Here you will find our up to date list of all-time best selling artists.
This top is evaluating and comparing artists’ success across all formats, which are weighted on par thanks to our CSPC concept. The top is updated daily.
Top artists – CSPC best selling artists of all-time
How it works
The table above shows the top artists of all-time using the following ratios:
Setting up accurate best selling artists listsView more
For decades, marketing tricks from labels and lack of education from media led to various myths about the best selling artists of all-time getting repeated so often that the general public assumed it was true.
Today, the same lack of education on the matter continues to be a pain for accuracy lovers. Most of these lists floating around online are either flat lists of RIAA certifications or a mere sum of all certifications from all countries. The first are given only on-request, sparsely for many artists, and relate to the US only. The latter are adding together apples and oranges by mixing distinct formats and different national streaming conversion methods.
Our home-made solution : the CSPC and equivalent album sales
To solve these flaws, we introduced several years ago the Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept (CSPC).
If you are not familiar with this concept, it consists in retrieving sales figures from every format and weighting them on par with album sales. That’s what we call equivalent album sales (EAS), or simply CSPC units.
In doing so, we grant that comparisons between artists from different periods make sense, unlike lists based on raw records totals.
The method also secures that the same formula applies to all artists. So we are avoiding issues related to the varying conversion rate used for streaming in different markets as well as by most labels on their communications.
How we work on it
When applying this concept to an artist, our team go into the tank. We analyze all data available, from charts, certifications, internal reports, or official scanning systems. Through the years, we developed various methods to fill the holes, backing all numbers on meaningful indicators. In-between, we have also discovered thousands of receipts.
To make everything as transparent as it gets, all figures for sales have been detailed on each artist article, available through the link under their name. We also show dates of updates, both for sales and for streams.
The column ‘Other LPs’ includes long formats made of already released material like greatest hits compilations, box sets, live records, bootlegs, and music videos.
Digital singles include both downloads and ringtones. Streaming units include both audio and video streams.
An ongoing processView more
Obviously, digging into the catalog of an artist takes time. It would be easy to simply copy/paste RIAA’s most certified artists list in a minute. Given our ambition, the largest discographies require several weeks of study, with several people involved.
Most top artists have been studied by now, but some are still missing. The main ones are Neil Diamond and the Beach Boys.
The automatic update of streamsView more
As part of our process to get all artists treated at the same time, we have been implementing tools to automatically keep numbers up to date every day whenever it is possible.
We also developed a tool to retrieve updated Spotify streams by artist. Thus, we are able to increase accordingly the streaming units of artists part of our all-time top artists leaderboard.
For further details, feel free to use the comment section.
Frequently Asked Questions
Madonna is the best selling solo artist of all-time with nearly 250 million equivalent album sales. Celine Dion is runner up at 200 million, while Taylor Swift is closing in behind, now at 180 million.
As revealed by our list reflecting the most streamed artists on digital streaming platforms, Drake, Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny are the biggest artists worldwide in recent years, with the addition of BTS thanks to their heavy album sales.
No. While their success is indeed outstanding as they rank 1st and 3rd among all-time top-sellers, the billion claims made in the early 80s were based on an old accounting method using singles equivalent, where each album sale was valued as 6 units. Under this method, each of the 20 artists with over 167 million equivalent album sales on this page would be over 1 billion “records” sold.