Highest Selling Artists Of All Time

Highest Selling Artists Of All Time

Last updated: January 3, 2014

This data was sourced from here, however, I have not removed artists that may have been removed from the original list. The sales are claimed figures, not actual data – I find that trying to find factual sale data is very difficult, especially considering the record keeping in the early days of recording may not have been very accurate.  If anyone has queries regarding artists that may be missing or sale figures, by all means add a comment below. If you have any references, they would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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Artist Period active Release-year of first charted record Genre Claimed sales
Elvis Presley 1954–1977 1954 Rock and roll, pop, country 1 billion – 600 million
The Beatles 1962–1970 1962 Rock, pop 1 billion – 600 million
Michael Jackson 1971–2009 1971 Pop, R&B, rock, dance 750 – 350 million
ABBA 1972–1982 1972 Pop, disco 370 – 300 million
Led Zeppelin 1968–1980 1969 Rock 300 – 200 million
Madonna 1979–present 1982 Pop, rock, dance 300 – 275 million
Queen 1971–present 1973 Rock 300 – 150 million
Elton John 1964–present 1969 Pop / Rock 250 million
Pink Floyd 1965–1996 1967 Progressive rock 250 – 200 million
AC/DC 1973–present 1975 Hard rock/Heavy Metal 200 million
Bee Gees 1963–2003 1963 Pop / Disco 200 – 120 million
Céline Dion 1981–present 1981 Pop 200 million
Mariah Carey 1990–present 1990 Pop / R&B 200 million
The Rolling Stones 1962–present 1963 Rock / Blues rock 200 million
Whitney Houston 1977–2012 1984 Pop / R&B 200 – 170 million
Aerosmith 1970–present 1973 Hard rock 150 million
Billy Joel 1964–present 1971 Pop / Rock 150 million
Eagles 1971–present 1972 Soft rock / Country rock 150 million
Frank Sinatra 1935–1995 1939 Pop / Swing 150 million
Garth Brooks 1989–present 1989 Country 150 million
Phil Collins 1980–2011 1981 Adult contemporary 150 million
Rihanna 2005–present 2005 R&B / Pop / Dance /Hip-hop 150 million
U2 1976–present 1980 Rock 150 million
Barbra Streisand 1960–present 1963 Pop / Adult contemporary 145 million
David Bowie 1964–present 1967 Rock 140 million
Donna Summers 1968–2012 1974 Pop / Disco / R&B 130 million
Genesis 1967–1999
2006–present
1969 Progressive rock / Pop rock 130 million
Neil Diamond 1966–present 1966 Pop / Rock 125 million
Bruce Springsteen 1972–present 1973 Rock 120 million
Dire Straits 1977–1995 1978 Rock / Pop 120 million
Julio Iglesias 1968–present 1968 Latin 120 million
Status Quo 1967–present 1968 Rock 118 million
Metallica 1981–present 1983 Heavy metal / Thrash metal 110 million
Taylor Swift 2006–present 2006 Country Pop 101 million
Backstreet Boys 1993–present 1995 Pop 100 million
Barry White 1972–2003 1973 R&B / Soul 100 million
Bob Dylan 1959–present 1962 Folk / Rock 100 million
Bon Jovi 1983–present 1983 Hard Rock 100 million
Boney M. 1975–present 1975 Disco 100 million
Britney Spears 1998–present 1998 Pop / Dance / Dance-pop 100 million
Bryan Adams 1979–present 1979 Rock 100 million
Cher 1964–present 1965 Pop / Dance 100 million
Chicago 1967–present 1969 Pop rock 100 million
Deep Purple 1968–present 1968 Hard Rock 100 million
Def Leppard 1977–present 1979 Hard rock / heavy metal 100 million
Dolly Parton 1959–present 1965 Country / Pop 100 million
Eminem 1999–present 1999 Hip hop 100 million
Fleetwood Mac 1967–Present 1968 Pop rock 100 million
George Michael 1981–present 1984 Pop 100 million
Guns N’ Roses 1985–present 1987 Hard rock / Heavy Metal 100 million
Janet Jackson 1982–present 1982 R&B / Pop 100 million
Johnny Hallyday 1957–2007 1960 Rock / Pop 100 million
Kenny Rogers 1958–present 1975 Country / Pop 100 million
Kiss 1972–present 1974 Hard Rock / Heavy Metal 100 million
Linda Ronstadt 1967–present 1968 Rock / Folk / Country 100 million
Lionel Richie 1968–present 1981 Pop / R&B 100 million
Luciano Pavarotti 1961–2006 1961 Opera 100 million
Olivia Newton-John 1966–present 1966 Pop 100 million
Paul McCartney 1957–present 1970 Rock 100 million
Prince 1976–Present 1978 Funk / R&B / Pop / Soul / Rock 100 million
Rod Stewart 1962–present 1969 Rock / Pop 100 million
Stevie Wonder 1961–present 1962 R&B / Soul 100 million
The Beach Boys 1961–present 1962 Rock / Pop / Surf Rock 100 million
The Carpenters 1969–1983 1969 Pop 100 million
The Jackson 5 1966–1990 1969 R&B / Soul / Pop / Disco 100 million
The Who 1964–Present 1965 Rock / Hard rock 100 million
Tina Turner 1955–present 1975 Rock and roll, pop 100 million
Carlos Santana 1966–present 1969 Rock 90 million
Gloria Estefan 1977–present 1984 Latin / Dance / Pop 90 million
