Best selling artists, albums and singles of all-time

It has been over 2 years since I introduced to you the Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept, nicknamed CSPC, in March 2016. This revolutionary concept enables to define accurately the most successful artists ever. During this timeframe I, with the precious help of Hernan Lopez and Anthony Blanchard, studied nearly 100 artists, 1,000 albums plus countless singles and stand-alone tracks worth a gigantic 8,5 billion equivalent album sales combined!

Many of you praised the effort and the ongoing results which really makes us feel great about the website. One recurrent negative feedback though has been the difficulty to navigate the blog. One unique, cross-artist source of data was needed. While I can advise you to use the search function at the top-right, which works really well, an article grouping together the main data is definitely a positive improvement. So, here it is, please say hi to the Data Collector!

This article lists various rankings, with more added frequently, please see the summary on page 2. Top selling singles / albums / artists, per format, per year, per artist type, etc… everything is possible!

Thanks to this Data Collector it isn’t necessary anymore to repeat the comprehensive rankings at the end of each article. It will solve an issue by removing some pages and letting you reach always the same final pages for all acts – CSPC totals, the artist’s singles ranking and their records & achievements. This article will be kept updated which will also prevent us from having lists updated at different moments here and there.

Anthony will handle the updates of this thread from now on and try to answer your questions the best he can. We won’t be answering to lists requests on comments though as it will be impossible to maintain them. Instead, when you request something, and if it is relevant for many people, we will add a page to the article with the said list.

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Tony

Is there a way of knowing which of the legend artists are selling the most currently, or is it just by streaming that it shows in streaming masters?

matt

I guess you can check their last day gains on streaming units on their page, add them up, and check who does the most..

Analord

The Spotify followers stat gives a good idea :

Queen 44.2m
Guns N’ Roses 26.9m
Michael Jackson 25.3m
AC/DC 25.2m
The Beatles 24.2m
Metallica 23.2m
Pink Floyd 18m
Nirvana 16.5m
2Pac 14.2m
Aerosmith 12.9m

Nick

Queen dominates (of course) but it’s so impressive that The Beatles have almost as many followers as groups like Michale Jackson and Guns N Roses when they arrived on the scene decades prior. The Fab Four were no fluke!

Clockingbell

Shouldn’t we include RHCP (18,8m) in this list?

Analord

I’m not sure what Tony meant by “legend artists” so I went with acts who had most of their success pre-2000, as opposed to the RHCP, Green Day…etc.

Clockingbell

Makes sense, although Greenday made more than 50% of their CSPC before 2000, and RHCP around 65%

Analord

I guess you’re talking about release dates? The RHCP’s Californication sold 16m copies but it only had sold about 6m before 2000, and if you add catalog sales of their previous albums they definitely had most of their success pre-2000.

Analord

*post-2000

Analord

*post-1999, goddammit

That’s what you get without an editing function 😆

Thomas Christiansen

I thought you forgot about Fleetwood Mac, but strangely they only have 9.2m followers. They do have a lot of plays though. More plays than GnR, Floyd, 2Pac and Aerosmith.
Those 9.2M followers must listen to them a lot 😉 or their hits are listened to by people who don’t follow them…

Led Zeppelin have 12.9M followers too (but also less plays than Mac).

Analord

Yeah it is surprising, it may have something to do with the recent popularity of a bunch of their songs, kinda like Kate Bush only having 1.5m followers despite Running Up That Hill having more streams than any Pink Floyd or Aerosmith song.

Nick

It would be interesting to see how much the big 3 Classical composers–Bach, Mozart and Beethoven–sold in the 20th and 21st centuries. Millions still listen to their music but I’m curious how they did in on vinyl/cd.

Martin

I’m always a bit conflicted about classical composers sales, as they are not actually the performers.

Analord

Performers are much less important than composers when it comes to classical music though, I mean Beethoven is more famous than U2 according to Yougov… Also, it’s not like the performers on Elvis’ or MJ’s songs are credited either.

Martin

They maybe more famous or more important but they are still composers/songwriters, such as Diane Warren, Lamont Dozier or Brian Holland etc, not performers such as Elvis or MJ.

I get that the popularity or love of the composers work is what sells it and not the philharmonic orchestra etc that has performed it but the fact is, we analyse the sales of the performing artist, not the composer/songwriter.

Mikko

Songwriters make the big bucks, anyway. 550 million dollars for Dylan and Springsteen. They do creative work. The singers would have nothing to sing.

Marlene

Jackson is also composer/songwriter. He wrote most of his famous hits, for example Billie Jean, Beat it, WBSS. On Bad-album he wrote all songs except one hit and so on. Elvis is "only" performer, thats right.

Martin

Yes Marlene, I’m well aware that many acts compose and perform their own material.

