Which albums had the highest number of worldwide sales?

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As has been mentioned elsewhere this site focus on success in the source charts, not on estimates of sales. In our experience most quoted sales figures are inherently untrustworthy and should normally be treated with extreme caution. However there are some music industry based organisations that are responsible for defining official "achievement levels" (like Gold and Platinum sales for example). The audits of these organisations can be trusted as evidence of sales numbers and from these we can calculate a guaranteed minimum number of sales for each album that is audited (in millions). Of course many albums have not been analysed in this way, their absence from these lists indicates only that no-one has paid for them to be audited, not that they didn't sell the required number of copies. In particular albums from the 1950s or 1960s are noticeably absent, even though a historical review would appear to suggest they should have sufficient sales. There are a number of other issues that affect these numbers, they are described in detail following the table.

This table also includes a calculation, that is our estimate of the most probable level of worldwide sales. Like all such estimates this number should be treated with some caution, we have also included a range of possible values to indicate the uncertainty of the figure. For example, our estimate of the sales of "Thriller" are in the range 48-65 million.

# Artist Album Title US (RIAA) UK (BPI) France (SNEP) Germany (BMi) Minimal Probable Range
1 Michael Jackson Thriller 27 X Platinum 11 x Platinum   3 x Platinum 30.9 56.1 48 - 65
2 Led Zeppelin Four Symbols (Led Zeppelin 4) 23 X Platinum 6 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 25.4 44.5 38 - 51
3 Eagles Eagles' Greatest Hits 1971-1975 29 X Platinum Silver     29.1 42.9 38 - 48
4 Shania Twain Come On Over 20 X Platinum 10 x Platinum Platinum Platinum 23.4 42.7 36 - 50
5 Pink Floyd The Wall 23 X Platinum Platinum   4 x Platinum 24.1 41.8 36 - 48
6 AC/DC Back In Black 22 X Platinum Gold 2 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 22.9 39.0 34 - 45
7 Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill 16 X Platinum 10 x Platinum Platinum 2 x Platinum 19.6 38.6 32 - 45
8 Whitney Houston The Bodyguard 17 X Platinum 7 x Platinum   3 x Platinum 19.7 37.3 31 - 43
9 Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon 15 X Platinum 9 x Platinum   2 x Platinum 18.1 34.7 29 - 40
10 Abba Gold, Greatest Hits 6 X Platinum 13 x Platinum Diamond 4 x Platinum 11.5 34.4 27 - 42
11 Dire Straits Brothers In Arms 9 X Platinum 13 x Platinum Diamond Platinum 13.9 33.6 27 - 40
12 Fleetwood Mac Rumours 19 X Platinum Gold Platinum 2 x Platinum 19.7 33.2 29 - 38
13 Celine Dion Falling Into You 11 X Platinum 7 x Platinum Diamond 2 x Platinum 14.3 32.2 26 - 38
14 Billy Joel Billy Joel's Greatest Hits, Volume I & Volume II 21 X Platinum Platinum     21.3 31.9 28 - 36
14 Michael Jackson Bad 8 X Platinum 13 x Platinum   4 x Platinum 12.7 31.9 26 - 39
16 Madonna The Immaculate Collection 10 X Platinum 12 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 14.2 31.5 26 - 38
16 The Beatles 1 10 X Platinum 8 x Platinum   5 x Platinum 13.4 31.5 26 - 38
18 Celine Dion Let's Talk About Love 10 X Platinum 6 x Platinum Diamond 3 x Platinum 13.2 31.4 25 - 38
19 Eagles Hotel California 16 X Platinum 6 x Platinum   Platinum 18.0 31.4 27 - 36
20 Norah Jones Come Away With Me 10 X Platinum 7 x Platinum Diamond 2 x Platinum 13.3 30.7 25 - 37
21 Guns n' Roses Appetite For Destruction 18 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Gold Gold 18.9 30.4 27 - 35
22 Santana Supernatural 15 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 16.4 30.4 26 - 35
23 The Beatles The Beatles 1962-1966 15 X Platinum Platinum   4 x Platinum 16.1 30.0 25 - 35
24 The Beatles The Beatles 1967-1970 16 X Platinum Platinum   3 x Platinum 16.9 29.8 26 - 34
25 Meatloaf Bat Out Of Hell 14 X Platinum 7 x Platinum   Platinum 16.3 29.4 25 - 34
26 Tracy Chapman Tracy Chapman 6 X Platinum 8 x Platinum Diamond 4 x Platinum 10.0 29.3 23 - 36
27 Phil Collins No Jacket Required 12 X Platinum 6 x Platinum   3 x Platinum 14.4 28.9 24 - 34
28 Mariah Carey Music Box 10 X Platinum 5 x Platinum Diamond 2 x Platinum 12.7 28.7 23 - 34
29 Bruce Springsteen Born In The USA 15 X Platinum 3 x Platinum   2 x Platinum 16.3 28.6 25 - 33
30 Bee Gees Saturday Night Fever 15 X Platinum Platinum   3 x Platinum 15.9 28.3 24 - 33
31 Britney Spears Baby One More Time 14 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 15.5 28.3 24 - 33
32 Original Soundtrack Dirty Dancing 11 X Platinum 5 x Platinum   4 x Platinum 13.3 28.2 23 - 33
33 Celine Dion & James Horner Titanic 11 X Platinum 3 x Platinum Diamond 2 x Platinum 13.1 28.1 23 - 33
34 Bob Marley Legend, The Best Of Bob Marley 10 X Platinum 6 x Platinum Diamond Platinum 12.8 27.9 23 - 33
35 Spice Girls Spice 7 X Platinum 10 x Platinum Diamond Platinum 11.0 27.6 22 - 33
36 Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti 16 X Platinum 2 x Platinum   Gold 16.7 26.4 23 - 30
37 Madonna True Blue 7 X Platinum 7 x Platinum Diamond 2 x Platinum 10.3 26.3 21 - 32
38 Nirvana Nevermind 10 X Platinum 2 x Platinum Diamond 2 x Platinum 11.8 25.6 21 - 30
39 James Blunt Back To Bedlam 2 X Platinum 10 x Platinum Diamond 4 x Platinum 6.6 25.4 19 - 32
40 U2 The Joshua Tree 10 X Platinum 6 x Platinum 2 X Gold 2 x Platinum 12.4 25.3 21 - 30
41 Boston Boston 17 X Platinum Gold     17.1 25.3 23 - 28
42 Simon & Garfunkel Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits 14 X Platinum Platinum   2 x Platinum 14.7 25.1 22 - 29
43 Michael Jackson History - Past, Present & Future, Book 1 7 X Platinum 4 x Platinum Diamond 3 x Platinum 9.6 25.0 20 - 30
44 Whitney Houston Whitney Houston 13 X Platinum 4 x Platinum   Platinum 14.4 24.9 21 - 29
45 Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 9 X Platinum 5 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 11.3 24.7 20 - 29
46 Elton John Elton John's Greatest Hits 16 X Platinum Platinum     16.3 24.5 22 - 27
47 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin 2 12 X Platinum 4 x Platinum 2 X Gold Platinum 13.6 24.5 21 - 28
48 Phil Collins ... But Seriously 4 X Platinum 8 x Platinum   6 x Platinum 7.6 24.4 19 - 30
49 Eric Clapton Unplugged 10 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 11.7 24.1 20 - 28
50 Britney Spears Oops!... I Did It Again 10 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Gold 3 x Platinum 11.7 24.0 20 - 28
51 Hootie & The Blowfish Cracked Rear View 16 X Platinum Gold     16.1 23.9 21 - 27
52 Linkin Park Hybrid Theory 10 X Platinum 4 x Platinum Platinum 2 x Platinum 11.8 23.7 20 - 28
53 ZZ Top Eliminator 10 X Platinum 4 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 11.8 23.4 20 - 27
54 Metallica Metallica 14 X Platinum Platinum   Platinum 14.5 23.3 20 - 26
55 Michael Jackson Dangerous 7 X Platinum 6 x Platinum   4 x Platinum 9.6 23.3 19 - 28
56 Shania Twain Up 11 X Platinum 2 x Platinum Platinum 2 x Platinum 12.2 23.1 20 - 27
57 Prince Purple Rain 13 X Platinum 2 x Platinum   Platinum 13.8 22.9 20 - 26
58 The Backstreet Boys Backstreet Boys 14 X Platinum Gold   Platinum 14.3 22.7 20 - 26
59 Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet 12 X Platinum 3 x Platinum   Platinum 13.1 22.4 19 - 26
