Most successful artists by decade

Most Successful Artists By Decade

Since the summer of 2016 dozens of artists have been analyzed using the CSPC method.

Some of them destroyed the competition during a short time thanks to only one album, while others have proven longevity through the years.

In the end though, who has really dominated each of the last six decades? Is it the former or the latter kind of artists? You will find the answer in the list below!

The figures written here are not the equivalent album sales during the decade, but the equivalent album sales up to date from all the material released during that decade by an artist.

Please keep in mind some artists with strong results in several decades haven’t been studied so far, e.g. Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys or Nicki Minaj. All figures reflect the value as collected at the time of the artist’s respective articles. The list of studied artists is available here.

A lot of lists like this one are available inside the Data Collector, so feel free to read them to gauge how your favorite artist charts within it!

Most successful artists by decade (as of May 2021)

1950s
1. Elvis Presley127,149,000

1960s
1. The Beatles376,924,000
2. Elvis Presley131,658,000
3. The Rolling Stones110,801,000
4. Simon & Garfunkel89,796,000
5. Bob Dylan72,934,000
6. The Doors72,455,000
7. Led Zeppelin57,592,000
8. Creedence Clearwater Revival52,246,000
9. Barbra Streisand31,384,000
10. Johnny Hallyday29,793,000
11. Bee Gees27,358,000
12. Pink Floyd21,773,000
13. Stevie Wonder17,580,000
14. Santana16,834,000
15. Cher14,854,000
16. Cher14,854,000
17. Fleetwood Mac14,807,000
18. Jackson 5 & The Jacksons13,281,000
19. Buffalo Springfield11,061,000
20. David Bowie8,481,000

1970s
1. Pink Floyd171,695,000
2. Eagles163,422,000
3. Led Zeppelin138,828,000
4. Queen129,623,000
5. Elton John129,344,000
6. Abba125,972,000
7. Rod Stewart & Faces108,674,000
8. Bob Marley107,997,000
9. Bee Gees104,914,000
10. Fleetwood Mac95,398,000
11. Santana75,660,000
12. The Rolling Stones73,368,000
13. Billy Joel72,103,000
14. David Bowie68,914,000
15. AC/DC67,824,000
16. Paul McCartney65,482,000
17. Stevie Wonder63,036,000
18. Black Sabbath62,946,000
19. Aerosmith60,765,000
20. Supertramp58,979,000
21. Barbra Streisand57,359,000
22. Elvis Presley54,499,000
23. Neil Young53,662,000
24. John Lennon47,679,000
25. Michael Jackson46,469,000

1980s
1. Michael Jackson181,681,000
2. Madonna131,613,000
3. Phil Collins119,105,000
4. U2111,861,000
5. Queen107,789,000
6. Prince93,149,000
7. AC/DC84,857,000
8. Bruce Springsteen82,382,000
9. Bon Jovi79,146,000
10. George Michael & Wham!69,617,000
11. Dire Straits67,720,000
12. The Police64,978,000
13. Metallica64,948,000
14. Billy Joel62,280,000
15. Journey61,102,000
16. Van Halen60,076,000
17. Guns N’ Roses58,419,000
18. Whitney Houston56,494,000
19. Sade46,991,000
20. Bryan Adams46,495,000
21. Barbra Streisand43,186,000
22. The Rolling Stones37,912,000
23. Elton John37,330,000
24. Stevie Wonder36,782,000
25. David Bowie35,564,000

1990s
1. Céline Dion160,090,000
2. Mariah Carey144,462,000
3. Garth Brooks108,309,000
4. Whitney Houston88,381,000
5. Nirvana80,179,000
6. Michael Jackson78,755,000
7. Metallica75,261,000
8. Backstreet Boys74,905,000
9. Madonna66,562,000
10. Shania Twain65,863,000
11. Guns N’ Roses56,524,000
12. Red Hot Chili Peppers55,552,000
13. Alanis Morissette50,237,000
14. Oasis47,347,000
15. Spice Girls47,339,000
16. Green Day44,616,000
17. The Cranberries42,810,000
18. U242,021,000
19. TLC38,447,000
20. Sting37,855,000
21. Bon Jovi37,185,000
22. Bryan Adams36,037,000
23. Aerosmith35,248,000
24. Santana33,069,000
25. Enya31,849,000

