Data Collector – Biggest Physical Singles Sellers

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Yesterday, a list of the Biggest Digital Single Sellers has been published. We saw that Rihanna easily dominates this ranking but there is no suspense, she does not appear among Best Physical Single Sellers. It is becausethe physical single market was dead a long time before she has released her first record. So, who leads this category? Are there well ranked artists in the two formats? You will find the answer in the list below!

Please keep in mind some artists with strong results in this format haven’t been studied so far, e.g. Elton John, Elvis Presley or Diana Ross. All figures reflect the value as collected at the time of the artist’s respective articles.

A lot of lists like this one are available in the Data Collector, so feel free to read them to gauge how your favorite artist ranked in it.

Reminder of the formula:

Equivalent Albums Sales (EAS) = 0.3 * Physical Single Sales

Artists Ranking – Physical Singles SAles

1. Beatles116,080,000 units (34,823,000 EAS)
2. Michael Jackson79,350,000 units (23,805,000 EAS)
3. Madonna75,210,000 units (22,563,000 EAS)
4. Bee Gees72,790,000 units (21,837,000 EAS)
5. Rolling Stones72,770,000 units (21,832,000 EAS)
6. ABBA54,400,000 units (16,320,000 EAS)
7. George Michael & Wham!49,880,000 units (14,964,000 EAS)
8. Whitney Houston49,520,000 units (14,857,000 EAS)
9. Queen47,100,000 units (14,131,000 EAS)
10. Cher46,220,000 units (13,866,000 EAS)
11. David Bowie44,200,000 units (13,261,000 EAS)
12. Johnny Hallyday43,740,000 units (13,121,000 EAS)
13. Janet Jackson40,640,000 units (12,191,000 EAS)
14. Céline Dion39,290,000 units (11,787,000 EAS)
15. Billy Joel36,900,000 units (11,070,000 EAS)
16. Mariah Carey36,890,000 units (11,067,000 EAS)
17. Jackson 5 & The Jacksons31,160,000 units (9,348,000 EAS)
18. Bon Jovi27,980,000 units (8,394,000 EAS)
19. Fleetwood Mac26,060,000 units (7,817,000 EAS)
20. U222,550,000 units (6,765,000 EAS)
21. Bruce Springsteen21,010,000 units (6,302,000 EAS)
22. Spice Girls20,020,000 units (6,006,000 EAS)
23. Britney Spears18,600,000 units (5,580,000 EAS)
24. Backstreet Boys18,010,000 units (5,403,000 EAS)
25. Eminem17,970,000 units (5,391,000 EAS)

39 thoughts on “Data Collector – Biggest Physical Singles Sellers”

  1. Absence of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin is strikimg. Two huge bands, but not big as singles bands. Rare exception Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) by Pink Floyd.

    1. Wouldn’t say “striking”, it was kinda expected. If they’ll do a “Biggest Physical Albums Sellers”, those 2 would probably be top 5.

  2. and bing crosby also should feature highly on that list along with elvis elton and diana.
    huge for hallyday being at number 12 atm

  3. -Britney Spears is on the list. No Beyonce.

    -I’m quite surprised Celine Dion sold more physical albums than Mariah Carey. I’m a huge huge Celine Dion fan but i still find it unbelievable.

    – is it still possible for Celine Dion number to outsell Janet Jackson’s numbers? If possible, estimated years of her outselling Janet?

    – i still don think it’s fair to combine sales of Michael George and Wham! I like George but I dont think he deserves to be high on the list due to combining the sales. He may be popular but he is definitely not bigger than Celine and Mariah.

      1. Yes. I always thought Celine Dion sold more physical albums than Mariah but Mariah sold more physical singles than Celine. I was wrong but I still dont find it believable.

        1. Mariah is the queen of Hot 100 and have more hits than Celine in US, but Celine have one of biggest physical singles and have biggers hits outside US, even in Japan, Celine sold more singles, and of cousre, AIWFCIY was released non phyiscal then, but consider MHWGO also limited, if not, it may sold more than 5m more. So it’s fair. Unless you talk Celine’s french singles sales

          1. Celine is the only artist to score (no.1)million selling singles across every main counties:
            in the US, in the UK, in Japan, in Germany and in France and the biggest song of the year in Australia – each time with at least one different song.

            The million seller was the hit that begun her domination eras in the country. Pour Que Tu M’Aimes Encore in France, To Love You More in Japan, Think Twice in the UK, The Power Of Love in the US, Beacuse You Loved Me in the Australia.In each of those countries, Celine Dion was already known, already an star and she just became the supereme queen of chart&sales and household name after those respective songs.

    1. What does Britney having more physical sales have to do with Beyonce? Beyonce as a solo act wasnt going to have more physical sales. But DC isnt too far from being top 25.

  4. Thank you MJD for pointing out that Rihanna is not on the list because the Physical sales market was already dead before she released her first single.

  5. “Please keep in mind some artists with strong results in this format haven’t been studied so far”
    Barbra is now the biggest female among artist who havnt been studied

  6. I just realized that Queen sold more digital singles than physical, even though digital singles didn’t exist during their classic lineup. This is quite fascinating.

      1. You obviously don’t know anything about Queen, if you’re calling them a pop band. Their heaviest stuff is heavier than anything Led Zeppelin ever made.

