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Idol sales standings: A fairly exhaustive list

Perhaps trying to forestall my incessant questions about Idol sales, my esteemed primary Nielsen SoundScan contact sent me a big pile of statistics relating to that very topic. Basically, the document has total sales in the album, downloaded tracks and single categories for each Idol finalist over the show's history.

It's not quite the complete statistical collection you might be envisioning, mainly because it doesn't break out stats on individual albums or tracks -- it's totals only in each category. But it does provide a nifty ranking device that may amuse or edify you, or start arguments, or something equally constructive.

So I'm going to make an attempt to organize this mass of data into easily digestible rankings. I'll also try to note any discrepancies or omissions that might crop up, although it looks pretty complete on first glance. The ranking breakdowns follow.

> Album standings (for one album unless otherwise noted):

1. Kelly Clarkson: 8.1 million (2 albums)

2. Clay Aiken: 4.3 million (3 albums)

3. Carrie Underwood: 3.65 million

4. Ruben Studdard: 2.3 million (3 albums)

5. Fantasia: 2.1 million

6. Josh Gracin: 677,000

7. Bo Bice: 654,000

8. Kimberley Locke: 211,000

9. Diana DeGarmo: 165,000

10. Justin Guarini: 143,000

11. Tamyra Gray: 123,000

12. Kellie Pickler: 79,000

13. LaToya London: 55,000

14. George Huff: 44,000

15. RJ Helton: 21,000

16. John Stevens: 20,000

17. Jasmine Trias: 14,000

18. Jim Verraros: 3,700 (He may have 2 albums out, not sure. If so, this would be a composite total)

19. Corey Clark: 2,500

Idol compilations have sold 2.8 million, which would put them at No. 4, but that's not really fair. Any finalist not listed does not have an album registered with SoundScan or has sales too "negligible" to report.

> Singles:

(does not count downloads, which are listed separately below)

1. Clay Aiken: 1.3 million

2. Ruben Studdard: 751,000

3. Kelly Clarkson: 636,000

4. Carrie Underwood: 457,000

5. Taylor Hicks: 449,000

6. Fantasia: 409,000

7. Bo Bice: 347,000

8. Diana DeGarmo: 301,000

9. Katharine McPhee: 144,000

10. Kimberley Locke: 85,000

11. La Toya London: 8,500

12. John Stevens: 2,700

Idol group-sing singles have sold 508,000 copies.

> Downloaded tracks:

1. Kelly Clarkson: 5.9 million

2. Carrie Underwood: 1.5 million

3. Josh Gracin: 442,000

4. Bo Bice: 377,000

5. Clay Aiken: 328,000

6. Fantasia: 277,000

7. Taylor Hicks: 201,000

8. Katharine McPhee: 156,000

9. Ruben Studdard: 143,000

10. Chris Daughtry: 103,000

11. Diana DeGarmo: 73,000

12. Kimberley Locke: 44,000

13. Elliott Yamin: 25,000

14. Kellie Pickler: 18,000

15. Ace Young: 15,000

16. Vonzell Solomon: 14,000

17. La Toya London: 12,000

17. (tie) Jessica Sierra: 12,000

19. Paris Bennett: 9,900

20. Mandisa: 8,300

21. Scott Savol: 8,000

22. George Huff: 7,800

23. Melissa McGhee: 7,000

24. Constantine Maroulis: 6,000

25. Nadia Turner: 5,800

26. Nikko Smith: 5,300

27. Lindsey Cardinale: 4,500

28. Bucky Covington: 4,400

29. Lisa Tucker: 4,200

30. John Stevens: 4,000

31. Anwar Robinson: 3,500

32. Kevin Covais: 2,900

33. Carmen Rasmusen: 2,300

34. Camile Velasco: 2,100

35. Mikalah Gordon: 1,500

36. Corey Clark: 1,000

37. Kimberly Caldwell: 200

Not in the system, because they hit the spotlight before SoundScan started tracking downloads, didn't have tracks available for download or had "negligible" numbers: all the first-season Idols except Kelly, Vanessa Olivarez, Charles Grigsby, Julia DeMato, Rickey Smith, Trenyce, Matthew Rogers, Leah LaBelle, Jon Peter Lewis, Jennifer Hudson (that'll change when Dreamgirls comes out), Amy Adams and Anthony Fedorov. (I have a hunch that Anthony might not be in there because his name may have been misspelled when his numbers were being tracked.)

Whew. A lot to digest -- I certainly haven't yet. So why don't you have at it, and then I might come back later with a few comments.


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Chris Daughtry and two of his bandmates performed his new single "It's Not Over" live on Bob and Tom this morning. He sounded great.