60 Oasis (What's The Story) Morning Glory? 4 X Platinum 14 x Platinum Platinum Gold 8.5 22.4 18 - 27
61 Madonna Like A Virgin 10 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 11.5 22.4 19 - 26
62 Dido No Angel 4 X Platinum 9 x Platinum Diamond Platinum 7.7 22.2 17 - 27
63 The Backstreet Boys Millennium 13 X Platinum Platinum   Platinum 13.5 21.9 19 - 25
64 Madonna Ray Of Light 4 X Platinum 6 x Platinum 3 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 7.0 21.5 17 - 27
65 Mariah Carey Daydream 10 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 11.2 21.4 18 - 25
66 Whitney Houston Whitney 9 X Platinum 6 x Platinum   Platinum 11.0 21.1 18 - 25
67 Bruce Springsteen Live 1975-1985 13 X Platinum Gold Gold Gold 13.3 20.9 18 - 24
68 Coldplay X & Y 3 X Platinum 8 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 6.4 20.6 16 - 26
69 The Cranberries No Need To Argue 7 X Platinum 3 x Platinum Diamond Platinum 8.9 20.5 17 - 25
70 Eminem The Eminem Show 8 X Platinum 4 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 9.8 20.4 17 - 24
70 U2 Achtung Baby 8 X Platinum 4 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 9.8 20.4 17 - 24
72 Green Day Dookie 10 X Platinum 3 x Platinum Gold Platinum 11.2 20.0 17 - 23
73 The Fugees The Score 6 X Platinum 4 x Platinum Diamond Platinum 8.2 20.0 16 - 24
74 Original Soundtrack Top Gun 9 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 10.2 19.9 17 - 23
75 Def Leppard Hysteria 12 X Platinum 2 x Platinum     12.6 19.7 17 - 22
75 The Rolling Stones Hot Rocks - The Greatest Hits 1964-1971 12 X Platinum 2 x Platinum     12.6 19.7 17 - 22
77 Genesis We Can't Dance 4 X Platinum 5 x Platinum   5 x Platinum 6.5 19.6 15 - 24
77 George Michael Faith 10 X Platinum 4 x Platinum   Gold 11.3 19.6 17 - 23
79 The Beatles Abbey Road 12 X Platinum     Platinum 12.2 19.4 17 - 22
80 Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy 11 X Platinum Platinum 2 X Gold Gold 11.6 19.1 17 - 22
81 Boyz II Men II 12 X Platinum   Platinum   12.2 19.1 17 - 21
82 Outkast Speakerboxx & The Love Below 11 X Platinum 2 x Platinum   Gold 11.7 19.1 17 - 22
83 Celine Dion All The Way... A Decade Of Songs 7 X Platinum 2 x Platinum Platinum 3 x Platinum 8.4 19.0 15 - 23
84 Pearl Jam Ten 12 X Platinum Gold   Gold 12.2 18.9 17 - 21
85 Shania Twain The Woman In Me 12 X Platinum Platinum     12.3 18.7 17 - 21
86 Lionel Richie Can't Slow Down 10 X Platinum 3 x Platinum   Gold 11.0 18.6 16 - 21
87 Original Soundtrack Forrest Gump 12 X Platinum Gold Gold   12.2 18.5 16 - 21
88 Evanescence Fallen 7 X Platinum 3 x Platinum Platinum 2 x Platinum 8.5 18.3 15 - 22
89 Elton John The Very Best Of Elton John   9 x Platinum Diamond 2 x Platinum 3.9 18.0 13 - 23
90 Green Day American Idiot 5 X Platinum 6 x Platinum 2 X Gold 2 x Platinum 7.4 18.0 14 - 22
91 Kenny G Breathless 12 X Platinum Gold     12.1 18.0 16 - 20
92 The Beatles Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 11 X Platinum     Platinum 11.2 17.9 16 - 20
93 The Dixie Chicks Wide Open Spaces 12 X Platinum Silver     12.1 17.9 16 - 20
94 Usher Confessions 9 X Platinum 4 x Platinum Gold   10.3 17.8 15 - 20
95 No Doubt Tragic Kingdom 10 X Platinum Platinum 2 X Gold Gold 10.6 17.7 15 - 20
96 Phil Collins Face Value 5 X Platinum 5 x Platinum   3 x Platinum 7.1 17.6 14 - 21
97 MC Hammer Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em 10 X Platinum 2 x Platinum   Gold 10.7 17.6 15 - 20
98 N Sync No Strings Attached 11 X Platinum Gold   Gold 11.2 17.4 15 - 20
99 REM Out Of Time 4 X Platinum 5 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 6.3 17.3 14 - 21
100 TLC Crazysexycool 11 X Platinum Platinum     11.3 17.2 15 - 19
101 Avril Lavigne Let Go 6 X Platinum 5 x Platinum Platinum Platinum 7.9 17.1 14 - 20
102 Enya A Day Without Rain 7 X Platinum Platinum Gold 3 x Platinum 8.0 17.1 14 - 20
103 Creed Human Clay 11 X Platinum     Gold 11.1 17.0 15 - 19
104 Norah Jones Feels Like Home 4 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 5.9 17.0 13 - 21
105 Meatloaf Bat Out Of Hell II, Back Into Hell 5 X Platinum 6 x Platinum   2 x Platinum 7.2 16.9 14 - 20
106 REM Automatic For The People 4 X Platinum 6 x Platinum Platinum 2 x Platinum 6.4 16.9 13 - 21
107 Van Halen 1984 (mcmlxxxiv) 10 X Platinum Gold   Platinum 10.3 16.8 15 - 19
108 Destiny's Child The Writing's On The Wall 8 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Gold Gold 9.2 16.8 14 - 19
109 Robbie Williams Intensive Care   5 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 5 x Platinum 2.9 16.6 12 - 21
110 Simply Red Stars Gold 12 x Platinum   2 x Platinum 4.5 16.4 12 - 21
111 Kid Rock Devil Without A Cause 11 X Platinum Silver     11.1 16.4 15 - 18
112 Queen Queen's Greatest Hits I   11 x Platinum   3 x Platinum 3.9 16.4 12 - 21
113 Will Smith Big Willie Style 9 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Gold   9.8 16.3 14 - 19
114 Robbie Williams Swing When You're Winning   7 x Platinum Gold 5 x Platinum 3.2 16.3 12 - 21
115 Original Soundtrack Grease: The Original Soundtrack 8 X Platinum Platinum   2 x Platinum 8.7 16.3 14 - 19
116 Guns n' Roses Use Your Illusion I 7 X Platinum Platinum Platinum 2 x Platinum 7.9 16.2 13 - 19
117 Celine Dion The Colour Of My Love 6 X Platinum 5 x Platinum Platinum Gold 7.8 16.2 13 - 19
118 Neil Young Harvest 4 X Platinum 3 x Platinum Diamond Platinum 5.9 16.1 13 - 20
119 Fleetwood Mac Tango In The Night 3 X Platinum 8 x Platinum   2 x Platinum 5.8 16.0 13 - 20
120 Simon & Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water 8 X Platinum Platinum Platinum Platinum 8.7 16.0 14 - 18
121 Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' Greatest Hits 10 X Platinum Gold   Gold 10.2 15.9 14 - 18
121 Van Halen Van Halen 10 X Platinum Gold   Gold 10.2 15.9 14 - 18
123 Bon Jovi Crossroad - The Best Of Bon Jovi 4 X Platinum 5 x Platinum Platinum 2 x Platinum 6.1 15.9 13 - 19
124 Madonna Music 3 X Platinum 5 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 5.3 15.8 12 - 20
125 Michael Bolton Time, Love & Tenderness 8 X Platinum 4 x Platinum     9.2 15.8 14 - 18
126 Coldplay A Rush Of Blood To The Head 4 X Platinum 7 x Platinum 2 X Gold Platinum 6.5 15.8 13 - 19
127 Stevie Wonder Songs In The Key Of Life 10 X Platinum Platinum     10.3 15.7 14 - 18
128 The Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness 9 X Platinum Platinum Platinum   9.5 15.7 14 - 18
129 2Pac 2Pac's Greatest Hits 9 X Platinum Platinum Gold Gold 9.5 15.7 14 - 18
130 Paul Simon Graceland 5 X Platinum 5 x Platinum Platinum Platinum 6.9 15.6 13 - 19
131 N Sync 'N Sync 10 X Platinum     Gold 10.1 15.6 14 - 17
131 Spice Girls Spiceworld 4 X Platinum 5 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 6.1 15.6 12 - 19
133 Disney The Lion King 10 X Platinum Silver Gold   10.1 15.4 14 - 17
134 Amy Winehouse Back to Black 2 X Platinum 6 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 4.6 15.4 12 - 19
135 Bryan Adams So Far So Good 5 X Platinum 3 x Platinum Platinum 2 x Platinum 6.5 15.3 12 - 18
136 Phil Collins Serious Hits, Live! 4 X Platinum 4 x Platinum   3 x Platinum 5.8 15.1 12 - 18
137 Queen Greatest Hits II   8 x Platinum   4 x Platinum 3.2 15.1 11 - 19
138 Alicia Keys Songs In 'A' Minor 6 X Platinum 3 x Platinum Platinum Platinum 7.3 15.0 12 - 18
138 Billy Joel The Stranger 10 X Platinum Gold     10.1 15.0 13 - 17
138 Garth Brooks The Hits 10 X Platinum Gold     10.1 15.0 13 - 17
141 Def Leppard Pyromania 10 X Platinum Silver     10.1 14.9 13 - 17