Iron Maiden 1975–present 1980 Heavy metal 85 million
R.E.M. 1980–present 1983 Alternative rock 85 million
Barry Manilow 1973–present 1973 Pop / Soft rock 80 million
B’z 1988–present 1988 Rock / Pop rock / Hard rock 80 million
Foreigner 1976–present 1977 Rock / Hard Rock 80 million
Lady Gaga 2008–Present 2008 Pop / Dance 80 million
Meat Loaf 1968–present 1977 Rock 80 million
New Kids on the Block 1984–present 1986 Teen pop 80 million
Reba McEntire 1974–present 1976 Country / Country Pop 80 million
Red Hot Chili Peppers 1983–present 1987 Funk rock / alternative rock 80 million
Shania Twain 1993–present 1993 Country Pop 80 million
The Doors 1965–1973 1967 Rock 80 million
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 1976–present 1976 Rock 80 million
Van Halen 1978–present 1978 Hard rock / Heavy Metal 80 million
The Black Eyed Peas 1995–present 1997 Hip-hop / Electro-hop / R&B / Dance 76 million
Alabama 1972–present 1980 Country / Pop rock 75 million
Andrea Bocelli 1994–present 1994 Pop / Classical / Opera 75 million
Aretha Franklin 1956–present 1961 Soul / Jazz/ Blues/ R&B 75 million
B’z 1988–present 1988 Rock / Pop rock / Hard rock 75 million
Beyoncé 2003–present 2003 R&B / Pop 75 million
Bob Marley 1962–1981 1975 Reggae 75 million
Depeche Mode 1980–present 1981 Synth Rock / Electronic 75 million
Enya 1982–present 1987 New age / Celtic 75 million
Eurythmics 1980–2005 1981 New wave 75 million
Green Day 1987–present 1994 Punk Rock / Alternative Rock 75 million
Journey 1973–present 1975 Arena rock 75 million
Kenny G 1982–Present 1982 Smooth jazz 75 million
Luis Miguel 1982–Present 1987 Latin pop /Bolero/ Ballad / Mariachi 75 million
Mötley Crüe 1981–present 1981 Glam metal 75 million
Nirvana 1987–1994 1989 Grunge / alternative rock 75 million
Scorpions 1969–present 1978 Hard rock 75 million
Scorpions 1969–present 1979 Hard rock 75 million
Spice Girls 1996–2000 1996 Pop / Dance-pop 75 million
Tupac Shakur 1988–1996 1991 Hip hop 75 million
Duran Duran 1978–present 1981 New wave / alternative rock 70 million
Jean Michel Jarre 1971–present 1971 New age 70 million
Shakira 1990–present 1995 Latin / Pop Rock 70 million
UB40 1980–Present 1980 Reggae 70 million
George Strait 1981–present 1981 Country 68 million
Kylie Minogue 1987–Present 1987 Dance pop 68 million
Usher 1993–Present 1993 R&B/Soul 65 million
Village People 1977–present 1977 Disco 65 million
Boyz II Men 1990–present 1991 R&B 60 million
Jethro Tull 1968–present 1968 Progressive rock / hard rock 60 million
Pearl Jam 1990–present 1991 Alternative rock / Grunge 60 million
Ricky Martin 1984–present 1991 Pop / Latin Pop / Dance Pop 60 million
Robbie Williams 1996–present 1996 Pop / Pop Rock 60 million
Roxette 1986–present 1986 Pop / Rock 60 million
Glay 1994–present 1994 Rock / Pop 56 million
Dreams Come True 1989–present 1989 Pop / Jazz 55 million
Michael Bolton 1968–present 1983 Pop 53 million
A-ha 1982–2010 1984 Pop / Rock 51 million
Ace of Base 1987–present 1992 Europop 50 million
Alan Jackson 1989–present 1989 Country 50 million
Alice Cooper 1965–present 1969 Hard rock / heavy metal 50 million
Anne Murray 1969–present 1969 Country / Adult contemporary 50 million
Ayumi Hamasaki 1994–present 1998 J-Pop 50 million
Black Sabbath 1968–present 1970 Heavy metal 50 million
Bob Seger 1961–present 1967 Rock 50 million
Christina Aguilera 1999–present 1999 Pop / R&B / soul / dance-pop 50 million
Coldplay 1997–present 1999 Alternative rock / Post-Britpop 50 million
Destiny’s Child 1997–2005 1997 R&B / Pop 50 million
Electric Light Orchestra 1970–2001 1971 Rock / Progressive rock 50 million
Hikaru Utada 1993–present 1993 J-pop / Pop / Dance 50 million
James Last 1963–present 1963 Instrumental / Classical 50 million
Jay-Z 1996–present 1996 Hip hop 50 million
Jennifer Lopez 1999–present 1999 Latin pop / R&B / pop 50 million
Johnny Cash 1955–2003 1955 Country / rock and roll 50 million
Linkin Park 2000–present 2000 Nu metal / Alternative rock / rapcore 50 million
Mary J. Blige 1990–present 1992 R&B / Soul / Hip hop 50 million
MC Hammer 1986–present 1988 Hip hop / Rap / Gospel / Dance 50 million
Mr.Children 1989–present 1992 Pop rock 50 million
Nat King Cole 1936–1965 1944 Vocal jazz 50 million
Oasis 1991–2009 1994 Britpop / Rock 50 million
Pet Shop Boys 1981–present 1984 Synthpop 50 million
Ray Conniff 1956–2002 1956 Pop / Easy listening 50 million
Sade 1983–present 1984 R&B / Sold / Jazz / Soft Rock 50 million
The Police 1977–2008 1977 Pop rock / New Wave 50 million
Tony Bennett 1949–present 1951 Traditional pop / Jazz 50 million
Vicente Fernández 1965–present 1967 Latin / Mariachi 50 million
Willie Nelson 1956–present 1962 Country 50 million

