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.12

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 the 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, the largest market at the top and smallest at the bottom.34
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 1960–19705 19625 Rock / Pop5 600 million2728
Elvis Presley United States 1954–197729 195429 Rock and roll / Pop / Country29 600 million3536
500 million37
Michael Jackson United States 1968–200938 197138 Pop / Rock / Dance / R&B38 400 million4748
350 million49
300 million5051
Madonna United States 1979–present52 198252 Pop / Rock / Dance / Electronica52 300 million5354
275 million5556
Elton John United Kingdom 1964–present57 196957 Pop / Rock57 300 million5960
250 million6162
Led Zeppelin United Kingdom 1968–198063 196963 Hard rock / Heavy metal63 300 million6768
200 million6970
Pink Floyd United Kingdom 1965–199671 196771 Progressive rock71 250 million7374
200 million7576
  • 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 the 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, the largest market at the top and the smallest at the bottom.34
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–present77 199077 R&B/Pop/Rock77 200 million8081
175 million8283
Celine Dion Canada 1981–present84 198184 Pop84 200 million8788
175 million8990
Whitney Houston United States 1977–201291 198491 R&B / Pop91 200 million9495
170 million9697
AC/DC Australia 1973–present98 197598 Hard rock/Heavy metal98 200 million99100
150 million101102
Queen United Kingdom 1971–present103 1973103 Rock103 200 million105
150 million106
The Rolling Stones United Kingdom 1962–present107 1963107 Rock / Blues rock107 200 million108109
ABBA Sweden 1972–1982110 1972110 Pop / Disco110 200 million115116
100 million117118
  • 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 the 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, the largest market at the top and the smallest at the bottom.34
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–present119 1989119 Country119 150 million120
Eagles United States 1971–present121 1972121 Soft rock / Country rock121 150 million122
Rihanna Barbados
United States
2005–present123 2005123 R&B / Pop / Dance /Hip-hop123 150 million127
U2 Ireland 1976–present128 1980128 Rock128 150 million129
Billy Joel United States 1964–present130 1971130 Pop / Rock130 150 million132
Phil Collins United Kingdom 1980–2011133 1981133 Adult contemporary133 150 million136
Aerosmith United States 1970–present137 1973137 Hard rock137 150 million138
Frank Sinatra United States 1935–1995139 1939139 Pop / Swing139 150 million140
Barbra Streisand United States 1960–present141 1963141 Pop / Adult contemporary141 145 million142
Genesis United Kingdom 1967–1999
2006–2011143
1969143 Progressive rock / Pop rock143 130 million144
Neil Diamond United States 1966–present145 1966145 Pop / Rock145 125 million146
Bruce Springsteen United States 1972–present147 1973147 Rock147 120 million149
Bee Gees United Kingdom 1963–2003
2009–2012150
1963150 Pop / Disco150 120 million153
Julio Iglesias Spain 1968–present154 1968154 Latin154 120 million156
Dire Straits United Kingdom 1977–1995157 1978157 Rock / Pop157 120 million158
  • 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 the high 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, the largest market at the top and the smallest at the bottom.34
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–present159 1983159 Heavy metal / Thrash metal159 110 million161
Taylor Swift United States 2006–present162 2006162 Country / Country pop / Pop / Pop-rock162 101 million165
Eminem United States 1996–present166 1999166 Hip hop166 100 million169
Britney Spears United States 1998–present170 1998170 Pop / Dance / Dance-pop170 100 million172
Rod Stewart United Kingdom 1964–present173 1969173 Rock / Pop173 100 million174
Bon Jovi United States 1983–present175 1983175 Hard rock / Glam metal175 100 million178
Fleetwood Mac United Kingdom
United States
1967–present179 1968179 Rock / Pop179 100 million181
Backstreet Boys United States 1993–present182 1995182 Pop182 100 million184
Guns N' Roses United States 1985–present185 1987185 Hard rock / Heavy metal185 100 million187
Prince United States 1976–present188 1978188 Funk / R&B / Pop / Soul / Rock188 100 million191
Kenny Rogers United States 1958–present192 1975192 Country / Pop192 100 million193
Paul McCartney United Kingdom 1960–present194 1970194 Rock194 100 million197
Janet Jackson United States 1982–present198 1982198 R&B / Pop198 100 million199
Chicago United States 1967–present200 1969200 Rock / Pop200 100 million203
The Carpenters United States 1969–1983204 1969204 Pop204 100 million206
Bob Dylan United States 1959–present207 1963207 Folk / Rock207 100 million208
George Michael United Kingdom 1981–present209 1984209 Pop209 100 million210
Bryan Adams Canada 1979–present211 1979211 Rock211 100 million212
