List of best-selling music artists

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The list of best-selling music artists includes artists with claims of 75 million or more record sales in multiple third-party reliable sources. The claimed sales figures and the total certified sales figures (for each country) within the provided sources include sales of albums, singles, compilation-albums, music videos as well as downloads of singles and full-length albums. The artists in the following tables are listed with both their claimed and certified sales figures and are ranked in descending order, with the highest claimed sales at the top. Artists with the same claimed sales are then ranked by certified units. Sales figures, such as those from Soundscan, which are sometimes published by Billboard magazine, have not been included in the certified units column. Currently, The Beatles are listed at the top of the list as they are considered the highest-selling band based both on sales claims and certified units. Elvis Presley, who is listed the second on the list is considered the highest-selling individual artist based both on sales claims and certified units.

All artists included on this list, which have begun charting on official albums/singles charts have their available claimed figure(s) supported by at least 20% in certified units. That is why Cliff Richard, Diana Ross, Modern Talking, Charles Aznavour, Bing Crosby, Nana Mouskouri, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Tom Jones, The Jackson 5, Dionne Warwick, The Andrews Sisters, Luciano Pavarotti and others have not been included on this list. The percentage amount of certified sales needed increases the newer the artist is, meaning, artists such as Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga are expected to have their claimed figures supported by over 60% in certified units. The certified units are sourced from available online databases of local music industry associations. Note that all certified units are converted from Gold/Platinum/Diamond certification awards based on criteria provided by certifying bodies.

The requirements of certified sales are designed to avoid inflated sales figures, which are frequently practiced by record companies for promotional purposes.[1][2]

The claimed figures are sourced to articles that use the term records (singles, albums, videos) and not albums. However, if all available sources for an artist/band say albums, such sources can only be used if the certified album units of the said artist meet the required percentage amount. Note that this list uses claimed figures that are closer to artists' available certified sales. In other words, inflated claimed figures that will meet the required certified sales amount but are unrealistically high from available certified sales, will not be used.

Artists by reputed sales

250 million or more records

  • To ensure a highest level of fact checking and editorial control, this list sources sales figures to news organizations and highly regarded music industry related organizations such as MTV, VH1, Billboard and Rolling Stone.
  • The figures of total certified units within the table below are based on certified units of albums, singles (including digital downloads) and videos.
  • Markets' order within the table is based on Retail Value each market generates respectively, largest market at the top and smallest at the bottom.[3][4]
Artist Country of origin Period active Release-year of first charted record Genre Total certified units
(from available markets)[Notes]
Claimed sales
The Beatles United Kingdom 1960–1970[5] 1962[5] Rock / Pop[5] 600 million[27][28]
Elvis Presley United States 1954–1977[29] 1954[29] Rock and roll / Pop / Country[29] 600 million[35][36]
500 million[37]
Michael Jackson United States 1968–2009[38] 1971[38] Pop / Rock / Dance / R&B[38] 400 million[47][48]
350 million[49]
300 million[50][51]
Madonna United States 1979–present[52] 1982[52] Pop / Rock / Dance / Electronica[52] 300 million[53][54]
275 million[55][56]
Elton John United Kingdom 1964–present[57] 1969[57] Pop / Rock[57] 300 million[59][60]
250 million[61][62]
Led Zeppelin United Kingdom 1968–1980[63] 1969[63] Hard rock / Heavy metal[63] 300 million[67][68]
200 million[69][70]
Pink Floyd United Kingdom 1965–1996[71] 1967[71] Progressive rock[71] 250 million[73][74]
200 million[75][76]
  • The column for Certified Sales above includes markets, the databases of which contain certifications representing figures of 100,000 and more.

200 million to 249 million records

  • To ensure a highest level of fact checking and editorial control, this list sources sales figures to news organizations and highly regarded music industry related organizations such as MTV, VH1, Billboard and Rolling Stone.
  • The figures of total certified units within the table below are based on certified units of albums, singles (including digital downloads) and videos.
  • Markets' order within the table is based on Retail Value each market generates respectively, largest market at the top and smallest at the bottom.[3][4]
Artist Country of origin Period active Release-year of first charted record Genre Total certified units
(from available markets)[Notes]
Claimed sales
Mariah Carey United States 1988–present[77] 1990[77] R&B/Pop/Rock[77] 200 million[80][81]
175 million[82][83]
Celine Dion Canada 1981–present[84] 1981[84] Pop[84] 200 million[87][88]
175 million[89][90]
Whitney Houston United States 1977–2012[91] 1984[91] R&B / Pop[91] 200 million[94][95]
170 million[96][97]
AC/DC Australia 1973–present[98] 1975[98] Hard rock/Heavy metal[98] 200 million[99][100]
150 million[101][102]
Queen United Kingdom 1971–present[103] 1973[103] Rock[103] 200 million[105]
150 million[106]
The Rolling Stones United Kingdom 1962–present[107] 1963[107] Rock / Blues rock[107] 200 million[108][109]
ABBA Sweden 1972–1982[110] 1972[110] Pop / Disco[110] 200 million[115][116]
100 million[117][118]
  • The column for Certified Sales above includes markets, the databases of which contain certifications representing figures of 100,000 and more.

