List of best-selling music artists

Last updated

This list includes music artists with claims of 75 million or more record sales. The artists in the following tables are listed with both their claimed sales figure along with their total of certified units and are ranked in descending order, with the artist with the highest amount of claimed sales at the top. If two or more artists have the same claimed sales, they are then ranked by certified units. The claimed sales figure and the total of certified units (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. Sales figures, such as those from Soundscan, which are sometimes published by Billboard magazine, have not been included in the certified units column. As of 2017, based on both sales claims and certified units, The Beatles are considered the highest-selling band. Elvis Presley is considered the highest-selling individual artist based on sales claims and Rihanna is the highest-selling individual artist based on certified units.

Music recording sales, commonly called record sales, are activities related to selling albums, singles, or music videos through record shops or online music store. Record sales reached the peak in 1999, when 600 million people spent an average of $64 in buying records, bringing a total of $40 billion sales of recorded music. Sales continued declining in the 21st century. The collapse of record sales also made artists rely on touring for most of their income.

<i>Billboard</i> (magazine) American music magazine

Billboard is an American entertainment media brand owned by the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group, a division of Eldridge Industries. It publishes pieces involving news, video, opinion, reviews, events, and style, and is also known for its music charts, including the Hot 100 and Billboard 200, tracking the most popular songs and albums in different genres. It also hosts events, owns a publishing firm, and operates several TV shows.

The Beatles English rock band

The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. The line-up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr led them to be regarded as the most influential band of all time. With a sound rooted in skiffle, beat and 1950s rock and roll, the group were integral to the evolution of pop music into an art form, and to the development of the counterculture of the 1960s. They often incorporated elements of classical music, older pop, and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways, and they experimented with a number of musical styles in later years, ranging from pop ballads and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock. As they continued to draw influences from a variety of cultural sources, their musical and lyrical sophistication grew, and they came to be seen as embodying the era's socio-cultural movements.



All artists included on this list, which have begun charting on official albums or singles charts have their available claimed figures supported by at least 20% in certified units. That is why Cliff Richard, Diana Ross, Scorpions, Bing Crosby, Gloria Estefan, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Tom Jones, The Jackson 5, Dionne Warwick, the Spice Girls, Dolly Parton, Ozzy Osbourne, Andrea Bocelli and others have not been included on this list. The more recent the artist, the higher the required percentage of certified units, this is because more music markets instituted certification systems after the 1980s and 1990s. [lower-alpha 1] So artists such as Rihanna, Chris Brown, Taylor Swift, Flo Rida, Katy Perry, Drake, Justin Bieber, Adele, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj and Ed Sheeran are expected to have their claimed figures supported by over 75% in certified units. The certified units are sourced from available online databases of local music industry associations. All certified units are converted from Gold/Platinum/Diamond certification awards based on criteria provided by certifying bodies. The certified units percentage varies according to the first year that an artist appeared in the charts. [lower-alpha 2]

Cliff Richard British pop singer, musician, and actor

Sir Cliff Richard is a British pop singer, musician, performer, actor and philanthropist. Richard has sold more than 250 million records worldwide. He has total sales of over 21 million singles in the United Kingdom and is the third-top-selling artist in UK Singles Chart history, behind the Beatles and Elvis Presley.

Diana Ross American vocalist, music artist and actress

Diana Ross is an American singer, actress, and record producer. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Ross rose to fame as the lead singer of the vocal group the Supremes, which, during the 1960s, became Motown's most successful act, and are the best charting girl group in US history, as well as one of the world's best-selling girl groups of all time. The group released a record-setting twelve number-one hit singles on the US Billboard Hot 100, including "Where Did Our Love Go", "Baby Love", "Come See About Me", "Stop! In the Name of Love", "You Can't Hurry Love", "You Keep Me Hangin' On", "Love Child", and "Someday We'll Be Together".

