Guns N’ Roses albums and songs sales

Guns N’ Roses are possibly the only band that has attracted, and in fact still attracts to this day, both fans of classic rock music and fans of 80s arena rock. Hits such as Sweet Child O’ Mine, Paradise City, Welcome to the Jungle, November Rain, and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door are still immensely popular.

GnR Drawing

Considering the majority of their successful singles came out in a four year span from mid-1988 to mid-1992, the cumulative sales reached by the band are outstanding. In terms of strict album sales, their 1987 classic Appetite For Destruction is one of the 22 albums in the 27-33 million units range worldwide, good enough for a spot just outside the all-time Top 10 best selling albums. Their career total album sales challenge the biggest US groups ever like Aerosmith, the Beach Boys and Bon Jovi, just under the two highest rollers the Eagles and Metallica. An incredible feat given they released far fewer albums than most of the aforementioned.

Unsurprisingly the band’s success is visible in the digital world also, with massive download sales and streaming results. Thus, let’s sum up all their achievements in every format to determine a clear picture of their success with the various albums of new music they issued.

As usual, I’ll be using the Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept in order to relevantly gauge their results. This concept will not only bring you sales information for all Guns N’ Roses‘ albums, physical and download singles, as well as audio and video streaming, but it will also determine their true popularity. If you are not yet familiar with the CSPC method, the next page explains it with a short video. I fully recommend watching the video before getting into the sales figures. Of course, if you are a regular visitor feel free to skip the video and get into the figures.

The Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept (CSPC)

There are two ways to understand this revolutionary concept. The first is the Scribe video posted below. If you are unaware of the CSPC method, you will get the full idea within just a few minutes.

If you are a mathematical person, and want to know the full method as well as formulas, you can read the full introduction article.

Now let’s get into the artist’s sales figures in detail in order to apply this concept and define the act’s true popularity!

Original Albums Sales

Appetite For Destruction (1987)

  • America
    • US – 18,700,000
    • Canada – 2,000,000
    • Argentina – 240,000
    • Brazil – 480,000
    • Mexico – 280,000
  • Asia – 1,555,000
    • Japan – 650,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 540,000
    • New Zealand – 150,000
  • Europe – 6,390,000
    • UK – 2,400,000
    • France – 400,000
    • Germany – 1,025,000
    • Italy – 525,000
    • Spain – 200,000
    • Sweden – 200,000
    • Netherlands – 275,000
    • Switzerland – 120,000
    • Austria – 125,000
    • Finland – 60,000
  • World – 30,770,000

GNR Lies (1988)

  • America
    • US – 5,800,000
    • Canada – 800,000
    • Argentina – 75,000
    • Brazil – 175,000
    • Mexico – 75,000
  • Asia – 780,000
    • Japan – 400,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 200,000
    • New Zealand – 45,000
  • Europe – 1,850,000
    • UK – 475,000
    • France – 125,000
    • Germany – 350,000
    • Italy – 240,000
    • Spain – 65,000
    • Sweden – 75,000
    • Netherlands – 65,000
    • Switzerland – 40,000
    • Austria – 40,000
    • Finland – 20,000
  • World – 9,940,000

Use Your Illusion I (1991)

  • America
    • US – 7,600,000
    • Canada – 1,075,000
    • Argentina – 345,000
    • Brazil – 450,000
    • Mexico – 400,000
  • Asia – 1,775,000
    • Japan – 700,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 380,000
    • New Zealand – 90,000
  • Europe – 5,490,000
    • UK – 1,080,000
    • France – 585,000
    • Germany – 1,300,000
    • Italy – 370,000
    • Spain – 260,000
    • Sweden – 200,000
    • Netherlands – 245,000
    • Switzerland – 140,000
    • Austria – 135,000
    • Finland – 68,000
  • World – 18,010,000

Use Your Illusion II (1991)