Posted by: Bob and Tom Fan | Nov 9, 2006 8:21:04 AM

I also heard Chris & Co. on Bob and Tom this morning. Someone mentioned the single the other day and said it sounded "Nickelback-esque", which I agreed with when the song first started. The longer I listened, it sounds A LOT like Hemorrhage. I kept waiting for the part where the song gets a little harder, which didn't happen, but it was still very Fuel-sounding anyway.

It did sound great, but it sparked a debate between my husband and me as to why Chris didn't take the Fuel offer. Hubby's comment was "Fuel is an awesome band, but he didn't want to sign with them and be stuck singing Fuel songs and not be able to do his own thing." My response to that was that maybe this single was not the best one to start with then, since I've had "and leave love bleeding in my hands, in my hands again" stuck in my head since exiting the car.

Posted by: Julie | Nov 9, 2006 9:52:40 AM

without a doubt -- kelly clarkson is the only one with superstar status. carrie underwood could follow in her fact, she(Carrie) already has achieved a lot --- being the highest album debut-selling idol. clay aiken only needs one hit single and he'll be really up there. kelly did it with "since u been gone" and carrie with " jesus take the wheel". its such a shame that his latest album is full of covers!

Posted by: bigz | Nov 9, 2006 12:18:15 PM

Thanks Ken for that very detailed list. I didn't realize Bo Bice's sales were so low. I thought he actually hit 700,000 by now. I had no idea Josh Gracin had him beat. It's nice to see all the totals put together like that.

Posted by: Lisa | Nov 9, 2006 12:51:31 PM

Bo's single was certified gold but he's only sold 347,000? Is there a decertification process? It's hard to imagine there are 153,000 of his singles still sitting on store shelves.

Posted by: david | Nov 9, 2006 1:05:48 PM

Thanks! Very informative tally Ken! Would you also happen to have access to any worldwide sales info? I think it would be interesting to see if the rest of the world cares about our American Idols.

Posted by: BigCheese | Nov 9, 2006 1:15:09 PM

I believe both Kelly and Clay have higher numbers than those reported if you consider worldwide totals. I had read that Kelly is well over 10 million and Clay has 4 million with MOAM and 2 million with MCWL (Billboard's Best Selling C'mas CD for 04 and 05). Another, "All Is Well," is due out Nov. 28, exclusively with Walmart.

MOAM has been RIAA certified 3X's Platinum, MCWL 1X Platinum, and ATDW Gold = 4.5 million +

As for singles, Clay is closer to 2 million, having been RIAA certified Platinum for "Bridge" and Gold for Invisible, bringing the total to 1.5 million, with Solitaire/The Way at 322,000.

Posted by: Polly | Nov 9, 2006 1:31:45 PM

Kelly may be no.1 right now but Carrie will turn it around next year, even before she releases her 2nd album.

Posted by: Dey | Nov 9, 2006 1:59:56 PM

Any chance you can tell the number of singles in the singles and downloads catagories? And is there a chart for downloaded albums?

Posted by: Batista | Nov 9, 2006 2:16:29 PM

How can Bo be gold with only 347,000? That doesn't make sense. I also heard he is close to platinum for TRT so those numbers don't add up.

Posted by: phyllis | Nov 9, 2006 2:37:05 PM

Bo is nowhere close to platinum with TRT. Clive Davis said back in maybe April he was "close to platinum", but that was when RCA felt he would get a spike in sales, he didn't. I think his fans like to believe he still is close to platinum..he's not though. 650,000 is a far cry from that figure, its slightly above gold. I know for a fact at least one Walmart sent his CD's back because they weren't selling. This was back in September.

Clay's MOAM has often been referred to as "multi-platinum" but it was never officially certified.

Posted by: Cheryl | Nov 9, 2006 3:34:06 PM

Thanks for the information.
I think Taylor Hicks will have huge numbers. I saw his press tour schedule for his cd release. He's doing about every show out there, print articles and a video. His sales are going to be huge.
Carrie has been embraced by the Country Music industry. Her videos play around the clock. She's very talented and has a very good voice. And don't forget very beautiful.
I also think Kelly Pickler will do very well with the country market.
Kelly is the first American Idol and has hard core fans. Can't bring up JoJo or any other female singer without being bashed on the boards.
I'm waiting to see if radio makes Chris their little darling and give him huge radio play.
Good to see that Ruben, Clay and Bo all had big numbers.
I also think Kat Mc Phee should become a star.
I think american idol puts out amazing talent!!!
The music industry should just except it and let them play in the big pool.

Posted by: Chloe | Nov 9, 2006 4:19:04 PM

I'm 29 years old.
Dey posted this note:

Kelly may be no.1 right now but Carrie will turn it around next year, even before she releases her 2nd album.

For me, I must say that Kelly will still be No. 1 in Total Album Sales among Idols when she releases her third album this Feb 2007.

