List of Best-selling Albums
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List of Best-selling Albums

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. 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. 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.[a]

All albums included on this list have their available claimed figures supported by at least 30% in certified copies. The percentage amount of certified sales needed increases the newer the album is, so albums released before 1975 are only expected to have their claimed figures supported by at least 30% in certified copies. However, newer albums, such as 21 and Come Away with Me, are expected to have their claimed figures supported by at least 70% in certified copies. Certified copies are sourced from available online databases of local music industry associations. This is the reason why albums that would otherwise make the list, such as The Sound of Music, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Parallel Lines, Spirits Having Flown, Private Dancer, Janet, Believe, Bolo Ta Ra Ra.., Human Clay, Laundry Service and Back to Black, have not been included.

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--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 66 million copies worldwide, is the best-selling album.[4] Although sales estimates for Thriller have been as high as 120 million copies, these sales figures are unreliable.[5] Jackson also currently has the highest number of albums on the list with five, Celine Dion has four, while Whitney Houston, The Beatles and Madonna 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 and thereafter by the artist's first 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.[6]

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
*
Claimed sales* Ref(s)
Michael Jackson Thriller 1982 Pop, post-disco, funk, rock
47.3
66 [4]
AC/DC Back in Black 1980 Hard rock
29.4
50 [26]
Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell 1977 Hard rock, glam rock, progressive rock
21.7
50 [28]
Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon 1973 Progressive rock
24.4
45 [30]
Whitney Houston / Various artists The Bodyguard 1992 R&B, soul, pop, soundtrack
28.4
45 [35]
Eagles Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) 1976 Country rock, soft rock, folk rock
41.2
42 [36][37]
Bee Gees / Various artists Saturday Night Fever 1977 Disco
21.6
40 [39][40]
Fleetwood Mac Rumours 1977 Soft rock
27.9
40 [43][44]
Shania Twain Come On Over 1997 Country, pop
29.6
40 [48]

30-39 million copies

*All sales figures are shown in millions

Artist Album Released Genre Total certified copies
*
Claimed sales* Ref(s)
Various artists Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture 1978 Rock and roll
14.4
38 [49]
Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin IV 1971 Hard rock, heavy metal, folk rock
29.0
35
Michael Jackson Bad 1987 Pop, rhythm and blues, funk and rock
22.2
35 [51][52][53]
Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill 1995 Alternative rock
24.4
33 [54][55]
Michael Jackson Dangerous 1991 New jack swing, R&B and pop
17.3
32 [58]
Celine Dion Falling into You 1996 Pop, soft rock
20.2
32 [60]
Eagles Hotel California 1976 Soft rock
31.5
32 [61]
The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 1967 Rock
18.2
32 [62]
Various artists Dirty Dancing 1987 Pop, rock, R&B
17.9
32 [63]
Adele 21 2011 Pop, soul
25.3
31 [78]
Madonna The Immaculate Collection 1990 Pop, dance
19.4
31 [81]
Celine Dion Let's Talk About Love 1997 Pop, soft rock
19.3
31 [84]
The Beatles 1 2000 Rock
23.4
31 [87]
ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits 1992 Pop, disco
23.0
30 [91]
The Beatles Abbey Road 1969 Rock
14.4
30 [92]
Bruce Springsteen Born in the U.S.A. 1984 Heartland rock
19.6
30 [93]
Dire Straits Brothers in Arms 1985 Roots rock, blues rock, soft rock
17.7
30 [94][95]
James Horner Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture 1997 Film score
18.1
30 [98]
Metallica Metallica 1991 Heavy metal
25.2

00,000[29]

31 [99]
Nirvana Nevermind 1991 Grunge, alternative rock
16.7
30 [100]
Pink Floyd The Wall 1979 Progressive rock
18.7
30 [102]
Santana Supernatural 1999 Latin rock
20.5
30 [103]
Guns N' Roses Appetite for Destruction 1987 Hard rock
21.9
30 [104][105]