  • America
    • US – 7,700,000
    • Canada – 975,000
    • Argentina – 400,000
    • Brazil – 475,000
    • Mexico – 350,000
  • Asia – 1,795,000
    • Japan – 700,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 430,000
    • New Zealand – 85,000
  • Europe – 6,260,000
    • UK – 1,120,000
    • France – 660,000
    • Germany – 1,500,000
    • Italy – 430,000
    • Spain – 260,000
    • Sweden – 200,000
    • Netherlands – 315,000
    • Switzerland – 180,000
    • Austria – 160,000
    • Finland – 77,000
  • World – 18,800,000

The Spaghetti Incident? (1993)

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  • America
    • US – 1,600,000
    • Canada – 350,000
    • Argentina – 140,000
    • Brazil – 275,000
    • Mexico – 150,000
  • Asia – 985,000
    • Japan – 450,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 175,000
    • New Zealand – 30,000
  • Europe – 2,260,000
    • UK – 350,000
    • France – 250,000
    • Germany – 400,000
    • Italy – 240,000
    • Spain – 150,000
    • Sweden – 130,000
    • Netherlands – 135,000
    • Switzerland – 55,000
    • Austria – 40,000
    • Finland – 34,000
  • World – 6,100,000

Chinese Democracy (2008)

  • America
    • US – 775,000
    • Canada – 200,000
    • Argentina – 45,000
    • Brazil – 70,000
    • Mexico – 35,000
  • Asia – 300,000
    • Japan – 180,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 100,000
    • New Zealand – 25,000
  • Europe – 1,110,000
    • UK – 365,000
    • France – 80,000
    • Germany – 150,000
    • Italy – 140,000
    • Spain – 20,000
    • Sweden – 40,000
    • Netherlands – 30,000
    • Switzerland – 25,000
    • Austria – 30,000
    • Finland – 33,000
  • World – 2,740,000

Original Album Sales – Comments

A mere six albums released. One of them (GNR Lies) was an EP converted into a quickly made album. Two others (Use Your Illusion I&II) were released simultaneously making it hard to promote. A fourth set (The Spaghetti Incident?) was a cover album. A fifth release (Chinese Democracy) took 15 years and almost as many millions to be recorded featuring an all new band lineup compared to their debut album with only lead singer Axl Rose and keyboardist Dizzy Reed.

In spite of this quite short discography, and so few standard releases, the band amassed more than 87 million album sales, an outstanding average of 14,5 million copies sold.

The band’s sales are clearly not only restricted to the original album sales as they released a decent selling live album, as well as one of the biggest compilations of the last 15 years, the 2004 package Greatest Hits. While this release slowed down catalog results of original albums Appetite For Destruction is still achieving notable success year after year.

1987 Appetite For Destruction – 30,770,000
1988 GNR Lies – 9,940,000
1991 Use Your Illusion I – 18,010,000
1991 Use Your Illusion II – 18,800,000
1993 The Spaghetti Incident? – 6,100,000
2008 Chinese Democracy – 2,740,000

Physical Singles Sales

As a reminder, the weighting is done with a 10 to 3 ratio between one album and one physical single.

Among classic rock bands Guns N’ Roses are from the category that still reached very respectable sales with their singles. Mostly good sellers in English speaking countries in the years 1987-1989, the band sold singles in all notable singles markets during their Use Your Illusion period with great results all over Europe. The 11,9 million physical singles the group shifted bring roughly the equivalent of 1 million albums sold for each of their three main albums.

Appetite For Destruction (1987) – 840,000 equivalent albums

It’s So Easy – 10,000
Welcome To The Jungle – 590,000
Sweet Child O’ Mine – 1,230,000
Paradise City – 770,000
Nightrain– 200,000

GNR Lies (1988) – 273,000 equivalent albums

Patience – 910,000

Use Your Illusion I (1991) – 1,197,000 equivalent albums

Don’t Cry – 1,200,000
Live And Let Die – 800,000
November Rain – 1,990,000

Use Your Illusion II (1991) – 990,000 equivalent albums

You Could Be Mine – 1,660,000
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – 1,050,000
Yesterdays – 500,000
Civil War – 80,000
Estranged – 10,000

The Spaghetti Incident? (1993) – 132,000 equivalent albums

Ain’t It Fun – 140,000
Since I Don’t Have You – 300,000

Chinese Democracy (2008) – 9,000 equivalent albums

Chinese Democracy – 30,000

Orphan Album – 129,000 equivalent albums

Sympathy For The Devil – 430,000

Digital Singles Sales

As a reminder, the weighting is done with a 10 to 1,5 ratio between one album and one digital single.

