List of Best-selling Music Artists
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List of Best-selling Music Artists

The following is an independently verified list of best-selling music artists (those with claims of 75 million or more record sales) from the second half of the 20th century to the present. Only artists whose claimed sales figures can be cross-referenced with music recording certification systems (the first of which appeared in the late 1950s) are included. The tables are listed with both their claimed sales figure along with their total independently 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.

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.[a] 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.[b]

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".[c]

Artists by reputed sales

250 million or more records

  • To ensure the highest level of fact checking and editorial control, this list sources sales figures to news organizations and highly regarded music industry related organizations such as MTV, VH1, and Billboard.
  • The figures of total certified units within the tables below are based on certified units of albums, singles (including digital downloads) and videos.
  • Markets' order within the tables is based on Retail Value: each market generates respectively, the largest market at the top and smallest at the bottom.[8][9]
Artist Country / Market Period active Release year of first charted record Genre Total certified units
(from available markets)[a]
Claimed sales
The Beatles United Kingdom 1960-1970[10] 1962[10] Rock / Pop[10]

Total available certified units: 280 million
600 million[38][39]
500 million[40]
Elvis Presley United States 1954-1977[41] 1954[41] Rock and roll / Pop / Country[41]

Total available certified units: 225.7 million
600 million[50][51]
500 million[52]
Michael Jackson United States 1964-2009[53] 1971[53] Pop / Rock / Dance / Soul / R&B[53]

Total available certified units: 232.2 million
350 million[63][64]
300 million[65][66]
Elton John United Kingdom 1964-present[67] 1969[67] Pop / Rock[67]

Total available certified units: 189.6 million
300 million[70][71]
250 million[72][73]
Madonna United States 1979-present[74] 1982[74] Pop / Dance / Electronica[74]

Total available certified units: 173.8 million
300 million[80][81]
275 million[82]
Led Zeppelin United Kingdom 1968-1980[83] 1969[83] Hard rock / Blues rock / Folk rock[83]

Total available certified units: 140.6 million
300 million[87][88]
200 million[89][90]
Rihanna Barbados
United States
2005-present[91] 2005[91] R&B / Pop / Dance / Hip-hop[91]

Total available certified units: 279.1 million
250 million[96][97]
Pink Floyd United Kingdom 1965-1996, 2014[98][99] 1967[98] Progressive rock / Psychedelic rock[98]

Total available certified units: 121.4 million
250 million[101][102]
200 million[103]
  • The column for certified sales includes markets, the databases of which contain certifications representing figures of 100,000 and more.

200 million to 249 million records

Artist Country / Market Period active Release-year of first charted record Genre Total certified units
(from available markets)[a]
Claimed sales
Eminem United States 1996-present[104] 1999[104] Hip-hop[104]

Total available certified units: 235.5 million
220 million[105][106]
Taylor Swift United States 2006-present[107] 2006[107] Pop / Synth-pop / Country / Country pop / [107]

Total available certified units: 214.3 million
200 million[110][111]
Mariah Carey United States 1988-present[112] 1990[112] R&B / Pop / Soul / Hip-hop[112]

Total available certified units: 171.9 million
200 million[116][117]
Eagles United States 1971-1980, 1994-present[118] 1972[118] Rock[118]

Total available certified units: 149.9 million
200 million[120]
Queen United Kingdom 1971-present[121] 1973[121] Rock[121]

Total available certified units: 148.2 million
200 million[123]
170 million[124]
Whitney Houston United States 1977-2012[125] 1984[125] R&B / Soul / Pop[125]

Total available certified units: 137 million
200 million[128][129]
170 million[130][131]
Celine Dion Canada 1981-present[132] 1981[132] Pop[132]

Total available certified units: 131.1 million
200 million[137][138]
175 million[139][140]
AC/DC Australia 1973-present[141] 1975[141] Hard rock / Blues rock / Rock and roll[141]

Total available certified units: 123.8 million
200 million[143][144]
150 million[145][146]
The Rolling Stones United Kingdom 1962-present[147] 1963[147] Rock / Blues rock [147]

Total available certified units: 100 million
200 million[148][149]

