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Top 25 best selling albums of all time have collectively sold more than 1.1 billion copies

Top 25 Best Selling Albums Of All Time


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It's no secret that the music business is BIG business. Many artists and bands have come and gone over the years but not their music, which lives on in radio and in the charts, as I mentioned in my previous post, 'Greatest hits albums dominate Billboard Top 200'. There, I showed that 26 'greatest hits' albums can be spotted scattered throughout the top 200 on the Billboard chart. Many of these 'best of' packages are from artists that have passed away (2Pac / Whitney Houston/Michael Jackson) or from bands that have long since disbanded (The Beatles / Abba). Some of these albums have listed for years and even decades, proving just how lucrative greatest hits packages can be.

Once in a while though, artists have released studio albums that rocked the music world and helped shape music for future generations, such as the Beatles' iconic L.P., 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'. This legendary album is regarded as the first concept album and paved the way for other acts to shine with their own concept albums. Pink Floyd comes to mind with their masterpiece, 'The Dark Side Of The Moon'. Both of these records, released just 5 years apart from each other, appear in the top 25 best selling albums of all time listed below.

Of course, these best sellers have time on their side. Pretty much all were released decades ago with the exception of Adele, who's 2011 LP titled '21' made it into the top 25 with sales of approximately 30,000,000.

What's truly amazing about these 25 albums is that they account for more than 1.1 billion copies sold worldwide. Even more astonishing is that they continue to sell, making it that much harder for newcomers to make it onto the list. A good example are the Beatles with their greatest hits '1' CD which re-appeared on Billboard's Top 200 in the last week. That album was released almost 24 years ago and continues to sell!

Talent certainly has a lot to do with it. Put out a crappy album and you shouldn't expect much. Put out a great album (or two or three) and you might very well retire on it and have yourself one heck of a comfortable life, such as with Andrew Ridgeley, the other half of 'Wham!' who is said to have a net worth of $40M!

So, without further adieu, here are the top 25 best selling albums of all time, starting with #25 on the list, working our way up to #1.

 

#25 - Celine Dion - 'Let's Talk About Love':

Released in 1997, this was the second best selling LP of that year. So far, this album has surpassed 30 million in sales.

 

#24 - Adele - '21':

Released in 2011, it was the best seller of that year and has sold 30,000,000 copies to date.

 

#23 - Elton John - 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road':

This album became the second best seller of 1973, the year it was released and the ninth best seller of the 1970s. It has since sold more than 31 million copies.

 

#22 - The Beatles - 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band':

Not only was this masterpiece the #1 seller of 1967, the year it was released but also the best seller of the entire 1960s! Its enormous popularity continues with sales having surpassed 32,000,000.

 

#21 - Soundtrack - 'Dirty Dancing':

The soundtrack to the movie starring the late, great Patrick Swayze became the second biggest seller in the year it was released (1987)  and the fourth best seller of the entire decade. To date, sales have topped 32,000,000.

 

#20 - Abba - 'Gold: Greatest Hits':

This album became the 2nd best seller of 1992, the year it was released and ranks in 7th place for the entire decade. Sales have surpassed 32,000,000 to date.

 

#19 - Celine Dion - 'Falling Into You':

Released in 1996, it became the best seller for that year and ranks as the 6th best seller of that decade. Sales have topped 32,000,000.

 

#18 - The Beatles - '1': 

It was clear from the get go upon its release in January 2000 that this best of compilation was headed for orbit, eventually becoming the 2nd best seller of that year. Considering the band broke up 30 years earlier, it was an impressive accomplishment. Just as astonishing is that '1' eventually became the 2nd best selling album of the entire decade. As previously mentioned, this album re-entered Billboard's Top 200 in the last week so it's quite possible we'll see this one climb a notch or two in coming weeks and months. To date, '1' has sold more than 32 million copies.

 

#17 - Eminem - 'The Marshall Mathers LP':

While the Beatles hold the #2 spot for best seller of year 2000 and the entire decade, Eminem comes in at #1 with his Marshall Mathers LP. Yep, it's the best seller of the 2000s, slightly outselling the Beatles' '1' album with 32,000,000 copies sold to date. 'I've got a feeling' this album will drop a notch in the next week or two, thanks to the continued popularity of and competition from the Beatles.

