The 250 Best-Selling Musicians of All Time

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Platinum sales certifications and rankings for the 250 best-selling musicians compiled by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA).  Platinum indicates sales of one million or more units. 

48 Responses

  1. Mr. Metadata

    Petty, Tom and the Heartbreakers are so much better than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Just sayin.

    • Harvey

      But not quite as good as Petty, Tom.

      118. Petty, Tom

      125. Petty, Tom & the Heartbreakers

      217. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

  2. stevecorn

    Boston outsold Jay-Z?? I wouldn’t have guessed that considering how much longer Jay-Z has been active.

    • GGG

      Boston’s debut probably sold more than Jay-Z’s entire discography. I’m not even kidding….haha

  3. DC

    Id be interested to see which artist(besides the obvious) actually made fair money off the record deals involving these high sales.

  4. Tim Wood

    How about average sales/title? Some artists fairly high on this list, like Hendrix and Nirvana, got their numbers with a handful of releases. +1 to Metadata’s point…. dirty data does delusions dirt cheap.

  5. paulysworld

    Um, FOTR Alanis Morrisette, “Jagged Little Pill”, yeah, that was 33 million copies on its own. The follow up “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie” yeah that sold 5 million copies, that’s 38 million physical copies of 2 records, about 18 million more then reported in this article. Who wrote this article? Did they do any research?

    • CREED!

      JLP did not sell 33MM in the US. It’s currently at 15MM RTD, per Soundscan.

      • Rick foster

        I didn’t see where they said this was only US sales. I think they really should double check their totals and try again.

        • nbtx

          Just go to RIAA and you can see artist totals. These figures are US only.

    • Rick foster

      Thriller sold 110M copies, but Jackson, Micheal sold only 76M? Someone’s not pulling the data correctly.

  6. Mike C.

    I counted just 3 artists that started careers after 2005: Taylor Swift, Adele, and Rascal Flatts. Doubt we’ll see another artist from later than ’05 crack this list, ever.

  7. Steve M

    Poison at #170 is very interesting. I’m also surprised to see that Lenny Kravitz barely scraped his way into this list in the 10 million zone.

  8. Brian

    From Wikipedia:

    “The Grateful Dead have sold more than 35 million albums worldwide.”

    Not gonna sell me on Brandy or Scorpions moving more units than the Dead.

    • Gorgonzo

      Because this is a list of the best selling in the US, bozo.

  9. anonymous

    Jefferson Airplane and Starship are combined


    Petty, Tom (118)
    Petty, Tom and the Heartbreakers (125)
    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (217)

    Are THREE separate acts?

  10. MeToo

    Not much surprise with this list. I wonder over any time frame will any group surpass The Beatles…as a group. Individual artist such as John Lennon and George Harrison are no longer with us. Noting their location and Paul McCartney, It’s a no brainer that, as a group, were better songwriters due to their collective collaboration.

  11. JJD Pro

    This list is booty!! Michael is thee all time selling artist. With Thriller alone!! This list does not take into the account for world wide sales.. But, I guess MJ is still number #1 ( due to the fact) he still owns the beetles songs..

  12. TruthBeTold

    This list is far from accurate. Just a simple example, it is missing a lot of Latin artists like Julio Iglesias (has over 300 million verified albums sold), Enrique Iglesias and Shakira, who for some odd (or maybe not so odd) reason are non-existent on the list.

  13. David

    Kiss anyone? Not only have they sold well over 100 million units worldwide but their certifiable US numbers are 28.5 million with 16 certified platinum albums.

    • Chris Dunnett

      I was JUST about to say the same thing…KISS has sold over 100 million…not sure of the validity of this article???

  14. Markie

    Why is David Bowie not on this list? He’s sold over 140 million records over his almost 50 year career.

  15. Sean

    America is getting dumb. This is US Sales and most inaccurate chart anyways .RIAA goes by units not actually sales.So double albums counted twice a 6 CD box set that sales 2 million will be 12 million.Go by Sounds can though they only start from 1991. Listen worldwide sales are a shame,US is the only huge music market if an album sales 29 million here the best it’s doing is 4 million in second biggest market the UK cuz Adele holds that record.Its like Deep Purple selling 9 million in US but claim 100 million worldwide,stfu. If you go by actual certificates we will use actual Led Zeppelin sales counting double albums and box sets has one in the US theyve sold 84 million. Adding actually certification they’ve sold bout 109 million worldwide no Latin act outselling Beatles or Zeppelin worldwide stfu they barely sale to a US market and platnium in Mexico is like 35,000. This Why this above list stupid has a Kid Rock fan

