Music has been a part of history for centuries. From lutes and lyres to banjos and electric guitars, music has played a role in many situations as a means of expression during special events, in religion, and as entertainment.
There are many styles of music, from blues, jazz, and rock to country, reggae, and classical, and a few genres in-between that keep the toes tapping.
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There have been many top musicians through the decades and will, most likely, be many more in the future, as there is no indication music is leaving the cultural scene anywhere in the world.
As artists come and go, hit the top of the billboard with a new song, or slip down the list, who the biggest-selling musician of all time is can change.
Using statistics from 2019 for the total number of certified singles and albums sold, the biggest selling artist is Elvis Presley.
Known as the “King of Rock ‘n Roll,” the iconic artist swooned and crooned his way to the top of the charts through his active years from 1954 to the time of his death in 1977.
The total units sold, as of this writing, are an estimated 1.5 billion.
His best-selling album was cut in 1957 with a selection of soft swinging and heart-felt Christmas tunes.
His 1960 single, “It’s Now or Never,” is touted as his best-selling single. His impact on music, stage performance, and movies was felt around the world due to his large fan base.
With Elvis holding court with the top spot, there are nine other biggest selling artists that have significant sales figures.
The following list includes the artists that have also made an impact on the music world.
In second place is Michael Jackson, whose career put him in close proximity to Elvis with estimated units sold of 1.0 billion.
Michael was known as the “King of Pop” and wore that crown from 1964 until his death in 2009.
For Jackson fans, it will not come as a surprise that his “Thriller” album from 1982 is the best-selling album ever, and his 1983 “Billie Jean” is the best-selling single.
A total of seven single records were released from the album.
In third place is Madonna, with an impressive 340 million units sold. Her crown is the “Queen of Pop.”
The pop singer began her career in 1979 and is still going strong after four decades. Her “Immaculate Collection” from 1990 is her best-selling album, and “Hung, Up” from 2005 is her best-selling single.
Madonna is touted as the best-selling solo female artist of our time.
From across the pond, holding fourth place is Sir Elton John with an estimated 305 million units sold.
The famous Brit, often referred to as “Rocket Man,” began his career in 1964 and is currently on his farewell tour in 2022.
The pop musician and pianist remains a contender as a best-selling artist. His 1997 single, “Candle in the Wind,” is his best-selling single and remains in the fourth-place slot as the best-selling single in music history.
His 1974 “Greatest Hits” is his best-selling album.
Born in Barbados, sultry R&B singer Rihanna has sold an estimated 271 million units worldwide.
She is also considered to be the most successful female singer who is not an American. Her 2007 “Good Girl Gone Bad” is her best-selling album and her 2016 “Work” is her best-selling single.
The remaining list makes up the best-selling music artists of all time, holding the 6th through 10th places and the estimated units sold.
6. Eminem – 227 million units
7. Taylor Swift – 212 million units
8. Whitney Houston – 205 million units
9. Mariah Carey – 202 million units
10. Celine Dion – 175 million units
The top 10 solo musicians of all time
For 2022, the following list names the best-selling solo singers of all time based on certified units sold.
- Drake – 163.5 million units
- Taylor Swift – 134 million units
- Rihanna – 129 million
- Eminem – 107.5 million
- Kanye West – 106 million
- Katy Perry – 105 million
- Justin Bieber – 92 million
- Bruno Mars – 79.5 million
- Lady Gaga – 78 million
- Maroon 5 – 77 million
Whether watching them on TV, on a road tour, on stage, or at a concert or festival, bands have been entertaining the masses around the world for decades.
The bands selected as the top 10 sellers in history are also based on the number of certified records sold worldwide.
First place goes to The Beatles, whose career ran from 1960 to 1970. The British-born foursome rode the wave to stardom after making their first appearance in America on February 7, 1964, and their first live TV performance two days later on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Their first hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” had just been deemed a hit just a few days before their arrival in the U.S.
Their 1968 best-selling album was “The Beatles” and “She Loves You” from 1963 is their best-selling single.
Worldwide record sales for The Beatles are an estimated 290 million.
Second place goes to The Eagles with 160 million estimated worldwide sales. From 1971 to the present day, the band continues to entertain with their repertoire of rock music.
“Hotel California” holds the best-selling single title and their 1971–1975 and 1976 “Their Greatest Hits” is the band’s best-selling album.
Queen comes in third with an estimated 150 million record sales. From London, England, the rock band has been on stage from 1970 to today.
Their best-selling album is their 1981 “Greatest Hits” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” from 1975 is their best-selling single.
Fourth place is held by Led Zeppelin, the hard-rocking band from England. From 1968 to 1980, the group made an impression on fans around the world that remains intact today.
“Led Zeppelin IV” from 1971 is the band’s best-selling album. The hard and heavy “Whole Lotta Love” from 1969 is their best-selling single and still holds its own today.
Another British band, Pink Floyd, holds fifth place. The band members made their presence known throughout the world with unforgettable music throughout the rock band’s long career, which spanned the years from 1965 to 2014.
With an estimated 130 million record sales, their 1973 “The Dark Side of the Moon” is the band’s best-selling album, and the 1979 “Another Brick in the Wall,” is their best-selling single.
Sixth through tenth place bands with significant worldwide record sales include some of the music world’s most memorable and long-lasting bands with many still performing today.
6. AC/DC – 125 million record sales worldwide. “Highway to Hell” is the best-selling single, and “Back in Black” is their best-selling album.
7. Maroon 5 – 120 million sold. “She Will Be Loved” is the best-selling single and “Songs About Jane” is their best-selling album from 2002.
8. U2 – 110 million record sales keep this band in the top 10 list. The Irish band has been bringing their energy and musical messages to the world since 1976.
“The Joshua Tree” from 1987 is their best-selling album and their 2000 “Beautiful Day” is their best-selling single.
9. Metallica, with 105 worldwide record sales, has been bringing the crowds to their feet since 1981.
Still touring and rocking the stadiums, this heavy metal band has plenty to say through their music.
Their best-selling album from 1991 is, “Metallica” and their 1991 song “Enter Sandman” is their best-selling single.
10. The Rolling Stones have garnered a significant 100 million worldwide sales in their long-running career that began in 1962 and still has Mick and company engaging and entertaining old and new generations with tour dates in 2022.
The Brit band’s best-selling album is “Sticky Fingers” from 1971. Their 1965 song, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” from 1965 is, of course, the band’s best-selling single.
The ladies on the list are no surprise as each brings their individual style and elegance to music.
- Madonna – 300 million
- Rihanna – 250 million
- Taylor Swift – 200 million
- Mariah Carey – 200 million
- Whitney Houston – 200 million
- Celine Dion – 200 million
- Barbra Streisand – 150 million
- Katy Perry – 143 million
- Lady Gaga – 124 million
- Adele – 120 million
- Beyonce – 118 million
- Nicki Minaj – 100 million
The men have made their own inroads as standout solo singers. These 12 and their sales will give you an idea of how diverse the world of music can be.
- Elvis Presley – 500 million
- Michael Jackson – 350 million
- Elton John – 300 million
- Eminem – 220 million
- Drake – 170 million
- Garth Brooks – 170 million
- Kanye West – 160 million
- Justin Bieber – 150 million
- Ed Sheeran – 150 million
- Billy Joel – 150 million
- Phil Collins – 150 million
- Chris Brown – 140 million
Whether you are new to the music scene or an old rocker, you prefer rock to rap or you like multiple music styles, whatever your reason for tuning in and ramping up the volume feeds the need for creative input from music artists from around the world.