List of best-selling albums

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This is a list of the world's best-selling albums. The criteria are that the figure must have been published by a reliable source and the album must have sold at least 20 million copies worldwide. This list can contain any types of albums, including studio albums, greatest hits, compilations, various artists, soundtracks and remixes.

All albums included on this list have their available claimed figure(s) 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 such as The Sound of Music, Parallel Lines, Spirits Having Flown, Janet, Believe, The Colour of My Love, Human Clay, and Back to Black, have not been included on this list.

As a result of the methodology that the American and Canadian certification-awarding bodies, the RIAA and Music Canada, 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's 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.

The figures given do not take into account the resale of used albums.

Michael Jackson's Thriller, estimated to have sold between 51 to 65 million copies worldwide, is the best-selling album.[1][2][3] Although sales estimates for Thriller have been as high as 110 million copies, these sales figures are unreliable.[4] Jackson also currently has the highest number of albums on the list with five, Madonna follows up with four while The Beatles and Whitney Houston each have three.

Legend

colors
Studio albums
Greatest hits and compilations
Soundtracks

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.

40 million copies or more

ArtistAlbumReleasedGenreMusic recording sales certification
List of music recording certifications (millions)
Claimed sales (millions)
Michael JacksonThriller1982Pop, rock, R&B51–65[1][2][3]
Pink FloydThe Dark Side of the Moon1973Progressive rock45[27][28]
EaglesTheir Greatest Hits (1971–1975)1976Country rock, folk rock42[29][30]
AC/DCBack in Black1980Hard rock, heavy metal40[31][32]
Bee Gees / Various artistsSaturday Night Fever1977Disco40[34][35]
Fleetwood MacRumours1977Soft rock40[38][39]
Whitney Houston / Various artistsThe Bodyguard1992Soundtrack/R&B, soul, pop40[44][45]

30–39 million copies

ArtistAlbumReleasedGenreMusic recording sales certification
List of music recording certifications (millions)
Claimed sales (millions)
Shania TwainCome On Over1997Country, pop39[49][50]
Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin IV1971Hard rock, heavy metal37[51]
Meat LoafBat Out of Hell1977Hard rock, progressive rock34[52]
Alanis MorissetteJagged Little Pill1995Alternative rock33[53]
The BeatlesSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band1967Rock32[54]
EaglesHotel California1976Country rock / Hard rock32[55][56]
Mariah CareyMusic Box1993Pop / R&B / Rock32[57][58][59][60][61][62]
Various artistsDirty Dancing1987Pop, rock, R&B32[63]
The Beatles12000Rock31[66]
The BeatlesAbbey Road1969Rock30[67]
Bruce SpringsteenBorn in the U.S.A.1984Rock30[68]
Celine DionFalling into You1996Pop / Soft rock30[69]
Celine DionLet's Talk About Love1997Pop / Soft rock30[71]
Dire StraitsBrothers in Arms1985Rock30[72][73]
Whitney HoustonWhitney Houston1985Pop, R&B30[74]
James HornerTitanic: Music from the Motion Picture1997Soundtrack30[77]
MadonnaThe Immaculate Collection1990Pop / Dance30[80]
MetallicaMetallica1991Thrash metal / heavy metal30[81]
Michael JacksonBad1987Pop, funk, rock30[82][83]
Michael JacksonDangerous1991Rock / Funk / Pop30[86]
Pink FloydThe Wall1979Progressive rock30[87]
SantanaSupernatural1999Rock30[88]
Guns N' RosesAppetite for Destruction1987Heavy metal / hard rock30[89][90]

