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Published on May 16th, 2017 | by Alan Cross


Elvis Don’t Mean Sh*t to Millennials

For years after his death in August 1977, the estate of Elvis Presley earned hundreds of millions of dollars flogging the King’s music and memorabilia. An entire industry grew up around Elvis: impersonators, stage shows, endless reissues of his music, all manner of swag and the turning of Graceland into a tourist destination. It’s been a great 40 years. But how much longer will this bonanza continue?

Elvis’ original fans are dying off. Gen Xers are moving on and no longer interested in liking Elvis, even ironically. And Gen Y and Z? Don’t even ask. Except that someone did.

A YouGov poll of over 2,000 Brits says that 29% of 18-24 year-olds have never, ever listening to a single Elvis song. None reported to listening to him daily and only 8% admitted to listening to an Elvis song at least once a month. When pressed, only 12% said they liked Elvis, compared to the Beatles (23%) and Bowie (25%).

The Guardian also reports that the value of Elvis merch and memorabilia is cratering, a bad sign leading up to the 40th anniversary of his death. Bookings for Elvis impersonators are falling. About the only positive sign is that streams of Elvis music are doing well, with 328 million streams in 2016. Compare that to Bowie (600 million) and Michael Jackson (1.3 billion).

To everything there is a season, I guess.


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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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17 Responses to Elvis Don’t Mean Sh*t to Millennials

  1. Kerry says:

    I think its fair to point out that Elvis is likely more popular on this side of the ocean. Given how many of his songs were covered by UK artists, I would bet more than a few don’t even know the Petshop Boys were singing an Elvis song when they sang Always On My Mind.

  2. Gyuillermo Perez Arguello says:

    Sorry, but a person who has had 2 number 1 albums in the last three years, in the UK, or whose house has been visited by 20 million tourists who have paid to do so, or whose Andy Warhol silkscreens have sold for over a quarter of a billion dollars in this century alone is not someone whose legacy is likely to be forgotten. Not with 1,234 bios in print, ot with 5 personal exhibits in as many Presidential Libraries, or with both a birthplace and home drawing the bulk of the tourism industry in two states of the Union to the tune of a combined US$450,000,000 annually.

  3. Jack Dennis says:

    650,000 plus visitors a year visit Graceland, the Elvis home in Memphis each year. It continues to increase and will do so with this years opening of Elvis Memphis across the street….his Wonder of You concerts are selling out….there are more Elvis Tribute Artists than ever before….71% of Millennials HAVE HEARD of Elvis Presley….one just has to go to an live Elvis event to see a new generation of Elvis fans being exposed.
    Actually, because of the economy and lack of discretionary spending abilities, virtually the entire collectible merchandise and memorabilia industry has taken a hit, including sports, history, art, children, movie and music industries. As the economy improves, so will Elvis activity.
    Graceland is the foundation of Memphis tourism and they expect the Elvis business will bring in 1 million visitors to the mansion in the future.

  4. MoreElvis says:

    Odd sense of time… 23yrs (Length of Elvis’ career) + 40 yrs (after death) is a season? I would call longer than a half a century of fame and success quite an impressive feat.

  5. David Gibbs says:

    Why just pick on Elvis.How many youngsters listen to Sinatra,Diamond,Crosby etc.Take it the other way how many 60 or 70 year olds listen to Justin Bieber.Life doe not begin and end with kids.Elvis as a cultural Icon will live forever.

    • Alan Cross says:

      You miss the point. The story is all about the declining popularity of Elvis as time marches on. I’m sure the same applies to the artists you mentioned.

      • Sheena says:

        ER, I think you might have had a stronger case with Michael Jackson. Elvis died almost 40 years ago and is still relevant/making money. Hope you are around to judge MJ’s popularity 40 years after his death. Doubt very much it will be as strong as Elvis. As it is, nobody goes to Neverland while Graceland is the second most visited private home in the U.S.
        And you were a bit too quick to cut and paste a BRITISH newspaper’s poll of BRITISH teenagers because it suits your white pseudo intellectual hatred of Elvis.
        It’s obvious that BRITISH teenagers are going to prefer BRITISH artists like Beatles and Bowie. It’s not only you Americans that can be patriotic.

  6. Patricia Leonhardt says:

    The author is just full of sour grapes. Elvis is the Big Bang of popular music. At his time of “discovery” it was tagged rock ‘n roll. Hundreds of musicians have credited Elvis with the ability to get social ideology out of a hole. Granted that it was the fifties and the world was fearful of nuclear destruction. Elvis let us forget that political crap for a few minutes while we bounced and enjoyed his songs. Millennials most certainly have heard Elvis songs and seen Elvis movies. Some of his work is used over and over in films that are playing today. Television shows also incorporate him into storylines or background music. Brits still love Elvis – I meet dozens of them in Memphis every August. They come over here and are so devoted. They range from every skin color, are aged from babies to seniors, live in every social circle, and more. If you can’t see the popularity of Elvis it is because you are closing your eyes, deaf to the sound or just plain stupid. Maybe all three.

  7. Danny Lior says:

    I never understood why the media is obsessed with what young people like as if it’s an indication to the future. It’s true that thanks to all the grotesque Elvis impersonators and the Liberace style junpsuits Elvis’ days as a teen idol are behind him but these kids will get older, wiser and start to be more appreciative of Elvis’ incredible voice, talent and Charisma. That’s exactly what is shown in the two very different statistics, Elvis’ sales record in number of streams vs. Sales of his CD recorded with the Philharmonica Orchestra, the first used mainly by younger listeners, the latter by a more mature audience. And btw, as an Elvis fan I have no problem with it.

  8. Willy says:

    Im in my mid fifties and I still love his music no one will ever reach his popularity or his creative abilities

  9. Sharon says:

    Elvis’s name will never be forgotten. In Canada there are so many people that love him and will keep his memory alive by passing it down to our children and grandchildren. Every year I go to the Elvis Festival in Collingwood Ontario and there are thousands of people there with me. There are so many Elvis Tribute Artist that are great and will keep his memory alive forever.

  10. Sharon says:

    Elvis’s name will never be forgotten. In Canada there are so many people that love him and will keep his memory alive by passing it down to our children and grandchildren. Every year I go to the Elvis Festival in Collingwood Ontario and there are thousands of people there with me. There are so many Elvis Tribute Artist that are great and will keep his memory alive forever.

  11. An Actual Elvis Fan says:

    hello, it is i, a millennial. please excuse me while i put away my elvis booklet and turn off my elvis playlist, also i should probably remove my elvis magnet from the fridge while im at it.

  12. Patricia Leonhardt says:

    Isn’t it great to disprove the moronic theories of the unenlightened? the author of the article just doesn’t know what he is doing or saying. i would love to see the reality of fan-based love and appreciation if he had the balls to show up in Memphis during Elvis week and to preach his heresy in front of the music gates.

  13. Patricia Leonhardt says:

    if Elvis is suffering declining popularity, then please explain why 40,000+ people show up annually at the candlelight vigil? The weather is oppressive, the neighborhood is gang infested and the restaurants all close early. We honor Elvis because he was a great entertainer and a humanitarian. Yes – he did have his own flaws and demons to deal with, but he did more charitable work than the author of this piece will ever do.

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