Is Garth Brooks the new Elvis? -- The country singer is set to become the best-selling American solo act

By Michael Endelman
Updated May 19, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Ladies and gentlemen, the King is about to be overthrown. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, a singer is only 2.5 million copies shy of matching Elvis’ record 118.5 million albums sold. A singer named…Garth Brooks.

No. We’re not kidding.

So what gives? It turns out that the immensely popular country act has not only sold gazillions of discs — but he’s also made expert use of crafty marketing and fuzzy math to boost his numbers. Material from his recent release, a five-CD boxed set called The Limited Series, has now been repackaged, goading fans into picking up both versions. And here’s the kicker: Series is priced at an absurdly thrifty $25. Says Michael Kurtz, president of the Music Monitor Network, an independent retail marketing firm: ”This is definitely not a moneymaker.”

But, boy, does it move units. Each boxed set sold actually counts as five CDs — a trick widely used by other artists like Michael Jackson and even Elvis himself. At this rate, the torch will likely be passed sometime before the end of the year, putting a dude who brags about having ”Friends in Low Places” in some pretty high company.