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The 100 Best Selling Albums of All Time (Updated List)


The 100 Best Selling Albums of All Time | The top albums released, from soft rock to country music

The allure of a best-selling album is undeniable. It encapsulates the pinnacle of commercial success, marking an artist's height in cultural influence and popularity.


Best-selling albums are more than just collections of songs; they are cultural milestones that define moments in time, showcasing the power of music to resonate with millions around the globe.


This fascination with the best-selling albums stems not only from the music but also from the stories of the artists behind them, whose journeys often inspire as much as the melodies and lyrics themselves.


The landscape of best-selling albums showcases a diverse array of genres, each with its own champions. These record-breaking sales are testaments to the albums' global reach and the universal language of music.


Understanding the significance of these albums gives you insight into not only music but also trends, history, and cultural shifts.


So without further ado, let's explore some of the best selling albums of all time!


Overview of Best Selling Albums

When exploring the landscape of music, you'll find that certain albums have achieved incredible commercial success.


Thriller by Michael Jackson is the top selling album of all time, with an estimated 72 million copies sold worldwide. Its unique blend of pop, rock, and funk captivated a global audience, cementing it at the pinnacle of musical achievements.


Following Michael Jackson, a range of artists and bands feature prominently in the top 100 selling albums. Below, you'll find a snapshot of this illustrious group:

  • Pink Floyd: Their iconic album The Dark Side of the Moon has not only enjoyed immense commercial success but also critical acclaim, becoming an all-time favorite for many.

  • The Beatles: With multiple entries, such as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, they consistently appear in the best-selling lists, showcasing their timeless appeal across generations.


Album sales have historically been a key indicator of an artist's success, and the presence on such lists implies a widespread and lasting popularity.


Here's a list of the 25 best-selling albums of all time:

#

Album

Artist

Estimated Sales

1

Thriller

Michael Jackson

72 million

2

Back in Black

AC/DC

52 million

3

Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)

Eagles

48 million

4

The Bodyguard Soundtrack

Whitney Houston

47 million

5

The Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd

45 million

6

Bat Out of Hell

Meat Loaf

44 million

7

Hotel California

Eagles

43 million

8

Come On Over

Shaina Twain

41 million

9

Rumours

Fleetwood Mac

40 million

10

Saturday Night Fever

Bee Gees

40 million

11

Led Zeppelin IV

Led Zeppelin

38 million

12

Bad

Michael Jackson

36 million

13

Jagged Little Pill

Alanis Morissette

34 million

14

Falling into You

Celine Dion

32 million

15

31

Adele

32 million

16

1

The Beatles

32 million

17

Metallica

Metallica

31 million

18

The Best of Bob Marley

Bob Marley and the Wailers

31 million

19

Dangerous

Michael Jackson

31 million

20

Appetite for Destruction

Guns N' Roses

31 million

21

Born in the U.S.A.

Bruce Springsteen

30 million

22

Gold: Greatest Hits

ABBA

30 million

23

...Baby One More Time

Britney Spears

30 million

24

Abbey Road

The Beatles

30 million

25

The Wall

Pink Floyd

30 million

For the full list of the 100 best selling albums of all time, click here.


Record-Breaking Sales Figures

In the realm of music, certain albums have achieved extraordinary commercial success, setting benchmarks for sales that few others have come close to reaching.


Milestone Achievements

You may be aware that some albums have not just sold well but have shattered records.


As shown above, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" holds the title for the highest selling album of all time, with estimated sales of over 70 million copies worldwide. This milestone sets it apart as a remarkable achievement in the music industry.


Albums that have sold more than 10 million copies in the United States earn a special certification known as a Diamond album. Diamond albums are a prestigious award, which signifies an incredible level of commercial success.


Another notable achievement can be seen with Guns N' Roses album "Appetite for Destruction". At number 20 on our list, this project the best selling debut album in history, with the title track Welcome To The Jungle boasting over 1 billion plays on Spotify alone... insane.


Historical Trends in Album Sales

Your understanding of album sales trends offers a glimpse into how the music industry has evolved and which decades saw certain artists dominate the market.