Scorpions (band) German rock band

Scorpions are a German rock band formed in 1965 in Hanover by Rudolf Schenker. Since the band's inception, its musical style has ranged from hard rock to heavy metal. The lineup from 1978–1992 was the most successful incarnation of the group, and included Klaus Meine (vocals), Rudolf Schenker, Matthias Jabs, Francis Buchholz (bass), and Herman Rarebell (drums). The band's only constant member has been Schenker, although Meine has been the lead singer for all of Scorpions' studio albums, while Jabs has been a consistent member since 1979, and bassist Paweł Mąciwoda and drummer Mikkey Dee have been in the band since 2003 and 2016 respectively.

The requirements of certified units are designed to avoid inflated sales figures, which are frequently practiced by record companies for promotional purposes. [1] [2] The claimed figures are referenced from online articles created by highly reliable sources. For clarity, the sources used, say the term "records" (singles, albums, videos) and not "albums". However, if all available sources for an artist or band say "albums", such sources are only used if the certified album units of the said artist meet the required percentage amount. This list uses claimed figures that are closest to artists' available certified units: inflated claimed figures that meet the required certified units amount but are unrealistically high, are not used.

The claimed figures are upgraded only when there is a significant progress in artists' certified units. In other words, the available certified units for each artist should get relatively closer to already listed claimed figure in order for higher figures to replace the listed ones.

The certified units of the newer artists may sometimes be higher than their listed claimed figures. This is because Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and almost all other certifying bodies count streaming towards Gold and Platinum thresholds required for Digital Single Award certification. [3] [4] [5] For this reason, some singles and even albums get over certified by hundreds of thousands of units. The over certified figures, however, are often in millions of units for RIAA certifications, one such example is Rihanna's single "We Found Love", which is certified at nine times Platinum by the RIAA, yet during the time of the certification, it had sold 5.4 million downloads. [6] [7]

Recording Industry Association of America Trade organization representing the recording industry in the U.S.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade organization that represents the recording industry in the United States. Its members consist of record labels and distributors, which the RIAA says "create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legally sold recorded music in the United States." The RIAA headquarters is in Washington, D.C.

We Found Love 2011 song by Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris

"We Found Love" is a song recorded by Barbadian singer Rihanna from her sixth studio album, Talk That Talk (2011). It was written and produced by, and features Scottish DJ Calvin Harris; the song was also featured on his third album 18 Months (2012). "We Found Love" premiered on September 22, 2011, on the Capital FM radio station in the United Kingdom, and was made available to download on the same day as the lead single from Talk That Talk. "We Found Love" is an uptempo electro house song, with elements of techno and Europop. The song's lyrics speak of a couple who "found love in a hopeless place".

The certified units for some artists/bands who have multi-disc albums can be higher than their listed claimed figures due to Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) counting each unit within set as one unit toward certification.

Issued certifications for songs which have been recorded by multiple artists including featured artists are added to each artist's total amount of certified units, as all the artists would have played a significant part in a song. For example, "This Is What You Came For" and "Where Them Girls At" include Rihanna and Flo Rida, Nicki Minaj as featured artists respectively, so the certifications issued for these songs are added to the total amount of certified units for all involved artists. However, the certifications issued for songs that have been recorded by four or more artists are not included as the artists involved would have played minor roles, examples of such songs are Kanye West's "Monster" and/or "All Day". [lower-alpha 3]

This Is What You Came For 2016 song by Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna

"This Is What You Came For" is a song by Scottish DJ and record producer Calvin Harris, featuring guest vocals from Barbadian singer Rihanna. It was released on 29 April 2016, through Columbia Records and Westbury Road. The song was written by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, who was initially credited with the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg. Rihanna and Harris had previously collaborated on her sixth studio album, Talk That Talk, which included the international chart-topper "We Found Love" and US top five single "Where Have You Been", the former of which was written and produced by Harris. He played the final version for Rihanna at the 2016 Coachella Music Festival. It was also played at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final after the conclusion of the match.

Where Them Girls At single by David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida

"Where Them Girls At" is a song by French DJ and record producer David Guetta, featuring vocals from American rapper Flo Rida and Trinidadian rapper Nicki Minaj. The track was released on 2 May 2011, via Virgin Records, serving as the lead single from Guetta's fifth studio album, Nothing but the Beat. The track was written by Mike Caren, Jared Cotter, Rida, Guetta, Minaj, Juan and Oscar Silinas, Giorgio Tuinfort and Sandy Vee.

