List of best-selling albums

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This is a list of the world's best-selling albums. The criteria are that the figure must have been published by a reliable source and the album must have sold at least 20 million copies worldwide. This list can contain any types of albums, including studio albums, greatest hits, compilations, various artists, soundtracks and remixes.

All albums included on this list have their available claimed figure(s) supported by at least 30% in certified copies. The percentage amount of certified sales needed increases the newer the album is, so albums released before 1975 are only expected to have their claimed figures supported by at least 30% in certified copies. However, newer albums, such as 21 and Come Away with Me, are expected to have their claimed figures supported by at least 70% in certified copies. Certified copies are sourced from available online databases of local music industry associations.

This is the reason why albums such as The Sound of Music, Parallel Lines, Spirits Having Flown, Janet, Believe, The Colour of My Love, Human Clay, and Back to Black, have not been included on this list.

As a result of the methodology that the American and Canadian certification-awarding bodies, the RIAA and Music Canada, use, each disc in a multi-disc set is counted as one unit toward certification, leading to many double albums on the list—such as Pink Floyd's The Wall and the Beatles's The Beatles—being certified with a number double the number of copies sold there. Such albums have the certifications for the number of copies, not discs, shipped indicated.

Conversely, the American certification level for double albums that fit onto one compact disc, such as the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack reflect the actual number of copies sold.

The figures given do not take into account the resale of used albums.

Michael Jackson's Thriller, estimated to have sold between 51 to 65 million copies worldwide, is the best-selling album.[1][2][3] Although sales estimates for Thriller have been as high as 110 million copies, these sales figures are unreliable.[4] Jackson also currently has the highest number of albums on the list with five, Madonna follows up with four while The Beatles and Whitney Houston each have three.

Legend

colors
Studio albums
Greatest hits and compilations
Soundtracks

Groupings are based on different sales benchmarks, the highest being for claims of at least 40 million copies, and the lowest being for claims of 20–29 million copies. Albums are listed in order of number of copies sold and thereafter by the artist's first name.

40 million copies or more

  • Markets' order within the table is based on the number of compact discs sold in each market, largest market at the top and smallest at the bottom.[5]
Artist Album Released Genre Music recording sales certification
List of music recording certifications (millions)
Claimed sales (millions)
Michael Jackson Thriller 1982 Pop, rock, R&B 51–65[1][2][3]
Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon 1973 Progressive rock 45[27][28]
Eagles Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) 1976 Country rock, folk rock 42[29][30]
AC/DC Back in Black 1980 Hard rock, heavy metal 40[31][32]
Bee Gees / Various artists Saturday Night Fever 1977 Disco 40[34][35]
Fleetwood Mac Rumours 1977 Soft rock 40[38][39]
Whitney Houston / Various artists The Bodyguard 1992 Soundtrack/R&B, soul, pop 40[44][45]

30–39 million copies

Artist Album Released Genre Music recording sales certification
List of music recording certifications (millions)
Claimed sales (millions)
Shania Twain Come On Over 1997 Country, pop 39[49][50]
Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin IV 1971 Hard rock, heavy metal 37[51]
Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell 1977 Hard rock, progressive rock 34[52]
Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill 1995 Alternative rock 33[53]
The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 1967 Rock 32[54]
Eagles Hotel California 1976 Country rock / Hard rock 32[55][56]
Mariah Carey Music Box 1993 Pop / R&B / Rock 32[57][58][59][60][61][62]
Various artists Dirty Dancing 1987 Pop, rock, R&B 32[63]
The Beatles 1 2000 Rock 31[66]
The Beatles Abbey Road 1969 Rock 30[67]
Bruce Springsteen Born in the U.S.A. 1984 Rock 30[68]
Celine Dion Falling into You 1996 Pop / Soft rock 30[69]
Celine Dion Let's Talk About Love 1997 Pop / Soft rock 30[71]
Dire Straits Brothers in Arms 1985 Rock 30[72][73]
Whitney Houston Whitney Houston 1985 Pop, R&B 30[74]
James Horner Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture 1997 Soundtrack 30[77]
Madonna The Immaculate Collection 1990 Pop / Dance 30[80]
Metallica Metallica 1991 Thrash metal / heavy metal 30[81]
Michael Jackson Bad 1987 Pop, funk, rock 30[82][83]
Michael Jackson Dangerous 1991 Rock / Funk / Pop 30[86]
Pink Floyd The Wall 1979 Progressive rock 30[87]
Santana Supernatural 1999 Rock 30[88]
Guns N' Roses Appetite for Destruction 1987 Heavy metal / hard rock 30[89][90]