141 Garth Brooks Sevens 10 X Platinum Silver     10.1 14.9 13 - 17
141 The Doobie Brothers Best Of The Doobies 10 X Platinum Silver     10.1 14.9 13 - 17
141 The Doors The Best Of The Doors 10 X Platinum Silver     10.1 14.9 13 - 17
145 Lauryn Hill The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill 8 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Gold   8.8 14.9 13 - 17
146 Guns n' Roses Use Your Illusion II 7 X Platinum Platinum   2 x Platinum 7.7 14.8 12 - 17
147 R Kelly R. 8 X Platinum Platinum 2 X Gold Gold 8.6 14.7 13 - 17
148 New Kids On The Block Hangin' Tough 8 X Platinum 2 x Platinum   Gold 8.7 14.7 13 - 17
148 The Beatles Anthology 1 8 X Platinum 2 x Platinum   Gold 8.7 14.7 13 - 17
150 Original Soundtrack Footloose 9 X Platinum Gold 2 X Gold   9.3 14.7 13 - 17
151 Genesis Invisible Touch 6 X Platinum 4 x Platinum   Platinum 7.4 14.6 12 - 17
151 Kelly Clarkson Breakaway 6 X Platinum 4 x Platinum   Platinum 7.4 14.6 12 - 17
153 Madonna Like A Prayer 4 X Platinum 4 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 5.8 14.6 12 - 18
154 Red Hot Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Magik 7 X Platinum Platinum Platinum Platinum 7.7 14.5 12 - 17
155 Robbie Williams Escapology   6 x Platinum Platinum 4 x Platinum 2.8 14.5 11 - 19
155 Robbie Williams Robbie Williams' Greatest Hits   6 x Platinum Platinum 4 x Platinum 2.8 14.5 11 - 19
157 Madonna Confessions On A Dance Floor Platinum 4 x Platinum Diamond 2 x Platinum 3.4 14.4 11 - 18
158 Toni Braxton Secrets 8 X Platinum 2 x Platinum Gold   8.7 14.3 12 - 16
159 Moby Play 2 X Platinum 5 x Platinum Diamond Gold 4.4 14.3 11 - 18
160 Linkin Park Meteora 4 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 5.4 14.3 11 - 17
161 Mariah Carey Mariah Carey 9 X Platinum Platinum     9.3 14.3 13 - 16
162 Nickelback Silver Side Up 6 X Platinum 3 x Platinum Gold Platinum 7.2 14.1 12 - 17
163 Andrew Lloyd Webber Phantom Of The Opera 4 X Platinum 3 x Platinum   3 x Platinum 5.5 14.1 11 - 17
164 Bon Jovi New Jersey 7 X Platinum 2 x Platinum   Platinum 7.8 14.1 12 - 16
165 Shakira Fijacion oral - Vol. 1 8 X Platinum   Gold Platinum 8.3 14.0 12 - 16
166 The Eurythmics The Eurythmics' Greatest Hits 3 X Platinum 6 x Platinum   2 x Platinum 5.2 14.0 11 - 17
167 Tina Turner Private Dancer 5 X Platinum 3 x Platinum   2 x Platinum 6.3 13.9 11 - 17
168 The Backstreet Boys Black & Blue 8 X Platinum Gold   Platinum 8.3 13.8 12 - 16
169 Phil Collins Hello, I Must Be Going! 3 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 4.7 13.8 11 - 17
170 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin 8 X Platinum 2 x Platinum     8.6 13.8 12 - 16
171 Maroon 5 Songs About Jane 4 X Platinum 5 x Platinum 2 X Gold Platinum 5.9 13.8 11 - 17
172 Wham! Make It Big 6 X Platinum 4 x Platinum   Gold 7.3 13.8 12 - 16
173 U2 Rattle & Hum 5 X Platinum 4 x Platinum Gold Platinum 6.5 13.7 11 - 16
174 The Police Synchronicity 8 X Platinum Platinum   Gold 8.4 13.6 12 - 15
175 Nelly Furtado Loose Platinum 2 x Platinum Platinum 5 x Platinum 2.8 13.6 10 - 17
176 Aerosmith Get A Grip 7 X Platinum Platinum Gold Platinum 7.6 13.6 12 - 16
177 Billy Ray Cyrus Some Gave All 9 X Platinum Gold     9.1 13.6 12 - 15
177 Boyz II Men Cooleyhighharmony 9 X Platinum Gold     9.1 13.6 12 - 15
177 The Beastie Boys Licensed To Ill 9 X Platinum Gold     9.1 13.6 12 - 15
180 Pink Missundaztood 5 X Platinum 5 x Platinum 2 X Gold   6.7 13.5 11 - 16
181 Santana Santana's Greatest Hits 7 X Platinum Gold 2 X Gold Platinum 7.5 13.4 11 - 16
182 2Pac All Eyez On Me 9 X Platinum Silver     9.1 13.4 12 - 15
182 Nelly Country Grammar 9 X Platinum Silver     9.1 13.4 12 - 15
182 REO Speedwagon Hi Infidelity 9 X Platinum Silver     9.1 13.4 12 - 15
185 Billy Joel An Innocent Man 7 X Platinum 3 x Platinum     7.9 13.3 12 - 15
186 Red Hot Chili Peppers Californication 5 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Gold Platinum 6.3 13.2 11 - 16
187 Savage Garden Savage Garden 7 X Platinum 2 x Platinum   Gold 7.7 13.2 11 - 15
188 Phil Collins ... Hits 3 X Platinum 4 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 4.8 13.1 10 - 16
189 Dido Life For Rent 2 X Platinum 7 x Platinum 2 X Platinum   4.5 12.9 10 - 16
190 Queen Made In Heaven Gold 4 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2.7 12.9 10 - 16
190 Michael Bolton Soul Provider 6 X Platinum 4 x Platinum     7.2 12.9 11 - 15
192 Sheryl Crow Tuesday Night Music Club 7 X Platinum 2 x Platinum Gold   7.7 12.9 11 - 15
193 Metallica ...and Justice For All 8 X Platinum Silver   Gold 8.2 12.8 11 - 14
194 Janet Jackson Janet 6 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Gold Gold 6.9 12.8 11 - 15
195 Shakira Laundry Service 3 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 4.4 12.8 10 - 16
196 Enya Watermark 4 X Platinum 4 x Platinum 2 X Gold Platinum 5.6 12.8 10 - 15
197 Michael Jackson Off The Wall 7 X Platinum Platinum Platinum   7.5 12.8 11 - 15
198 INXS Kick 6 X Platinum 3 x Platinum   Gold 7.0 12.7 11 - 15
199 Ricky Martin Ricky Martin 7 X Platinum Platinum Gold Gold 7.5 12.7 11 - 15
200 Christina Aguilera Stripped 4 X Platinum 5 x Platinum   Platinum 5.7 12.7 10 - 15
201 Ace of Base Happy Nation   2 x Platinum Diamond 3 x Platinum 2.0 12.6 9 - 16
202 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Deja Vu 7 X Platinum   Platinum Gold 7.3 12.6 11 - 14
203 Andrea Bocelli Romanza 3 X Platinum Platinum Diamond Platinum 4.3 12.6 10 - 15
204 Bruce Springsteen Bruce Springsteen's Greatest Hits 4 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Gold 2 x Platinum 5.2 12.5 10 - 15
205 Shaggy Hot Shot 6 X Platinum 3 x Platinum Gold   7.0 12.4 11 - 14
206 Enigma MCMXC AD 4 X Platinum 3 x Platinum   2 x Platinum 5.3 12.4 10 - 15
207 AC/DC Highway To Hell 7 X Platinum Gold   Platinum 7.3 12.4 11 - 14
208 Bobby Brown Don't Be Cruel 7 X Platinum 2 x Platinum     7.6 12.3 11 - 14
208 Nickelback All The Right Reasons 7 X Platinum 2 x Platinum     7.6 12.3 11 - 14
210 Enya Shepherd Moons 5 X Platinum 4 x Platinum   Gold 6.3 12.3 10 - 14
211 50 Cent Get Rich Or Die Tryin' 6 X Platinum 2 x Platinum Gold Gold 6.8 12.3 10 - 14
212 Keane Hopes & Fears Gold 9 x Platinum Platinum Gold 3.5 12.2 9 - 15
212 The Corrs Talk On Corners Gold 9 x Platinum Platinum Gold 3.5 12.2 9 - 15
214 Peter Gabriel So 5 X Platinum 3 x Platinum   Platinum 6.1 12.1 10 - 14
215 Offspring Americana 5 X Platinum Platinum 2 X Platinum Gold 5.8 12.1 10 - 14
216 Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band's Greatest Hits 8 X Platinum Gold     8.1 12.1 11 - 14
216 Christina Aguilera Christina Aguilera 8 X Platinum Gold     8.1 12.1 11 - 14
216 Creedence Clearwater Revival Chronicle 8 X Platinum Gold     8.1 12.1 11 - 14
216 Eagles Hell Freezes Over 8 X Platinum Gold     8.1 12.1 11 - 14
216 Garth Brooks In Pieces 8 X Platinum Gold     8.1 12.1 11 - 14
216 The Rolling Stones Forty Licks 4 X Platinum 3 x Platinum Platinum Platinum 5.3 12.1 10 - 14
216 Toni Braxton Toni Braxton 8 X Platinum Gold     8.1 12.1 11 - 14
223 Robbie Williams I've Been Expecting You   10 x Platinum 2 X Gold Gold 3.3 12.1 9 - 15
224 Elton John Love Songs 3 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 4.5 12.1 10 - 15
225 Coldplay Parachutes 2 X Platinum 7 x Platinum 2 X Gold Gold 4.4 12.0 9 - 15
226 Live Throwing Copper 8 X Platinum Silver     8.1 12.0 11 - 13
226 Stone Temple Pilots Core 8 X Platinum Silver     8.1 12.0 11 - 13
228 Whitney Houston My Love Is Your Love 4 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Platinum   5.3 11.8 10 - 14
