List of best-selling albums

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Platinum record for Michael Jackson's Thriller (1982), the best-selling album of all time

This is a list of the world's best-selling albums of recorded music in physical mediums, such as vinyl, audio cassettes or compact discs. To appear on the list, the figure must have been published by a reliable source and the album must have sold at least 20 million copies and certified at least 10 million units (the equivalent of a diamond certification by the RIAA).[a] This list can contain any types of album, including studio albums, extended plays, greatest hits, compilations, various artists, soundtracks and remixes. The figures given do not take into account the resale of used albums. Certified copies are sourced either from available online databases of local music industry associations or a country with an established certifying authority (see List of music recording certifications).

As a result of the methodology that the American and Canadian certification-awarding bodies (the RIAA and Music Canada respectively) use, each disc in a multi-disc set is counted as one unit toward certification, leading to many double albums on the list—such as Pink Floyd's The Wall and the Beatles' The Beatles (White Album) —being certified with a number double the number of copies sold there. Such albums have the certifications for the number of copies (not discs) shipped indicated. Conversely, the American certification level for double albums that fit onto one compact disc, such as the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack reflect the actual number of copies sold. In 2016, RIAA included streaming in addition to track sales and album sales based on the concept of album-equivalent unit for certification purposes, and certification therefore no longer reflects shipment alone.[1][2] For example, in the update of the certification for Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) by the Eagles in August 2018, the album was certified 38× Platinum (increasing from the previous 29× Platinum certification in 2006) based on the new criteria, making it then the album with the highest certification in the United States.[3]

Michael Jackson's Thriller, estimated to have sold over 70 million copies worldwide,[4] is the best-selling album ever.[5][6][7] Jackson also currently has the highest number of albums on the list with five, Celine Dion has four, while the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Madonna and Whitney Houston each have three.

Groupings are based on different sales benchmarks, the highest being for claims of at least 40 million copies, and the lowest being for claims of 20–29 million copies. Albums are listed in order of number of copies sold. If two or more artists have the same claimed sales, they are then ranked by certified units and thereafter by the artist's last name. Markets' order within the table is based on the number of compact discs sold in each market, largest market at the top and smallest at the bottom.[8]

Legend

Colors
Studio albums
Greatest hits and compilations
Soundtracks
Live albums

40 million copies or more

*All sales figures are shown in millions

Artist Album Released Genre Total certified copies
(from available markets)*
Reported sales* Ref(s)
Michael Jackson Thriller 1982 Pop, post-disco, funk, rock
51.2
70-100 [5][6][31][32]
AC/DC Back in Black 1980 Hard rock
30.1
50 [39]
Whitney Houston / various artists The Bodyguard 1992 R&B, soul, pop, soundtrack
28.7
50 [46][47]
Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon 1973 Progressive rock
24.8
45 [49]
Michael Jackson Bad 1987 Pop, R&B, funk, rock
21.2
45 [55][56][57]
Eagles Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) 1976 Country rock, soft rock, folk rock
41.2
44 [58]
Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell 1977 Hard rock, glam rock, progressive rock
22
43 [60]
Eagles Hotel California 1976 Soft rock
31.8
42 [62]
Shania Twain Come On Over 1997 Country, pop
30.4
40 [65][66]
Fleetwood Mac Rumours 1977 Soft rock
30.3
40 [70][71]
Bee Gees / Various artists Saturday Night Fever 1977 Disco
22.1
40 [73][74]

30–39 million copies

*All sales figures are shown in millions

Artist Album Released Genre Total certified copies
(from available markets)*
Claimed sales* Ref(s)
Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin IV 1971 Hard rock, heavy metal, folk rock
30.4
37 [76]
Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill 1995 Alternative rock
26.4
33 [80][81]
Michael Jackson Dangerous 1991 New jack swing, R&B, pop
17.0
32 [83][84]
Various artists Dirty Dancing 1987 Pop, rock, R&B
24.1
32 [86]
Celine Dion Falling into You 1996 Pop, soft rock
21.1
32 [88]
Adele 21 2011 Pop, soul
27.4
31 [99]
The Beatles 1 2000 Rock
23.2
31 [101]
Metallica Metallica 1991 Heavy metal
22.7
31 [103]
Celine Dion Let's Talk About Love 1997 Pop, soft rock
20.5
31 [107]
Bob Marley and the Wailers Legend: The Best of Bob Marley & The Wailers 1984 Reggae
22.9
30 [108]
Guns N' Roses Appetite for Destruction 1987 Hard rock
22.8
30 [110][111]
Bruce Springsteen Born in the U.S.A. 1984 Heartland rock
22
30 [114]
ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits 1992 Pop, disco
21.6
30 [119]
Dire Straits Brothers in Arms 1985 Roots rock, blues rock, soft rock
21.1
30 [121][122]
Madonna The Immaculate Collection 1990 Pop, dance
20.8
30 [125]
Santana Supernatural 1999 Latin rock
20.8
30 [126]
Pink Floyd The Wall 1979 Progressive rock
18.9
30 [128]
The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 1967 Rock
18.3
30 [129]
The Beatles Abbey Road 1969 Rock
16.9
30 [131]

