Rock bands like The Beatles are always considered the greatest of all time.
Hip-hop stars like Eminem always come to mind when discussing the most successful music artists of all time.
And pop stars like Taylor Swift have only become better and better in recent years, laying a strong claim as one of the best female performers today.
But who are the best-selling music artists of all time?
Does popularity automatically translate to high album sales?
To answer these questions, we searched the RIAA website to compile a list of the 30 best-selling music artists of all time.
It’s hardly surprising that music icons like Elvis Presley still top the rankings.
But we also have a few surprising names for you.
So, read on to find out.
1. The Beatles – 183 Million Units Sold
It shouldn’t be surprising that the Fab Four tops the list of the best-selling music artists of all time because not many bands could pack a full concert in the 1960s.
The Beatles is one of the most recognizable English rock bands in history, comprising John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Paul McCartney.
It was formed in 1960 in Liverpool, England, and became one of the most successful rock bands of all time.
It is credited with influencing a whole generation of upcoming rock bands, becoming one of the star performers of the ’60s and 70s.
The group stood out with chart-topping singles like “Hey Jude,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” and “She Loves You.”
And its legacy lives on in the rock music genre.
2. Garth Brooks – 157 Million Units Sold
Every country singer probably admires Garth Brooks’ longevity in the music scene.
He’s a revered American country music singer and one of the best things to come out of Oklahoma.
Garth Brooks’ career spans close to 4 decades, becoming a mainstay name in a fast-changing music landscape while earning plaudits from music critics worldwide.
The singer’s determination paid off commercially, becoming one of the most successful country singers ever.
He’s one of the few singers to effortlessly integrate pop and rock elements into country music without losing identity.
And that has earned him a legion of followers in the country music scene.
Garth Brooks has multiple platinum-certified recordings, chart-topping singles, and record-setting live performances.
3. Elvis Presley – 146.5 Million Units Sold
It’s only right that “The King” gets his place in the list of the best-selling artists of all time, or his fans could become dramatic (Joking).
Elvis Presley was a mainstay name in the rock and roll arena who captivated audiences with his energized stage performances and sexually provocative lyrics.
He attracted success and controversy (especially at the beginning of his career) in equal measure, but he always left everything on the stage every time he performed.
As one of the most successful artists of all time, Elvis, or the ‘King Of Rock and Roll,’ as he was famously called, entered the Guinness World Records as the best-selling solo music artist.
Presley has the record for most songs in the Billboard Top 40 and Top 100, the most albums in the Billboard 200 chart, and the most time spent atop the Billboard 200.
4. Eagles – 120 Million Units Sold
Have you listened to the hit singles “Hotel California,” “Desperado,” and “Take It Easy?”
That was the American rock band at its best.
Everybody knew the Eagles in the 1970s.
Or at least, most North Americans did.
This wasn’t one of those ordinary rock bands formed from a humble background with individuals who were only trying their hand at music.
Before forming the band, Glenn Frey had years of experience playing piano and guitar.
He had even formed another band, the Subterraneans.
The Eagles are among the most successful bands from the 1970s, with five #1 hits, six #1 albums, six Grammy Awards, and five American Music Awards.
5. Led Zeppelin – 112.5 Million Units Sold
Led Zeppelin is another English rock band on our list that ruled the ’70s music scene.
The group’s lineup comprised Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham.
Led Zeppelin ranked among the pioneers of heavy metal and hard rock music, known for hits such as “Good Times Bad Times,” “Whole Lotta Love,” and “Immigrant Song.”
Unlike many bands, the English rock band wasn’t an instant craze, initially receiving negative reception from music lovers.
The band attributes its breakthrough to resilience, determination, and a series of good songs throughout the decade.
Their epic global tours are well documented, always attracting massive crowds.
Led Zeppelin cemented their legacy when all their albums reached the top 10 charts, with six occupying the #1 spot.
Their signature song, “Stairway to Heaven,” made them one of the most popular bands in music history.
6. Michael Jackson – 89 Million Units Sold
What is there to say about the King of Pop?
With a career spanning over four decades, his massive influence on upcoming generations, and his iconic dance moves, MJ needs no introduction to the music scene.
He was a cultural icon and one of the most significant figures in pop music.
He stood out with his unique fashion sense and publicized life, making him a familiar figure in pop culture.
MJ popularized many dance moves (remember the Moonwalk?), even getting the ‘robot’ nickname.
After making his debut in 1964 as part of the Jackson 5, MJ launched a solo career in 1971.