229 George Michael Ladies & Gentlemen - The Best Of George Michael 2 X Platinum 7 x Platinum   Platinum 4.3 11.8 9 - 14
230 Destiny's Child Survivor 4 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Gold Platinum 5.3 11.7 10 - 14
230 Eminem Encore 4 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Gold Platinum 5.3 11.7 10 - 14
230 REM Monster 4 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Gold Platinum 5.3 11.7 10 - 14
233 Nelly Nellyville 6 X Platinum 2 x Platinum   Gold 6.7 11.7 10 - 13
234 Eagles The Long Run 7 X Platinum Gold 2 X Gold   7.3 11.7 10 - 13
235 Sade Diamond Life 4 X Platinum 4 x Platinum   Platinum 5.4 11.7 10 - 14
236 U2 War 4 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Gold 5.1 11.7 9 - 14
237 U2 How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb 3 X Platinum 4 x Platinum Platinum Platinum 4.6 11.6 9 - 14
238 Lionel Richie Back To Front Platinum 4 x Platinum 3 X Platinum Platinum 3.0 11.6 9 - 15
239 Anastacia Anastacia   4 x Platinum Gold 4 x Platinum 2.1 11.5 8 - 15
240 Aerosmith Pump 7 X Platinum Gold   Gold 7.2 11.5 10 - 13
240 Jackson Browne Running On Empty 7 X Platinum Gold   Gold 7.2 11.5 10 - 13
242 Celine Dion A New Day Has Come 3 X Platinum Platinum 3 X Platinum Platinum 4.1 11.5 9 - 14
243 The Police Every Breath You Take - The Singles 5 X Platinum 4 x Platinum     6.2 11.4 10 - 13
244 Mariah Carey The Emancipation Of Mimi 6 X Platinum 2 x Platinum Gold   6.7 11.4 10 - 13
245 Foreigner Records 7 X Platinum Silver   Gold 7.2 11.4 10 - 13
245 Limp Bizkit Significant Other 7 X Platinum Silver   Gold 7.2 11.4 10 - 13
247 Tina Turner Simply The Best Platinum 8 x Platinum   Platinum 3.6 11.3 9 - 14
248 Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 7 X Platinum Platinum     7.3 11.3 10 - 13
248 Paula Abdul Forever Your Girl 7 X Platinum Platinum     7.3 11.3 10 - 13
248 The Carpenters The Singles 1969-1973 7 X Platinum Platinum     7.3 11.3 10 - 13
248 Vanilla Ice To The Extreme 7 X Platinum Platinum     7.3 11.3 10 - 13
252 Bryan Adams Reckless 5 X Platinum 3 x Platinum   Gold 6.0 11.3 10 - 13
252 Tears For Fears Songs From The Big Chair 5 X Platinum 3 x Platinum   Gold 6.0 11.3 10 - 13
254 Nirvana Unplugged In New York 5 X Platinum Platinum 2 X Platinum   5.7 11.3 9 - 13
255 Justin Timberlake FutureSex / LoveSounds 4 X Platinum 3 x Platinum Platinum Gold 5.2 11.2 9 - 13
256 Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo & Luciano Pavarotti In Concert 3 X Platinum 5 x Platinum   Platinum 4.7 11.2 9 - 14
257 Red Hot Chili Peppers By The Way 2 X Platinum 5 x Platinum Platinum Platinum 3.9 11.2 9 - 14
258 AC/DC The Razor's Edge 5 X Platinum Gold   2 x Platinum 5.5 11.2 9 - 13
258 Pink I'm Not Dead Platinum 3 x Platinum Platinum 3 x Platinum 2.7 11.2 8 - 14
258 Eagles Long Road out of Eden 7 X Platinum     Gold 7.1 11.2 10 - 13
261 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin 3 6 X Platinum   Platinum Gold 6.3 11.1 10 - 13
262 Madonna Evita 5 X Platinum 2 x Platinum   Platinum 5.8 11.1 9 - 13
263 Sade Promise 4 X Platinum 2 x Platinum Platinum Platinum 5.0 11.1 9 - 13
264 Pink Floyd The Division Bell 3 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Platinum Platinum 4.2 11.1 9 - 13
265 Eros Ramazzotti Eros 2 X Platinum   2 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 3.0 11.0 8 - 14
265 The Verve Urban Hymns Platinum 8 x Platinum Platinum   3.6 11.0 9 - 14
267 Simply Red A New Flame Gold 7 x Platinum Platinum Platinum 3.0 11.0 8 - 14
268 Foreigner 4 6 X Platinum Gold   Platinum 6.3 10.9 9 - 13
268 Original Soundtrack Flashdance 6 X Platinum Gold   Platinum 6.3 10.9 9 - 13
268 Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here 6 X Platinum Gold   Platinum 6.3 10.9 9 - 13
271 Coldplay Viva La Vida Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2.7 10.9 8 - 14
272 Cher Believe 4 X Platinum   Platinum 2 x Platinum 4.6 10.8 9 - 13
273 Eagles The Very Best Of The Eagles 5 X Platinum 2 x Platinum Gold Gold 5.8 10.8 9 - 13
274 AC/DC Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap 6 X Platinum Silver   Platinum 6.3 10.8 9 - 12
275 George Michael Older Platinum 6 x Platinum Platinum Platinum 3.2 10.7 8 - 13
276 Beyonce Dangerously In Love 4 X Platinum 2 x Platinum 2 X Gold Platinum 5.0 10.7 9 - 13
277 Men At Work Business As Usual 6 X Platinum Platinum   Gold 6.4 10.7 9 - 12
278 Christopher Cross Christopher Cross 5 X Platinum Platinum Platinum Gold 5.6 10.7 9 - 12
279 Bryan Adams Waking Up The Neighbours 4 X Platinum 3 x Platinum   Platinum 5.1 10.7 9 - 13
279 Guns n' Roses Guns & Roses' Greatest Hits 4 X Platinum 3 x Platinum   Platinum 5.1 10.7 9 - 13
281 50 Cent The Massacre 5 X Platinum Platinum Gold Platinum 5.6 10.6 9 - 12
282 Billy Joel 52nd Street 7 X Platinum Gold     7.1 10.6 9 - 12
282 Billy Joel Glass Houses 7 X Platinum Gold     7.1 10.6 9 - 12
282 Counting Crows August & Everything After 7 X Platinum Gold     7.1 10.6 9 - 12
282 Eagles Eagles Live 7 X Platinum Gold     7.1 10.6 9 - 12
282 Eric Clapton Time Pieces, The Best Of Eric Clapton 7 X Platinum Gold     7.1 10.6 9 - 12
282 Garth Brooks Fresh Horses 7 X Platinum Gold     7.1 10.6 9 - 12
282 Huey Lewis & The News Sports 7 X Platinum Gold     7.1 10.6 9 - 12
282 Pearl Jam Vs 7 X Platinum Gold     7.1 10.6 9 - 12
282 U2 U2 Live 'Under A Blood Red Sky' 3 X Platinum 3 x Platinum Platinum Platinum 4.3 10.6 9 - 13
291 David Gray White Ladder Platinum 9 x Platinum     3.7 10.6 8 - 13
292 Cyndi Lauper She's So Unusual 6 X Platinum Gold Gold Gold 6.3 10.6 9 - 12
292 Limp Bizkit Chocolate Starfish & The Hot Dog Flavoured Water 6 X Platinum Gold Gold Gold 6.3 10.6 9 - 12
294 Boston Don't Look Back 7 X Platinum Silver     7.1 10.5 9 - 12
295 Mika Life in Cartoon Motion   5 x Platinum Diamond   2.3 10.5 8 - 13
296 Julio Iglesias Tango 6 X Platinum Silver Platinum   6.3 10.5 9 - 12
297 Robbie Williams Sing When You're Winning   8 x Platinum Gold Platinum 2.7 10.4 8 - 13
298 Bruce Springsteen Born To Run 6 X Platinum Platinum Gold   6.4 10.4 9 - 12
298 TLC Fanmail 6 X Platinum Platinum Gold   6.4 10.4 9 - 12
300 Bruce Springsteen The River 5 X Platinum Platinum 2 X Gold Gold 5.6 10.3 9 - 12
301 Madonna Something To Remember 3 X Platinum 3 x Platinum 2 X Gold Platinum 4.3 10.3 8 - 12
302 The Beatles Live At The BBC 4 X Platinum 2 x Platinum Platinum Gold 4.9 10.2 8 - 12
303 Enrique Iglesias Escape 3 X Platinum 4 x Platinum   Platinum 4.4 10.2 8 - 12
303 Whitney Houston Whitney Houston's Greatest Hits 3 X Platinum 4 x Platinum   Platinum 4.4 10.2 8 - 12
305 The Black Eyed Peas Elephunk 2 X Platinum 4 x Platinum Platinum Platinum 3.6 10.2 8 - 12
306 ZZ Top ZZ Top's Greatest Hits 3 X Platinum Gold Diamond   3.9 10.2 8 - 12
307 Barbra Streisand Guilty 5 X Platinum Platinum   Platinum 5.5 10.1 9 - 12
307 Billy Joel River Of Dreams 5 X Platinum Platinum   Platinum 5.5 10.1 9 - 12
307 ZZ Top Afterburner 5 X Platinum Platinum   Platinum 5.5 10.1 9 - 12
310 Britney Spears Britney 4 X Platinum Platinum Platinum Platinum 4.7 10.1 8 - 12
311 Creed Weathered 6 X Platinum Gold   Gold 6.2 10.0 9 - 11
311 Dr Dre 2001 6 X Platinum Gold   Gold 6.2 10.0 9 - 11
313 Justin Timberlake Justified 3 X Platinum 5 x Platinum Gold   4.6 10.0 8 - 12
314 REM In Time, The Best Of REM 1988-2003 Platinum 5 x Platinum   2 x Platinum 2.9 10.0 8 - 13
315 Nirvana In Utero 5 X Platinum Gold Platinum Gold 5.4 10.0 8 - 12
316 Metallica Load 5 X Platinum Gold Gold Platinum 5.4 10.0 8 - 12