Rihanna Barbadian singer, businesswoman, and actress

Robyn Rihanna Fenty is a Barbadian singer, businesswoman, fashion designer, actress, and philanthropist. She is known for embracing various musical styles and reinventing her image throughout her career.

Artists by reputed sales

250 million or more records

Michael Jackson American singer, songwriter and dancer

Michael Joseph Jackson was an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. Dubbed the "King of Pop", he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest entertainers. Jackson's contributions to music, dance, and fashion, along with his publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades.

Elvis Presley American singer and actor

Elvis Aaron Presley, also known mononymously as Elvis, was an American singer, musician, and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".

Elton John English rock singer-songwriter, composer and pianist

Sir Elton Hercules John is an English singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. He has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin since 1967; they have collaborated on more than 30 albums. John has sold more than 300 million records, making him one of the world's best-selling music artists. He has more than fifty Top 40 hits, as well as seven consecutive number-one albums in the United States, 58 Billboard Top 40 singles, 27 Top 10 singles, four of which reached number two and nine of which reached number one. His tribute single "Candle in the Wind 1997", rewritten in dedication to Diana, Princess of Wales, sold over 33 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling single in the history of the UK and US singles charts. He has also produced records and occasionally acted in films. John owned Watford F.C. from 1976 to 1987 and from 1997 to 2002, and is an honorary Life President of the club.

ArtistCountry / MarketPeriod activeRelease year of first charted recordGenre Total certified units
(from available markets) [lower-alpha 1]
Claimed sales
The Beatles United Kingdom1960–1970 [10] 1962 [10] Rock / Pop [10] 600 million [38] [39]
500 million [40]
Elvis Presley United States1954–1977 [41] 1954 [41] Rock and roll / Pop / Country [41] 600 million [50] [51]
500 million [52]
Michael Jackson United States1964–2009 [53] 1971 [53] Pop / Rock / Dance / Soul / R&B [53] 350 million [63] [64]
300 million [65] [66]
Madonna United States1979–present [67] 1982 [67] Pop / Dance / Electronica [67] 300 million [73] [74]
275 million [75]
Elton John United Kingdom1964–present [76] 1969 [76] Pop / Rock [76] 300 million [79] [80]
250 million [81] [82]
Led Zeppelin United Kingdom1968–1980 [83] 1969 [83] Hard rock / Blues rock / Folk rock [83] 300 million [87] [88]
200 million [89] [90]
Rihanna Barbados
United States
2005–present [91] 2005 [91] R&B / Pop / Dance / Hip-hop [91] 250 million [97] [98]
230 million [99] [100]
Pink Floyd United Kingdom1965–1996, 2014 [101] [102] 1967 [101] Progressive rock / Psychedelic rock [101] 250 million [104] [105]
200 million [106]

200 million to 249 million records

ArtistCountry / MarketPeriod activeRelease-year of first charted recordGenre Total certified units
(from available markets) [lower-alpha 1]
Claimed sales
Eminem United States1996–present [107] 1999 [107] Hip-hop [107] 220 million [108] [109]
Taylor Swift United States2006–present [110] 2006 [110] Pop / Pop rock / Country / Country pop / [110] 200 million [112]
175 million [113]
Queen United Kingdom1971–present [114] 1973 [114] Rock [114] 200 million [116]
170 million [117]
Mariah Carey United States1988–present [118] 1990 [118] R&B / Pop / Soul / Hip-hop [118] 200 million [122] [123]
175 million [124] [125]
Whitney Houston United States1977–2012 [126] 1984 [126] R&B / Soul / Pop [126] 200 million [129] [130]
170 million [131] [132]
Celine Dion Canada1981–present [133] 1981 [133] Pop [133] 200 million [138] [139]
175 million [140] [141]
AC/DC Australia1973–present [142] 1975 [142] Hard rock / Blues rock / Rock and roll [142] 200 million [144] [145]
150 million [146] [147]
The Rolling Stones United Kingdom1962–present [148] 1963 [148] Rock / Blues rock [148] 200 million [149] [150]