His best songs, like “Thriller,” “Beat It,” and “Billie Jean,” were era-defining.
And with 13 Billboard Hot 100 #1 singles, 15 Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, 6 Brit Awards, and 39 Guinness World Records, his life embodies success.
Jackson’s enviable career inspires many artists.
And his legacy will live on forever.
7. Billy Joel – 86 Million Units Sold
What’s the craziest fact you’ve heard about Billy Joel?
We’ve heard that he once attempted suicide with furniture polish.
But that’s not even shocking.
The most staggering revelation could be that he’s “an atheist but believes in ghosts.”
We haven’t had a new album from Billy Joel in almost two decades.
But don’t get it wrong.
He’s still an influential figure in popular culture.
And his songs have stood the test of time.
Only a few artists have had the privilege to entertain their fans with inspirational and catchy songs as much as Joel.
Commercially, Billy is right up there with the best, ranking highly among the best-selling solo artists in the USA.
His 1985 album, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2, is one of the best-selling records in the US.
If you want some good Billy Joel songs, start with his first chart-topping single, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”
8. Elton John – 79 Million Units Sold
The Rocket Man gets mentioned in the list of the best-selling artists of all time because he’s one of the greatest.
Elton John is more than a talented singer.
He is a true entertainer who knows how to connect with his fans through his music.
Everybody marvels at his flamboyance.
But it’s probably his successes that made him one of the best-selling singers of all time.
He’s also starred in the movies Rocketman and The Lion King, further increasing his sales in the entertainment industry.
Give it to him for ruling the charts between 1970 and 1975 and for his lasting impact on the music scene.
“Candle in the Wind,” John’s signature song, is still the best-selling chart single in history.
9. AC/DC – 75 Million Units Sold
The next name on this list is an Australian rock band from the early ’70s.
The band comprised brotherly duo Malcolm and Angus Young and entertained their fans with their heavy metal, blues-rock, and hard rock music.
After a series of membership changes, they released their debut album, High Voltage, in 1975, before getting their breakthrough in 1979 with Highway to Hell.
They are best known for hits such as “Back in Black,” “Thunderstruck,” and “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
10. Pink Floyd – 75 Million Units Sold
Pink Floyd is another English rock band that ruled the music charts between 1965 and 1994.
They broke into the scene as one of the first psychedelic groups, with memorable philosophical lyrics and live shows to die for.
They became the face of progressive rock in their prime, mentioned by many as one of the greatest progressive rock bands ever.
By the early 2010s, Pink Floyd had become one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
Their earlier albums, The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and The Wall (1979), got inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Pink Floyd’s best songs include “Money,” “See Emily Play,” and “Another Brick in the Wall.”
11. Mariah Carey – 74 Million Units Sold
You must be so good to get nicknamed the “Songbird Supreme” by Guinness World Records.
So, that tells you everything about Mariah Carey, a celebrated singer, and songwriter famed for her unique, five-octave vocal range.
We can’t get enough of Mariah’s top-notch improvisation skills.
And we aren’t sure if anybody gets closer to the American singer when it comes to flawless composition.
Her “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is enduring and has made her one of the most successful music artists in history.
She’s been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, won multiple awards, and inspired a generation of artists.
12. Bruce Springsteen – 71 Million Units Sold
Bruce Springsteen has released over 21 albums throughout a successful career spanning six decades.
As a pioneer of heartland rock, the singer has captivated audiences with his poetic narrations, always addressing societal issues in a typical, Springsteen style.
His energetic stage performances sometimes last as long as 4 hours.
And as one of the most prominent figures of the album era, the American singer-songwriter has won 20 Grammy Awards, a Special Tony Award, 2 Golden Globes, and an Academy Award.
13. Aerosmith – 69.5 Million Units Sold
Aerosmith is one of the most prominent acts in music history, having dominated the charts since the 1970s.
The Boston rock band released their eponymous debut album in 1973, following it with popular hits like “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing,” “Walk This Way,” and “Cryin.”
While their style is centered on blues-based hard rock, Aerosmith has always integrated pop rock, glam metal, rhythm, blues, and heavy metal elements into their music.
Some call them “the bad boys from Boston.”
But we call them one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
14. George Strait – 69 Million Units Sold
George Harvey Strait Sr., or simply George Strait, is one of the most influential country singers in music history.
He spearheaded the neotraditional country movement of the 1980s and has since become one of the greatest country singers of all time.