Number of copies

Of course the numbers indicated in this table are for legitimate sales, they provide no details of the number of actual copies out there. As an example during the 1960s and 1970s the sale of music by The Beatles was illegal in the Soviet Union, as a consequence there was a thriving black market in bootleg copies of their albums and copied photographs. Even when these restrictions were relaxed in the early 1980s the local music publishers sold enough of their music for at least one current record company to claim that it was originally financed by the unauthorised sales of Beatles music. Until the mid 1980s there was no attempt to place this business on a legal footing.

Looking at the music revenue as a percentage of GDP suggests that China, Brazil, Russia, Mexico and possibly Italy all sell significant numbers of albums without reporting them, these sales are not included in the above figures. The numbers here indicate approved sales, not the number of copies that exist. Of course it is difficult to guess which artists and albums are most involved.

Organisations

The four organisations that have been used are the official bodies in the four biggest relevant markets. Each of these groups issues the sales certificates for a particular country. They all will only audit album sales if a record company both requests and pays for the work, which means that only albums that someone is interested in promoting get examined.

RIAA for the USA

The "Record Industry Association of America" certifies albums sold in the USA. A level of "Gold" indicates 0.5 million sales, "Platinum" 1 million sales, "2 x Platinum" 2 million sales and so on. The information shown here is from www.riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php.

There is some confusion in the sources about the way that RIAA counts double albums. Sources indicate that sales of most double albums are counted as two records, so selling 5.5 million copies of, for example, "Speakerboxx & The Love Below" (a double CD) results in a "11 x Platinum" award. However some sources clarify this as only being true for records of longer than a certain duration and state that, for example "The Wall" was short enough for its "23 X Platinum" to indicate 23 million sales. In addition the packaging can vary between vinyl and CD, so for example "Grease: The Original Soundtrack" was a double LP (all sales counting twice) but only a single CD. For this table we have elected to just ignore all these issues.

BPI for the UK

The "British Phonographic Industry Ltd" certifies albums sold in the UK. The levels listed here are "Silver" 60,000 sales, "Gold" 100,000 sales, "Platinum" 300,000 sales and "Multi-Platinum" which indicate multiples of 300,000 sales. This data can be examined at www.bpi.co.uk/certifiedawards/Search.asp x.

SNEP for France

The "Syndicat National de l' Edition Phonographique" certifies albums sold in France. The levels listed are "Gold" 75,000 sales, "Platinum" 200,000 sales and "Diamond" 750,000 sales. This data comes from www.disqueenfrance.com/.

BMi for Germany

"Bundesverband Musikindustrie" has certified albums sold in Germany since 1975. The levels are "Gold" 100,000 sales and "Platinum" 200,000 sales, but then rather oddly "3 X Gold" 300,000 sales and "2 x Platinum" 400,000 sales and so on. There are also some albums certified as "10 X Gold" (rather than "5 x Platinum" for some reason), our guess is that has to do with the logical way that Germans think. This data came from www.musikindustrie.de/gold_platin_datenb ank.html, unfortunately a really bad web site design makes it quite difficult to discover album certifications especially for groups towards the end of the alphabet for any year after 1995.