One wouldn’t expect much from the digital singles sector for a band that has such a tiny catalog – only 76 songs available for streaming everything considered – and had its last hit in the first half of the 90s.

This would be a huge mistake since Guns N’ Roses‘ hits are absolute monsters in the digital world. In terms of downloads, songs from their 1987 album Appetite For Destruction alone total over 20 million units sold, a terrific achievement. While this is easily their best effort, later singles are also very good sellers on downloads platforms.

Appetite For Destruction (1987) – 3,102,000 equivalent albums

It’s So Easy – 400,000
Welcome To The Jungle – 5,210,000
Sweet Child O’ Mine – 8,530,000
Paradise City – 4,290,000
Nightrain– 600,000
Remaining tracks – 1,650,000

GNR Lies (1988) – 293,000 equivalent albums

Patience – 1,550,000
Remaining tracks – 400,000

Use Your Illusion I (1991) – 1,023,000 equivalent albums

Don’t Cry – 1,950,000
Live And Let Die – 700,000
November Rain – 3,720,000
Remaining tracks – 450,000

Use Your Illusion II (1991) – 873,000 equivalent albums

You Could Be Mine – 900,000
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – 2,900,000
Yesterdays – 250,000
Civil War – 950,000
Estranged – 470,000
Remaining tracks – 350,000

The Spaghetti Incident? (1993) – 96,000 equivalent albums

Ain’t It Fun – 140,000
Since I Don’t Have You – 320,000
Remaining tracks – 180,000

Chinese Democracy (2008) – 165,000 equivalent albums

Chinese Democracy – 300,000
Better – 200,000
Remaining tracks – 600,000

Orphan Album – 30,000 equivalent albums

Sympathy For The Devil – 150,000
Remaining tracks – 50,000

Streaming Sales

Streaming is made up of two families – audio and video. Our CSPC methodology now includes both to better reflect the real popularity of each track. The main source of data for each avenue is respectively Spotify and YouTube. As detailed in the Fixing Log article, Spotify represents 132 million of the 212 million users of streaming platforms, while YouTube is pretty much the only video platform generating some revenue for the industry. Below is the equivalence set on the aforementioned article:

Audio Stream – 1500 plays equal 1 album unit
Video Stream – 11,750 views equal 1 album unit

Equivalent Albums Sales (EAS) = 212/132 * Spotify streams / 1500 + YouTube views / 11750

Streaming Part 1

You must start to understand it, Appetite For Destruction isn’t just a blockbuster album seller. Whichever format you look at this record achieved insane results. In terms of streaming, its main three singles cumulate 200 million plays on Spotify alone with all three of them among the Top 15 biggest tracks of the 80s along with the likes of Billie Jean, Don’t Stop Believin’ and With Or Without You. Inside those 80s biggest hits in the streaming world, only Michael Jackson‘s album Thriller can challenge Guns N’ Roses’ beast with its main three songs receiving 758 million streams combined. Its streams on YouTube are equally impressive with over 1,8 billion views in total.

Equivalent album sales wise, Appetite For Destruction‘s songs streaming figures total over 1,1 million albums sold, more than many recent releases.

GNR Lies is nowhere near as big but Patience remains a very popular song. It generates nearly 100,000 equivalent album sales out of the 136,000 units managed by the entire track list.