Posted by: Fidel | Nov 9, 2006 4:24:55 PM

Actually I believe Clay is certified double platinum for MOAM and really should be close to sold numbers for triple certification. He's at 3.8 million, I think someone posted. I would imagine he has shipped triple. The record company has to request the certification. Anyway, double is definitely done.

Great fun seeing how all of the Idols are doing. Didn't George Huff release an album, by the way, on Word?

Posted by: Steve | Nov 9, 2006 4:31:59 PM

I dont understand these kellie pickler download it of her single RED HIGH HEELS or her album SMALL TOWN GIRL??

Posted by: simon | Nov 9, 2006 4:36:44 PM

"Clay's MOAM has often been referred to as "multi-platinum" but it was never officially certified. "

MOAM was was certified 2X platinum which makes it multi-platinum.

Posted by: Samantha | Nov 9, 2006 4:38:33 PM

Thanks for the stats Ken.'s "Chartbeat" also listed an updated #1 list for AI.

"...That brings the total of "American Idol" No. 1s to 103, and they break down like this:

Kelly Clarkson - 41
Fantasia - 11
Ruben Studdard - 10
Carrie Underwood - 10
Clay Aiken - 9
Josh Gracin - 6
Taylor Hicks - 3
Kimberley Locke - 3
Bo Bice - 2
Diana DeGarmo - 1
Tamyra Gray - 1
William Hung - 1
American Idol Finalists - 5

One thing about worldwide sales, is that every country has their own standards for units shipped totaling gold or plat.
In the US the RIAA uses 500,000 for gold but it's less in other countries.

In Canada gold is 50,000 units shipped, plat is 100,000 units. In Australia
35,000 units shipped equal gold, 70,000 units shipped equal Platinum. In England:


Silver 200,000
Gold 400,000
Platinum 600,000


Silver 60,000
Gold 100,000
Platinum 300,000

Posted by: Jess | Nov 9, 2006 4:42:52 PM

Adding to my post on gold and plat from other countries,
Here's examples of the gold and plat earned by a few AI artists from say, Canada:

6 X Platinum Single
60,000 Units
"Bridge over Troubled Water"

100,000 Units

Solitare/The Way
Platinum Single
10,000 Units

Here's Ruben:

3 X Platinum Single
30,000 Units for

"Flying Without Wings"

Kelly's album "Thankful"
100,000 Units

2 X Platinum Single
20,000 Units
for "I Believe"

You have to go to each country's site (find the organization comparable to our RIAA- Recording Industry Association of America) and research whether the album or single was released there, and whether it earned a gold or plat award.

Posted by: Jess | Nov 9, 2006 5:04:28 PM

Ken, thanks for the numbers.

I think it's pretty apparent that Kelly, Clay, and Carrie are a cut above. They are also the only 3 that have had any significant success touring on their own(Clay and Kelly the most, but Carrie did some decent solo touring and opened for a BIG one this summer - Kenny Chesney). The market definitely speaks out about which ones are more than just a TV show contestant.

Also makes you wonder what RCA was thinking with not promoting Clay's album when he's a proven seller, on top of making him sing covers. (things that make you go "hmmmmmm?")

Posted by: Lisa | Nov 9, 2006 5:13:54 PM

thanks alot Ken for those numbers .they are very intresting to read.

Posted by: jdanton2 | Nov 9, 2006 5:42:50 PM

Actually, Clay has never really been much of a success and since those John P. allegations came out it is clear that's hurt his career. I expect Aiken to continue going down hill and he has definitely reached his peak. The only reason why he's so high on the list is because he has had three albums out but others will pass him quickly. I expect him to be dropped or leave his label very soon.

Thank goodness.

Posted by: Nice Going | Nov 9, 2006 6:26:33 PM

I agree the John Paulus allegations hurt Clay's career, but I don't agree at all he was never a success. Somewhere floating around (I'm sure a hardcore Claymate can dig it up) is a list of all his accomplishments since AI ended. Even music/charts aside, he's a UNICEF Ambassador and was appointed to a presidential committee. Those are huge honors for anyone.

As for RCA dropping him? I can only hope. Even at his height of popularity they never treated him right. I would bet anything David Foster will sign him. I have no doubt at ALL.

Posted by: Cheryl | Nov 9, 2006 7:10:11 PM

Kelly and Carrie have become stars independent of AI. Clay is also undoubtedly successful but still relies on his AI celebrity to sell. Come on guys, I like Clay too but if he could come up with anything better he would not be “forced” to sing cover songs.

Kellie Pickler has earned at least B-level status along with Ruben, Fantasia, Josh and Bo. The 79,000 sales listed were only for one week.