World Market

You will have noticed that the definition of, for example a "Gold" record varies from country to country, this is because it is tied to the anticipated sales in each country. When considering the possible global sales of albums the relative size of the market in different countries has to be taken into account. The IFPI list music revenue from the top 30 countries at www.ifpi.org/content/section_statistics/ index.html. This shows that the distribution of sales in 2003 was:

Region Countries Market Code Market Share
United States 11847.9 us 34.8%
Japan 5261 jp 15.4%
United Kingdom 3566.6 uk 10.5%
France 2323.5 fr 6.8%
Germany 2242 de 6.6%
Southern Europe Italy, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Greece 2210.2 seu 6.5%
Northern Europe Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland 1925.1 neu 5.6%
Anglophone Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand 1804.8 eng 5.3%
Others Russian Federation, Mexico, Brazil, China, South Korea, Turkey, India, Taiwan, Thailand, Poland, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Hungary, Argentina, Colombia, Singapore, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Israel, Chile, Malaysia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Romania, Philippines, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Croatia, Slovenia, Egypt, Slovakia, Zimbabwe, Kuwait, Latvia, Ecuador, Estonia, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Venezuela, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Uruguay, Peru, Paraguay 2936 row 8.6%

The album sales figures for the US, UK, France and Germany have been calculated from the certification levels. The Japanese market is 15% of the global one, however it is dominated by local music that does not sell much outside the country. For this reason the Japanese market for international albums is actually less than 2% of the World market. The other markets also have significant local content, indeed once that is taken into account the four "regions" above each represent about the same size of adjusted global market. Once all that is taken into account the expected sales of an album should be 7x in the US, 2x in the UK and 1x each in France, Germany, Southern Europe, Northern Europe, Anglophone and everywhere else. That is the four major markets we have certifications for should be 11/15 (that is 73%) of the total.

Even without reducing Japan the four largest markets represent 68% (that is about 2/3rds) of the world's market. So if, for example, "Thriller" sold 40 million copies in those four markets then the expected total global sales would be 60 million. If someone were to claim global sales of, for example 100 million, that would require the rest of the world to have purchased 60 million copies, or 3 times the anticipate sales (and that's already assuming the album is the best selling one ever). For those sales levels to be correct the album would have to have been 3 times as successful as its nearest rival, which of course would have to show up in the charts of the majority of other countries (and clearly doesn't). So any claim of more than 100 million sales for "Thriller" would be obviously ludicrous.

In our calculation we used the 68% figure (rather than 73%), this means that we are overestimating the sales, however since this error affects all albums we will stay with this inflated figure.

Calculating the Probable sales

The minimal sales figure represents a guaranteed certified absolute minimum of the album's sales. But this is a low estimate, both because the sales were audited some time in the past and extra sales have happened since then, and also because other smaller markets must have additional sales. So in order to estimate the actual sales we first need to take into account the underestimate of sales in the given markets, then we have to take account of the remaining market in other countries.

The certified sales for the US are generally accepted as a reasonable estimate of sales. When the total number of certified sales for the other markets are compared it can be seen that they are always more cautious about sales estimates than the RIAA. If we accept the US numbers then we should expect the actual numbers for the other markets to be higher, as shown in the "Expected" column below. We can therefore calculate an "Adjustment" factor for each market.

MarketMarketCertifiedExpectedAdjustment
United States34.8%12036.312036.331.0
United Kingdom10.5%1553.23623.32.3
France6.8%481.12360.54.9
Germany6.6%385.02277.75.9

So the bare numbers are multiplied by the factor to estimate the actual sales in each of the four markets. Now this number represents 68% of the global market, so we can multiply this figure by 1.471 (that is 1/0.68) to get an estimate of the total worldwide sales. This estimate of the rest of the world's sales has quite a lot of uncertainty. It is reasonable to assume that the extra sales have a Normal distribution so we can estimate a range that has a reasonable chance of hitting the correct figure (68%).

Sales over time

As was mentioned the certification authorities started work in the 1970s. This means that reliable sales numbers are not available for albums released before about 1980. As the greatest album page has shown the impact on the chart of, for example some albums from The Beatles, was massive. Yet albums like "Rubber Soul", "Revolver" and "Let it Be" are not even in the above list. Can that possibly be accurate, or has the focus on recent sales resulted in a systematic underestimate of historical sales?

US Sales 1990-2005

We can start to explore the question of historical sales levels with a set of numbers from the RIAA for the US music market over the period 1990-2005. This illustrates how the US revenue from music has changed over the last 15 years, however this series of data only starts in 1990, much too late to answer our question.

Gold Disks 1955-2007

Here is another indicator, the number of Gold disks awarded by the RIAA since 1955. One way to view this says that the number of certified disks in 1970 was roughly half that in 1990 so the ratio of sales should be about the same. Awards are always retrospective, so one might worry that this assumption is too simplistic. However it is reasonable to assume that the rate of new awards in any year is related to the number of candidates passing the threshold for the award within that year, in other words the the number of awards is proportional to sales in that year, even if the bulk of the album's sales were obtained in previous years. In fact it is easy to see that this measure will exagerate the volume of sales as time goes on, since the number of candidates for awards is always being added to.

US Market 1955-2007

So the sales for 1990-2005 and the number of gold records both help to hint at the trend in market size. Using a combination of other such indicators we can estimate the music market sales for the US for a much longer period.

World Music Market 1955-2007

We can make some reasonable assumptions about how the balance of music sales changed from the US led music scene of the 1950s to today's more global market (with the US accounting for just over 1/3 of the sales). This results in the above estimate of the value of the global music market from 1955-2007.

World Music Sales 1955-2007

Finally, if inflation and the changing cost of albums is taken into account the above plot shows how the real global music revenue has changed over the last 50 years. There are two factors that complicate the interpretation of the peak between 1970 and 1980, first this era was dominated by the sale of singles rather than albums, and second the adjustment to account for the relative cost of albums may be too severe.

Unit shipment numbers from Japan suggest that contemporary sales of music in the 1960s was between one third and a quarter of the volumes in the late 1990s. For the well-known albums on this list (i.e. ones that continue to sell) it is reasonable to assume that they have doubled this number in the subsequent 40 years.

Taking all these factors into account it is reasonable to suggest that total sales of top hit albums from the late 1960s are at least 50% of those in the 1990s. So we should expect that a "major hit" album of 1965, such as "Rubber Soul" would have something like half the sales of an equivalent album from 1995, like "Jagged Little Pill". However the estimated sales of "Rubber Soul" are less than a quarter of "Jagged Little Pill". This appears to indicate that the low representation in this sales lists of The Beatles (and of course all the other top acts of the 50s, 60s and early 70s) are connected with the process of auditing rather than reflecting the actual sales numbers of their records.

Of course it is interesting to compare this analysis of the global sales with the long term trends that can be seen in the charts.

As with all the complex calculations described on the site you can decide to try out a different approach, the available CSV File gives you all the data you need. If your analysis shows something interesting we will be interested to hear about it.

Source Data

These results were generated from data version 1.8.0065 of the data.

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Previous Comments (newest first)

31 Mar 2014

iron maiden

Iron Maiden


6 Jul 2013

music

Where is Billy Idol!

His best rated (for this list anyway) album "Vital Idol" only has US Platinum, UK Platinum and Germany Gold, way short of the total required to make this list.


15 Feb 2013

Scorpions?

What about Scorpions? LOVE AT FIRST STING > 9.000.000 CRAZY WORLD > 15.000.000 1972-1979: > 11.000.000 1980-1989: > 33.000.000 1990.1999: > 29.500.000 2000-2009: > 9.000.000 ------------------------------------ > 82.500.000 + + the singles(still loving you,Rock you like a hurricane,wind of change....etc. +compilations,live albums? They should be on some of your chart!


9 Feb 2013

Live - Throwing Copper

This album has a shot at 10M don't you think? It sold about 8M in America only... that's a "minimum" of 8M...

Also you put Counting Crows' August album but it probably sold less than Live's.