    DWAC- 10.6 million sold riaa say 11
    History-3.2 million riaa says 2
    Cocky-5.7 million riaa says 5
    KRock-1.5 million riaa says 1
    LTrucker-700 k riaa doesn’t have it gold
    RNRJ- 3.6 million riaa says 3
    BFree-1.2 million riaa says 1
    RSoul- 650 k riaa says gold
    FKiss-375 k

    Actual Sales-just over 27 million
    RIAA says 23.5

    • nbtx

      Multi disk sets do counnt per disk, but minimum length must be 100 minutes.
      So, a double album of only 65 minutes of misuc would count as only 1 sale, not 2.
      “Multi-disc albums are counted once for each disc within the album if it is over 100 minutes in length or is from the vinyl era. For example, each copy of The Smashing Pumpkins’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (running time of 121:39), and OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (running time of 134:56), both double albums, were counted twice, meaning each album was certified diamond after 5 million copies were shipped. Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Beatles’ White Album, both vinyl-era, are also counted double even though their running times are under the minimum requirement.”

  16. nbtx

    The numbers may not be totally accurate in some cases
    Check out this info on how Garth Brooks manipulates the numbers:
    Postby taz » Fri Aug 01, 2014 4:00 pm

    Garth Brooks is the master at manipulating RIAA sales figures for his albums. He knows how to boost his RIAA album certifications without the need to sell the required certification amounts; he plays the numbers game very well indeed.

    He has shown a strong drive to be acknowledged as the number one solo album artist as per RIAA sales figures. To achieve this he has employed shrewd marketing techniques for his most recent release Blame It All on My Roots, a 6 CD box set (actually 6 CDs plus 2 DVDs) which was released on Thanksgiving Day at a surprisingly low price of $25; this equates to approximately $4 per CD. Normally for a box set release profit is the major consideration with premium prices (justified by premium packaging, exquisite designs, inclusion of rare photographs and limited release) designed to fleece the hard-core fans. But the low price of the box set tends to suggest that sales volume rather than profit was the sole motivator for this release.

    The above release was targeted marketing at its best; it was sold exclusively at Walmart during the holiday season. Walmart is a big seller of country music marketing it to rural white America. This targeting ensures that the ratio of sales to stock is very high. Garth owns his masters recordings and not Capitol Records his former record company. What Garth has done is to cut out the middle man (the record label) and deal directly with the retailer. This means he can sell his albums at rock bottom prices and still make a profit. Also, there is negligible marketing involved as Walmart already draws the demographics that buy Garth’s records to its stores. This is a bit like selling popcorn in the cinemas; you don’t have to advertise the popcorn outside of the cinema to sell it. The only bit of marketing that is done is to ensure that his records are strategically positioned at point-of-sales terminals and near the entrance of the stores.

    As all economics students are aware if you decrease the price you increase the number of units sold. With the number of units being sold increasing he has almost caught Elvis and is now sitting at third place with only half a million units separating the two artists. To see the maths behind his sales one needs to look at his four multi CD albums.

    His four albums The Limited Series (1998), Double Live (1998), The Ultimate Hits (2007) and Blame It All on My Roots (2013) are all multi disc sets containing 6 CDs, 2 CDs, 2 CDs and 6 CDs respectively. The sales for these four multi disc sets are given below. Each set containing multiple CDs is treated as one unit because they were physically sold as one unit.

    The Limited Series (1998) – 2 million
    Double Live (1988) – 10.5 million
    The Ultimate Hits (2007) – 2.5 million
    Blame It All on My Roots (2013) – over 1 million

    The above gives a grand total of 16 million units sold

    But for RIAA certification purposes the above multi disc sets are certified as follows:

    The Limited Series (1998) – 12 million (the sales from this box set were allocated to individual albums)
    Double Live (1988) – 21 million
    The Ultimate Hits (2007) – 5 million
    Blame It All on My Roots (2013) – 6 million

    Note: ‘The Blame it All on My Roots’ box set contains 4 studio albums and a reissue of the 2 CD album ‘The Ultimate Hits’. The RIAA have not given ‘Blame it All on My Roots’ a certification instead they have split the sales for this box set across the 4 studio albums and the 2 CD album ‘The Ultimate Hits’.
    The Ultimate Hits has recently been certified as 7 million by the RIAA but two million of these sales have come from the box set ‘Blame It All on My Roots’. However, to illustrate the maths I have not split the sales of the box set.

    The RIAA certification gives a grand total of 44 million. This is an increase of 28 million over the actual number of units sold. This means that Garth Brooks has increased his certified sales as per the RIAA rules by 28 million without actually selling 28 million multi disc units. You may say that the RIAA rules apply to all artists which is true but this manipulation of figures is more accentuated with Garth than any other artist.

  17. PowerEd

    This list is not accurate, Iron Maiden that passed 100 million sold albums in 2017 aren’t even on the list.