20–29 million copies

*All sales figures are shown in millions

Artist Album Released Genre Total certified copies
(from available markets)*
Claimed sales* Ref(s)
Norah Jones Come Away with Me 2002 Jazz
19.9
28 [133]
Mariah Carey Music Box 1993 Pop, R&B
17.8
28 [134]
Various artists Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture 1978 Rock and roll
15
28 [136]
Eminem The Eminem Show 2002 Hip hop
19.1
27 [138][139]
James Horner Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture 1997 Film score
18.1
27 [142]
Nirvana Nevermind 1991 Grunge, alternative rock
17.8
26 [144]
Eric Clapton Unplugged 1992 Acoustic rock, acoustic blues
17
26 [146]
Queen Greatest Hits 1981 Rock
20.6
25 [147]
Britney Spears ...Baby One More Time 1999 Pop
20.1
25 [149]
Journey Greatest Hits 1988 Rock, hard rock, pop rock
18.3
25 [151]
Phil Collins No Jacket Required 1985 Pop rock
17.7
25 [152]
Whitney Houston Whitney Houston 1985 Pop, R&B
17.6
25 [155][156]
Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 2000 Hip hop
17.5
25 [158]
Linkin Park Hybrid Theory 2000 Nu metal, rap metal, alternative metal
17.2
25 [160]
U2 The Joshua Tree 1987 Rock
16.7
25 [161]
Prince and The Revolution Purple Rain 1984 Pop rock, new wave, R&B
15.7
25 [163]
Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet 1986 Hard rock, glam metal
15.3
25 [165]
Carole King Tapestry 1971 Pop
15.1
25 [166]
Madonna True Blue 1986 Pop, dance
14.5
25 [167]
Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water 1970 Folk rock
12.5
25 [168]
George Michael Faith 1987 Pop, R&B, funk, soul
13.9
25 [170]
Elton John Greatest Hits 1974 Pop
19.1
24 [171]
Backstreet Boys Millennium 1999 Pop
18.4
24 [172]
Adele 25 2015 Soul, pop, R&B
19
23 [174]
Spice Girls Spice 1996 Pop
16.4
23 [176][177]
Ace of Base Happy Nation/The Sign 1993 Pop
14.4
23 [178]
Michael Jackson HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I 1995 R&B, pop, hip hop
15.2
22 [180]
Celine Dion All the Way... A Decade of Song 1999 Pop
14.4
22 [181]
Madonna Like a Virgin 1984 Pop, dance
16.2
21 [182]
Bon Jovi Cross Road 1994 Hard rock, glam metal
11.6
21 [183]
Hootie & the Blowfish Cracked Rear View 1994 Roots rock, heartland rock
22.2
20 [184]
Elvis Presley Elvis' Christmas Album 1957 Christmas, pop, gospel, rock and roll
20.8
20 [186][187][188]
Boston Boston 1976 Arena rock, hard rock
18.1
20 [189]
Mariah Carey Daydream 1995 Pop, R&B
15.2
20 [190]
Green Day Dookie 1994 Pop punk, punk rock, alternative rock
14.6
20 [193]
Whitney Houston Whitney 1987 Pop, R&B
14.5
20 [195]
Shania Twain The Woman in Me 1995 Country, pop
14.5
20 [196]
Britney Spears Oops!... I Did It Again 2000 Pop
14.4
20 [197]
Def Leppard Hysteria 1987 Hard rock, glam metal
13.9
20 [199]
Lauryn Hill The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 1998 Neo Soul, R&B, Hip Hop
13.7
20 [200][201][202]
Tracy Chapman Tracy Chapman 1988 Folk rock
13.3
20 [205]
Lionel Richie Can't Slow Down 1983 Pop, R&B, soul
12.3
20 [206]
Michael Jackson Off the Wall 1979 Disco, pop, funk, R&B
11.7
20 [208]
Fugees The Score 1996 Alternative hip hop
11.6
20[disputed ] [210]
Oasis (What's the Story) Morning Glory? 1995 Britpop, rock
11.6
22 [212][213]
Celine Dion The Colour of My Love 1993 Pop
11.1
20 [214]