120 million to 199 million records

Artist Country / Market Period active Release-year of first charted record Genre Total certified units
(from available markets)[a]
Claimed sales
Garth Brooks United States 1989-present[150] 1989[150] Country[150]

Total available certified units: 164.1 million
170 million[152]
Drake Canada 2001-present[153] 2009[153] Hip-hop / R&B / Pop[153]

Total available certified units: 317.3 million
150 million[154]
Ed Sheeran United Kingdom 2004-present[155] 2011[155] Pop / Folk pop [155]

Total available certified units: 184.6 million
150 million[156]
Justin Bieber Canada
United States
2008-present[157] 2009[157] Pop / Teen pop, Dance pop[157]

Total available certified units: 172 million
150 million[158]
Billy Joel United States 1964-present[159] 1971[159] Pop / Rock[159]

Total available certified units: 118.6 million
150 million[161]
U2 Ireland 1976-present[162] 1980[162] Rock[162]

Total available certified units: 110.4 million
150 million[165]
Barbra Streisand United States 1960-present[166] 1963[166] Pop / Adult contemporary[166]

Total available certified units: 98.2 million
150 million[167]
Phil Collins United Kingdom 1980-2011, 2015-present[168] 1981[168] Rock / Progressive rock / Adult contemporary[168]

Total available certified units: 89.9 million
150 million[170]
Aerosmith United States 1970-present[171] 1973[171] Hard rock[171]

Total available certified units: 85.8 million
150 million[173]
ABBA Sweden 1972-1982[174] 1972[174] Pop / Disco[174]

Total available certified units: 63.8 million
150 million[183]
100 million[184]
Frank Sinatra United States 1935-1995[185] 1939[185] Pop / Swing[185]

Total available certified units: 38.5 million
150 million[187]
Katy Perry United States 2001-present[188] 2008[188] Pop[188]

Total available certified units: 146.9 million
143 million[189]
Chris Brown United States 2005-present[190] 2005[190] Pop / R&B, Hip-hop [190]

Total available certified units: 145.9 million
140 million[191]
Kanye West United States 1996-present[192] 2004[192] Hip-hop / Electronic / Pop rock[192]

Total available certified units: 145.7 million
140 million[195]
Bruce Springsteen United States 1972-present[196] 1973[196] Rock[196]

Total available certified units: 103.9 million
135 million[198]
Bruno Mars United States 2004-present[199] 2010[199] Pop rock / R&B[199]

Total available certified units: 158.3 million
130 million[202]
Jay-Z United States 1996-present[203] 1996[203] Hip-hop[203]

Total available certified units: 112 million
125 million[204]
Metallica United States 1981-present[205] 1983[205] Heavy metal / Thrash metal[205]

Total available certified units: 102.9 million
125 million[207]
Lady Gaga United States 2005-present[208] 2008[208] Pop / Dance / Electronic[208]

Total available certified units: 143.1 million
124 million[209]
Maroon 5 United States 1994-present[210] 2002[210] Pop rock / Funk rock / Dance-pop[210]

Total available certified units: 124.2 million
120 million[211]
Adele United Kingdom 2006-present[212] 2008[212] Pop, soul[212]

Total available certified units: 112 million
120 million[213]
Lil Wayne United States 1996-present[214] 1999[214] Hip-hop[214]

Total available certified units: 106.3 million
120 million[215]
Fleetwood Mac United Kingdom
United States
1967-present[216] 1968[216] Rock / Pop[216]

Total available certified units: 85.5 million
120 million[219]
Rod Stewart United Kingdom 1964-present[220] 1969[220] Rock / Pop[220]

Total available certified units: 80.6 million
120 million[221]
Bee Gees United Kingdom
Australia[222][223]
1963-2003
2009-2012[224]
1963[224] Pop / Disco[224]

Total available certified units: 69.5 million
120 million[227]

100 million to 119 million records

Artist Country / Market Period active Release-year of first charted record Genre Total certified units
(from available markets)[a]
Claimed sales
Nicki Minaj United States 2008-present[228] 2010[228] Hip-hop, Pop[228]