20–29 million copies

Artist Album Released Genre Sales (millions) Source
ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits 1992 Pop 28 [91]
Adele 21 2011 Pop, soul 28 [92]
Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet 1986 Hard rock 28 [93]
Spice Girls Spice 1996 Pop 28 [94]
Various artists Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture 1978 Soundtrack 28 [95]
Britney Spears ...Baby One More Time 1999 Pop 26 [96]
Nirvana Nevermind 1991 Grunge / Alternative rock 26 [97]
Bob Marley & The Wailers Legend: The Best of Bob Marley & The Wailers 1984 Reggae 25 [98]
Carole King Tapestry 1971 Pop 25 [99]
Madonna True Blue 1986 Pop 25 [100]
Mariah Carey Daydream 1995 Pop, R&B 25 [101]
Norah Jones Come Away with Me 2002 Jazz 25 [102]
Queen Greatest Hits 1981 Rock 25 [103]
Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water 1970 Folk rock 25 [104]
U2 The Joshua Tree 1987 Rock 25 [105]
Backstreet Boys Backstreet's Back / Backstreet Boys 1997 Pop 24 [106]
Backstreet Boys Millennium 1999 Pop 24 [106]
Linkin Park Hybrid Theory 2000 Nu metal, rap metal, alternative rock 24 [107]
Ace of Base Happy Nation/The Sign 1993 Pop 23 [108]
TLC CrazySexyCool 1994 R&B, hip hop 23 [109]
Oasis (What's the Story) Morning Glory? 1995 Britpop, rock 22 [110]
Bon Jovi Cross Road 1994 Hard rock 21 [111]
Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 2000 Rap, hip-hop 21 [112]
Madonna Like a Virgin 1984 Pop, dance 21 [113]
Avril Lavigne Let Go 2002 Pop rock, alternative rock 20 [114]
Boston Boston 1976 Hard rock 20 [115]
Britney Spears Oops!... I Did It Again 2000 Pop 20 [116]
Def Leppard Hysteria 1987 Pop, Hard rock 20 [117]
George Michael Faith 1987 Pop / R&B 20 [118]
Eric Clapton Unplugged 1992 Acoustic blues, folk rock 20 [119]
Lionel Richie Can't Slow Down 1983 Pop, R&B, soul 20 [120]
Madonna Ray of Light 1998 Pop, Dance, Electronica 20 [121]
Michael Jackson HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I 1995 Pop, rock, R&B 20 [122]
Michael Jackson Off the Wall 1979 Soul, disco, R&B 20 [123]
Phil Collins No Jacket Required 1985 Pop, Rock 20 [124]
Prince & The Revolution Purple Rain 1984 Pop, rock, R&B 20 [125]
Shania Twain The Woman in Me 1995 Country, pop 20 [126]
Supertramp Breakfast in America 1979 Progressive rock, art rock 20 [127]
Tina Turner Private Dancer 1984 Rock 20 [128]
Usher Confessions 2004 R&B 20 [129]
Whitney Houston Whitney 1987 Pop, R&B 20 [130]
Green Day Dookie 1994 Pop-punk, punk rock, alternative rock 20 [131]

Timeline of the highest selling albums

Timeline of the highest-selling album record
Year record set Artist Album Record setting sales (millions) Total sales (millions) References
1945 Various Artists Oklahoma! (78 rpm album) 0.5 1.0 [132][133]
1956 Various Artists Oklahoma! (LP album) 1.75 2.5 [134]
1956/1957 Various Artists My Fair Lady 2 5 [135][136][137]
1960 Various Artists South Pacific 2.25 3 [citation needed]
1963 Vaughn Meader The First Family 4 7.5 [138][139]
1968 Various Artists The Sound of Music 8WW [140]
1973 Carole King Tapestry 10+ [141]
1975/1976 Various Artists The Sound of Music 10–15SM-T [142][143]
1976 Carole King Tapestry 13.5SM-T 25 [144]
1979 Bee Gees/Various Artists Saturday Night Fever 25–27 40 [145][146]
1984 Michael Jackson Thriller 35 51–65 [147][148]
Notes
  • WWIt is unclear whether this sales figure refers to worldwide sales or US sales.
  • SM-TThe exact year in which Tapestry regained the title of "best-selling album of all-time", if it ever regained it at all, is unclear. The album's 1976 sales claim is therefore only listed to be inclusive, as it is plausible that Tapestry had overtaken The Sound of Music in sales during this time period.

See also

References

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