 

#16 - Pink Floyd - 'The Wall':

"If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat!" These lines can be heard at the end of their only #1 hit, 'Another Brick In The Wall', released in the fall of 1979. Having started high school just a month before its release, I can tell you that 'pudding and meat' line was muttered over and over on the school grounds. It was awesome! Of course, The Wall shot to #1 and became the best seller of that year and 8th best seller of the 1970s. To date, this 2 record set has sold 33,000,000. Multiply by 2 and that's really 66 million discs. Wow!

 

#15 - Metallica - 'Metallica':

The best selling record of 1991, the year of its release and 5th best seller of the 1990s. I have the original on vinyl and it's no wonder this album became so popular with all the great music contained within. Sales to date have surpassed 33,000,000.

 

#14 - Alanis Morissette - 'Jagged Little Pill':

Madonna had just started her own record company, 'Maverick' and the first act she signed was Alanis Morissette. This proved to be a wise and very lucrative move for Madonna. Jagged Little Pill became the best seller of 1995, the year of its release and the fourth best seller of the 1990s. To date, the album has sold more than 33,000,000 copies.

 

#13 - Led Zeppelin - 'Led Zeppelin IV':

The best seller of 1971, the year of its release and seventh best seller of the 1970s. Sales to date: 37,000,000. It don't need coolin'...

 

#12 - Fleetwood Mac - 'Rumours':

Ever since its release in 1977, this album has consistently ranked among the best selling records of all time, moving up and down a notch or two on the list as time went on. Ranking as the 2nd best seller of 1977 and 5th overall for that entire decade, sales have now surpassed 40 million copies.

 

#11 - Bee Gees - 'Soundtrack: Saturday Night Fever':

Speaking of the Bee Gees, did you know that Barry Gibb is the second most successful songwriter in music history (Paul McCartney being #1)? It's true. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack shot to #1 upon its release, spawning multiple #1 hits for the Bee Gees, including 'Stayin' Alive' and 'More That A Woman'. Similar to Pink Floyd's 'The Wall', Saturday Night Fever also consisted of 2 discs. To date, it has sold more more than 40,000,000 copies which really means a total of 80,000,000 discs. That's another... WOW!

 

Now, we're getting into the Top Ten and as you can see so far, the sales numbers are through the roof. Moving on...

 

#10 - Shania Twain - 'Come On Over':

Here's a little tidbit. In the mid-90s I played bass guitar in a band and we played a weekend gig way up North in Timmins, Ontario at a little bar called the 'Tamagami Inn'. Eileen Regina Edwards got her start there before she changed her name and became the superstar she is today with total sales surpassing 100 million. 'Come On Over' is the best selling record of 1997, the year of its release and comes in 3rd overall for the entire decade. So far, the album has sold more than 40,000,000 copies. Way to go, Shania! 

 

#9 - Backstreet Boys - 'Millennium':

The best selling record in the year of its release back in 1999 and second best seller of the 90s overall, the Backstreet Boys made it into the Top 10 with this 40,000,000 seller! I'm sure 'they wanted it that way'!

 

#8 - The Eagles - 'Greatest Hits 1971-1975':

Consistently in the top 10 since I can't remember, this album was released around the same time as their studio album, 'Hotel California' in 1976, eventually becoming the 2nd best seller that year and fourth place for the 1970s. To date, the album has sold 41,197,000 copies.

 

#7 - The Eagles - 'Hotel California':

1976 was a very good year for the Eagles when they found themselves not only with a runaway hit with Hotel California but an equally successful greatest hits package, as mentioned above. Hotel California is the best selling LP of 1976 while their best of came in second place. Hotel California ranks as the third best seller of the 1970s while their best of snags fourth place. So far, sales of Hotel California have now surpassed 42,000,000. They are the only band to hold two positions in the top ten best selling albums of all time. Amazing!

