CSPC: Michael Jackson Popularity Analysis


Michael Jackson Fan Art

So, after checking all the figures, how many overall equivalent album sales has each Michael Jackson album achieved? Well, at this point we hardly need to add up all of the figures defined in this article!

In the following table, all categories display figures that way, e.g. in equivalent album sales. For example, singles from Thriller released in digital format sold the equivalent of 4,206,000 albums – 28,040,000 downloads with a 10 to 1,5 weighting.

    • As a reminder:

  • Studio Album: sales of the original album
  • Other Releases: sales of compilations generated thanks to the album
  • Physical Singles: sales of physical singles from the album (ratio 3/10)
  • Download Singles: sales of digital singles from the album (ratio 1,5/10)
  • Streaming: equivalent album sales of all the album tracks (ratio 1/1500 for Audio stream and 1/11750 for Video stream)

Equivalent album sales of 116,732,000 copies. That isn’t a typo. Thriller is an insane selling machine that was activated on November 30, 1982 and never slowed down since.

We already knew it was the top selling album in pure sales format of all-time. At 40,5 million, it also generated the most compilations sales of all-time, leading both fundamental categories in spite of them cannibalizing each other. Among non-Soundtrack albums, Thriller is also the #1 ever in terms of physical singles sold, again challenging laws of gravity as this format also comes as an opposition to pure album sales. As for downloads of tracks, among pre-digital era albums, Thriller ranks… #1 of all-time.

With over 2 billion YouTube views, it also leads the comprehensive ranking for pre-2000 albums. At 766 million Spotify streams, Thriller misses a mythical 6-dimensions all-time domination as it is the runner up to Nirvana‘s Nevermind.

Those fabulous achievements are resumed by its overall tally of 116,7 million CSPC sales. To put it in perspective, it’s lead over the all-time #2, Saturday Night Fever at 67 million, is bigger than the total sales of U2‘s The Joshua Tree. Thriller is bigger than Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon and Whitney Houston‘s Bodyguard combined, those are the #2 and #3 top selling albums ever in pure sales format. Merging all three absolute classics of the BeatlesAbbey Road, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the White Album, would still not be enough to challenge Thriller alone.

It also tops the complete discographies of acts like Guns N’ Roses, George Michael plus Wham!, Britney Spears and Coldplay. You get the point, the success of this legendary album is quite simply unparalleled.

We tend to blame the lack of promotion, TV appearances or tours to explain why some albums sell poorly. Thriller had no re-issue in its first 15 years. It had no proper tour to support it. Michael Jackson did no interview, and no talk show during the entire run of the album. He did one, and only one performance, and it was a tribute to his former label rather than a real promotion of his current record. Songs and videos from Thriller were simply unstoppable by themselves.

With a steamroller of this magnitude we almost forget that Michael Jackson released more albums. The madness continues. At 62,9 million equivalent album sales, Bad takes over the #3 all-time ranking behind the aforementioned Thriller and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. It tops by millions albums like Rumours (Fleetwood Mac), IV (Led Zeppelin), Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd), Grease, Nevermind (Nirvana) and Bodyguard (Whitney Houston). It is as big as the full catalogs of Taylor Swift and Usher.

At 45,4 million, Dangerous cracks Come On Over by Shania Twain and every album of the Beatles and Madonna. So-so albums for Michael Jackson like HIStory and Off The Wall are bigger than 90s bangers like Spice by the Spice Girls and Baby One More Time by Britney Spears. The degree of his success is on a completely different level than any other act. Interestingly, HIStory almost matches the singles performance of Dangerous in all categories, which shows it would have been an even stronger seller if it wasn’t for its very high price.

The rest of his catalog is made up of recordings from his teenage years, a couple of posthumous releases and an album widely regarded as an absolute bomb. Those albums still add for a strong 36,4 million equivalent album sales.

Overall, Michael Jackson is up to 323,7 million equivalent album sales. The greatness of the Beatles consistency still provides them the #1 spot but the King of Pop comes in as an impressive runner up. His catalog sales as well as his streams remain as buoyant as ever so this tally will never stop increasing.

The following pages list his most successful songs as well as his records and achievements. Do not forget to check our amazing cross-artists lists posted inside the CSPC: Data Collector which includes the full listing of all CSPC results compiled so far to better gauge his position in the history of the music industry.

As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!

Sources: IFPI, Spotify, YouTube, Chartmasters.org.

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Hi, do we know how much “Thriller 25” sold since 2009 please?

Thomas Christiansen

“Beat It” is the 2nd track from “Thriller” to pass 500M streams on Spotify! It’s the 6th pre-2000 album to achieve this. Here are the top 5 albums based on their 2nd biggest track, all 5 are Hard Rock albums btw. Biggest 2nd track race: 1. Nirvana “Come As You Are” (“Nevermind” – 1991) – 617.2M 2. Metallica “Nothing Else Matters” (“Metallica” – 1991) – 595.2M 3. Guns ‘N Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” (“Appetite for Destruction” – 1987) – 578.6M 4. Bon Jovi “You Give Love A Bad Name” (“Slippery When Wet” – 1986) – 509.9M 5. AC/DC “You… Read more »

Maybe you’re wondering why Queen are missing from these lists, after all they are arguably the true streaming masters among 20th century artists. But the reason is that their top SEVEN tracks on Spotify are from seven different albums! Amazing actually. Their #8 track “We are the Champions” is the 2nd biggest track on “News of the World” with 480.7M, and rank #9 in the “Biggest 2nd track race”. And what about other 20th century artists with huge Spotify tracks, like Oasis, Mariah Carey, Journey, Toto, A-ha, the Eagles, Earth Wind & Fire and the Police? Well, while hardly one-hit-wonders,… Read more »


Thanks! I love these lists!




Will you do an update soon? This article was over 3 years ago.


His sales in Japan seem relatively weak for his overall Asai sales ..any reason?


It’s not that they’re weak there, he’s among the very top international sellers in Japan. It’s just that his sales in places like China, India, Taiwan and South Korea were utter massive and unmatched by any other western act at his time. You could argue he was the first western artist to ever break into the mainstream in some of these countries.


How did Madonna issue albums in a much more favourable era?

She had her peak with him and they both released albums in late 90s and early 2000s, Madonna released more.


Didn’t most of Madonna albums flop in the 90s? She just had one successful album with Ray of Light!

Last edited 7 months ago by PeterH

I don’t think an average of 10.3 million in the 90’s (without Ray of Light) is a flop 😗. Don’t confuse a flop with not being as ridiculously huge she was in the 80’s.


Average of 10 million?

Immaculate Collection is a compilation, it doesn’t count.

None of her albums except ROL sold 10 million in 90s.

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