Yes, People Still Buy Discs. Millions of Them.

In March 1958 Elvis’ Golden Records album was released.

“Heartbreak Hotel.”

“Love Me Tender.”

“Don’t Be Cruel.”

“All Shook Up.”

Those and other tracks are on the disc.

And it, itself, became a Gold Record in 1961. (It eventually racked up status as 6X Platinum, which sounds like a score on a pinball machine.)

But let’s face it: this first volume of complied Gold Records has a horribly weak name.

When volume two was released in November 1959 it was unimaginatively titled Elvis’ Gold Records—Volume Two, but it gained a name that is arguably one of the best album titles of all time: 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong.  (What’s amusing about volume two is that the cuts it contains are not the audio icons that many of those on volume one have become, so those 50,000,000 fans were not quite as right as the ones the year earlier.)

Elvis comes to mind because of Garth Brooks.

Not that I am equating the two, mind you. But there is the whole contretemps regarding which of the two is the all-time best-selling solo performer, selling, of course, in the context of recorded, physical music.

For those of you who didn’t keep up with the controversy that occurred just under 10 years ago, know that Recording Industry Association of America—yes, the group that was so keen on the legal system a few years back—named Brooks number one overall, which caused outrage and consternation among the Elvoids, who maintained that El’s real number had been miscounted in a manner that made the recount of ballots for a presidential election in Florida look like the highest level of mathematics.

So the RIAA did some recalculating and rejiggering of things and put Elvis back on top. Then the Brooks fans became apoplectic.  So again, back to the numbers.  And again, Brooks took the top spot, only to be trumped by Elvis a few years later, but then Brooks rushed back and got back on top.

Let’s face it: Elvis has been dead since August 16, 1977, so he is at a disadvantage compared to Brooks when it comes to releasing new music or old music repackaged as new. At some point it is going to run out.  At some point there will be those who are interested in the likes of the music on Elvis’ Golden Records, but Something for Everybody and Promised Land. . .probably not so many.

Brooks’ numbers are nothing short of astonishing. He’s released 22 records.  Seven of his albums are Diamond, which, like Delta airlines frequent flyer mileage ranking, is the top, above Platinum and Gold.  One of Brooks’ albums, Double Live, is 21X Platinum, which is a pinball number affected by grade inflation.

In 1999 Brooks decided that he was going to take on a different persona and he recorded as Chris Gaines, and even though this was not widely accepted by his public, the album released as Garth Brooks in. . .The Life of Chris Gaines, an album with a photo of someone (Garth) appearing to be Ben Stiller’s Zoolander and the words “Chris Gaines Greatest Hits” on the jacket, was certified 2X Platinum.  Hell of a failure.

(When Brooks hosted Saturday Night Live during the Gaines era, the musical guest that evening was. . .Chris Gaines.)

Last month Brooks put out Garth Brooks: The Ultimate Collection.  This is a boxed set consisting of 10 discs.  The discs are in various categories, such as “Anthems” and “Cowboys” (with this one being, well, songs about cowboys).  One disc is “The Covers,” which includes covers of songs including “Against the Wind” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” which are conceivable, but “Mrs. Robinson,” “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “Drift Away”?  Maybe these are Chris Gaines.

What is absolutely astonishing is that Target, which worked with Brooks on the set so that there is Target-exclusive content, had the set on sale the week before Christmas for $25. (Not that the non-sale price is high: $29.99.)  At that price you could use the CDs as festive drink coasters.

Without a doubt, this is going to put greater numbers of sales on his running total. [The set has sold 326,000 units through the week ending Dec. 15. -ed.]

Still, 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong—that title is quadruple unobtainium.

(Note: Brooks is married to country performer Trisha Yearwood. So it is not entirely surprising that on the 10-disc collection of music the couple perform together on a few songs.  What is somewhat odd, perhaps, is that among the other musicians that join Brooks is KISS, on a performance of “Hard Luck Woman.”  They, incidentally, have sold over 100-million records, so they’re no slouches, either.)

2 thoughts on “Yes, People Still Buy Discs. Millions of Them.”

  1. Even though buying discs is silly when you can stream. The RIAA in October released a survey that showed that most buyers of physical music are 45 and older, a demographic that may be clinging to old habits.

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