Total available certified units: 124.3 million
100 million[229]
Beyoncé United States 1997-present[230] 2002[230][231] R&B / Pop[230]

Total available certified units: 97.5 million
100 million[235]
Coldplay United Kingdom 1996-present[236] 1999[236] Alternative rock, Pop rock, Pop[236]

Total available certified units: 93.3 million
100 million.[237]
Linkin Park United States 1996-present[238] 2000[238] Alternative rock / Nu metal / Rap rock[238]

Total available certified units: 87.2 million
100 million[239]
Bon Jovi United States 1983-present[240] 1983[240] Hard rock / Glam metal[240]

Total available certified units: 86.6 million
100 million[243]
B'z Japan 1988-present[244] 1988[244] Rock / Pop rock / Hard rock[244]

Total available certified units: 86.1 million
100 million[245]
Britney Spears United States 1998-present[246] 1998[246] Pop / Dance / Dance-pop[246]

Total available certified units: 84.9 million
100 million[248]
Guns N' Roses United States 1985-present[249] 1987[249] Hard rock / Heavy metal[249]

Total available certified units: 77.6 million
100 million[251]
Backstreet Boys United States 1993-present[252] 1995[252] Pop[252]

Total available certified units: 77.4 million
100 million[256]
George Strait United States 1981-present[257] 1984[257] Country[257]

Total available certified units: 72.8 million
100 million[258]
Eric Clapton United Kingdom 1962-present[259] 1970[259] Rock, Blues[259]

Total available certified units: 70.9 million
100 million[260]
Neil Diamond United States 1966-present[261] 1966[261] Pop / Rock[261]

Total available certified units: 69.1 million
100 million[263]
Santana United States 1966-present[264] 1969[264] Rock[264]

Total available certified units: 65.3 million
100 million[265]
Prince United States 1976-2016[266] 1978[266] Funk / R&B / Pop / Soul / Rock[266]

Total available certified units: 65.3 million
100 million[267]
Kenny Rogers United States 1958-2020[268] 1975[268] Country / Pop[268]

Total available certified units: 61.8 million
100 million[272]
Paul McCartney United Kingdom 1960-present[273] 1970[273] Rock[273]

Total available certified units: 61.6 million
100 million[275]
Simon & Garfunkel United States 1956-2004[276] 1964[276] Folk rock[276]

Total available certified units: 60.6 million
100 million[277]
Janet Jackson United States 1982-present[278] 1982[278] R&B / Pop[278]

Total available certified units: 52.5 million
100 million[279]
Julio Iglesias Spain 1968-present[280] 1968[280] Latin[280]

Total available certified units: 51.2 million
100 million[282]
Dire Straits United Kingdom 1977-1995[283] 1978[283] Rock [283]

Total available certified units: 49.6 million
100 million[284]
Chicago United States 1967-present[285] 1969[285] Rock / Pop[285]

Total available certified units: 48.4 million
100 million[287]
Bob Dylan United States 1959-present[288] 1963[288] Folk / Rock[288]

Total available certified units: 46.2 million
100 million[289]
Def Leppard United Kingdom 1977-present[290] 1979[290] Hard rock / Heavy metal[290]

Total available certified units: 42.3 million
100 million[292]
Cher United States 1964-present[293] 1965[293] Pop / Rock / Dance / Folk[293]

Total available certified units: 41.7 million
100 million[299]
Genesis United Kingdom 1967-1999
2006-present[300]
1969[300] Progressive rock / Pop rock[300]

Total available certified units: 40.2 million
100 million[301]
James Taylor United States 1968-present[302] 1970[302] Rock / Pop[302]

Total available certified units: 36.3 million
100 million[303]
Stevie Wonder United States 1961-present[304] 1962[304] Funk / R&B / Soul[304]

Total available certified units: 36.7 million
100 million[305]
Olivia Newton-John Australia 1966-present[306] 1966[306] Pop[306]

Total available certified units: 35.9 million
100 million[308]
David Bowie United Kingdom 1962-2016[309] 1967[309] Art rock / Glam rock / Pop[309]