2000s
1. Eminem123,624,000
2. Linkin Park67,608,000
3. Coldplay66,326,000
4. Britney Spears62,135,000
5. Beyoncé50,503,000
6. P!nk48,326,000
7. Norah Jones48,153,000
8. Robbie Williams47,775,000
9. Nickelback46,375,000
10. Black Eyed Peas45,631,000
11. Alicia Keys43,142,000
12. Michael Bublé42,346,000
13. Ayumi Hamasaki40,263,000
14. U238,338,000
15. Madonna37,931,000
16. Avril Lavigne36,931,000
17. Rihanna36,818,000
18. Lady Gaga35,949,000
19. Usher34,775,000
20. Shakira34,227,000
21. Justin Timberlake33,379,000
22. Green Day32,386,000
23. Taylor Swift29,445,000
24. Miley Cyrus28,856,000
25. Evanescence28,339,000

2010s
1. Adele73,356,000
2. Justin Bieber66,066,000
3. Taylor Swift64,282,000
4. Ed Sheeran61,066,000
5. Rihanna55,886,000
6. BTS55,749,000
7. Bruno Mars52,339,000
8. Drake52,256,000
9. One Direction44,466,000
10. Eminem38,691,000
11. Maroon 537,803,000
12. Katy Perry35,012,000
13. The Weeknd34,942,000
14. Ariana Grande33,108,000
15. Lady Gaga30,122,000
16. Post Malone28,844,000
17. Coldplay28,500,000
18. Kendrick Lamar26,660,000
19. Imagine Dragons24,676,000
20. Selena Gomez23,749,000
21. Beyoncé23,194,000
22. Michael Bublé19,821,000
23. Shawn Mendes17,365,000
24. Billie Eilish16,709,000
25. Sam Smith16,045,000

2020s
1. BTS16,701,000
2. Taylor Swift7,851,000
3. The Weeknd4,070,000
4. Justin Bieber3,462,000
5. Dua Lipa2,884,000
6. Lady Gaga2,249,000
7. Selena Gomez1,958,000

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Dan

I have to admit, all those diva lovers got me a bit curious about Barbra. Waiting for her analysis, even if it’s only to prove that she’s not as big as they think she is.

QueenBarbra

The divas sales battles will never end. I look forward to read how Barbra is. As MJD quoted in Ukmix in Jan, 2009: Actualy Barbra Streisand was a top 5 seller of the 60’s, the 70’s and the 80’s. If the 90’s almost all her records ended as multi-million selling records, she was hugely successful from 1963 to 1999, 37 calendar years. Sales-wize, Madonna is the best selling female followed by Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, but success-wize Barbra has been bigger than the last two, and maybe even bigger than Madonna. Her success was insane during the 60’s, but… Read more »

Nuclear dolphin

MJD how far down the list are Queen in the 90’s with 26 million?

Dan

Ironically enough, their raw 90s sales are MUCH higher.
Innuendo + MIH + Greatest Hits 2 = ~33m (that would take a chunk of the 80s CSPC).
Add Classic Queen (92) + Greatest hits US (92) + We will rock you compilation and we get another ~14.5m.
Few more boxes and Queen Rocks add another ~8.4m.
Live at Wembley (released at 92) adds 4.2m more.
So without singles nor videos, we’re already at over 60 million.

Nuclear dolphin

Thank you. I thought their actual sales were pretty huge in the 90s. In fact probably their biggest decade I think?