There are some interesting bands in here, some results are unexpected, and some I have not heard of! Will have to check them out.

Submeg

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Comments
27 Responses to “Highest Selling Artists Of All Time”
  1. Alex Eldridge says:

    where is katy perry??

  2. wiskeyjack says:

    Good work. But, no Beach Boys?

    • submeg says:

      Until there is a reference for how many albums they have sold, I won’t add it into the list. If you can find a reference for me, I will gladly add it in.

  3. Thomas says:

    Every site and every bit of research I have done lists Bing Crosby as having sold in excess of 100 million records, this during a time (1930s to mid 50’s) when that would proportionately outsell almost everyone on your list. White Christmas on its own has sold more copies than total sales of some of the artists you list. Did I miss him somewhere on your list, or did you just decide to exclude him for some reason?

  4. Paul says:

    Hi friend!
    I’d like to tell you that there may be a problem about Julio Iglesias. I’ll copy my whole comment from the wikipedia best-selling artists forum:

    Almost all the sites claim that Julio Iglesias has sold over 300 million copies worldwide an he is recognized as one of the best-selling artists of all time (Acording to Sony he is in the top 10).

    It’s quite weird for me that in this list he has over 100 million claimed copies and is situated in the last positions.

    I found that this number is based in information of 1983 when julio iglesias recived the the Diamond Record from the Guinness Book Of World Records for having sold more than 100 million copies. The link sends me directly to a paragraph of a 1985 billboard magazine which tells all this as an event occurred in 1983. that year he was declared world’s best-selling recording artist.

    But of course that were copies sold to date. and for example Julio iglesias has been includad later in the guiness book of world records (1999, 2001, 2002) for selling more than 200 copies. For me it doesn’t match and i think that the number of this list has has not been properly taken.

    Another important point is that acording to the page of julio iglesias in wikipedia he has sold more than 300 copies. Acording to Sony music entertainment he has sold more than 300 million copies. Acording to a lot of 90’s magazines he had sold over 200 million copies.

  5. John says:

    what about Connie Francis? Some say she sold well over 100 million records, also an estimated 90 million in the United States alone?Confused

  6. MrBig says:

    what about mr B.B. King ? He has performed more concerts than this list top five combined, but how many records sold ?

  7. Webb says:

    Where is Cliff Richard

  8. Maria says:

    I second the question, where is Cliff Richard

  9. steve says:

    am very impressed with this list, its very informative. Thanks for the list. I think MJ have actually sold far more than what was recorded in this list. The record in this list is actually that of 2006. I think he sold quite a large number after his death. which i think makes him the highest selling artist of all time beating the Beatles and Presley.

    • submeg says:

      Hmm, the problem is that it is very hard to number down to the last unit sold. It seems that records for this have been very poor in the past and that is why it is very difficult for anyone to try and find true numbers. I dislike the ambiguity!

