Music Greats – Best Selling Albums of All Time!

Many of you will be avid music fans, who have enjoyed reading about your favourite artists elsewhere on this site, including some details of their releases, singles as well as albums, and have wondered just how good they – the artists – and their music is, or was, in terms of popularity in comparison with the music world in general.

The word ‘popularity’ is important, because it is not reflected only in the number of albums sold, or indeed singles in days gone by, so debates will continue to rage, and with good reasons; one is the accuracy of sales figures both past and present, and also because of the cost of buying, now very small through the internet, for example, when compared with vinyl 30 or 40 years ago. Attendances at concerts given by artists – often in conjunction with the promotion of their latest album – are also unreliable, both in absolute figures, and in calculating gate receipts, as ‘promotion’ can refer to the distribution of free tickets too.

Even then, just how ‘popular’ were artists – soloists, choirs, and orchestras for example – prior to the widespread availability of recorded material, including in the days when concerts were largely the province of the relatively wealthy, in the times of what is now referred to as ‘classical music’?

The Best Selling Artists of All Time is the subject of another article, but here we present a list of the top 30 verifiable album sales of all time, worldwide, excluding digital downloads, so only two albums – Adele and The Beatles Compilation – were released in this century.

Five artists/bands appear more than once, and all albums sold at least 30 million copies worldwide. Naturally the USA is the biggest market, reflected by most albums’ sales, but it is not confined to American artists. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) – an organisation founded in Italy in the ‘30s, but now registered in Switzerland – attempts to collate the number of sales. In the USA, platinum indicates a million copies sold; several countries have adopted this certification system but many have lesser numbers, usually as something approaching a ratio of the population in comparison with the US.

RankArtistAlbumSales(m)Comments
1Michael JacksonThriller6530x platinum, USA
2AC/DCBack in Black5022x platinum, USA
3Pink FloydThe Dark Side of the Moon4515x platinum, USA
4Fleetwood MacRumours45
5VariousS’track – The Bodyguard45
6Meat LoafBat Out of Hell4314x platinum, USA
7The EaglesGreatest Hits (1971-75)4329x platinum, USA
8Bee Gees, variousS’track-Saturday Night Fever4015x platinum, USA
9Shania TwainCome on Over4020x platinum. USA
10Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin 1V3723x platinum, USA
11Adele213511m USA, 5m UK
12Michael JacksonBad349x platinum, USA
13Alanis MorissetteJagged Little Pill3315x platinum, USA
14Celine DionFalling into You3211x platinum, USA
15The BeatlesSGT Pepper’s…3211m USA, 5m UK
16The EaglesHotel California3217x platinum, USA
17Mariah CareyMusic Box327m USA, 2m UK
18Michael JacksonDangerous327x platinum, USA
19VariousS’track- Dirty Dancing3211x platinum, USA
20Celine DionLet’s Talk About Love3110mx platinum, USA
21The BeatlesOne (compilation)3112x platinum, USA
22The BeatlesAbbey Road3012x platinum, USA
23Bruce SpringsteenBorn in the USA3015x platinum, USA
24Dire StraitsBrothers in Arms309m USA, 14m UK
25TitanicSoundtrack3010x platinum, USA
26MadonnaThe Immaculate Collection3010x platinum, USA
27MetallicaMetallica3016x platinum, USA
28NirvanaNever Mind3010x platinum, USA
29Pink FloydThe Wall3010x platinum, USA
30SantanaSupernatural3012x platinum, USA
31Guns ‘n’ RosesAppetite for Destruction3018x platinum, USA

Is Music Greats – Best Selling Albums of All Time!