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 Drake is the highest-selling individual artist based on certified units.

Contents

Definitions

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]

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]

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]

Artists by reputed sales

250 million or more records

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]
Elton John United Kingdom1964–present [67] 1969 [67] Pop / Rock [67] 300 million [70] [71]
250 million [72] [73]
Madonna United States1979–present [74] 1982 [74] Pop / Dance / Electronica [74] 300 million [80] [81]
275 million [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 [96] [97]
230 million [98] [99]
Pink Floyd United Kingdom1965–1996, 2014 [100] [101] 1967 [100] Progressive rock / Psychedelic rock [100] 250 million [103] [104]
200 million [105]

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 [106] 1999 [106] Hip-hop [106] 220 million [107] [108]
Taylor Swift United States2006–present [109] 2006 [109] Pop / Synth-pop / Country / Country pop / [109] 200 million [112] [113]
175 million [114]
Mariah Carey United States1988–present [115] 1990 [115] R&B / Pop / Soul / Hip-hop [115] 200 million [119] [120]
Eagles United States1971–1980, 1994–present [121] 1972 [121] Rock [121] 200 million [123]
Queen United Kingdom1971–present [124] 1973 [124] Rock [124] 200 million [126]
170 million [127]
Whitney Houston United States1977–2012 [128] 1984 [128] R&B / Soul / Pop [128] 200 million [131] [132]
170 million [133] [134]
Celine Dion Canada1981–present [135] 1981 [135] Pop [135] 200 million [140] [141]
175 million [142] [143]
AC/DC Australia1973–present [144] 1975 [144] Hard rock / Blues rock / Rock and roll [144] 200 million [146] [147]
150 million [148] [149]
The Rolling Stones United Kingdom1962–present [150] 1963 [150] Rock / Blues rock [150] 200 million [151] [152]

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 [153] 1989 [153] Country [153] 160 million [155]
Drake Canada2001–present [156] 2009 [156] Hip-hop / R&B / Pop [156] 150 million [157]
Ed Sheeran United Kingdom2004–present [158] 2011 [158] Pop / Folk pop [158] 150 million [159]
Justin Bieber Canada
United States
2008–present [160] 2009 [160] Pop / Teen pop, Dance pop [160] 150 million [161]
Billy Joel United States1964–present [162] 1971 [162] Pop / Rock [162] 150 million [164]
U2 Ireland1976–present [165] 1980 [165] Rock [165] 150 million [168]
Barbra Streisand United States1960–present [169] 1963 [169] Pop / Adult contemporary [169] 150 million [170]
Phil Collins United Kingdom1980–2011, 2015–present [171] 1981 [171] Rock / Progressive rock / Adult contemporary [171] 150 million [173]
Aerosmith United States1970–present [174] 1973 [174] Hard rock [174] 150 million [176]
ABBA Sweden 1972–1982 [177] 1972 [177] Pop / Disco [177] 150 million [186]
100 million [187]
Frank Sinatra United States1935–1995 [188] 1939 [188] Pop / Swing [188] 150 million [190]
Katy Perry United States2001–present [191] 2008 [191] Pop [191] 143 million [192]
Chris Brown United States2005–present [193] 2005 [193] Pop / R&B, Hip-hop [193] 140 million [194]
Kanye West United States1996–present [195] 2004 [195] Hip-hop / Electronic / Pop rock [195] 140 million [198]
Bruce Springsteen United States1972–present [199] 1973 [199] Rock [199] 135 million [201]
Bruno Mars United States2004–present [202] 2010 [202] Pop rock / R&B [202] 130 million [205]
Jay-Z United States1996–present [206] 1996 [206] Hip-hop [206] 125 million [207]
Metallica United States1981–present [208] 1983 [208] Heavy metal / Thrash metal [208] 125 million [210]
Lady Gaga United States2005–present [211] 2008 [211] Pop / Dance / Electronic [211] 124 million [212]
Adele United Kingdom2006–present [213] 2008 [213] Pop, soul [213] 120 million [214]
Lil Wayne United States1996–present [215] 1999 [215] Hip-hop [215] 120 million [216]
Fleetwood Mac United Kingdom
United States
1967–present [217] 1968 [217] Rock / Pop [217] 120 million [220]
Rod Stewart United Kingdom1964–present [221] 1969 [221] Rock / Pop [221] 120 million [222]
Bee Gees United Kingdom
Australia [223] [224]
1963–2003
2009–2012 [225]
1963 [225] Pop / Disco [225] 120 million [228]

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
Maroon 5 United States1994–present [229] 2002 [229] Pop rock / Funk rock / Dance-pop [229] 101 million [230]
Beyoncé United States1997–present [231] 2002 [231] [232] R&B / Pop [231] 100 million [236]
Coldplay United Kingdom1996–present [237] 1999 [237] Alternative rock, Pop rock, Pop [237] 100 million. [238]
Linkin Park United States1996–present [239] 2000 [239] Alternative rock / Nu metal / Rap rock [239] 100 million [240]
B'z Japan1988–present [241] 1988 [241] Rock / Pop rock / Hard rock [241] 100 million [242]
Bon Jovi United States1983–present [243] 1983 [243] Hard rock / Glam metal [243] 100 million [246]
Britney Spears United States1998–present [247] 1998 [247] Pop / Dance / Dance-pop [247] 100 million [249]
Guns N' Roses United States1985–present [250] 1987 [250] Hard rock / Heavy metal [250] 100 million [252]
Backstreet Boys United States1993–present [253] 1995 [253] Pop [253]