Total available certified units: 35.5 million
100 million[310]
Tina Turner United States 1958-2009[311] 1975[312] Rock / Pop[312]

Total available certified units: 34 million
100 million[313]
Linda Ronstadt United States 1967-present[314] 1968[314] Rock / Folk / Country[314]

Total available certified units: 33.2 million
100 million[315]
The Beach Boys United States 1961-present[316] 1962[316] Rock / Pop / Surf Rock[316]

Total available certified units: 31.3 million
100 million[317]
Donna Summer United States 1968-2012[318] 1974[318] Pop / Disco / R&B[318]

Total available certified units: 31.2 million
100 million[319]
The Who United Kingdom 1964-present[320] 1965[320] Rock / Hard rock[320]

Total available certified units: 27.8 million
100 million[321]
Barry White United States 1972-2003[322] 1973[322] R&B / Soul[322]

Total available certified units: 21.7 million
100 million[323]

80 million to 99 million records

Artist Country / Market Period active Release-year of first charted record Genre Total certified units
(from available markets)[a]
Claimed sales
Shania Twain Canada 1993-present[324] 1993[324] Country pop[324]

Total available certified units: 77.6 million
90 million[325]
Pink United States 1995-present[326] 2000[326] Pop, Pop rock, R&B[326]

Total available certified units: 76.4 million
90 million[327]
The Carpenters United States 1969-1983[328] 1969[328] Pop[328]

Total available certified units: 46.3 million
90 million[330]
Lionel Richie United States 1968-present[331] 1981[331] Pop / R&B[331]

Total available certified units: 41.5 million
90 million[333]
Earth, Wind & Fire United States 1969-present[334] 1971[334] Funk / R&B / Soul[334]

Total available certified units: 36.6 million
90 million[337]
Johnny Cash United States 1954-2003[338] 1956[338] Country / Rock and roll / Gospel[338]

Total available certified units: 31.5 million
90 million[339]
Justin Timberlake United States 1992-present[340] 2002[340] Pop, R&B, Neo soul[340]

Total available certified units: 69.5 million
88 million[341]
R.E.M. United States 1980-2011[342] 1983[342] Alternative rock[342]

Total available certified units: 43.4 million
85 million[343]
Flo Rida United States 2007-present[344] 2007[344] Hip-hop, Hip house, EDM[344]

Total available certified units: 81.1 million
80 million[345]
Van Halen United States 1978-present[346] 1978[346] Hard rock / Heavy metal[346]

Total available certified units: 64.8 million
80 million[347]
Ayumi Hamasaki Japan 1998-present[348] 1998[348] J-pop / Pop / dance / electronic[348]

Total available certified units: 64.4 million
80 million[349][350]
Red Hot Chili Peppers United States 1983-present[351] 1987[351] Funk rock / Alternative rock[351]

Total available certified units: 61.3 million
80 million[353]
George Michael United Kingdom 1981-2016[354] 1984[354] Pop[354]

Total available certified units: 51.3 million
80 million[356]
Foreigner United States
United Kingdom
1976-present[357] 1977[357] Rock / Hard Rock[357]

Total available certified units: 49.9 million
80 million[358]
The Doors United States 1965-1973[359] 1967[359] Psychedelic rock[359]

Total available certified units: 48.4 million
80 million[360]
Meat Loaf United States 1968-present[361] 1977[361] Rock / Hard rock[361]

Total available certified units: 45.3 million
80 million[362]
Tom Petty United States 1976-2017[363] 1977[363] Rock[363]

Total available certified units: 34.9 million
80 million[364]
Johnny Hallyday France 1957-2017[365] 1960[365] Rock / Pop[365]

Total available certified units: 28.3 million
80 million[367]

75 million to 79 million records

Artist Country / Market Period active Release-year of first charted record Genre Total certified units
(from available markets)[a]
Claimed sales
Tim McGraw United States 1990-present[368] 1994[368] Country[368]

Total available certified units: 69.8 million
75 million[369]
Journey United States 1973-present[370] 1975[370] Rock / Soft rock[370]

Total available certified units: 62.7 million
75 million[372]
Usher United States 1991-present[373] 1994[373] R&B / Pop[373]

