Do you know what the best-selling live album of all time is? If you’re around my age of 54, you’ll probably think it is Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive. But you’d be wrong. That record is only certified as 6 x Platinum in USA, therefore commonly stated that it sold 6 million copies in America and 11 million worldwide. However, RIAA which issues the platinum awards for 1 million ‘sales’, in America actually counts each disc in a collection as 1 unit. Thus 6 x Platinum actually reflects 3 million sales of a double album. Cheeky, huh!
This is how Bruce Springsteen’s 5-record box set of live recordings is 13 x Platinum in USA. He hasn’t sold 13 million, he’s sold about 2.5 million copies.
It’s a tricky business because silver, gold, platinum and now diamond awards state “for sales of…” and that is sort of true, because that amount of records have been sold, but not in the way we all think it’s true.
The real best selling live album of all-time is Eric Clapton’s Unplugged, estimated to have shifted 26 million worldwide. OK, you might consider Unplugged more of a session than a live gig – but it was recorded live in front of an audience, so that qualifies it as a live album for me.
Now, because it’s a single record/CD, it’s platinum status, does reflect its actual sales – or rather it reflects how many units have been wholesaled to retailers – which isn’t quite the same thing as actually selling that many, but after all this time, is probably fairly accurate.
Garth Brooks Double Live is certified 20 x platinum in USA, so that presumably sold about 10 million.
So it turns out that Frampton’s record, though wildly successful in one way, (and the amount of copies you see at car boots is testament to how many it sold) is actually a fairly modest seller in the overall scheme of things.