We suspect you are right, but we follow a fairly simplistic route to get to our numbers, no "reasonable tweaking" is allowed here


5 Feb 2013

Iron maiden sales

These are the actual Iron maiden sales As of Jan 2012

1.Iron maiden - 5 million 2.Killers ++ +- 6 million 3.Numner of the beast - 14 million 4.Piece of mind -+ 8 million 5.Powerslave ++ -+ 7 million 6.Somewhere in time - 6.5 million 7.Seventh son of a seventh son - 7 million 8.No prayer for the dying - 6 million 9.Fear of the Dark -+ 5 million 10.X factor +- 1 million 11. Virtual XII - 0.75 million 12. Brave new world - 4 million 13. Dance of death +- 3.5 million 14. A matter of life and death - 4 million 15. The final frontier -+ 3 million

Live Albums Live after death - 8.5 million Maiden england + - 1.5million A real live one +- 2 million A real Dead one +- 1 million Rock in Rio ++ + - 1 million Death on the road - 1 million

Compilations Best of the beast - 3 million Edward the great +- 1 million Somewhere in time - 1.5 million

Their certifications Only support 20 - 25% of their total sales, which is mainly because they were a non- commercial band,However their high grossing tours, Eventually made many sales statistics information collectors collect a detailed info on their sales. The only eact sales certifications they got was the RIAA certifications.

Their sales in europe are far more than the sales indicated in certifications.

Powerslave, Live after death, NUmber of the beast eventually sold 2 million copies in the US. But they were never certified as double platinums.

Iron maiden are one of the very few bands, and as far as i know the only band to achieve high sales as a non commercial band.

We don't trust sales figures from anyone (even ourselves).

I do remember taking a guy in a wheelchair to a gig of theirs on Holloway Road in early 1979 (SteveH)


27 Jan 2013

SCORPIONS

crazy world from scorpions sold around 11-12 million in the world .... can you find if its true and by the way since im here ehheeheh can you know the sales from scorpions

cheers from Portugal

Nuno Nabais

We don't trust any claims of "worldwide sales" (even our own). So our answer would have to be we don't know


24 Jan 2013

The Beatles

It always amuses me that Michael Jackson fans think that MJ was the biggeststar in music. And yet, he was not. His sales began to decline after the early 90s, and if it was not for his death, those sales would remain in decline. However, the Beatles continue to sell to each new generation as if they were a new act. Every several years there appears to be a new wave of Beatlemania sales. Great music will live forver.


18 Nov 2012

Robbie Williams

Hi could i know once for all how many records has sold TO date? Thanks

You can't. The real answer is no one knows.


3 Nov 2012

Mariah Carey sales far from the correct values

Hello, I'm writing this email as I was really surprised with some of the chart's numbers. Starting by saying that Bodyguard has is the best selling album for a female artists and being the only one achieving the 40 M rank.

Music box and other albums come pretty even with around 30 M. Would also like to clarify that Mariah Carey sold 17 M, Butterfly sold 18 M, Emancipation of Mimi around 14-15 M by now, Rainbow around 9-12 M, the Unplugged album sold above 15 M , the Emotion Cd sold 8 M, +charmbracelet 4 M, Glitter around 3 M ...please check your numbers

You are not reading what has been written. First of all our estimate for "The Bodyguard" is 37.3 million. "Come On Over" by Shania Twain has an estimate of 42.7 (and last time we checked Shania Twain was female).

Your other numbers are both unlikely and, since they are not sourced at all, should be ignored.

And finally you should have seen our comment "quoted sales figures are inherently untrustworthy and should normally be treated with extreme caution" and "we don't trust even our own listing of sales numbers".


19 Oct 2012

"Queen's Greatest Hits I"

You should update the US certifications and total sales for Queen's "Queen's Greatest Hits I".

Here's the link to the RIAA certification: http://www.riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php?artist="queen"

(Click on "award description" twice)


11 May 2012

Underestimating sales

For the next time you update the list, I sincerely think you could improve your estimates for newer albums by including IFPI Platinum Europe Awards in your certifications for albums released later than 1994.

For example, "21" has a 8x Platinum (8 million) award in Europe, which combined with the new 9x Platinum certification for the U.S., 12x Platinum in Australia (0.84 million), Diamond in Canada (0.8 million), 4x Platinum in Mexico (0.24 million) and 10x Platinum in New Zealand (0.15 million), suggest sales of AT LEAST 19 million worldwide.

Here is the list of albums with the highest IFPI Platinum Europe awards:http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/IFPI_Platinum_Europe_Awards#.C3.81lbumes_con_mayor_cantidad_de_certificaciones

Thanks for the link. We will review the source data that best matches next time we update this list.


19 Apr 2012

Adele -21

I've taken a look at the certifications for Adele's "21", and they seems to be: 8x Platinum in the U.S., 15x Platinum in the U.K., Diamond in France (0.5 million) and 6x Platinum in Germany (1.2 million).

Surely that is enough for the album to be added to this list, right?

Next time we update this list it will no doubt be there. However we only get new certifications every few years (our focus is on older music)

Since you can see the factors we use (explained in the text) your numbers would give total sales of 14.2 which would place it at 162 in the list.


25 Feb 2012

BAD WAS THE SECOND BIGGEST SELLING ALBUM

I saw where you guys told someone that MJ's album BAD wasn't the second biggest selling album. During the 80's decade, it was said that BAD was the second biggest selling album right behind Thriller. Now it's not the second biggest selling album of all time, but during the 80's it was the second biggest selling album.

"Bad" was 8xPlatinum in the US in 1994. Eagles album "Eagles' Greatest Hits 1971-1975" was 29xPlatinum for an album released in 1976. The albums "Four Symbols (Led Zeppelin 4)", "The Wall" and "Rumours" were all released in the 1970s and have considerably higher overall sales than "Bad".

If you had misread the original claim and you thought that "Bad" was the second highest selling album of the 1980s then look at AC/DC's "Back In Black" released in 1980, 22xPlatinum in the US. Also "Brothers In Arms" and "Billy Joel's Greatest Hits, Volume I & Volume II" both released before "Bad" and have much higher overall sales.

These numbers are consistent across the whole world (we just used the US figures because they are easy to validate)

So sorry but the claim that "Bad" was ever the worlds second highest selling album is just wrong.


8 Feb 2012

bon jovi

I would like to know the selling datas of bon jovi's albums keep the faith and these days. thanx a lot

Details of both these albums are on the Bon Jovi album page. For example "Keep The Faith" was 2 Platinum in the US, and Platinum in the UK, and Germany. We feel that this does not give enough information to estimate total sales (which we would guess at 3 - 7 million).

Our suggestion would be that you look at the confirmed chart information (listed on the Bon Jovi album page) and make your own mind up. Armed with that data your guess would be at least as good as ours.


31 Dec 2011

Iron Maiden

I would like to know where you are getting the record sales for Iron Maiden...

The following Iron Maiden albums sales are what I believe to be true (worldwide sales):-

1. Iron Maiden (1980) - 10 million 2. Killers (1981) - 10 million 3. The Number of the Beast (1982) - 20 million 4. Piece of Mind (1983) - 15 million 5. Powerslave (1984) - 20 million 6. Somewhere in Time (1985) - 20 million 7. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1987) - 10 million 8. No Prayer for the Dying (1990) - 10 million 9. Fear of the Dark (1992) - 10 million 10. The X Factor (1995) - 3 million 11. Virtual XI (1998) - 2 million 12. Brave New World (2000) - 5 million 13. Dance of Death (2003) - 5 million 14. A Matter of Life and Death (2006) - 5 million 15. The Final Frontier (2010) - 5 million

Total - 150 million studio album records sold worldwide. And if you add all the live albums (e.g., Live After Death, Rock in Rio) and compilations (e.g., Best of the Beast) to that... they have easily sold 170 million records worldwide.

Please let me know if there are any real facts about Iron Maiden's album record sales. Thank you and up the Irons.

As we've said before we base the estimates on these pages ONLY on certifications that we have extracted directly from the official sites. We then do the simple calculation which is explained above.

We continue to believe that there are NO estimates of album sales that should be trusted (and in that we include our numbers on this page)


7 Dec 2011

Dobry blog

Dzieki za ciekawy blog


28 Nov 2011

Guns N Roses Greatest Hits

hi, just wanted to say I think GNR's greatest hits how has a certification in the USA of 5x Platinum.