        1. I agree Dan, Queen can be very heavy sometimes. But, just compare for example ‘Radio Ga Ga’ with ‘No Quarter’ by Zep….. or ‘Bicycle Race’ with ‘Echoes’ by Pink Floyd….or ‘We Are The Champions’ with ‘Kashmir’ by Zep….etc. it’s not just a question about heavynes. Almost all of Queen’s music is meticulously calculated show-biz stuff.

          1. Pffff, there music was great music but to say it was meticulously calculated is beyond cynical. You’d never hear Robert Plant or David Gilmour sing about about their cat. They were able to toy with every genre.

          2. I love how you compared ‘Radio Ga Ga’ with ‘No Quarter’ by Zep….. or ‘Bicycle Race’ with ‘Echoes’. Try comparing “The Hitman” with “All of My Love”.
            And I really don’t know what “meticulously calculated show-biz stuff” you’re talking about.
            When A Night At The Opera came out, they were almost bankrupted.
            The fact that they lost the US in the 80s is enough to prove your statement is wrong, simply because if they stayed as popular in the US as the were (and are) in Europe, they’d probably outsell MJ by now.
            They are BY FAR the most diverse rock group i’ve ever heard.

          3. BTW, that’s my theory about digital > physical Queen singles. I think it’s simply the US catching up. May MJD correct me if I’m wrong.

          4. Dan, I agree with you they are probably the most diverse rock group ever. But, for me it’s a bit of downside actually. There’s not really one Queen album that I can listen to without feeling a little lost at the end. I’m not exactly sure why – perhaps it’s because all of their albums took in so many diverse styles that they never seemed to make a COHERENT whole. Unlike The Dark Side Of The Moon album, for example.

          5. Well, they had 4 songwriters (the only band in history, or at least the first, where each member of the quartet wrote a few #1 songs), so their albums were definitely diverse. But i see your point, they didn’t really have a “theme” album. Made in Heaven is probably the closest.

          6. Still, if you take a look at the ‘The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time’ list by the Rolling Stone magazine e.g., you will find there’s only one(!) Queen album on the list. A Night At The Opera – in 231 th place. We can do a comparison with other artists/bands on the list, with the most albums:

            The Beatles – 11 albums (4 in the top 10)
            Bob Dylan – 10 albums ( 2 in the top 10)
            The Rolling Stones – 10 albums
            Bruce Springsteen – 8
            The Who – 7
            David Bowie och Elton John – 6
            Led Zeppelin – 5
            Pink Floyd 4

          7. Remember when i mentioned that Queen lost the US during the 80s? That’s the answer to that ridiculous list. The Rolling Stone also didn’t think that Freddie Mercury, nor Robert Plant deserve a place in the top 10 singers of all time, but put Bob Dillan at number 7! How can i take that magazine seriously?

            Here’s MJD’s quote, regarding those lists and Queen:

            “As you can see, the press is largely unfair to them. It is also inaccurate as you will find plenty of articles, including by serious Medias, arguing bands like Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin are much bigger, only because they have higher RIAA certifications. As inaccurate it may be, the idea has been spreading for very long and you will find tons of people thinking it is true. To be honest, I’m quite satisfied to set back some accuracy in the middle of all those incorrect news!”

      2. I wasn’t aware signing about pets was a genre! Anyway, Robert Plant or David Gilmour maybe didn’t sing about their cat, but Plant penned the lyrics to Bron-Y-Aur Stomp from Led Zeppelin III, which is solely about his dog Strider.

        1. ‘Nuclear dolphin’, have you ever heard Pink Floyd’s song Lucifer Sam? That’s the song about Syd Barrett’s own siam cat. Or have you heard Pink Floyd’s song Bike? In that song Syd sings, among other things, about ‘his’ mouse called Gerald. “I know a mouse, and he hasn’t got a house I don’t know why I call him Gerald” 🙂

          Anyway, I have nothing against Queen. Good and entertaining band. I’ve just said Queen’s primary goal was to make their music interesting for the listener. This is why they are still a very popular after all these years. This is why they sold more digital singles than physical, even though digital singles didn’t exist during their prime time. And there is nothing wrong with it, at all.

          1. Lets stop all this negativity towards Queens music, They are bigger worldwide than both Led Zep and Pink Floyd ( look at the overall figures) They are global icons not just popular in the US like some other rock bands.
            There first album is mainly heavy metal, second album is heavy and prog rock, sheer heart attack is rock and so on and on. There diversity means they cannot be pigeon end holed like Zep and Floyd ( one trick ponies? ) Queen could play anything Zep or Floyd did, but the others can’t do QUEEN!!!!!
            Nuff said rant over, sorry.

  7. Shocked to see Janet Jackson sold more physical singles than Mariah and Celine Dion. Mariah overall sold the most singles with digital/physical combined tho.

  8. We are back to the old “Most of Queen’s music was meticulously calculated show-biz stuff”.

    Sounds like George Starostin’s old review hasn’t been kind to Queen’s legacy, at least in the eyes of some people, hehe.

    1. Reminds me of the Rolling Stone review of Uriah Heep’s debut album, saying “If this group makes it I’ll have to commit suicide”. I wonder if she kept her word.

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