • RONNIE

      Thanks for the comment!

      There is no question that Elvis’s sales are under-accounted, but this is RCA’s fault, not the RIAA’s. RCA has reputedly lost boxes of paperwork concerning Presley’s domestic sales that will probably never be found.

      The RIAA was never set up to be the tabulator of an artists’s sales, simply to give them awards when the record company’s requested (and paid for) them.

      We will probably never know how many records sold in the US let alone in the world, where many representatives of RCA in other counties didn’t even keep permanent records of their sales.

      I don’t compare Elvis with the Beatles, either—I just love ’em both.

      Rockahula, baby!


  4. This is now nearly two years ago. I wonder if you have any up to date news about Elvis’s sales figures. I keep hoping something will crop up paperworkwise to cover the hundreds of Elvis albums left uncounted. It would be lovely to see him go over Garth Brooks where he rightly belongs.

    • DG

      1. I do not have any new data.

      2. Most of the hundreds—and there are literally hundreds!—of Presley LPs not counted thus far have probably not sold the requisite 500,000 units.

      3. Unless RCA finds the paperwork, nothing is gonna change.

      4. RCA will never be able to document sales outside the US for most of Elvis’s career as the companies that manufactured and distributed their records did not keep permanent records of those sales.

      5. The RIAA was never meant to be the arbiter of who sold the most of anything. It just certifies sales that the record companies can prove happened.

      Nick Keene’s “For the Billionth and the Last Time” remains the best take on the topic thus far:

      Rockahula, baby!


  5. Elvis is the biggest selling artist of all time. Period. Forget the Beatles, Michael Jackson, etc.—no one comes close!

      • Hi, Neal!

        Thanks for the comment.

        I agree that the article from Nick Keene’s “For the Billionth and the Last Time” remains the best take on the topic thus far:

        I’ll leave the last word to Mr. Paul MacCartney, who visited Graceland in 2013 and said “I thought we were the biggest sellers” but after seeing the Hall of Gold (over 150 gold and platinum discs now!), he said, “Amazing, simply Amazing.”

        Nothing more to be said...

        RIP, Elvis.

        • P

          I have permission to quote Nick Ken’s article at length. My plans are to condense his arguments down to their essence and respond to them.

          But I can’t promise I will get around to it soon.

          Do the clam!


          PS: It’s difficult to get most people to understand that the RIAA’s numbers have very limited meaning and that the sales figures for 80% of the Elvis albums out there are not included in their figures. Oh, well . . .

  6. Wow, what an incredible achievement for Elvis: eighteen new RIAA Gold and Platinum Awards! It’s mind-blowing how his music continues to captivate and inspire generations. This recognition is truly a testament to Elvis’s unmatched talent and enduring legacy. Congratulations to everyone involved in preserving his iconic sound and ensuring that his music lives on.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful news.


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