The best-selling music artists of all time are not necessarily the most popular or the richest. This is because not every artiste is popular for their highest-selling album and not every rich artist makes their fortune from music alone.
Over time, we have seen the richest artists in the world amass wealth from businesses/companies they run alongside music.
The certified units percentage ranges according to the first year that an artist appeared in the charts.
On this list, artists with the same sales claims figure will be ranked according to certified units. See more details about sales claims vs certified units.
10. Mariah Carey
Total Certified Units- 196.5 million
The American singer and songwriter is popular for her Christmas songs which earned her the title “Queen of Christmas”. She’s also popular for having a five-octave vocal range, hitting incredible and seemingly impossible notes. Carey has been active in the music industry since 1990 when she released her eponymous album.
Since then, she has been recognized for her musical prowess and best-selling songs. She has a record for topping the US Billboard Hot 100 decade-end chart (1990s). Billboard equally named her “Artist of the Decade” (1990s) and the World Music Awards recognized her as the best-selling female pop artist of the millennium. These are feats Mariah Carey achieved in the 90s, not to mention her multiple Grammy awards and other recognitions.
Total Certified Units- 324.4 million
Like Mariah Carey, Eminem has also been active in the American music industry since 1988 before he became a worldwide success. His most successful albums were The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) and The Eminem Show (2002). Both bodies of work were nominated for the Grammy Album of the Year Award.
His album, Recovery, was the best-selling album of 2010 worldwide, making it his second worldwide bestseller. The first was The Eminem Show in 2002.
His US number one albums include The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013), Revival (2017), Kamikaze (2018), and Music to Be Murdered By (2020).
8. Pink Floyd
Total Certified Units- 123.5 million
Pink Floyd is an English Rock band that was formed in 1965. They have been cited by some as the greatest progressive rock band of all time. It was founded by Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright.
The band endured many member exits for reasons ranging from mental health issues to personal tensions. By 2013, the band had sold over 250 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Their 1973 and 1979 albums, The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
They were also among the best-selling albums of all time.
Pink Floyd albums are also known for topping the US Billboard and UK Album Charts. The band’s hit singles include “See Emily Play” (1967), “Money” (1973), “Not Now John” (1983), and “On the Turning Away” (1987). They were inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
Later in 2008, Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf presented Pink Floyd with the Polar Music Prize for their contribution to modern music.
With Total Certified Units of 335 million and Claimed Sales of 250 million, Rihanna takes 7th place on the list of best-selling artists of all time. The Barbadian singer was first discovered by American record producer Evan Rogers and has been active since 2003.
She gained recognition after signing with Def Jam in 2005. Her first two studio albums with the label (Music of the Sun and A Girl Like Me) earned her further recognition as they peaked within the top 10 of the US Billboard 20 Chart.
6. Led Zeppelin
Total Certified Units- 142.4 million
Claimed Sales- 300 million
Led Zeppelin is an English rock band that was formed in 1968. The group consisted of Robert Plant (Vocalist), Jimmy Page (Guitarist), John Paul Jones (Bassist/Keyboardist), and drummer (John Bonham).
They have been endorsed as one of the pioneers of the development of album-oriented rock (AOR) and stadium rock.
They undertook record-breaking tours and achieved eight consecutive UK number-one albums and six number-one albums on the US Billboard 200, with five of their albums certified Diamond in the US (Wikipedia).
Some of Led Zeppelin’s albums include “Led Zeppelin”, Led Zeppelin II, and Houses of the Holy.
Total Certified Units- 181.5 million
Claimed Sales- 300 million
Madonna is best known for her versatility and ability to adjust her music to suit the times and trends. She is not just the highest-paid female solo artist of all time, she is equally the most-touring female musician ever, and the best-selling female recording artist of all time, globally.
Her best-selling album is The Immaculate Collection (1990) and her best-selling single remains her 2005 hit, Hung Up.
4. Elton John
Total Certified Units- 207 million
Claimed Sales- 300 million
He equally has seven no. 1 albums in the US consecutively. His 1973 album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and his 1974 Greatest Hits Compilation Album are part of his worldwide best-sellers.
In 2019, John was ranked by Billboard as the top Adult Contemporary artist of all time and the top solo artist in US chart history (third overall). As of 2021, he was the first solo artist with UK Top 10 singles across six decades.
John has 5 Grammy awards, 5 Brit Awards, 2 Academy Awards, and 2 Golden Globes, to mention but a few.
The English singer is popularly known for his work in the 1994 film “The Lion King”. For the film, John composed songs like “Circle of Life”, “Be Prepared”, “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, and “Hakuna Matata” with English lyricist, Tim Rice. Although he was part of the 2019 remake of the animated movie, John expressed displeasure over the film.
3. Michael Jackson
Total Certified Units- 275.4 million
Michael Jackson literally needs no introduction. The King of Pop was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century before his untimely death in 2009. Jackson started out as a member of the Jackson 5 in 1964 before moving on to a solo career in 1971 with Motown records.
Jackson had a record-breaking 13 Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles, being the first artist to have a top-10 single in the Billboard Hot 100 across five different decades.
He is regarded by the RIAA as the highest-selling individual music artist of all time worldwide.
He has 15 Grammy Awards, 6 Brit Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and 39 Guinness World Records to his name, including the “Most Successful Entertainer of All Time”.
Jackson has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Dance Hall of Fame (he is the only recording artist to be inducted), and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame. Michael Jackson remains the richest dead celebrity in the world.
2. Elvis Presley
Total Certified Units- 230.8 million
Claimed Sales- 500 million
Elvis Presley is the best-selling solo music artist of all time. The American singer was also famous for being one of the most significant influential figures of the 20th century. Presley is also the best-selling male artist of all time.
Like Michael Jackson, Presley was also regarded as the King of his genre- Rock and Roll.
The artist still holds the record for the most songs to chart in Billboard’s top 40, boasting of 115 songs in total, as well as their top 100, where he boasts of 152 songs. He has 25 multi-platinum records, and 101 gold albums (all-time record).
1. The Beatles
Total Certified Units- 289.6 million
Claimed Sales- 600 million
The Beatles are the highest-paid artists of all time. The English group was known as the most influential band of all time. The band was formed in Liverpool in 1960 and consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Although they majored in skiffle, beat, and 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, they also incorporated bits of traditional pop and classical music incredibly.
Some of their achievements and honors include
- Most number-one albums on the UK Albums Chart
- Most number-one hits on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart
- Most singles sold in the UK (21.9 million)
- 7 Grammy Awards
- 4 Brit Awards
- An Academy Award (for Best Original Song Score for the 1970 documentary film, Let It Be)
- 15 Ivor Novello Awards
- They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
- Each principal member was inducted individually into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame between 1994 and 2015.
- In 2004 and 2011, The Beatles topped Rolling Stone’s lists of the greatest artists in history.
- They were named by Time magazine among the 100 most important people of the 20th century.
Best-selling Artists of all Time (Summary)
Here’s a list and table highlighting major details of the top 10 best-selling artists of all time.
- The Beatles
- Elvis Presley
- Michael Jackson
- Elton John
- Led Zeppelin
- Pink Floyd
- Mariah Carey
|RANK||MUSIC ARTIST||AMOUNT SOLD|
|1||The Beatles||600 Million|
|2||Elvis Presley||500 Million|
|3||Michael Jackson||400 Million|
|4||Elton John||300 Million|
|6||Led Zeppelin||300 Million|
|8||Pink Floyd||250 Million|
|10||Mariah Carey||220 Million|