Total available certified units: 61.7 million
75 million[374]
The Black Eyed Peas United States 1995-present[375] 1998[375] Hip-hop / R&B / Dance[375]

Total available certified units: 61.3 million
75 million[376]
Christina Aguilera United States 1993-present[377] 1999[377] R&B / Pop / Rock[377]

Total available certified units: 58.8 million
75 million[378]
Shakira Colombia 1988-present[379] 1995[379] Latin pop / Pop/ Pop rock[379]

Total available certified units: 56.3 million
75 million[380]
R. Kelly United States 1989-2019[381] 1991[382] R&B / Soul / Hip-hop[382]

Total available certified units: 55.9 million
75 million[383]
Robbie Williams United Kingdom 1990-present[384] 1996[384] Pop rock[384]

Total available certified units: 54.1 million
75 million[385]
Tupac Shakur United States 1991-1996[386] 1991[386] Hip-hop[386]

Total available certified units: 52.3 million
75 million[388]
Nirvana United States 1987-1994[389] 1990[389] Grunge / Alternative rock[389]

Total available certified units: 52.3 million
75 million[392]
Kenny G United States 1982-present[393] 1984[393] Smooth jazz[393]

Total available certified units: 52.1 million
75 million[394]
Enya Ireland 1982-present[395] 1987[395] New-age / Celtic[395]

Total available certified units: 51.2 million
75 million[399]
Green Day United States 1987-present[400] 1994[375] Punk rock / Pop punk / Alternative rock[400]

Total available certified units: 49.9 million
75 million[401]
Bryan Adams Canada 1979-present[402] 1979[402] Rock[402]

Total available certified units: 48.2 million
75 million[404]
Alabama United States 1972-present[405] 1980[405] Country / Pop rock[405]

Total available certified units: 48 million
  • US: 46.8 million[11]
  • CAN: 1.2 million[17]
75 million[406]
Bob Seger United States 1961-present[407] 1969[407] Rock / Pop rock / Rock and Roll[407]

Total available certified units: 47.3 million
75 million[408]
Bob Marley Jamaica 1962-1981[409] 1975[409] Reggae[409]

Total available certified units: 43.4 million
75 million[412]
The Police United Kingdom 1977-1986
2007-2008[413]
1978[413] Pop / Rock[413]

Total available certified units: 40.2 million
75 million[414]
Barry Manilow United States 1973-present[415] 1973[415] Pop / Soft rock[415]

Total available certified units: 36.5 million
75 million[416]
Kiss United States 1972-present[417] 1974[417] Hard rock / Heavy metal[417]

Total available certified units: 28.2 million
75 million[418]
Aretha Franklin United States 1956-2018[419] 1961[419] Soul / Jazz / Blues / R&B[419]

Total available certified units: 26.1 million
75 million[420]

See also

Notes

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  2. ^ To be on this list, artists who began charting:
    • before 1975 are required to have their available claimed figures supported by 20% in certified units.
    • between 1975-1990 are required to have their available claimed figures supported by 20-64% in certified units. (That is 2.9% for each additional year after 1975)
    • between 1990-2000 are required to have their available claimed figures supported by 64-70% in certified units. (That is 0.6% for each additional year after 1990)
    • between 2000-present are required to have their available claimed figures supported by 70-80% in certified units. (That is 0.66% for each additional year after 2000)
  3. ^ Below you can get an understanding as to when certifications for songs are added to the total certified sales of the listed artists.
    • One lead artist and one featured artist. (The issued certification(s) should be added to the total of both, the lead artist and the featured artist as both will have almost equal amount of part).
    • Two lead artists.(The issued certification(s) should be added to the total of both lead artists as both will have almost equal amount of part).
    • Two lead artists and one featured artist. (The issued certification(s) should be added to the total of both lead artists as well as the featured artist. Both lead artists will play a significant part in a song and the part of the featured artist also should be significant enough).
    • One lead artist and two featured artists. (The issued certification(s) should be added to the total of the lead artist and to the total of both featured artists as almost all should have equal amount of part).

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