With his ninth studio album, Man Against Machine, earning platinum certification, Garth Brooks once again tops the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) list as the best-selling solo album artist of all-time, moving past the King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley. Brooks’ tally, certified units of 135 million sold, bests Presley’s current figure of 134.5 million units — figures that only take into consideration sales in the U.S.
Brooks was previously noted as the best-selling solo artist in the U.S. by the RIAA in November 2007, based solely on his album sales, which, at the time, totaled 123 million to Presley’s 118.5 million. Presley fans were quick to point out that Elvis’ tally did not take into account the millions of singles he sold that were never officially certified (gold, platinum or otherwise) by the RIAA.
Brooks still has a long way to go before outselling the all-time champs, however. The Beatles have sold 178 million units and remain the most-certified act in RIAA history. The Fab Four have earned 26 multi-platinum certifications from the RIAA.
Since the first platinum certifications for albums were not issued until 1976, it’s safe to assume today’s figures would look quite different for the Beatles, Presley – and Brooks – if album sales prior to 1976 were tallied the same as they are currently. As it is, Presley only received his very first platinum album certification, for the album Moody Blue, in September 1977, one month after his death. The Beatles’ first RIAA-certified million-seller was the reissue album, Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, in 1976.
Regardless of whether the latest numbers tell the full story, a closer look at current figures does reveal some surprising statistics. Six of Brooks’ catalog albums, Sevens, No Fences, The Hits, Garth Brooks, Ropin’ the Wind and the two-record set Double Live, have all registered sales in excess of 10 million units each, while only one of Presley’s offerings, Elvis’ Christmas Album, has been certified for sales of more than 10 million units. To date, Presley, has earned a total of 90 gold, 52 platinum and 25 multi-platinum certifications, while Brooks has managed a total of 21 gold and platinum and 15 multi-platinum album certifications. The Beatles have earned 48 gold, 42 platinum and 26 multi-platinum certifications.
George Strait is the next-best-selling country artist with 69 million in sales, placing him just ahead of the Rolling Stones, and one notch below AC/DC.