Dan

Honestly, no idea. They were very consistent sellers 🙂

Mat

Madonna with just 4 studio albums and 2 on the 80s… 131 M CSPC is amazing! Madonna is the bigger pop bomb female artist of all time! And is the only female artist who repeat antoher decade on the Top 10.

MADONNA <3

Martin

What is it with fans of female artists and the need to always just measure them against other females. I find it a bit sexist, derogatory & just wrong. Music, unlike say sport, does not need or require gender specification, there are no benefits or downfalls (to being male or female in music) such as there are in sport, with things like physique, strength & power, all having a bearing. Yes Madonna done very well, she has 2nd place in the 80’s with 132m with 4 studio albums and 8th place in the 90’s with 67m with 3 studio albums… Read more »

Mat

And sooo??? Why are you so problematic??? This is my happyness.

Nuclear dolphin

Madonna was huge for a long time, however I’m not too sure about her popularity going forwards. Her streaming numbers both on YouTube and Spotify are not great and a lot of young people just don’t like her music, same goes for U2 and I’m not exactly sure why. Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Queen, Metallica, Guns n roses and Nirvana are all extremely popular still.

Mat

Madonna doesn’t have VEVO. Madonna is the artist with the most hits in music history. U2 no, Mariah no, Michael no.

Her music right now doesn’t have a good promotion on internet.

Martin

lol out come the excuses and lies from the infatuated Madonna fan!

She maybe holds the record for the most Top 10 hits in various countries but she is nowhere near having the most Top 40 or as you stated “hits” anywhere. In the US she doesn’t even make the Top 10 for most hits, which are;

207 – Glee Cast
161 – Drake
137 – Lil Wayne
108 – Elvis Presley
96 – Jay-Z
91 – James Brown
87 – Chris Brown
83 – Nicki Minaj
81 – Kanye West
75 – Ray Charles, Taylor Swift

Nick

Nuclear Dolphin, on youtube, her numbers have picked up a lot in the past few years, she is now doing better than Whitney, Celine and Mariah on a DAILY basis in terms of views(especially if you don’t look at songs from the past decade or so). She’s not doing as well as Michael Jackson or Queen, but those two artists are in their own category. Madonna is a notch or two below. So she’s in between her female competitors and Michael Jackson/Queen.

Michael

Martin, I really dont understand what is your problem with downplaying Madonna’s success. She is the No. 2 most successful artist in Billboard hot 100 history, only behind the Beatles. She also has the most top 10 hits in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. And please dont try to compare Drake or Taylor Swift or Glee cast, and say that these artist is bigger than Madonna, simply because they have more top 40 hits, when the fact is they are not even nearly as big as Madonna. PS : Last but not least. Madonna is the 3rd… Read more »

Michael

Sorry. When I said she beat all top male singers. I mean all top male singers throughout history, bar Michael Jackson and The Beatles.

Martin

Please reread what I wrote, I never disparaged her or her achievements, I just corrected mat saying she’s had the most hits ever and dislike this need by a lot of female artist fans to constantly always measure their success against other females. So please don’t just shut up, please just don’t even comment, if you cannot get your facts right or read what I wrote.

RLAAMJR.

Why use having the most top 10 songs? why not go with most #1 songs? Cos Mariah has 18 #1 songs. How many Madonna has? Even Rihanna has more #1 songs than Madonna

Michael

Than what is your point by bringing up who has the most top 40 hits? Its easier for artist these days to have a gazillion top 40 hits, because you dont even need to release a single in order to reach a top 40 hits. With the existence of digital downloading even a non single can hit the top 40, which is a totally different story than artists back then. Madonna definitely has the most successful singles chart wise speaking, out of any singers. That is fact. She has the most No. 1 European hot 100 singles, she is the… Read more »

Mat

The fan of Michael is crazy. He thinks than Michael has more hits than Madonna worldwide. This guy is so funny hehe!

