Top artists

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

Want to see your favorite artist covered?
Vote for them in our requests leaderboard!

How it works

The table above shows the top artists of all-time using the following ratios:

  • Studio album: sales of the original album (ratio 1/1)
  • Other LPs: sales of compilations generated thanks to the album (ratio 1/1)
  • Physical singles: sales of physical singles from the album (added to CSPC total with a ratio 3/10 for 2-tracks, 5/10 for EPs and Maxis)
  • Digital singles: sales of digital singles from the album (ratio 1.5/10 for CSPC total)
  • Streaming: equivalent album sales of all the album tracks (ratio 1/1500 for Audio stream and 1/6750 for Video stream)
  • Setting up accurate best selling artists lists
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    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 process
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    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.

    These omissions are listed on this page, which enables users to vote for the next pick. As soon as a CSPC article is released, we treat the new leader of the requests list. You can vote too!

    The automatic update of streams
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    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

    Who’s the best selling artist of all-time?

    The Beatles are the best selling artist of all-time with over 420 million equivalent album sales. More than 85 million sales behind, Michael Jackson is runner up ahead of Elvis Presley.

    Who’s the best selling solo artist of all-time?

    Michael Jackson is the best selling solo artist of all-time with nearly 340 million equivalent album sales. Elvis Presley is a close runner up, with Madonna completing the top 3 lower down.

    Who’s the best selling female artist of all-time?

    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.

    Who are the top artists currently?

    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.

    Are the Beatles and Elvis Presley over 1 billion records sold?

    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.

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