The list of top-selling albums has more to it that you might think. Artists and record labels often claim higher sales claims than can be certified by companies such as Nielsen SoundScan or the RIAA. If those claimed sales aren’t even remotely similar to those collected by the certification-awarding companies, they weren’t included.
Double-length albums can also be counted as two sales in certain situations. There are clear benefits to older albums that have been re-released or experienced a resurgence of popularity. Compilations and greatest hits albums that contain hit singles have the most benefit. We will only list certified sales numbers.
These are the top ten best-selling albums. There are also four runners up and six honorable mentions. This brings the total to twenty. You’ll be surprised at some of these, while others will surprise you.
#10 – Alanis Morizsette – Jagged Little Pill
CERTIFIED SALES 24.3 MILLION
Jagged Little Pill sounds amazing. Alanis Morissette had a great backing band that included Flea, the best drummer from the Red Hot Chili Peppers on “You Oughta know”. It was released in 1995 as an Alternative Rock album. It was her first international album and the first to not be in the New Jack Swing or Dance-Pop categories.
It was nominated for nine Grammy Awards, winning five Grammy Awards, including Album of the year. At 21 years old, she was the youngest winner. Taylor Swift won the title at 20. This is one my favorite “desert islands” albums. It should be familiar to everyone, according to my opinion.
Trivia Facts Now, 23 years later, there is a stage musical adaptation. It’s absurd. Six Juno Awards were awarded to it in 1996. Its success led to a worldwide tour lasting 18 months and a DVD and VHS release.
#9 – Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon
CERTIFIED SALES 24.8 MILLION
The Dark Side of the Moon was the highly acclaimed 1973 Progressive Rock album by Pink Floyd. This album was their eighth studio album and it took a while to get there. This concept album features many experimental techniques that create new sounds that people have never heard before. Sales have risen due to the number of remasters.
The film received almost unanimously perfect scores from all critics, and continues to receive them retrospectively. The members of the band are some of the wealthiest musicians in the world. They even paid for the productions of Monty Python, and Holy Grail movies. Due to the fact that different artists continue to cover the entire album, the album still sells around 10,000 copies per week.
Trivia Facts This album reached #1 on Billboard 200. It stayed there for 950 weeks. It was first played live to the media at the Rainbow Theatre one year prior to its release. They loved it. The original title of the book was Dark Side of the Moon – A Piece for Assorted Lunatics. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios.
#8 – Adele – 21
CERTIFIED SALES 26.4 MILLION
Adele appeared to have come from nowhere in the USA. 21 was her second album in Pop and Soul in 2011. Although the record label had low expectations, it was a top-selling album in more than 30 countries for two years straight. It is still the most popular album of the 21st Century.
Each of the five singles were international chart toppers, and three of them were from abroad. It was awarded Album of the year by the Grammys and British Album of the year from the Brit Awards, among other accolades. It was loved by even the critics, so they didn’t try to make it hateful.
Trivia Facts The title derives its origin from Adele’s age when it was produced. She had previously released 19 , 25 and 20 . After her first album, which was a sad and tragic sounding album, she tried to make an upbeat album. She was not satisfied with her first album, which contained the sound of tragedy, so she broke up and created this tragic masterpiece.
#7 – Whitney Houston The Bodyguard
CERTIFIED SALES 28.7 MILLION
Whitney Houston sang the entire Bodyguard soundtrack in R&B, Soul and Pop. It was released in 1992. It is considered one of the greatest movies about music, and helped drive the sales of its soundtrack. Some of its singles are still being played on radio today.
This album won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. It also went 18x platinum. It was supported by six singles, including “I Will Always Love You”, originally written by Dolly Parton.
Trivia Facts According to SoundScan, this was the first album that sold more than one million copies in a single week. There were many songs that were considered the “big one”, but Kevin Costner chose “I Will Always Love You” from Dolly Parton. It was a great choice as it is one of the most popular singles.
#6 – Fleetwood Mac Rumours
CERTIFIED SALES 29.3 MILLION
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours was released in 1977 to the Soft Rock crowd. However, it was very popular with mass audiences. It reached the top of both the UK Albums and Billboard 200 charts. Each of its four singles, including “Go Your Own Way” (and “Dreams”), made it to the US Top 10. The Grammy Hall of Fame inducts the album and the National Recording Registry.
The success of the album meant that media started fabricating stories about its members to gain more attention. Some things never change. It had 800,000 copies in advance before it was released. The sales were supported by a seven-month-long tour of the USA. It was a huge success.
Trivia Facts The album rumours was initially called Yesterday’s Gone. The studio and band had an unlimited budget which led to a lot more goofing around, which delayed the album’s release. The album received a perfect rating from the top professional ratings groups.