Strait was nicknamed the “King of Country Music” for his matchless legacy and contribution to neotraditional country music.
The American country singer announced his arrival to the music scene in 1981 with his debut single, “Unwound.”
Strait has had seven albums topping the charts, won a Grammy Award, and was crowned Artist of the Decade in the 2000s.
15. Barbra Streisand – 68.5 Million Units Sold
Barbra Streisand has achieved massive success in the entertainment industry, winning Tony (EGOT), Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy Awards.
She began her career in the early ’60s before signing up with Columbia Records and releasing her debut album, The Barbra Streisand Album.
She’s had 11 chart-topping albums, five #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and a successful filming career.
After starring in the famous Funny Girl (1968) film, she followed it up with appearances in Hello, Dolly! (1969), What’s Up, Doc? (1972), and The Way We Were (1973).
16. The Rolling Stones – 66.5 Million Units Sold
You can say many things about the English rock band.
But one thing is certain; they are enduring.
With a career spanning six decades, The Rolling Stones secured their place in rock music history as the rhythmically driven band that always delivered.
They’ve won 3 Grammy Awards and were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame (2004) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1989) because of their contributions to music.
They are one of the greatest bands ever and among the best-selling music artists of all time.
17. Madonna – 64.5 Million Units Sold
Madonna has been the face of pop music for as long as we can remember, becoming one of the most successful artists in the same period.
After launching her career in 1983 with her self-titled studio album, there was no turning back for the ‘Queen of Pop.”
She got better with time, releasing multiple successful albums like True Blue, The Immaculate Collection, and Ray of Light.
Madonna’s versatility is widely appreciated in the music industry, always grabbing attention with her flawless lyricism about social, political, and sexual issues.
Her work has sometimes attracted controversy.
But Madonna remains an influential figure in pop music and one of the most successful singers in the 20th and 21st centuries.
18. Metallica – 63 Million Units Sold
No band personifies the heavy metal genre as well as Metallica.
The band’s original lineup comprised Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield.
Debuting in 1981, the group quickly became famous with their fast tempos and energetic performances.
Metallica is arguably one of the best bands from the 1980s and among the most successful artists in history.
19. Eminem – 61.5 Million Units Sold
Eminem has had one of the most successful careers in the rap industry, but not without controversies.
Starting his career in 1988, it wasn’t until the late 90s and early 2000s that the world discovered his talent and lyricism.
His impact on hip-hop music is felt far and wide, and his striking lyricism still excites his fans.
We won’t talk about his usual antics.
But as one of the greatest in the rap game, Eminem has won 15 Grammy Awards, 17 Billboard Music Awards, and 8 American Music Awards.
He’s among the best-selling music artists of all time, with his filming career also contributing to his earning.
While Eminem has been inactive lately, many artists still cite him as a big influence.
See also: Best-Selling Rappers of All Time
20. Whitney Houston – 61 Million Units Sold
Catchy songs usually stick to the listener’s head.
But it’s even better if the singer’s powerful voice strikes a nostalgic feeling.
Whitney Houston is one of the best pop singers from the 1970s, with a magical voice to grab everyone’s attention.
Everybody knows her from her “I Will Always Love You,” hit, arguably her signature song.
But she also produced other great hits like “I Have Nothing,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” and “Exhale.”
She’s inspired many female singers with her soulful vocals.
21. Van Halen – 56.5 Million Units Sold
Van Halen was a California-based rock band famed for its enthusiastic live shows and passion for hard rock music.
It was formed in 1972 by Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, and Michael Anthony.
It is one of the most successful bands from the 1980s, releasing a series of hit singles and certified-platinum albums.
22. Fleetwood Mac – 54.5 Million Units Sold
Fleetwood Mac comprised British and American singers led by Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer.
The soft rock legends had successful group and solo careers.
Some of the band’s greatest hits include “Dreams,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “Everywhere.”
23. Celine Dion – 53 Million Units Sold
How’s she coming in at #24?
You will probably wonder.
You will want to refer to Celine Dion’s exemplary career when discussing longevity, charisma, and work ethic.
The Canadian singer’s story dates back to 1968 in Charlemagne, Canada.
She’s entertained us, taught us, and inspired us.
And it’s only right that she writes her name in the history books as one of the most successful Canadian singers of all time.
Celine Dion redefined pop music and has been at the forefront of the music industry with her lyricism that gets everyone’s attention.
It’s impossible to list all her songs.
But you can update your playlist with “My Heart Will Go On,” an upbeat tune with a strong message about persevering in adversity.