20-29 million copies

*All sales figures are shown in millions

Artist Album Released Genre Claimed sales* Ref(s)
Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet 1986 Hard rock, glam metal 28 [106]
Mariah Carey Music Box 1993 Pop, R&B 28 [107]
Linkin Park Hybrid Theory 2000 Nu metal, rap metal, alternative metal 27 [108]
Eminem The Eminem Show 2002 Hip hop 27 [109][110]
Norah Jones Come Away with Me 2002 Jazz 27 [111]
Eric Clapton Unplugged 1992 Acoustic rock, acoustic blues 26 [112]
Bob Marley & The Wailers Legend: The Best of Bob Marley & The Wailers 1984 Reggae 25 [113]
Carole King Tapestry 1971 Pop 25 [114]
Phil Collins No Jacket Required 1985 Pop rock 25 [115]
Queen Greatest Hits 1981 Rock 25 [116]
Madonna True Blue 1986 Pop, dance 25 [117]
Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water 1970 Folk rock 25 [118]
U2 The Joshua Tree 1987 Rock 25 [119]
Prince and The Revolution Purple Rain 1984 Pop rock, new wave, R&B 25 [120]
Britney Spears ...Baby One More Time 1999 Pop 25 [121]
George Michael Faith 1987 Pop, R&B, funk, soul 25 [122]
Elton John Greatest Hits 1974 Pop 24 [123]
Backstreet Boys Backstreet's Back / Backstreet Boys 1997 Pop 24 [124]
Backstreet Boys Millennium 1999 Pop 24 [124]
Spice Girls Spice 1996 Pop 23 [125][126]
Ace of Base Happy Nation/The Sign 1993 Pop 23 [127]
Celine Dion All the Way... A Decade of Song 1999 Pop 22 [128]
Madonna Like a Virgin 1984 Pop, dance 21 [129]
Whitney Houston Whitney Houston 1985 Pop, R&B 22 [130]
Oasis (What's the Story) Morning Glory? 1995 Britpop, rock 22 [131]
Adele 25 2015 Soul, pop, R&B 22 [132]
Michael Jackson HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I 1995 R&B, pop and hip hop 22 [133]
Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 2000 Hip hop 21 [134]
Bon Jovi Cross Road 1994 Hard rock, glam metal 21 [135]
Michael Jackson Off the Wall 1979 Disco, pop, funk and R&B 20 [136]
Boston Boston 1976 Arena rock, hard rock 20 [137]
Britney Spears Oops!... I Did It Again 2000 Pop 20 [138]
Celine Dion The Colour of My Love 1993 Pop 20 [139]
Def Leppard Hysteria 1987 Hard rock, glam metal 20 [140]
Elvis Presley Elvis' Christmas Album 1957 Christmas, pop, gospel, rock and roll 25
20
[141][142][143]
Green Day Dookie 1994 Pop punk, punk rock, alternative rock 20 [144]
Lionel Richie Can't Slow Down 1983 Pop, R&B, soul 20 [145]
Mariah Carey Daydream 1995 Pop, R&B 20 [146]
Shania Twain The Woman in Me 1995 Country, pop 20 [147]
Supertramp Breakfast in America 1979 Progressive rock, art rock 20 [148]
Tracy Chapman Tracy Chapman 1988 Folk rock 20 [149]
Various artists Flashdance: Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture 1983 Electro, synthpop 20 [150]
Whitney Houston Whitney 1987 Pop, R&B 20 [151]

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 [152][153]
1956 Various Artists Oklahoma! (LP album) 1.75 2.5 [154]
1956/1957 Various Artists My Fair Lady 2 5 [155][156][157]
1960 Various Artists South Pacific 2.25 3 [158]
1963 Vaughn Meader The First Family 4 7.5 [159][160]
1968 Various Artists The Sound of Music 8WW [161]
1973 Carole King Tapestry 10+ [162]
1975/1976 Various Artists The Sound of Music 10–15SM-T [163][164]
1976 Carole King Tapestry 13.5SM-T 25 [165]
1979 Bee Gees/Various Artists Saturday Night Fever 25–27 40 [166][167]
1984 Michael Jackson Thriller 35 66 [4][168]
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.[169]

Units sold include physical copies and digital downloads.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ To be on this list, albums released:
    • before 1975 are required to have their claimed sales figures supported by 30% in certified units.
    • between 1975 and 1990 are required to have their claimed figures supported by 30-50% in certified units. (That is 1.33% for each additional year after 1975.)
    • between 1990 and 2000 are required to have their claimed figures supported by 50-60% in certified units. (That is 1% for each additional year after 1990.)
    • in 2000 and onwards are required to have their claimed figures supported by 60-80% in certified units. (That is 1.33% for each additional year after 2000.)

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