120 million to 199 million records

ArtistCountry / MarketPeriod activeRelease-year of first charted recordGenre Total certified units
(from available markets) [lower-alpha 1]
Claimed sales
Garth Brooks United States1989–present [151] 1989 [151] Country [151] 160 million [153]
Ed Sheeran United Kingdom2004–present [154] 2011 [154] Pop / Folk pop [154] 150 million [155]
Eagles United States1971–1980, 1994–present [156] 1972 [156] Rock [156] 150 million [158]
Billy Joel United States1964–present [159] 1971 [159] Pop / Rock [159] 150 million [161]
U2 Ireland1976–present [162] 1980 [162] Rock [162] 150 million [165]
Phil Collins United Kingdom1980–2011, 2015–present [166] 1981 [166] Rock / Progressive rock / Adult contemporary [166] 150 million [168]
Aerosmith United States1970–present [169] 1973 [169] Hard rock [169] 150 million [171]
ABBA Sweden 1972–1982 [172] 1972 [172] Pop / Disco [172] 150 million [181]
100 million [182]
Frank Sinatra United States1935–1995 [183] 1939 [183] Pop / Swing [183] 150 million [185]
Barbra Streisand United States1960–present [186] 1963 [186] Pop / Adult contemporary [186] 145 million [187]
Justin Bieber Canada
United States
2008–present [188] 2009 [188] Pop / Teen pop, Dance pop [188] 140 million [189]
Kanye West United States1996–present [190] 2004 [190] Hip-hop / Electronic / Pop rock [190] 135 million [193]
Bruce Springsteen United States1972–present [194] 1973 [194] Rock [194] 135 million [196]
Bruno Mars United States2004–present [197] 2010 [197] Pop rock / R&B [197] 130 million [200]
Lady Gaga United States2005–present [201] 2008 [201] Pop / Dance / Electronic [201] 124 million [202]
Metallica United States1981–present [203] 1983 [203] Heavy metal / Thrash metal [203] 120 million [205]
Bee Gees United Kingdom
Australia [206] [207]
2009–2012 [208]
1963 [208] Pop / Disco [208] 120 million [211]

100 million to 119 million records

ArtistCountry / MarketPeriod activeRelease-year of first charted recordGenre Total certified units
(from available markets) [lower-alpha 1]
Claimed sales
Drake Canada2001–present [212] 2009 [212] Hip-hop / R&B / Pop [212] 107 million [214]
Maroon 5 United States1994–present [215] 2002 [215] Pop rock / Funk rock / Dance-pop [215] 101 million [216]
Katy Perry United States2001–present [217] 2008 [217] Pop [217] 100 million [218]
Jay-Z United States1996–present [219] 1996 [219] Hip-hop [219] 100 million [220]
Adele United Kingdom2006–present [221] 2008 [221] Pop, soul [221] 100 million [222]
Chris Brown United States2005–present [223] 2005 [223] Pop / R&B, Hip-hop [223] 100 million [224]
Lil Wayne United States1996–present [225] 1999 [225] Hip-hop [225] 100 million [226]
Beyoncé United States1997–present [227] 2002 [227] [228] R&B / Pop [227] 100 million [232]
Coldplay United Kingdom1996–present [233] 1999 [233] Alternative rock, Pop rock, Pop [233] 100 million [234]
B'z Japan1988–present [235] 1988 [235] Rock / Pop rock / Hard rock [235] 100 million [236]
Bon Jovi United States1983–present [237] 1983 [237] Hard rock / Glam metal [237] 100 million [240]
Linkin Park United States1996–present [241] 2000 [241] Alternative rock / Nu metal / Rap rock [241] 100 million [242]
Fleetwood Mac United Kingdom
United States
1967–present [243] 1968 [243] Rock / Pop [243] 100 million [246]
Britney Spears United States1998–present [247] 1998 [247] Pop / Dance / Dance-pop [247] 100 million [249]
Rod Stewart United Kingdom1964–present [250] 1969 [250] Rock / Pop [250] 100 million [251]
Backstreet Boys United States1993–present [252] 1995 [252] Pop [252] 100 million [256]
Guns N' Roses United States1985–present [257] 1987 [257] Hard rock / Heavy metal [257]