Streaming Part 2

There has always been much debate around Guns N’ Roses with the media often referring to them as a one-album wonder act. Let’s put it this way: Use Your Illusion II‘s streams are higher than Madonna‘s huge pair of ground breaking albums Like A Virgin and True Blue combined. Not bad for a ‘non-existent’ album according to many. Incredibly enough, Use Your Illusion I is even stronger with 350 million Spotify streams and 1,8 billion YouTube views. This claim from the media is more a case of an album being so gigantic in the form of Appetite For Destruction that everything else from the band looks like a flop, even when other releases have been incredibly successful in their own right.

Streaming Part 3

Although quite consistent, streams of The Spaghetti Incident? and Chinese Democracy aren’t impressive, mostly because of the lack of big hits. There is no stand-out moment from either of them with only Since I Don’t Have You having over 10 million streams on Spotify. These albums register 59,000 and 72,000 equivalent album sales respectively.

Full Length related record Sales

It sounds fairly logical to add together weighted sales of one era – studio album, physical singles, downloads, streams – to get the full picture of an album’s popularity. For older releases though, they also generate sales of various live, music videos and compilation albums.

All those packaging-only records do not create value, they exploit the value originating from the parent studio album of each of its tracks instead. Inevitably, when such compilations are issued, this downgrades catalog sales of the original LP. Thus, to perfectly gauge the worth of these releases, we need to re-assign sales proportionally to its contribution of all the compilations which feature its songs. The following table explains this method.

How to understand this table? If you check for example the Greatest Hits line, those figures mean it sold 13,610,000 units worldwide. The second statistics column means all versions of all the songs included on this package add for 1,965,000 equivalent album sales from streams of all types.

The second part at the right of the table shows how many streams are coming from each original album plus the share it represents on the overall package streams. Thus, streaming figures tell us Appetite For Destruction songs are responsible for 52% of the Greatest Hits tracklist attractiveness, which means it generated 7,116,000 of its 13,610,000 album sales and so on for the other records.

A few comments now. It is not a surprise to see the band’s debut album being the main generator of sales for most of their subsequent packages of their catalog. It represents from 35% to 74% of all releases attractiveness. Their Greatest Hits album has more tracks coming from each of Use Your Illusion I and II than Appetite For Destruction, which is one of the reasons this AFD‘s catalog sales better survived against this 2004 release.

Full Length related records Sales – Summary

Here is the most underestimated indicator of an album’s success – the amount of compilation sales of all kinds it generated. Due to the dependency of sales of the original studio albums on these releases, they are a key piece of the jigsaw.

BONUS: Compilation Albums Sales

Greatest Hits (2004)

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  • America
    • US – 6,075,000
    • Canada – 675,000
    • Argentina – 120,000
    • Brazil – 250,000
    • Mexico – 180,000
  • Asia – 770,000
    • Japan – 300,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 665,000
    • New Zealand – 140,000
  • Europe – 4,440,000
    • UK – 2,000,000
    • France – 225,000
    • Germany – 425,000
    • Italy – 365,000
    • Spain – 190,000
    • Sweden – 180,000
    • Netherlands – 160,000
    • Switzerland – 120,000
    • Austria – 60,000
    • Finland – 45,000
  • World – 13,610,000

BONUS: Total Album (all types) Sales per Country

  • America
    • US – 49,150,000
    • Canada – 6,225,000
    • Argentina – 1,435,000
    • Brazil – 2,325,000
    • Mexico – 1,595,000
  • Asia – 8,410,000
    • Japan – 3,730,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 2,570,000
    • New Zealand – 580,000
  • Europe – 28,420,000
    • UK – 7,915,000
    • France – 2,385,000
    • Germany – 5,275,000
    • Italy – 2,390,000
    • Spain – 1,195,000
    • Sweden – 1,045,000
    • Netherlands – 1,290,000
    • Switzerland – 695,000
    • Austria – 605,000
    • Finland – 347,000
  • World – 102,770,000

Please note that some of the countries totals may be slightly incomplete when the figure is N/A for minor releases. Countries with too much missing information to be precise enough are listed as N/A.