Def Leppard United Kingdom 1977–present213 1979213 Hard rock / Heavy metal213 100 million217
Cher United States 1964–present218 1965218 Pop / Rock / Dance / Folk218 100 million222
Lionel Richie United States 1968–present223 1981223 Pop / R&B223 100 million224
Olivia Newton-John Australia 1966–present225 1966225 Pop225 100 million226
Stevie Wonder United States 1961–present227 1962227 Funk / R&B / Soul227 100 million228
Linda Ronstadt United States 1967–present229 1968229 Rock / Folk / Country229 100 million230
Tina Turner United States 1955–present231 1975231 Rock / Pop231 100 million232
Donna Summer United States 1968–2012233 1974233 Pop / Disco / R&B233 100 million234
The Beach Boys United States 1961–present235 1962235 Rock / Pop / Surf Rock235 100 million236
Kiss United States 1972–present237 1974237 Hard rock / Heavy metal237 100 million238
The Who United Kingdom 1964–present239 1965239 Rock / Hard rock239 100 million240
Johnny Hallyday France 1957–2007241 1960241 Rock / Pop241 100 million243
Barry White United States 1972–2003244 1973244 R&B / Soul244 100 million245
  • 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 the 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, the largest market at the top and the smallest at the bottom.34
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–present246 1969246 Rock246 90 million251
Gloria Estefan United States 1977–present252 1984252 Latin / Dance / Pop252 90 million253
Katy Perry United States 2001–present254 2008254 Pop / Rock254 86 million255
R.E.M. United States 1980–2011256 1983256 Alternative rock256 85 million257
B'z Japan 1988–present258 1988258 Rock / Pop rock / Hard rock258 80 million259
Shania Twain Canada 1993–present260 1993260 Country pop260 80 million262
Van Halen United States 1978–present263 1978263 Hard rock / Heavy metal263 80 million264
Lady Gaga United States 2005–present265 2008265 Pop / Dance / Electronic/ Rock265 80 million267
Red Hot Chili Peppers United States 1983–present268 1987268 Funk rock / Alternative rock268 80 million269
Foreigner United States
United Kingdom
1976–present270 1977270 Rock / Hard Rock270 80 million271
The Doors United States 1965–1973272 1967272 Rock272 80 million273
Reba McEntire United States 1975–present274 1987274 Country / Country Pop274 80 million275
Meat Loaf United States 1968–present276 1977276 Hard rock276 80 million277
Barry Manilow United States 1973–present278 1973278 Pop / Soft rock278 80 million279
Tom Petty United States 1976–present280 1977280 Rock280 80 million281
New Kids on the Block United States 1984–present282 1986282 Teen pop282 80 million283
  • 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 the 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, the largest market at the top and the smallest at the bottom.34
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–present284 1998284 Hip-hop / R&B / Dance284 76 million285
Jay-Z United States 1996–present286 1996286 Hip-hop286 75 million287
Journey United States 1973–present288 1975288 Rock / Soft rock288 75 million291
Beyoncé United States 1997–present292 2002292293 R&B / Pop292 75 million295
Kenny G United States 1982–present296 1984296 Smooth jazz296 75 million297
Enya Ireland 1982–present298 1987298 New age / Celtic298 75 million301
Alabama United States 1972–present302 1980302 Country / Pop rock302 75 million303
Green Day United States 1987–present304 1994304 Punk rock / Alternative rock304 75 million305
Nirvana United States 1987–1994306 1989306 Grunge / Alternative rock306 75 million311
Tupac Shakur United States 1988–1996312 1991312 Hip hop312 75 million313
Spice Girls United Kingdom 1996–2000
2007–2008314
1996314 Pop / Dance-pop314 75 million315
Andrea Bocelli Italy 1994–present316 1994316 Pop / Classical / Opera316 75 million317
Bob Marley Jamaica 1962–1981318 1975318 Reggae318 75 million320
Mötley Crüe United States 1981–present321 1983321 Glam metal321 75 million322
Depeche Mode United Kingdom 1980–present323 1981323 Synth rock / Electronic323 75 million324
Aretha Franklin United States 1956–present325 1961325 Soul / Jazz/ Blues/ R&B325 75 million326
Scorpions Germany 1969–present327 1978327 Hard rock327 75 million328
  • 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):34

  • Japan:1989:330 (online Gold/Platinum certification-database covers certifications issued since 1994.7 Million-seller database covers records releases since 198978)
  • Australia: 199713 (online certification-database has begun since 1997. Certifications; however, existed in Australia since the 1970s)
  • Italy: 201016 (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.339340 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:

  • USA342 (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=500,000344)
  • Canada351 (Canadian certification-award-levels for singles before February 1982 were: Gold=75,000 and Platinum=150,000352)

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