Evolving Music Industry

Obviously, the music industry has undergone a huge transformation over the years, as physical sales like vinyl, audio cassettes, and compact discs no longer reign supreme.


In the past, album sales were the primary metric for measuring an artist's success and the industry's health. However, your perception of success now must consider digital downloads and streaming, which have reshaped album sales figures and industry benchmarks.


Decade Dominance

Music trends are often encapsulated by decade dominance, where certain genres and artists prevailed.


  • The 1980s saw Michael Jackson's Thriller album break records with sales reported at 70 million copies by one source and 72 million by another.

  • The 1970s spotlighted a surge in album sales with notable records such as the Bee Gees' soundtrack Saturday Night Fever, moving over 40 million units.


These towering sales figures showcase how certain albums can resonate culturally and commercially, dominating their respective release decades.


Genre Analysis

From hard rock to country music, explore the best albums of all time based on certified units and popularity over time!

To understand the commercial success of music, you can look at the genre distribution among the best-selling albums. The following analysis breaks down how rock, pop, and rap have cemented their places in sales history.


Rock

Rock albums have left a permanent mark on music sales.


The Eagles have the best-selling rock album with "Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975)", which has been a fixture in music collections worldwide.


Equally notable is Pink Floyd's "The Wall", recognized for its ambitious concept and substantial sales.


Pop

Pop music, known for its wide appeal, dominates the chart of best-selling albums.


Michael Jackson's "Thriller" holds the unparalleled title of the best-selling album of all time, boasting a masterful blend of pop, rock, and R&B elements that transcends cultural and musical boundaries.


Another monumental work includes The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", which revolutionized the pop genre and remains a best-seller decades after its release.


Rap

In rap, notable sales achievements highlight the genre’s increasing influence.


Albums like Eminem's "The Marshall Mathers LP" showcased rap's potent mix of lyrical complexity and mainstream appeal, marking it as one of the best-selling rap albums to date.


As the genre continues to evolve, its impact on the sales charts remains pronounced, reflecting rap’s growing role in shaping contemporary music tastes.


Artist Success Stories

The white album produced by George Martin is an example of a success story, likewise the first album from Elton John!

Your journey through musical history isn't complete without recognizing the artists whose albums have reached pinnacle sales, garnered extensive acclaim, and achieved numerous platinum certifications.


Top Artists

  • Michael Jackson

    • Michael Jackson's Thriller holds the crown for the best-selling album of all time, with sales over 72 million copies worldwide. It's an iconic record that solidified Jackson's legacy as the King of Pop.

  • Eagles

    • The Eagles have the unique distinction of having one of the top-selling albums with Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), which rivals Thriller in sales, as well as Hotel California, both of which are profound testimonials to their enduring appeal.

  • AC/DC

    • With Back In Black, AC/DC struck a chord in the rock genre, selling over 50 million copies. This album not only marks a significant point in rock history but also showcases AC/DC's ability to captivate a massive audience.


When you consider the most platinum records by an artist, it's essential to mention The Beatles, who, despite their short run as a band, managed an impressive tally of platinum album certifications and remain a cornerstone of musical excellence.


Digital vs. Physical Sales

Explore how certified units impact the best selling albums of all time, such as The Magical Mystery Tour and Hotel California.

In the evolution of music consumption, you've witnessed a significant shift from physical album sales to digital formats. This change reflects the industry's response to technological advancements and consumer preferences.


Rise of Digital Music

Digital music sales began to pick up momentum with the advent of online music stores and the proliferation of digital media players. The convenience of purchasing and downloading individual tracks contributed to the soaring popularity of digital music.


Here's how digital sales have impacted the market:

Music Format

Peak Year

Sales Revenue

CDs

2000

~$13.2 billion

Digital Downloads

2012

~$2.9 billion

Streaming Revenues

2021

Exceeded physical sales

Your experience with music has evolved alongside these changes. The early 2000s marked a peak for CDs, with massive sales leading the industry. However, by 2012, you saw digital downloads reach their zenith, partially due to the rise in mobile device usage, which created an easy and immediate way to access music.


Currently, streaming services have become the norm, surpassing both physical and digital sales, reshaping how you interact with and consume music.