 

#6 - Meat Loaf - 'Bat Out Of Hell':

Struggling upon its initial release, the song 'Paradise By The Dashboard Light' quickly changed all that when DJs and fans went crazy over it. To date, sales of Bat Out Of Hell have surpassed 43,000,000. It may not the #1 best selling album of all time but it is the best selling album of 1977 and second best seller of the 1970s. Two out of three ain't bad! Thanks for the music, Meat Loaf.

 

Rounding out the Top 5, sales totals go stratospheric. Get ready for some mind numbing sales numbers!

 

#5 - Michael Jackson - 'BAD':

BAD ranks as the best selling album of 1987 and third overall for the 1980s. Sales to date: 45 million! This was a very successful follow up to his Thriller L.P. (and worldwide tour), released 4 years earlier. Fans were eager for a new album and they got it! For some reason, I got Weird Al in my head... "I'm FAT, I'm FAT"...

 

#4 - Whitney Houston - Soundtrack 'The Bodyguard':

Let's face it, it was a good movie. Dolly Parton was also happy with the movie's success since she wrote the song, 'I Will Always Love You' which is featured in the soundtrack and is sung by Whitney. The success of the movie and song propelled the soundtrack album into orbit, becoming the best selling album of 1992 and the best selling album of the 1990s. Sales to date have surpassed 45,000,000!

 

#3 - Pink Floyd - 'Dark Side Of The Moon':

Pink Floyd makes it onto the top 25 list for the second time with this classic LP. This year, 2023 marks the album's 50th anniversary which inevitably means anniversary edition copies for sale, pushing sales numbers ever higher. Dark Side Of The Moon ranks as the best seller of 1973 and for the entire decade. Total sales to date? FIFTY MILLION! That's like selling a million copies a year for 50 years straight.

 

#2 - AC/DC - 'Back In Black':

I was really hoping the Little River Band would make it into the top 10 but I'll have to settle for that other little Australian band who've been shaking it all night long for quite a long time. A hit from the start, it's the #1 seller of 1980 and the 2nd best seller of the 80s. With 50,000,000 in sales, it looks like Back In Black and Dark Side Of The Moon will be running neck in neck for the foreseeable future.

 

And Finally!!!

 

#1 - Michael Jackson - 'Thriller':

While not the only solo artist to appear in the top 25, Michael Jackson reigns as the only one to have not one but two studio albums in the top 10... no wait... Top 5! His 'Thriller' L.P. paved the way for the music video genre and of course, MTV with it accompanying music video. With literally each song on the album a hit, it's no surprise that sales to date have surpassed 66,000,000 copies and ranks as the best seller of 1982 and best seller overall for the entire 1980s.

 

All in all, Michael Jackson and Celine Dion are the only two solo artists to appear twice in the top 25 best selling albums of all time while the Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Eagles are the only bands to also appear twice on the list. These five acts hold ten of the spots on our list. In other words, there are 20 acts that made it onto the top 25.

These top 25 best selling albums of all time together account for more than 1.1 billion copies sold. Some of these, such as Pink Floyd's The Wall and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack are double disc packages but count as one sale each. This pushes the actual total number of discs sold even higher.

Looking back over the list, I realized I have 12 of these albums in my own collection, which is pretty much half the list, most on original vinyl too. You just can't beat vinyl, with all the snap, crackle and pops. Actually, my record collection is in pretty good shape and the crackles are sometimes non-existent. It just feels really cool to hold a record in your hand, lay it down on the turntable, set the needle and press play. Music soothes the savage beast. It can also make a ton of money if you put out a damn good record!

Music, is BIG BUSINESS!

So there you have it. Do you have any of these albums in your collection and does it bring back some great memories. Were you surprised to see any of these artists in the top 25? Share your comments below, thanks.

Peace and love to everyone!

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SweptOverNiagara
SweptOverNiagara

Name's Joe and I live in Ontario, Canada. I like writing on a wide variety of topics. I enjoy keeping track of markets, investing and commodities and the crypto sector. Also do some coding for web browsers.


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