20–29 million copies

ArtistAlbumReleasedGenreSales (millions)Source
ABBAGold: Greatest Hits1992Pop28[91]
Adele212011Pop, soul28[92]
Bon JoviSlippery When Wet1986Hard rock28[93]
Spice GirlsSpice1996Pop28[94]
Various artistsGrease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture1978Soundtrack28[95]
Britney Spears...Baby One More Time1999Pop26[96]
NirvanaNevermind1991Grunge / Alternative rock26[97]
Bob Marley & The WailersLegend: The Best of Bob Marley & The Wailers1984Reggae25[98]
Carole KingTapestry1971Pop25[99]
MadonnaTrue Blue1986Pop25[100]
Mariah CareyDaydream1995Pop, R&B25[101]
Norah JonesCome Away with Me2002Jazz25[102]
QueenGreatest Hits1981Rock25[103]
Simon & GarfunkelBridge over Troubled Water1970Folk rock25[104]
U2The Joshua Tree1987Rock25[105]
Backstreet BoysBackstreet's Back / Backstreet Boys1997Pop24[106]
Backstreet BoysMillennium1999Pop24[106]
Linkin ParkHybrid Theory2000Nu metal, rap metal, alternative rock24[107]
Ace of BaseHappy Nation/The Sign1993Pop23[108]
TLCCrazySexyCool1994R&B, hip hop23[109]
Oasis(What's the Story) Morning Glory?1995Britpop, rock22[110]
Bon JoviCross Road1994Hard rock21[111]
EminemThe Marshall Mathers LP2000Rap, hip-hop21[112]
MadonnaLike a Virgin1984Pop, dance21[113]
Avril LavigneLet Go2002Pop rock, alternative rock20[114]
BostonBoston1976Hard rock20[115]
Britney SpearsOops!... I Did It Again2000Pop20[116]
Def LeppardHysteria1987Pop, Hard rock20[117]
George MichaelFaith1987Pop / R&B20[118]
Eric ClaptonUnplugged1992Acoustic blues, folk rock20[119]
Lionel RichieCan't Slow Down1983Pop, R&B, soul20[120]
MadonnaRay of Light1998Pop, Dance, Electronica20[121]
Michael JacksonHIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I1995Pop, rock, R&B20[122]
Michael JacksonOff the Wall1979Soul, disco, R&B20[123]
Phil CollinsNo Jacket Required1985Pop, Rock20[124]
Prince & The RevolutionPurple Rain1984Pop, rock, R&B20[125]
Shania TwainThe Woman in Me1995Country, pop20[126]
SupertrampBreakfast in America1979Progressive rock, art rock20[127]
Tina TurnerPrivate Dancer1984Rock20[128]
UsherConfessions2004R&B20[129]
Whitney HoustonWhitney1987Pop, R&B20[130]
Green DayDookie1994Pop-punk, punk rock, alternative rock20[131]

Timeline of the highest selling albums

Timeline of the highest-selling album record
Year record setArtistAlbumRecord setting sales (millions)Total sales (millions)References
1945Various ArtistsOklahoma! (78 rpm album)0.51.0[132][133]
1956Various ArtistsOklahoma! (LP album)1.752.5[134]
1956/1957Various ArtistsMy Fair Lady25[135][136][137]
1960Various ArtistsSouth Pacific2.253[citation needed]
1963Vaughn MeaderThe First Family47.5[138][139]
1968Various ArtistsThe Sound of Music8WW[140]
1973Carole KingTapestry10+[141]
1975/1976Various ArtistsThe Sound of Music10–15SM-T[142][143]
1976Carole KingTapestry13.5SM-T25[144]
1979Bee Gees/Various ArtistsSaturday Night Fever25–2740[145][146]
1984Michael JacksonThriller3551–65[147][148]
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.

Units sold include physical copies and digital downloads.

YearAlbumArtist/sNationalitySales
(in millions)
Source
2001Hybrid TheoryLinkin Park United States[149]
2002The Eminem ShowEminem United States13.9[150]
2003Come Away with MeNorah Jones United States[151]
2004ConfessionsUsher United States[152]
2005X&YColdplay United Kingdom8.3[153]
2006High School MusicalSoundtrack7.0[154]
2007High School Musical 2Soundtrack6.0[155]
2008Viva la Vida or Death and All His FriendsColdplay United Kingdom6.8[156]
2009I Dreamed a DreamSusan Boyle United Kingdom8.3[157]
2010RecoveryEminem United States5.7[158]
201121Adele United Kingdom18.1[150]
201221Adele United Kingdom8.3[159]
2013Midnight MemoriesOne Direction United Kingdom /  Ireland4.0[160]

See also

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