Michael

Of course Michael was bigger. But he released far less singles and albums than Madonna. While Michael at his peak would have made Madonna looks like amateur. As a whole, Madonna has more big hits, and I am speaking in terms of charts only. Also, you need to consider the fact that, again while Michael peak was way bigger than Madonna, Madonna has a far more consistent career than MJ. Their album sales total is around 30 million copies at the end of the day, which really isn’t nothing much for people of their standards. So, Michael’s peak was way… Read more »

Martin

Funniest thing I’ve read in a while “The fan of Michael is crazy”. First time I’ve ever been thought of as or called a MJ fan lol . Yes, I know she has had more hits, I wasn’t aware I or anyone else said she hadn’t but she doesn’t have the most ever, as you originally stated. Acts like Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard have way, way more hits than her. Anyway, I’m not having a go at Madonna, I like Madonnas music, much more than I like MJ’s! I was more having a go at false claims, excuses and… Read more »

Nuclear dolphin

Great stuff! I’m surprised the Bee Gees making the top 10 in the 60s, CCR and The Doors will get in there, I thought maybe The Stones would be slightly higher in the 70s and AC/DC might either make the 70s or 90s. Also U2 sold a lot of records in the 90s as did R.E.M, Pearl Jam and The Red hot chilli peppers. Heartbreaking looking at what music we’re left with now. 😕

RLAAMJR.

Drake and Rihanna still has a chance to beat Adele in 2010s

QueenBarbra

Barbra shoud be in top10 of first three decades

Martin

I’d assume she’d make the 60’s one but I doubt she’s sold enough to top the current lowest figures for the 70’s (73m by the Stones) or the 80’s (58m by Guns N Roses).

I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t think she has managed to sell at least 147m, from product released in those 3 decades.

QueenBarbra

She sold about 45 million album each decade bettween 70s and 80s, I thougt the list for record sales, solo must overall 70s may be top 15, still the highest rank as female artist, will you great team have current plan to study Barbra and Elvis, with the two, the list’s ranks would be completed

Michael

“Please keep in mind some artists with strong results in several decades haven’t been studied so far, e.g. Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Phil Collins or Nicki Minaj. All figures reflect the value as collected at the time of the artist’s respective articles.”

This should answer your question

Dan

I found the list quite fascinating. I’d love to see the actual “per decade” list, but i imagine it’s much harder to do.

Raffi

Nice work on this article Anthony! I wanna ask though, for artists prior to the 2000s, can we gauge their success DURING the decade using albums sold by the end of the decade adding physical singles sales * 0.3? The former can be tracked using label reports, and the latter is basically the same as the total from today as physical singles sell most of their sales in a span of a few weeks/months, unless its a special case eg. Re-releases

RLAAMJR.

Celine Marie Claudette Tanguay Dion-Angelil is truly the best-selling artist of the 90’s!

Martin

I’m not saying she isn’t but how can you be certain, as these lists do not actually tell us who really is the best selling artist in any decade. Could Brooks or Carey maybe not have actually sold more in 90’s?

For instance, the 60’s will obviously be The Beatles but they clearly did not sell 377m in the 60’s (as is stated in the introduction) and the 70’s I’d imagine would probably be someone like Elton John, ABBA or The Bee Gees, not Pink Floyd.

QueenBarbra

If atw sold major sales pre 00s, Celine will be no1 of 90s, if not,she may be no2 female in 00

Michael

Martin,

This list is base on CSPC results not actual album sales. The Beatles did not sold 370 million albums in the 60s, but CSPC wise they probably did considering the majority of their studio albums were released in the 60s. Plus, Celine Dion did sell more album than Mariah Carey and have better CSPC than Mariah in the 90s. As for Garth Brooks, he wasnt studied yet. And even if he was studied, I doubted he could beat Celine or Mariah results, as country singers always has problems selling albums outside of the US.

Martin

Fun lists but as you intimate in the article, we are not really finding out “who has really dominated each of the last six decades” and we don’t really “find the answer in the lists below”, except for probably the more recent decades.

What we actually find out, is the most successful acts from those decades, not in those decades.

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