120 million to 199 million records

  • To ensure a highest level of fact checking and editorial control, this list sources sales figures to news organizations and highly regarded music industry related organizations such as MTV, VH1, Billboard and Rolling Stone.
  • The figures of total certified units within the table below are based on certified units of albums, singles (including digital downloads) and videos.
  • Markets' order within the table is based on Retail Value each market generates respectively, largest market at the top and smallest at the bottom.[3][4]
Artist Country of origin Period active Release-year of first charted record Genre Total certified units
(from available markets)[Notes]
Claimed sales
Garth Brooks United States 1989–present[119] 1989[119] Country[119] 150 million[120]
Eagles United States 1971–present[121] 1972[121] Soft rock / Country rock[121] 150 million[122]
Rihanna Barbados
United States
2005–present[123] 2005[123] R&B / Pop / Dance /Hip-hop[123] 150 million[127]
U2 Ireland 1976–present[128] 1980[128] Rock[128] 150 million[129]
Billy Joel United States 1964–present[130] 1971[130] Pop / Rock[130] 150 million[132]
Phil Collins United Kingdom 1980–2011[133] 1981[133] Adult contemporary[133] 150 million[136]
Aerosmith United States 1970–present[137] 1973[137] Hard rock[137] 150 million[138]
Frank Sinatra United States 1935–1995[139] 1939[139] Pop / Swing[139] 150 million[140]
Barbra Streisand United States 1960–present[141] 1963[141] Pop / Adult contemporary[141] 145 million[142]
Genesis United Kingdom 1967–1999
2006–2011[143]
1969[143] Progressive rock / Pop rock[143] 130 million[144]
Neil Diamond United States 1966–present[145] 1966[145] Pop / Rock[145] 125 million[146]
Bruce Springsteen United States 1972–present[147] 1973[147] Rock[147] 120 million[149]
Bee Gees United Kingdom 1963–2003
2009–2012[150]
1963[150] Pop / Disco[150] 120 million[153]
Julio Iglesias Spain 1968–present[154] 1968[154] Latin[154] 120 million[156]
Dire Straits United Kingdom 1977–1995[157] 1978[157] Rock / Pop[157] 120 million[158]
  • The column for Certified Sales above includes markets, the databases of which contain certifications representing figures of 100,000 and more.