24. U2 – 52 Million Units Sold
Let’s go to Dublin, Ireland, home to a legendary rock band that started as a post-punk crew.
U2 have never shied away from challenging themselves, constantly experimenting with new styles to become one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
The band consisted of Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. at the time of inception, attracting attention with their live performances and ambitious global tours.
They are well-placed among the best-selling music artists of all time after dominating the alternative rock scene in the 1980s.
The band is recognized by a series of hit songs such as “One,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “Beautiful Day.”
25. Taylor Swift – 51 Million Units Sold
Many discussions about Taylor Swift always involve her troubled love life.
But many don’t know that Swift is one of the most successful singers ever.
Releasing her eponymous album at only 16, Taylor capitalized on the newly found fame to establish herself among the greatest pop sensations.
She’s collaborated with some of the biggest stars like Zayn, Ed Sheeran, and Keith Urban.
Taylor got her breakthrough in 2008 with her new studio album, Fearless, an instant craze that would earn her 8 Grammy nominations and announce her arrival in the music scene.
She won 4 Awards out of the eight nominations, becoming the youngest artist to achieve that feat and setting a record.
26. Neil Diamond – 49.5 Million Units Sold
Do you remember Neil Diamond?
For some, he was just an ordinary singer.
But for true music enthusiasts, Neil was more than just a singer-songwriter.
After rising to prominence in 1965 with “Sunday and Me,” he followed it up with “I’m A Believer,” Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow),” and Love to Love.”
He released ten #1 singles throughout his career, besides a successful filming career after debuting in 1980 The Jazz Singer musical drama.
27. Alabama – 49 Million Units Sold
It’s impossible to mention the best-selling bands of all time without including Alabama.
Originally named Wildcountry, Alabama was touring in the 1970s, spreading good vibes and sweet music to its loyal supporters.
They had their breakthrough in the 1980s after releasing over 27 #1 hits.
They also recorded seven multi-platinum albums during the same period, receiving multiple awards for their newly found success.
Everybody talks about their “Tennessee River” hit, an instant chart-topper.
But if you need a playlist of Alabama’s best songs, you can’t go wrong with “Love in the First Degree,” “Dixieland Delight,” and “Song of the South.”
The group’s versatility in the competitive music industry made them a likable cast, pushing them to the top of the charts while making them one of the most successful music bands of all time.
28. Journey – 49 Million Units Sold
Journey’s songs have always reignited the debates around the “arena rock” music of the mid-1970s and 80s.
But every music lover agrees that they are one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
Journey’s story is one for the history books.
And even though many will remember them for their catchy sing-along to choruses, their clever lyrics were just as memorable.
They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, a testimony to their selfless contribution to rock music.
29. Kenny G – 48 Million Units Sold
Kenneth Bruce Gorelick, best known as Kenny G, is a producer, composer, and smooth jazz saxophonist who rose to fame with his 1986 Duotones album.
He’s also among the best-selling music artists of all time, with multiple awards and nominations.
Kenny launched his career in 1973 as a sideman for Love Unlimited Orchestra.
He started a solo career in 1982 after signing with Arista Records, adopting the Kenny G stage name and making a name for himself in the American entertainment industry.
30. Shania Twain – 48 Million Units Sold
Let’s finish the list with everybody’s favorite female country singer.
Some call her the “Queen of Country Pop.”
The Billboard went as far as nicknaming her “the leader of the ’90s country-pop crossover stars.”
But make no mistake.
Shania Twain hasn’t had the easiest of journeys to the top.
Born Eilleen Regina Edwards on August 28, 1965, the country star had to deal with her parent’s divorce at only 2.
And it was never smooth sailing ever since.
Today, she’s a legend in many people’s eyes, battling a difficult childhood to become one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
She holds the record for the most successful female artist in country music.
Best-Selling Music Artists of All Time – Final Thoughts
Music is a powerful tool that can transform anyone’s fortunes if you put in the work.
And the 30 names on this list are the clearest testimony.
There are many discussions about who sold the most albums between Elvis Presley and Garth Brooks or Eminem and Drake.
But as you can see, the results speak for themselves.
The English rock band, The Beatles still tops the charts as the best-selling music group of all time, followed closely by two artists who had a lasting impact on the music industry.
Perhaps the most surprising name on the list is Taylor Swift, who wasn’t expected to make it to the top 30.
Many artists deserve a place on this list.
But we capped it off at 30 because we will always update the list.
I hope your favorite artist made it to the top.
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