17 Nov 2011

sales of Thriller (RIAA updated)

Hello, I just thought I'd mention that the RIAA certification for Michael Jackson's Thriller has been updated to 29x platinum. This is obviously due to the sales increase following his death and so I think it's also possible his other albums have been recertified although I haven't checked.

The same is probably true for the other major markets such as the UK, so it's probably worth checking those certifications too.

Regards,

Chris.

Thanks for the update, we only invest the time required to extract and consolidate the RIAA chart as the listing becomes well out of date, but next time we do that this data will be incorporated.


14 Sep 2011

A few observations

Hello:

I saw in the list Shakira's album "Fijacien oral" that its certified 8 times platinum in the US, but I think it refers to a category especificaly for the latin market inside the US, where every gold certification counts as 100,000 copies and every platinum certification counts as 200,000. So it would be 1.6 million copies rather than 8

You are correct in suggesting that the RIAA has a special category for Latin albums with lower thresholds.

Unfortunately the RIAA site lists these awards as "Platinum" rather than what they are which is "Los Premios de Platino" which makes it impossible to tell which records have Latin awards and which ones the more significant numbers.

Since we cannot tell the difference we will just have to treat this as yet another reason not to trust sales numbers.


29 Jul 2011

Phil Collins

Is there really a serious possibility that 'No jacket required' has sold somewhere over 30 million copies and 'but seriously' somewhere 30 mill near?

As we say at the top of this page this is an attempt to estimate based on the few reliable sources we have. We explain the approach we've taken and given that way of estimating.

The actual estimates are below 30 million for both of them.

The estimate here is 24-34 million for "No Jacket Required" and 19-30 million for "... But Seriously". Given that "No Jacket Required" sold three times as many copies in the USA, and "... But Seriously" sold more copies in Europe we still think that these are reasonable ranges.


27 Jun 2011

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Why everywhere else if you look Elton John's 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' ismentioned to have worldwide sales of at least 31 million copies? If that's true it makes it easily to the top ones.

First of all let us say that we don't trust any claimed estimates for albums (we don't even really trust the ones on this page). The number of 31 million is claimed in a number of places but we don't see any credible source for it.

The next point is that 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' is a double album, some certification authorities (and for some periods) counted each sale twice for double albums, so in the US where a million copies would be needed to get a Platinum for a single album only half a million copies would be needed for a double album. Confusion about when this rule held, and how it was applied have led some sites to double (or half) the estimated number of sales of some double albums.

The largest market in the world is the USA. RIAA certified 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' as 7 x Platinum in 1998. One would expect that total worldwide sales would be about 3 times that level, that is about 21 million copies 13 years ago. Our estimate is well below that figure because, like many albums of the 1960s and 1970s, the album was not certified in France and Germany (or recently in the UK). As we explain in the text this lack of evidence for older albums reflects a lack of interest by the record companies in paying for the certification, and cannot be taken to prove a lack of sales.

So our guess as to the sales would be somewhere about 25 million copies or so (21 million in 1998 plus an extra four million since then). A total of 31 million would require some kind of major boost in recent sales (in the same way that "Thriller" sold a lot of copies in 2009 because of the singer's death). We can't see any reason to believe that this has occurred.

So we would agree that the number calculated here is too low, but 31 million seems too high to be believable.


7 Dec 2010

all time album sales

I see you have led zepp 4 number 2 on your list , I think you have to add me buying lz4 to your list , since I have been buying that album for the last 6 to 8 months , I have bought 53 of them.


7 Dec 2010

albums of all time sale

Why is sales numbers of all time sales differ then wikipedeida sale numbers of all time , whats going on here. Is anybody keeping with sales numbers , that they give you

There are two different issues here, first of all at least some of the the sales numbers on Wikipedia are clearly wrong. They are quoted without giving reliable sources and are edited by people that have an interest in distorting the numbers.

One of the reasons for having this data available in this form is to counter the completely blatant lies that certain editors have placed on Wikipedia (and have repeatedly reinserted when reasonable people try to correct).

Secondly, as the text on this page indicates, the numbers here have been calculated based on certification data. The source data we have is reliable, but clearly incomplete. For example we cannot find available data for the French certificates before the early 1990s. We take that reliable data and apply a simple calculation, which is clearly described in the text above. This approach is good enough to clearly show, for example, that "Thriller" could not possibly have sold more than 100 million copies. We have put a range in to indicate the uncertainty in our numbers.

So in summary, the album sales data on Wikipedia is wrong. The data here is wrong, but less wrong than the Wikipedia data. If anyone claims to know the correct worldwide album sales numbers they are lying to you.


29 Nov 2010

Europe:The Final Countdown

The final Countdown sold around 8 million. Why is there not on this list?

The albums in this list are all estimated to have had sales of at least 10 million. Sales of 8 million wouldn't be enough to get listed.

The album "The Final Countdown" was 3 X Platinum in the US, achieved a Gold in Germany and (in the lists we have access to) was not classified in the UK or France. Based on those figures we would guess total sales of 4-7 million.

8 million is possible but its at the very top end of the range. And as we said 8 million is too few for this list.


9 Sep 2010

IRON MAIDEN

IRON MAIDEN RULES AND THE US DOESNT EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE THEM ON THIS LIST AND THEY DON'T CARE


30 Dec 2009

LAUNDRY SERVICE SHAKIRA

Where's "Laundry Service" by Shakira? It sold 20 million copies.

Looking at the album page for Shakira we can see that it was certified as US 3 x Platinum, UK 2 x Platinum, France 2 x Platinum, Germany 2 x Platinum.

Which means it had sales of at least 4.4 million, and by our calculations probably sold 12.8 million (with an estimated range of 10-16 million sales).

By these numbers the album should be on this list. However this English language album was originally known as "Servicio De Lavanderia" in France, so when the list was calculated the French numbers were omited and the resulting estimate of 9.9 million sales was below the cut-off. This mismatch has now been fixed, so next time list is calculated it will be included.

Sales of 20 million are much higher than our estimate. And the fact that both BMI and Shakira's own web site (at www.shakira.com) estimate sales as "more than 13 million". Which seems very reasonable.

So we think that 20 million copies is so much of an overestimate it is clearly wrong.


2 Dec 2009

Genesis biggest seller

Hi I read with a friend of mine on a website that Genesis highest selling album is not We Can't Dance it is actually Invisible Touch. It looks like to me that your numbers and maybe statistics are outdated. We Can't Dance sold 22,000,000 copies worldwide and went 4 times platinum in the U.S. and Invisible Touch went 6 times platinum in the U.S. and has sold 24,000,000 copies globally. I even read on the VH1 website that Invisible Touch is Genesis highest selling pop album to date.

Thanks Aaron Wake

First of all thank you for your input. Of course most of the lists on this site measure success in the charts round the world and not sales. So, for example, the 1983 album "Genesis" lists higher than "Invisible Touch" because it was a hit in more countries, but it is fairly certain that its sales were lower.

Claims of worldwide sales on web sites are generally not trustworthy, for example on Wikipedia look at the number of page modifications and the length of discussions on all pages that mention sales numbers. The issue is that there are no validated worldwide sales numbers so every group of fans use their own approach to estimate numbers.

We do have a page that lists our estimates of sales numbers. We use a combination of the certification levels from the US, UK, France and Germany (the four biggest markets). That page describes how we combine those numbers to estimate worldwide sales. It also explains why we don't trust even our own listing of sales numbers.

The two albums you mention are listed on that page. Your numbers for the US sales are correct, however you don't list the fact that "We Can't Dance" was also 5xPlatinum in the UK and 5xPlatinum in Germany, while "Invisible Touch" was 4xPlatinum in the UK and 1xPlatinum in Germany. "Invisible Touch" was more successful in the US, however the certifications and chart positions show that "We Can't Dance" was clearly a bigger hit in Europe.

Our estimate is that "We Can't Dance" sold 15-24 million worldwide and "Invisible Touch" sold 12-17 million.

We don't know where VH1 got these numbers from, however we have seen other occasions when VH1 has over emphasised acts that were successful in the US and ignored acts that were hits anywhere else in the world. This is one of the reasons why we don't use any of their charts in this site.

So, we believe that the balance of evidence suggests that "We Can't Dance" sold more, however the wide margin of error leaves the question open. We also have learnt that you should not trust any website that lists worldwide album sales numbers (even our own).