Timeline of the best-selling albums

Timeline of the highest-selling album record
Year record set Artist Album Record-setting sales
(millions)
Total sales
(millions)
Ref(s)
1945 Various Artists Oklahoma! (78 rpm album) 0.5 1.0 [215][216]
After 1946 Al Jolson The Jolson Story 1 [217]
1956 Various Artists Oklahoma! (LP album) 1.75 2.5 [218]
1956/1957 Various Artists My Fair Lady 2 5 [219][220][221]
1960 Various Artists South Pacific 2.25 3 [222]
1963 Vaughn Meader The First Family 4 7.5 [223][224]
1968 Various Artists The Sound of Music 8WW [225]
1973 Carole King Tapestry 10+ [226]
1975/1976 Various Artists The Sound of Music 10–15SM-T [227][228]
1976 Carole King Tapestry 13.5SM-T 25 [229]
1979 Bee Gees/Various Artists Saturday Night Fever 25–27 40 [230][231]
1984 Michael Jackson Thriller 35 70 [7][232]
Notes
  • WWIt is unclear whether this sales figure refers to worldwide sales or US sales.
  • SM-TThe exact year in which Tapestry regained the title of "best-selling album of all time", if it ever regained it at all, is unclear. The album's 1976 sales claim is therefore only listed to be inclusive, as it is plausible that Tapestry had overtaken The Sound of Music in sales during this time period.

Best-selling album by year worldwide

The charts of the best-selling albums by year in the world are compiled by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry annually since 2001. These charts are published in their two annual reports, the Digital Music Report and the Recording Industry in Numbers. Both the Digital Music Report and the Recording Industry in Numbers were replaced in 2016 by the Global Music Report.[233]

In 2022, for sales of albums in 2021, IFPI reported three formats of sales chart, the Global all-format chart which includes all physical sales, digital downloads and streaming numbers, newly created Global vinyl album chart counting vinyl physical sales, combination of physical sales and digital downloads as Global album sales chart.

Year Album Artist(s) Sales
(millions)
Ref(s)
2001 Hybrid Theory Linkin Park 9.0 [234]
2002 The Eminem Show Eminem 13.9 [235]
2003 Come Away with Me Norah Jones 11.0 [236]
2004 Confessions Usher 12.0 [237]
2005 X&Y Coldplay 8.3 [238]
2006 High School Musical Various Artists 7.0 [239]
2007 High School Musical 2 6.0 [240]
2008 Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends Coldplay 6.8 [241]
2009 I Dreamed a Dream Susan Boyle 8.3 [242]
2010 Recovery Eminem 5.7 [243]
2011 21 Adele 18.1 [235]
2012 8.3 [244]
2013 Midnight Memories One Direction 4.0 [245]
2014 Frozen Various Artists 10.0 [246]
2015 25 Adele 17.4 [247]
2016 Lemonade Beyoncé 2.5 [248]
2017 ÷ Ed Sheeran 6.1 [249]
2018 The Greatest Showman Hugh Jackman & Various Artists 3.5 [250]
2019 5x20 All the Best!! 1999–2019 Arashi 3.3 [251]
2020 Map of the Soul: 7 BTS 4.8 [252]
2021 30 Adele 4.68 [253]
2022 Greatest Works of Art Jay Chou 7.2 [254]
2023 FML Seventeen 6.2 [255][256]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Certification systems have been established periodically throughout the past half century; thus, certification databases are not able to cover all sales. Some (or all) records released and sold prior to a certification system's establishment year may not be found within the available searchable certification databases. Year of establishment (from largest market to smallest based on Retail Value each market generates respectively):[257][258]
    1. ^ (online certification-database has begun since 1990. Certifications; however, existed in Australia since the 1970s.)
    2. ^ (online certification-database covers certifications issued since 2009. Certifications; however, have existed in Italy since the 1980s.)[52]
    3. ^ (online certifications for Denmark start from 2001. Certifications; however, existed in Denmark since the early 1990s.)[269]
    4. ^ (online certification-database covers certifications issued since 2004. Certifications; however, have existed in Portugal since the 1980s.)[52]

References

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  4. ^ The CBS Records plant responsible for manufacturing copies of Thriller, said they shipped 68 million units before their closure in 2001 [1] with claims of having sold up to 100 million being made by various outlets and representatives from Sony [2][3][4]. However reliable sources like Billboard and Reuters stated that the album had sold 50 million internationally along with being 28x platinum in the US at the time of Jackson's death [5] [6] (78 million). Since then it's jumped to 34x platinum in the United States, meaning current estimates would be between 80-85 million
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