#5 – Shania Twain – Come On Over
CERTIFIED SALES 29.9 MILLION
Shania Twain, a country crossover artist who fuses into the Pop genre, is huge. Her 1997 album Please Come Over was so popular at the time, it is still on this list. There was a time you couldn’t hear Shania sing on the radio. This album was the best-selling country album of all time.
It contained 16 tracks, and 12 of them were singles. You would recognize songs such as “You’re Still the One”, “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” or “Man!” “I Feel Like A Woman!” It has never sold huge volumes in a single week. It sold week after week for many years.
Shania Twain is also very prominent in our Top Ten Richest Country Singerslist.
Trivia Facts The album was in the Top 10 for 52 weeks. It also set a record for 112 consecutive weeks in the Top 20. It remained in the Top 40 for 127 Weeks. It was the first album to sell over 14 million copies in the USA and more than 15 million.
#4 – AC/DC Back In Black
CERTIFIED SALES 30.1 MILLION
Back in Black was released in 1980 during the height of Hard Rock’s reign. It marked AC/DC’s 7th studio album, and their first with Brian Johnson as their vocalist. Both the name and cover were meant to be a sign of mourning at that time. The album was supported by the band with a year-long worldwide tour that culminated in its 25x Platinum certification.
After the songs were composed, rehearsals took one week. Recording took seven weeks. The rest is history. The album was 22x Multi-Platinum certified in the USA in 2007. It is one of the greatest arena rock albums and a “highwatermark” for heavy-metal music. It contains ten tracks full of high-energy music that is still beloved today.
Trivia Facts Due to scheduling problems, the album was recorded in Nassau, Bahamas. The recordings were interrupted by a crab that shuffled across the wood floor.
#3 – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
CERTIFIED SALES 30.4 MILLION
Led Zeppelin IV, their greatest achievement since 1971, was a culmination of their Hard Rock, Folk Rock and Pre-cursor Heavy Metal sounds. The album was not named, but some fans called it Zoso to reflect the four symbols that each member of the band chose. This helped to create the album’s mystique.
It only reached #2 on Billboard 200. The album has been reprinted and reissued numerous times, including in 2014, which helped boost its sales. This album is the best: only 8 tracks, and all of them were great. Filler tracks make zero sense on a music album.
Trivia Facts Discussions about whether the album should be released in a double or single album, or as a series of EPs, delayed the release of the album. In the USA, it was 23x platinum. Led Zeppelin called it “a fully realized mix of folk and hard-rock directions.”
#2 – Eagles Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975).
CERTIFIED SALES 41.2 MILLION
Their greatest hits by The Eagles includes all their Country Rock, Folk Rock and Soft Rock singles from 1971 to 1975. It was released in 1976 and continued to sell well until it became an album of oldies songs. It claimed that they had found old sales records, which added millions to their total sales.
The Michael Jackson Estate refuted this claim because the auditing window only covers three years back. However, The Eagles were able to break that rule. The music industry is full of drama! The band members felt that the release was done by the record company without their consent.
Trivia Facts This compilation features singles from four of the Eagles’ albums. Boyd Elder created the album cover using a plastic cast of an actual eagle skull. He was paid $5,000 (though he did not get any royalties).
#1 – Michael Jackson – Thriller
CERTIFIED SALES 50.2 MILLION
According to certified sales, Michael Jackson’s Thriller is the undisputed champion. It was released in 1982 during a strange transition period in music history when Disco and Funk were leaving and Rock and Pop were entering. Michael incorporated all four genres into the greatest-selling album ever.
The music videos for this album are considered to be an art form. The album’s “Thriller”, “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” and “Thriller” videos continued to drive sales for a long period, as did seven singles. This album is undoubtedly one of the greatest.
Trivia Facts – Thriller was the first time Michael Jackson reached top of the Billboard 200 back in the days when it was known as the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes charts. It remained at the top for 37 weeks. It was 33x Platinum and won an unprecedented 8 Grammy Awards at 1984 Grammy Awards.
The Runners-Up for the Best-Selling Albums All Time
It’s fun to look at the top 10, but what about the people who are close to the top or have a chance of making it to the top? Let’s look at the next ten who performed well and could make it to the top 10 in the next decade. Some newcomers are also included to show that the list is subject to change.
The Beatles – 1
CERTIFIED SALES 23.2 MILLION
You were likely waiting for The Beatles to appear. Although they take up a lot of slots down the list, their compilation of #1 singles makes up the album 1. This album was released in 2000 and features their classic Pop and Rock songs.
It didn’t need the boost. But it has been remastered and reissued four more times with deluxe editions, including one that includes a DVD of all their promotional videos. It’s easy to milk the good times, but it’s great with The Beatles. This almost feels like cheating.