100 million to 119 million records

  • To ensure a highest level of fact checking and editorial control, this list sources sales figures to news organizations and highly regarded music industry related organizations such as MTV, VH1, Billboard and Rolling Stone.
  • The figures of total certified units within the table below are based on certified units of albums, singles (including digital downloads) and videos.
  • Markets' order within the table is based on Retail Value each market generates respectively, largest market at the top and smallest at the bottom.[3][4]
Artist Country of origin Period active Release-year of first charted record Genre Total certified units
(from available markets)[Notes]
Claimed sales
Metallica United States 1981–present[159] 1983[159] Heavy metal / Thrash metal[159] 110 million[161]
Taylor Swift United States 2006–present[162] 2006[162] Country / Country pop / Pop / Pop-rock[162] 101 million[165]
Eminem United States 1996–present[166] 1999[166] Hip hop[166] 100 million[169]
Britney Spears United States 1998–present[170] 1998[170] Pop / Dance / Dance-pop[170] 100 million[172]
Rod Stewart United Kingdom 1964–present[173] 1969[173] Rock / Pop[173] 100 million[174]
Bon Jovi United States 1983–present[175] 1983[175] Hard rock / Glam metal[175] 100 million[178]
Fleetwood Mac United Kingdom
United States
1967–present[179] 1968[179] Rock / Pop[179] 100 million[181]
Backstreet Boys United States 1993–present[182] 1995[182] Pop[182] 100 million[184]
Guns N' Roses United States 1985–present[185] 1987[185] Hard rock / Heavy metal[185] 100 million[187]
Prince United States 1976–present[188] 1978[188] Funk / R&B / Pop / Soul / Rock[188] 100 million[191]
Kenny Rogers United States 1958–present[192] 1975[192] Country / Pop[192] 100 million[193]
Paul McCartney United Kingdom 1960–present[194] 1970[194] Rock[194] 100 million[197]
Janet Jackson United States 1982–present[198] 1982[198] R&B / Pop[198] 100 million[199]
Chicago United States 1967–present[200] 1969[200] Rock / Pop[200] 100 million[203]
The Carpenters United States 1969–1983[204] 1969[204] Pop[204] 100 million[206]
Bob Dylan United States 1959–present[207] 1963[207] Folk / Rock[207] 100 million[208]
George Michael United Kingdom 1981–present[209] 1984[209] Pop[209] 100 million[210]
Bryan Adams Canada 1979–present[211] 1979[211] Rock[211] 100 million[212]
Def Leppard United Kingdom 1977–present[213] 1979[213] Hard rock / Heavy metal[213] 100 million[217]
Cher United States 1964–present[218] 1965[218] Pop / Rock / Dance / Folk[218] 100 million[222]
Lionel Richie United States 1968–present[223] 1981[223] Pop / R&B[223] 100 million[224]
Olivia Newton-John Australia 1966–present[225] 1966[225] Pop[225] 100 million[226]
Stevie Wonder United States 1961–present[227] 1962[227] Funk / R&B / Soul[227] 100 million[228]
Linda Ronstadt United States 1967–present[229] 1968[229] Rock / Folk / Country[229] 100 million[230]
Tina Turner United States 1955–present[231] 1975[231] Rock / Pop[231] 100 million[232]
Donna Summer United States 1968–2012[233] 1974[233] Pop / Disco / R&B[233] 100 million[234]
The Beach Boys United States 1961–present[235] 1962[235] Rock / Pop / Surf Rock[235] 100 million[236]
Kiss United States 1972–present[237] 1974[237] Hard rock / Heavy metal[237] 100 million[238]
The Who United Kingdom 1964–present[239] 1965[239] Rock / Hard rock[239] 100 million[240]
Johnny Hallyday France 1957–2007[241] 1960[241] Rock / Pop[241] 100 million[243]
Barry White United States 1972–2003[244] 1973[244] R&B / Soul[244] 100 million[245]
  • The column for Certified Sales above includes markets, the databases of which contain certifications representing figures of 100,000 and more.

80 million to 99 million records

  • To ensure a highest level of fact checking and editorial control, this list sources sales figures to news organizations and highly regarded music industry related organizations such as MTV, VH1, Billboard and Rolling Stone.
  • The figures of total certified units within the table below are based on certified units of albums, singles (including digital downloads) and videos.
  • Markets' order within the table is based on Retail Value each market generates respectively, largest market at the top and smallest at the bottom.[3][4]
Artist Country of origin Period active Release-year of first charted record Genre Total certified units
(from available markets)[Notes]
Claimed sales
Santana United States 1966–present[246] 1969[246] Rock[246] 90 million[251]
Gloria Estefan United States 1977–present[252] 1984[252] Latin / Dance / Pop[252] 90 million[253]
Katy Perry United States 2001–present[254] 2008[254] Pop / Rock[254] 86 million[255]
R.E.M. United States 1980–2011[256] 1983[256] Alternative rock[256] 85 million[257]
B'z Japan 1988–present[258] 1988[258] Rock / Pop rock / Hard rock[258] 80 million[259]
Shania Twain Canada 1993–present[260] 1993[260] Country pop[260] 80 million[262]
Van Halen United States 1978–present[263] 1978[263] Hard rock / Heavy metal[263] 80 million[264]
Lady Gaga United States 2005–present[265] 2008[265] Pop / Dance / Electronic/ Rock[265] 80 million[267]
Red Hot Chili Peppers United States 1983–present[268] 1987[268] Funk rock / Alternative rock[268] 80 million[269]
Foreigner United States
United Kingdom
1976–present[270] 1977[270] Rock / Hard Rock[270] 80 million[271]
The Doors United States 1965–1973[272] 1967[272] Rock[272] 80 million[273]
Reba McEntire United States 1975–present[274] 1987[274] Country / Country Pop[274] 80 million[275]
Meat Loaf United States 1968–present[276] 1977[276] Hard rock[276] 80 million[277]
Barry Manilow United States 1973–present[278] 1973[278] Pop / Soft rock[278] 80 million[279]
Tom Petty United States 1976–present[280] 1977[280] Rock[280] 80 million[281]
New Kids on the Block United States 1984–present[282] 1986[282] Teen pop[282] 80 million[283]
  • The column for Certified Sales above includes markets, the databases of which contain certifications representing figures of 100,000 and more.