  10. 19esmiopa50 says:

    I think Michael Jackson’s numbers are incorrect. When you also take into account the volume he sold with his brothers combined with his own stats, and especially mega sales following his death in 2009, you would think that he is now clearly at the very top surpassing Elvis and the Beatles. He was WORLD famous and loved around the globe. I think the numbers for Elvis have long been inaccurate and never challenged. I would love for someone to dig in and investigate all these numbers and would be very surprised to not see MJ at the top. GO MJ RIP …

    • submeg says:

      I would tend to agree, however finding such accurate data is quite difficult. Would be interesting to see if there are actual numbers recorded, which correctly reflect the change in sales over time.

  11. Esco says:

    Michael Jackson will never pass Elvis or The Beatles, no matter how badly his fans want him to be #1. The Wall Street Journal debunked the silly 750 million claims thrown out by MIchaels PR person.

    • submeg says:

      Hi, yes these numbers do seem very wild and unsourced, that’s the main problem with a chart like this; records are not perfect. I’m looking for as many references as possible and if you know of any, please pass them through! Much appreciated!

      Submeg

  12. vasia says:

    what about Modern Talking? thay sold over 100 mln In Europe alone…

  13. TP says:

    Your list of largest selling all-time world-wide recording artists looks reasonable with one large exception; Elvis is way too high. So let me ask the first question, what do those “claimed sales” represent, albums? If not, then you’ll probably want to go back to the drawing board unless you’re already using the official way to weigh mix sales of LPs, EPs, 45s and 78s; the “single equivalent” That’s 5 equivalents for each LP sold, 2 for each EP, and 1 for each 45 and 78. That’s the only proper way to have a mixed format list of largest selling artists mean anything, otherwise you’re mixing pineapples with apples with grapes and you don’t want too many grapes to be given the same weight as pineapples.

    And be careful of “claimed sales”, especially when there’s no official records. That’s when people (record companies, publicists, over zealous fan, lazy authors, etc) take the biggest liberties to “create” sales. Don’t take everything everyone claims. Except for a few big US Christmas singles, all of Bring Crosby’s career and the first half of Frank Sinatra’s career, there wasn’t enough sales of old pre-recordkeeping records to have an impact on your lists. You can probably use the US’s RIAA and the similar official European & Japanese services to get all the legitimate sales for record sales of records in English. But keep in mind; RIAA certified album (and artist) sales only count whole millions, not anything less. So say the Beatles have 33 albums and have 200 million RIAA album sales. That’s an average of 6 million per album. But say those 33 albums really sold an average of 6.8 million. That would be 0.8 million x 33 albums or over 24 million albums sold but not certified. And the wast majority of Elvis’ sales are in the US and certified by the RIAA. He was sucessful in the UK but that only translated to approx 20 million albums and 21 million singles. Other than here and there, his success was little to none.

    Also, I don’t see any Chinese or Indian artists at all and they both have around twice as many people as the US and Europe combined. There has to be somebody singing over there. India has the world’s largest or second largest movie industry, they must have a recording artist. And China’s middle class is larger than the entire US now.

    SO in conclusion, I recommend an album list, single list, or a mixed list using single equivalents and maybe cut “claimed sales” in half. And good luck with India and China.

    • Marc Trevino says:

      Time magazine had Elvis selling over a billion 25 years ago. People buy his records every year even if there just new compilations of his old stuff. Elvis Entp. comes out with new albums every year of the same old stuff just remastered or a new compilation etc. He is loved and listened to all over the world even though he never performed out side the US…once in Canada. People came from all over the world to hear him and still come to Graceland from every corner on Earth. I was amazed to see that.
      The Beatles are right there with him. It’s just a fact Elvis has been selling millions of records since the 50’s and always will. All over the world. He sold more in the UK than the US. He is loved in China, All over South America and everywhere. People live in there own bubbles and think everyone in the world see’s and hears things like they do and get upset and try to rationalize why thier favorite Artist is not #1. White Christmas is the most recoreded song or Yesterday but not the number one selling original songs by that Artist. Michael Jackson is another one of my favorites and has some of the best selling Albums of all time but even if you add the Jackson 5 material he just can’t match the sales of Elvis especially now the way people download music. Elvis had already sold close to a Billion before Thriller and Bad came out. Those two albums are almost unmatched by anyone but not enough numbers to catch Elvis who is still selling every year. This list matches really close to most of the other reliable sources I’ve seen. Some people say Garth Brooks has sold more that anyone. I just say on a Rolling Stone artical the Garth and Elvis were the #1 selling Artists of all time. That just shows you anyone can make a list and say it’s true. Brooks out selling Michael…Please! Thanks for your list and Keeping the truth alive. FYI Elvis has the #1 selling stamp of all time.

      • Marc Trevino says:

        Don’t forget all those movie soundtracks 2-3 a year through the 60’s. Not always the best material but with Elvis singing every one sold millions…Blue Hawaii, Viva Las Vegas, Loving You, etc.

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