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Music Greats – Best Selling Albums of All Time!

Many of you will be avid music fans, who have enjoyed reading about your favourite artists elsewhere on this site, including some details of their releases, singles as well as albums, and have wondered just how good they – the artists – and their music is, or was, in terms of popularity in comparison with the music world in general.

The word ‘popularity’ is important, because it is not reflected only in the number of albums sold, or indeed singles in days gone by, so debates will continue to rage, and with good reasons; one is the accuracy of sales figures both past and present, and also because of the cost of buying, now very small through the internet, for example, when compared with vinyl 30 or 40 years ago. Attendances at concerts given by artists – often in conjunction with the promotion of their latest album – are also unreliable, both in absolute figures, and in calculating gate receipts, as ‘promotion’ can refer to the distribution of free tickets too.

Even then, just how ‘popular’ were artists – soloists, choirs, and orchestras for example – prior to the widespread availability of recorded material, including in the days when concerts were largely the province of the relatively wealthy, in the times of what is now referred to as ‘classical music’?

The Best Selling Artists of All Time is the subject of another article, but here we present a list of the top 30 verifiable album sales of all time, worldwide, excluding digital downloads, so only two albums – Adele and The Beatles Compilation – were released in this century.

Five artists/bands appear more than once, and all albums sold at least 30 million copies worldwide. Naturally the USA is the biggest market, reflected by most albums’ sales, but it is not confined to American artists. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) – an organisation founded in Italy in the ‘30s, but now registered in Switzerland – attempts to collate the number of sales. In the USA, platinum indicates a million copies sold; several countries have adopted this certification system but many have lesser numbers, usually as something approaching a ratio of the population in comparison with the US.

Rank Artist Album Sales(m) Comments
1 Michael Jackson Thriller 65 30x platinum, USA
2 AC/DC Back in Black 50 22x platinum, USA
3 Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon 45 15x platinum, USA
4 Fleetwood Mac Rumours 45
5 Various S’track – The Bodyguard 45
6 Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell 43 14x platinum, USA
7 The Eagles Greatest Hits (1971-75) 43 29x platinum, USA
8 Bee Gees, various S’track-Saturday Night Fever 40 15x platinum, USA
9 Shania Twain Come on Over 40 20x platinum. USA
10 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin 1V 37 23x platinum, USA
11 Adele 21 35 11m USA, 5m UK
12 Michael Jackson Bad 34 9x platinum, USA
13 Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill 33 15x platinum, USA
14 Celine Dion Falling into You 32 11x platinum, USA
15 The Beatles SGT Pepper’s… 32 11m USA, 5m UK
16 The Eagles Hotel California 32 17x platinum, USA
17 Mariah Carey Music Box 32 7m USA, 2m UK
18 Michael Jackson Dangerous 32 7x platinum, USA
19 Various S’track- Dirty Dancing 32 11x platinum, USA
20 Celine Dion Let’s Talk About Love 31 10mx platinum, USA
21 The Beatles One (compilation) 31 12x platinum, USA
22 The Beatles Abbey Road 30 12x platinum, USA
23 Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA 30 15x platinum, USA
24 Dire Straits Brothers in Arms 30 9m USA, 14m UK
25 Titanic Soundtrack 30 10x platinum, USA
26 Madonna The Immaculate Collection 30 10x platinum, USA
27 Metallica Metallica 30 16x platinum, USA
28 Nirvana Never Mind 30 10x platinum, USA
29 Pink Floyd The Wall 30 10x platinum, USA
30 Santana Supernatural 30 12x platinum, USA
31 Guns ‘n’ Roses Appetite for Destruction 30 18x platinum, USA

Is Music Greats – Best Selling Albums of All Time!

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