Trivia Facts This album was released on the 30th anniversary the band’s dissolution. This compilation of #1 singles was released by Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and the Bee Gees among many other artists.
Bee Gees – Saturday Night Fever
CERTIFIED SALES 22.6 MILLION
Saturday Night Fever has been voted one of the greatest movie soundtracks. It was released in 1977. The album is Disco-only, with almost all the Bee Gees. They lost an entire album of material because they included so many songs on the soundtrack and in the movie with the same name. They don’t seem to care. Take a look at these sales figures!
This album was 16x Platinum and reached #1 on the Billboard 200 for 24 consecutive weeks. It also remained on the charts for 120 weeks. It’s a double-album, so sales can count twice, and the movie was fantastic. The Bee Gees were at the top of their game at the time.
Trivia Facts This album was culturally significant and has been kept by the Library of Congress in its National Recording Registry since 2013. It was awarded the Grammy Award for Album of the Year along with five other awards, including the Hall of Fame Award.
Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell
CERTIFIED SALES 21.9 MILLION
Bat Out of Hell first appeared in 1977 under the Hard Rock and Glam Rock subgenres. It’s also believed to be in Progressive Rock, where there are a few dedicated fans. This was Meat Loaf’s debut studio album, which included “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”, easily his most popular single.
Bat Out Of Hell was 14x platinum and spent 522 consecutive weeks on the UK Albums Charts, which is the second longest run. In 2017, it was the subject of a musical. It isn’t one of the greatest musicals. In fact, it was canceled in the U.S. during its first performances.
Trivia Facts The Bat Out of Hell was not without its fair share of drama. As a compromise, the bottom states “Songs By Jim Steinman”, in order to not be billed as “Jim Steinmant Presents ” or “Jim And Meat” as an artist. Even though Jim had written the majority of the material, the marketing department at the record label knew better. Max Weinberg was the drummer on the record.
Michael Jackson – Bad
CERTIFIED SALES 21.1 MILLION
Bad was released in 1987 at a time when Rock had just ended and Pop and R&B were gaining ground. Michael Jackson combined all these elements with his Funk sound to great success. The album was supported for two years by a drip-feed consisting of nine singles starting with “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” When there are only 11 tracks, nine singles seems a lot. This album has no filler!
Bad was the most anticipated album of all time at the time. For the first time since 1972, the tour featured the Jackson 5 together. The record-breaking run saw them sell out the Wembley Stadium seven nights consecutively. They were awarded three Guinness World Records for their tour.
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Trivia Facts The Bad debuted at the #1 spot on Billboard’s Top Pop Albums, and Billboard 200 charts. It was promoted alongside the film Moonwalker starring Michael Jackson. It won six Grammy Awards and was also nominated for Album of the Year at the Billboard Music Awards. The duet “Bad” was intended to be between Prince and Michael.
Honorable Mentions for the Best-Selling Albums All Time
We can list a few more who are close to being there. While some of these may have been in the spotlight for a while, others that have the greatest hits can still be credited with a higher place over time.
- AbBA – gold: Greatest Hits 23.0 million Certified Sales
- Guns N’ Roses – Hunger for Destruction 22.8 Million Certified Sales
- Eagles – Hotel California 31.5 Million Certified Sales
- Santana – Supernatural – 20.5 Million Certified Sales
- Metallica – Metallica – 22.7 Million Certified Sales
- Madonna The Immaculate Collection 19.4 Million Certified Sales
- Celine Dion Falling into You 20.2 Million Certified Sales
- Bruce Springsteen Born in America Certified Sales: 22.0 Million
You won’t see names like Taylor Swift or Eminem, who have long careers but are still pop stars at the moment. They don’t do it as well as they used to.
It’s one thing to look at the top-selling albums, but how about if you add up all the albums by each artist? Our Top Ten Best-Selling Albums of All Time has also covered this topic. Because the lists are constantly changing, you’ll love it. Some artists release dozens of albums, while others only two or three. It’s amazing!
The Top 10 Most-Sold Albums of All Time
|1||Michael Jackson||Thriller||1982||50.2 Million|
|2||Eagles||Their greatest hits (1971-1975).||1976||41.2 Million|
|3||Led Zeppelin||Led Zeppelin IV||1971||30.4 Million|
|4||AC/DC||Back in Black||1980||30.1 Million|
|5||Shania Twain||Don’t let this stop you||1997||29.9 Million|
|6||Fleetwood Mac||Rumours||1977||29.3 million|
|7||Whitney Houston||The Bodyguard||1992||28.7 million|
|9||Pink Floyd||The Dark Side of the Moon||1973||24.8 Million|
|10||Alanis Morissette||Little Pill with a Sharp Edge||1995||24.3 Million|