Guns n’ Roses Career CSPC Results

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

In the following results table, all categories display figures in equivalent album sales. If different, pure sales are listed between parentheses.

'Av.' stands for Average, 'LD' for Last Day.

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 1/6750 for Video stream)

Artist career totals

See where the artist ranks among remaining singers


This is it! Appetite For Destruction is a well known blockbuster, and while this result of 46,65 million equivalent sales may appear disappointing, it’s still incredibly high. The album is on par with the likes of U2‘s The Joshua Tree and Bruce Springsteen‘s Born In The U.S.A. while several millions ahead of the Beatles‘ Abbey Road and Metallica‘s eponymous album.

Both Use Your Illusion albums are up to almost 50 million combined. Of course, around 25 million a piece is less impressive, although still phenomenal, but one needs to note those records were released the same day. When we consider that radio playlists will only pick up one song from an artist at a time this performance is incredible. If we add to those constraints that this pair of albums are not as massive catalog sellers as Guns N’ Roses’ debut album, we realize the 18-months era of Use Your Illusion was one of the most profitable of all-time for the music industry.

GNR Lies did wonders for an EP made album that had only one single exploited. Then the specific nature of The Spaghetti Incident? make it harder to judge. Weighting its sales to the budget of its production and to expectations for it Chinese Democracy was a massive flop no matter how you look at it. Now that several key former members rejoined the band, including the cult guitarist Slash, will a possible new album be a success? Everyone is free to guess!

In the meantime, the cumulative tally of the Guns N’ Roses is up to 117,9 million album sales equivalent, a massive success considering the limited size of their catalog.

The following sections list their most successful songs as well as their records and achievements.

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

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

BIGGEST TRACKS – Guns N’ Roses

The list of most successful songs is compiled in album equivalent sales generated by each of them. It includes the song’s own physical singles sales with a 0,3 weighting, its download and streaming sales, and with appropriate weighting too, plus its share among sales of all albums on which it is featured.

1. 1987 – Sweet Child O’ Mine [Appetite for Destruction]18,880,000
2. 1991 – November Rain [Use Your Illusion I]13,480,000
3. 1987 – Welcome to the Jungle [Appetite for Destruction]11,420,000
4. 1987 – Paradise City [Appetite for Destruction]10,940,000
5. 1991 – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door [Use Your Illusion II]10,680,000
6. 1988 – Patience [GNR Lies]8,880,000
7. 1991 – Don’t Cry [Use Your Illusion I]7,150,000
8. 1991 – You Could Be Mine [Use Your Illusion II]3,770,000
8. 1991 – Civil War [Use Your Illusion II]3,770,000
10. 1993 – Since I Don’t Have You [The Spaghetti Incident?]2,640,000
11. 1991 – Live and Let Die [Use Your Illusion I]2,520,000
12. 1991 – Estranged [Use Your Illusion II]1,980,000
13. 1991 – Yesterdays [Use Your Illusion II]1,360,000
14. 1993 – Ain’t It Fun [The Spaghetti Incident?]1,230,000
15. 1988 – Used to Love Her [GNR Lies]1,200,000

Records & Achievements

  • At 46,651,000 equivalent album sales, Appetite For Destruction is the most successful debut album of all-time.
  • As of March, 1, 2018, Appetite For Destruction is the only album released before 2000 with 3 songs over 200 million streams on Spotify.
  • Guns N’ Roses is one of the two acts with over 100 million album sales in spite of only 6 studio albums released or less.
  • At 8,53 million downloads and ringtones, Sweet Child O’ Mine is the second highest selling digital song from the 80s.
  • At 13,61 million pure album sales, Greatest Hits is the highest selling compilation Worldwide released in the last 15 years.
  • At 18,700,000 pure album sales, Appetite For Destruction is the second best selling album in the US from the last 35 years, 7th of all-time.
  • At 46,651,000 equivalent album sales, Appetite For Destruction is the third most successful albums from 1987.
  • At 18,880,000 equivalent album sales, Sweet Child O’ Mine is the third most successful song from 1987.

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