75 million to 79 million records

  • To ensure a highest level of fact checking and editorial control, this list sources sales figures to news organizations and highly regarded music industry related organizations such as MTV, VH1, Billboard and Rolling Stone.
  • The figures of total certified units within the table below are based on certified units of albums, singles (including digital downloads) and videos.
  • Markets' order within the table is based on Retail Value each market generates respectively, largest market at the top and smallest at the bottom.[3][4]
Artist Country of origin Period active Release-year of first charted record Genre Total certified units
(from available markets)[Notes]
Claimed sales
The Black Eyed Peas United States 1995–present[284] 1998[284] Hip-hop / R&B / Dance[284] 76 million[285]
Jay-Z United States 1996–present[286] 1996[286] Hip-hop[286] 75 million[287]
Journey United States 1973–present[288] 1975[288] Rock / Soft rock[288] 75 million[291]
Beyoncé United States 1997–present[292] 2002[292][293] R&B / Pop[292] 75 million[295]
Kenny G United States 1982–present[296] 1984[296] Smooth jazz[296] 75 million[297]
Enya Ireland 1982–present[298] 1987[298] New age / Celtic[298] 75 million[301]
Alabama United States 1972–present[302] 1980[302] Country / Pop rock[302] 75 million[303]
Green Day United States 1987–present[304] 1994[304] Punk rock / Alternative rock[304] 75 million[305]
Nirvana United States 1987–1994[306] 1989[306] Grunge / Alternative rock[306] 75 million[311]
Tupac Shakur United States 1988–1996[312] 1991[312] Hip hop[312] 75 million[313]
Spice Girls United Kingdom 1996–2000
2007–2008[314]
1996[314] Pop / Dance-pop[314] 75 million[315]
Andrea Bocelli Italy 1994–present[316] 1994[316] Pop / Classical / Opera[316] 75 million[317]
Bob Marley Jamaica 1962–1981[318] 1975[318] Reggae[318] 75 million[320]
Mötley Crüe United States 1981–present[321] 1983[321] Glam metal[321] 75 million[322]
Depeche Mode United Kingdom 1980–present[323] 1981[323] Synth rock / Electronic[323] 75 million[324]
Aretha Franklin United States 1956–present[325] 1961[325] Soul / Jazz/ Blues/ R&B[325] 75 million[326]
Scorpions Germany 1969–present[327] 1978[327] Hard rock[327] 75 million[328]
  • The column for Certified Sales above includes markets, the databases of which contain certifications representing figures of 100,000 and more.

See also

Notes

Notes^

Certification systems have been established periodically throughout the past half century, thus certification-databases are not able to cover all sales. Some (or all) records released and sold prior to the certification system's establishment year may not be found within the available searchable certification databases. Year of establishment (from largest market to smallest based on Retail Value each market generates respectively):[3][4]

  • Japan:1989:[330] (online Gold/Platinum certification-database covers certifications issued since 1994.[7] Million-seller database covers records releases since 1989[78])
  • Australia: 1997[13] (online certification-database has begun since 1997. Certifications; however, existed in Australia since the 1970s)
  • Italy: 2010[16] (online certification-database covers certifications issued since 2010. Certifications; however, have existed in Italy since the 1990s)

Certified sales might sometimes be larger than actual sales if stores order more albums than they are able to sell, due to certifications generally being determined by shipments, not actual sales. Often; however, actual sales are larger than certified sales as Record labels must pay a fee to obtain certifications. Record Companies most of the time apply for certifications when a record reaches a multiple certification-levels, meaning certifications might not be visible in the databases for more than a short period of time after an album reached a certification level.[339][340] Due to music piracy begun in 1999–2000, global music sales declined, which consequently opted certification-bodies to reduce their certification levels.[341] See the changes in Certification-award-levels in the following markets:

  • USA[342] (Note, U.S. certification-award-levels for singles before 1989 were: Gold=1,000,000 and Platinum=2,000,000.[343] Also, U.S. certification-awards for Shortform albums before September 1996 were: Gold=250,000 and Platinum=500,000[344])
  • Canada[351] (Canadian certification-award-levels for singles before February 1982 were: Gold=75,000 and Platinum=150,000[352])

References

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