Kat? Well… Kat crashed and burned. Her single didn’t sell; she doesn’t tour well; and if her debut album gets pushed out any farther it will be after Christmas. Ouch.

Where will Taylor and Chris fall??? Time will tell. They both have potential to hit the A list. Chris may have the short-term advantage out-of-the-box since his sound fits an established popular format. Taylor, I think, has a harder road but the potential for far more greatness. More than any other newly minted idol, he’s earned the respect of established musicians and really tried to create a new and unique sound for his debut CD. I’m not sure exactly what it will sound like but (more than any album ever) I can’t wait to hear it. One thing for sure – I’m not going to miss his concert tour!

Posted by: Pamela | Nov 9, 2006 7:40:59 PM

You might want to double-check a couple of the June 2006, in this very blog, Diana's singles sales number was given as 201,000. Five months later, she's at 301,000? Looks like a typo.

And Fantasia's sales were reported on 05-02-06 as 1,687,346 by the NY Post (and other sources), all citing Nielsen SoundScan. If "Free Yourself" had sold 400k CDs in the past six months, it would have re-entered the SoundScan 200. It didn't. In this instance, it looks like someone added album sales (rounded up to 1.7 million) + singles sales (400k)...?

Posted by: NevadaSk2 | Nov 9, 2006 10:35:16 PM

Pamela, Clay has already come up with something better than the covers on his album - the 4 originals included there with one co-written by him, the bonus track at iTunes which he wrote with David Foster, 2 other decent ballads from last summer's tour, 1 slamdunk Top 40 hit from last summer's tour, & at least 4 other tracks which the writers were crowing about on the net earlier this year. That's 12 tracks of original songs, enough for an album, several of which we already know are great tunes ... & that doesn't even count all the originals he recorded last year that for some mysterious reason Clive Davis has shelved. So your theory is bogus right off the bat.

Nice Going, you're obviously one of Paulus' peons ... probably the insane Groucho ... is it lonely in your hateful little world? How sad for you that Clay Aiken has made more of his life in 27 short years than you ever will & is 10 times the man you'll ever be.

Posted by: Sam | Nov 9, 2006 11:29:34 PM

How about that Elliott Yamin? I think his album will have something to say about those album sales rankings by this time next year. Who's with me?

Posted by: Ricky | Nov 10, 2006 12:17:31 AM

How is it possible that Fantasia has sold over two million albums? At last report, she was around 1.8 million, and there is literally no way that she's sold enough since then to reach 2.1 million.

Posted by: Sue | Nov 10, 2006 1:30:26 AM

Wow, I didn't realize that Tamyra's, LaToya's and Kim Locke's sales were so low. They were all some of the best singers that AI has ever had. I just don't get it. I guess they missed their window of opportunity when their CDs came out later, but I wouldn't think that America would forget their talent so soon. It's crazy. That's why I'm particularly worried about Elliott. Elliott is so, so, so talented, but I feel that he shouldn't miss that window of opportunity, or he will end up like Tamyra, LaToya and Kim.

I also thought that RJ's CD might have sold a little better than it did. Oh, man! Well, I got the CD and love it, so all you other people are missing out.
I also have the CDs of all three divas mentioned above and they are also great CDs. Do you guys realize that Tamyra co-wrote all but one of her songs on her album? And they're all really great songs. Anyway, you guys that haven't bought the CDs are all missing out big time. :)

Posted by: Lindy | Nov 10, 2006 2:56:12 AM

Chris' downloaded totals are amazing considering his song wasn't even a single!

Posted by: | Nov 10, 2006 4:14:45 AM

What else are you including in the 2.1 million album sales for Fantasia? Does that include the "Fantasia Barrino: American Idol Miracles" album sold through Amazon shortly after AI3? That was an old Barrino Family album, but it was re-released after AI3 using Fantasia's name and the listing credits her as the sole artist, so its sales are likely counted for Fantasia.

I ask because it's obvious that those sales numbers were not just for Free Yourself. The exact Soundscan figure for Free Yourself was 1,687,346 up to April 23, 2006. The album has not been in the Billboard 200 since then, which means that it has sold less than 5,000 CDs each week (the album in position 200 usually sells just over 4,000). That means the most it could have sold since then is 140,000 additional copies, which would put it at 1.8 million. That's the maximum it could have sold and likely a gross overestimation, since at last count Fantasia was selling around 1,600 per week (Free Yourself sold a total of 13,000 between Feb. 21 and April 23, 2006, which averages 1,625 per week). If she was able to maintain those sales without any decline, she probably sold an additional 40,000 since April, which would put her at 1.73 million. Mathematically speaking it's impossible for the "Free Yourself" album to be at 2.1 million. So what else is being included in those 2.1 million?

Posted by: Sandy | Nov 10, 2006 12:02:58 PM

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