Certification and Record Keeping

When you're assessing the best-selling albums of all time, understanding the methods of certification and record keeping is critical.


These procedures ensure the credibility of sales figures and highlight the extraordinary success of diamond-certified albums.


Industry Standards

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the certifying body when examining album sales in the United States, and list certified units for each album.


This organization sets the benchmark for categorizing album sales, with a diamond certification denoting more than 10 million units sold. Here's how they break down:

  • Gold: 500,000 units

  • Platinum: 1,000,000 units

  • Diamond: 10,000,000 units


Certifications reflect a scale of commercial success, with diamond albums representing a rare and significant achievement in an artist's career.


Sales Verification

Your trust in sales figures is maintained through rigorous verification processes. SoundScan, now known as MRC Data, tracks retail sales and digital downloads to report accurate figures.


The RIAA then certifies these numbers, coupling them with its own auditing. Your diamond album has not only reached an enviable pinnacle of sales but its status is also meticulously validated through these institutions.


The synergy between sales and certification bodies ensure that when you look at a list of best-selling albums, you're seeing a record of tangible, verified success.


Global Influence and Popularity

Exploring the greatest hits from the best selling albums of all time, from the title track to the final song.

The albums that top the global sales charts not only achieve vast commercial success but often reshape the music industry across various international markets.


International Markets

Your appreciation for landmark albums extends across cultural and national boundaries. In international markets, best-selling albums significantly impact local music scenes and trends.


Because of this, both western artists and international musicians have been influenced by best-selling albums. These works often serve as benchmarks of success and are esteemed for breaking geographical barriers.


Culture and Music Consumption

Your understanding of best-selling albums is influenced by the cultural context and the changes in how music is consumed over time.


Listener Engagement

You live in an era where music is more accessible than ever before. Listener engagement has transitioned from physical album purchases to digital downloads and now to streaming services. This shift reflects in the sales of albums that have achieved significant cultural impact.


  • Vinyl Records: Once the primary medium, they now symbolize a niche appreciation for analog sound quality.

  • CDs: Championed portability and became the standard in the late 20th century, contributing to high album sales.

  • Digital Downloads: Emerged as a convenient way to purchase music, making it easier to own specific albums or songs.

  • Streaming: Allows you to access vast libraries of music for a subscription fee, changing the metric from sales to streams.


The connectivity of the internet has also influenced your engagement, turning local phenomena into global trends. Albums that resonated with large audiences have often capitalized on this, reaching unprecedented sales figures.


Amidst these changes, your relationship with music remains a constant, and the best-selling albums are often those that capture the zeitgeist of their times, marking significant moments in your collective cultural experience.


In Conclusion: The Best Selling Albums of All Time

  • Best-selling albums not only achieve significant commercial success, but also have a lasting cultural impact.

  • Record sales reflect an album's worldwide appeal and its ability to connect with diverse audiences.

  • These albums span various genres and decades, highlighting changes in music consumption over time.


Frequently Asked Questions

Explore the best selling ablums of all time from led zeppelin, guns n' roses, pink floyd, whitney houston, the steve milled band, and more!

Explore the highest echelons of music success with this concise exploration of best-selling albums and the artists behind them.


Which album holds the record for the highest sales globally?

"Thriller" by Michael Jackson is the world's best-selling album, with estimated sales reaching 70 million copies globally.


How many albums did the best-selling artist release?

Michael Jackson, the artist behind "Thriller," released a total of five albums that are on the list of top-selling records.


What is the rank of 'Thriller' among the best-selling albums?

"Thriller" holds the top position as the best-selling album of all time.


Who are the artists with multiple top-selling albums?

Notable artists with multiple albums among the best-sellers include Celine Dion with four, and The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Whitney Houston, each with three.


How have best-selling album rankings changed over the years?

The rankings of best-selling albums have fluctuated over the years due to new releases, changes in consumer behavior, and the impact of digital streaming platforms on album sales.


What factors contribute to an album becoming a best-seller?

Key factors that contribute to an album's success include the artist's popularity, the number of hit singles, marketing strategies, and the album’s reception among critics and fans.

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