30 Best Selling Music Artists of All Time

Music changes with time, the hits that topped the charts 50 years ago probably wouldn’t even hit the top 100 if they came out today because people’s interests change. It’s a true testament to an artist if they withstand the sands of time and remain popular.

However you don’t have to stay trending as an artist if you take advantage of your prime. In fact the number 1 artist in this list was only active for 10 years, yet they outsold the second placed artist by over 50 million units. These units are the total certified sales of singles, albums and videos including digital sales.There are a lot of surprise names that appear on this list, so without further ado lets get into it.

This list was put together using data available here.

Rank Artist Years Active Total Certified Sales (million)
1 The Beatles 1960-1970 270.8
2 Rihanna 2005-Present 216.4
3 Elvis Presley 1954-1977 211.5
4 Michael Jackson 1964-2009 183.9
5 Madonna 1979-Present 170.5
6 Elton John 1964-Present 167.6
7 Garth Brooks 1989-Present 156
8 Taylor Swift 2006-Present 153.6
9 Led Zeppelin 1968-1980 139.5
10 Mariah Carey 1988-Present 134.7
11 Eminem 1996-Present 131.7
12 Eagles 1971-Present 129.2
13 Celine Dion 1981-Present 124.6
14 Katy Perry 2001-Present 121.5
15 Pink Floyd 1965-1996 118.7
16 Queen 1971-Present 114.7
17 AC/DC 1973-Present 112.9
18 Whitney Houston 1977-2012 112.6
19 Justin Bieber 2008-Present 111.2
20 Bruno Mars 2004-Present 106.3
21 U2 1976-Present 106
22 Adele 2006-Present 102.8
23 Billy Joel 1964-Present 102.4
24 Bruce Springsteen 1972-Present 101.6
25 Kanye West 1996-Present 100.8
26 Barbra Streisand 1960-Present 97.4
27 The Rolling Stones 1962-Present 96.8
28 Lady Gaga 2005-Present 96.5
29 Metallica 1981-Present 93.8
30 Jay Z 1996-Present 91.6

There are a lot of unexpected artists that have made the list, and even more unexpected rankings. This could be due to the fact only certified sales were taken into account and some artists don’t have the certification to back up there claimed sales. For example Elvis has claimed sales of 500-600 million units however only a little over 200 million are certified. This isn’t an issue for more modern artists however it does raise problems for older artists.

Ignoring this the list is still interesting, especially when looking at the years an artist is active compared the the sales accumulated in that period. The Beatles selling over 270 million units in 10 years is an extremely impressive feat. It goes to show the true popularity they had at the time. Second is Rihanna, few would expect her to place to highly on this list, and in an 11 year period selling over 210 million units is an admirable accomplishment. Especially in a time where artists are regularly forgotten leaving behind many, many one hit wonders.

For those interested in singing, you may want to take a look at Singorama created by Melanie Alexander who has had a number 1 hit, 2 gold albums and a platinum album as a member of the band Girlfriend.