Analord

“we analyse the sales of the performing artist”

Not exactly, as I said Elvis or MJ were only one of many “performers” on their songs. I think it’s more like a brand really, Mozart and Beethoven both have 5m Spotify followers, so why couldn’t they have their own Chartmasters articles? Just to be clear, I realize it’d be an enormous amount of work and also a little weird to compare 18th century artists with 20th century ones, but I still think it’d be interesting.

Nick

Exactly Analord. There was an article here that (I think) discussed box set sales in France? The Big 3 were in fact the Big 3 from what I can remember. It’s cool that artists like Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, The Weekend, etc. sell a ton now but I’m way more fascinated by the sales of people who have been dead for hundreds of years. If your work is still being appreciated today (with all the distractions out there), you must have done something right!

Martin

I think the fundamental problem is, we are trying to measure someones written music, against someones recorded sales.

If you were to try to even it out, IMO, you’d have to include the sales of everything say Paul McCartney has written, including covers by other people and stuff like sheet music sales for composers.

Mikko

Yes, Paul McCartney published “The Lyrics” book last year. 154 songs and Macca writes his views on those songs. The Beatles and his own songs. The price was 100 dollars per piece. Book sold 37 000 copies in 4 days (Us)and profit was 3,8 million dollars. Macca made more than 20 m dollars with it. Worldwide sales was 475 000 copies. The most written artists are Bob Dylan, 1320 copies and very current Elvis Presley, 1170 books (Goodreads). Right now Bono (4.) and Dylan (8.) are on the New York Times best seller list. Keith Richards “The Life” is probably… Read more »

Martin

It is exactly, as writers are not studied per se, just performers. It may only be the main or star performer, that is focused on but it’s clear it’s the performer and not the writer.

Nick

I hear you, I/m guessing this has to do with how (I think) the conception of composer vs artist has changed in the past few hundre years. In Mozart and Beethoven’s times, it seems like the composer would be identified as the primary artist whereas now the face of the song (the singers) would be identified as the artist (even if they didn’t write the lyrics, music or play any instruments for the material). Nevertheless, I’m blown away that Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has something like 250 million views on youtube. That is the kind of longevity that every artist would… Read more »

Martin

I think it’s a difference that still exists. Popular music, it’s almost always the performer that’s the star but classical or even musicals, it is almost always the composer, such as in the case of say Andrew Lloyd Webber or Rogers & Hammerstein. Saying that, you do get your classical stars, such as Nigel Kennedy, Vanessa Mae, Andre Rieu, Pavarotti etc, whose interpretations of classical works, are very appreciated because they are by these individuals, as much as say the piece or composer.

Jonasl91

When we all fall asleep, where do we go dropping 661k on 12/21 is a glitch I assume?

Quipy

I’m surprised Toxicity by SOAD isn’t on here

Analord

SOAD haven’t been studied yet, Toxicity sold 8m copies and 12m EAS.

Ultimate Master

Can you add Waiting To Exhale Soundtrack in 1995, even if it is under Various Artists, since it also a successful album in that time.

James

Can you add Hilary duff albums

futiledevices

why “red (taylor’s version)” isn’t included

Leslie

I think the re recordings sales numbers are included in the original albums sales…. Just like Lady Gaga’s The Fame and it’s re issue Fame Monster sales are bundled together.

Ultimate

In Page 5, in Digital Singles Sales

The likes of Maroon 5 and Eminem numbers are increasing while Lady Gaga and Adele are still the same. Taking note that they which are supposed to be top 2 in the first place. The update supposed to be all of such lists.
Can the admins answer this question?

Jazz

Adele and Lady Gaga are both increasing. A few years back Adele was at 80 million, Gaga was at 60 million. Now Adele at 102 and Gaga 77. Eminem and Maroon 5 just have better streaming figures.

Ultimate Master

You kinda seem to misunderstand my question… In Page 5, in Digital Singles Sales is what I meant. If you track the history in the page, Poker Face by Lady Gaga is Number 2 in the first place, now it is already being surpassed by Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5. The Moves Like Jagger Single has improved and increased while Poker Face is still the same. It is also the same I’ve noticed with Adele with Eminem, in their singles. Seems they prioritize updating Eminem and Maroon 5. I’m not talking about streams, that’s why I need their answers.… Read more »

matt

I doubt digital single sales still grow, they probably just noticed that their previously estimated figure was wrong

Jazz

These days digital singles hardly sell a thing. Whatever little gain they might have from digital singles is hardly going to make a difference.

Mikko

I agree with you. It’s good update now when DIGITAL sales have collapsed, as far as i know.

Paviurso

Why is Adele’s 30 not among the albums with the most pure sales? if they have even given it a Guinness World Record for selling 5M of pure units in 2021

Yefersonc_28

Actualicen a billie