Who were the most successful artists of each decade?

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1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

Any analysis that attempts to compare one year with another has to take into account the different levels of charts for different eras. When examining the greatest song act, greatest songs and greatest album raw scores were adjusted to allow entries from the 1920s to be compared with those from the 1990s. This wide range of source dates meant that we could not combine information from the song and album charts.

When looking at the artists with most chart success in each decade this restriction can be relaxed. In this list we have combined song and album success, but only compared entries across a single decade. The album scores have been given twice the weight of the songs (for the decades where albums were being sold). Here we list the world's top 5 artists of each decade, a more extensive list can be seen on the individual decade pages.

Decade Number 1 Artist Number 2 Artist Number 3 Artist Number 4 Artist Number 5 Artist
1900s Billy Murray Harry MacDonough Haydn Quartet Byron G Harlan Arthur Collins
1910s Peerless Quartet American Quartet Prince's Orchestra Arthur Collins & Byron G Harlan John McCormack
1920s Paul Whiteman Al Jolson Ben Selvin Bessie Smith Marion Harris
1930s Bing Crosby Guy Lombardo Duke Ellington Louis Armstrong Tommy Dorsey
1940s Bing Crosby Glenn Miller Frank Sinatra Jimmy Dorsey Harry James
1950s Elvis Presley Frank Sinatra Nat King Cole Miles Davis Perry Como
1960s The Beatles Elvis Presley The Rolling Stones Bob Dylan The Beach Boys
1970s Elton John The Rolling Stones Pink Floyd Abba Led Zeppelin
1980s Prince Madonna U2 Michael Jackson Bruce Springsteen
1990s Mariah Carey Madonna Celine Dion REM U2
2000s Eminem Madonna Britney Spears Coldplay U2

This approach to calculate success has been selected because it is a relatively objective measure that can be used to compare and contrast acts from the 1930s and the 1990s. It ignores measures that can't be verified (like claimed sales and revenues), ones that vary systematically from one decade to the next (like tour sizes and movie/ pop video audiences), or measures that are impossible to obtain (like amount of media reporting). If your favourite artists are not as high up the list as their own publicity would suggest we see that is a problem with their hype, not with our measure.

We'd be interested to hear about any alternate measure of success that is both objective and applicable across the decades, especially if you've actually gathered any data and made it available anywhere. We'd also be interested if you can suggest ways that our measure could be improved, or ways that it systematically misrepresents particular acts. We're completely uninterested in hearing why your favourite act should be listed higher, once the rules are set the results are automatic, no-one gets to adjust them.

As with all the complex calculations described on the site you can decide to try a different approach. If your analysis shows something interesting tell us about it.

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Previous Comments (newest first)

1 Aug 2023

And where were The Bee Gees????

Look at the 1970s decade

5 Jul 2023

Your calculus is a miss

Where the heck is Michael Jackson.. yes I see him, I mean where the heck ishe?

Michael Jackson is exactly where he should be.

19 Aug 2022

Most successful artists of all time?

In a slightly different context you gave an example of a formula that can beapplied to the CSV file to sort the most successful songs of each decade. Can a similar formula be applied to sort the most successful artist of all time?

Yes, that is what we've done in many different ways on this site. In particular look at the answer to the FAQ "Who was the world's biggest music act of all time?"

At the bottom of that page I have put my own personal opinion, YMMV

22 Jul 2022


First of all, I'd like to apologise all the idiots in these comments who don'tseem to understand that their favourite artist isn't bigger than The Beatles, but secondly, is there a way to include data from the 1890s? I know it's scarce, but it would be interesting to see, ai could help you with it if you want

To be honest even the data here from 1900-1920 is a little suspect. We would need charts from at least a few other countries before considering adding in pre 1900 data.

If you have some reliable charts from outside the US, say the UK or other major country (like Germany or France) then get in touch

27 Sep 2021

Update for this page?+

Will this page be updated to match who the top 5 are now calculated to be ineach of the individual decades page? For example in the 80s page, Madonna is now calculated to be the top artist of that decade while it’s still shown as Prince here.

No, life is too short, download the latest CSV and do the maths yourself if you want

27 Sep 2021

Top Artist of the 1890s

If the 1890s had their own page, who do you suspect would be at the top of itin terms of recorded music?

The only chart we have is from the Billboard data, it has a total of 184 positions from the whole 1890s so doesn't really give much insight. However, for your interest the top artists are:

1) George J Gaskin 2) Len Spencer 3) Dan Quinn 4) Cal Stewart 5) US Marine Band 6) Russell Hunting 7) Steve Porter 8) Arthur Collins 9) Vess Ossman 10) Sousa's Band

24 Oct 2020


If you are reading this based on the subject I wrote, are you what 12?Seriously, if you think Queen is like THE BEST, well yeah they are. But don't go rampaging on "Oh they are the best!" rather check out other rock bands (if you even like rock; I do) like Led Zepplin, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, freakin the doors, and try listening to fucking the eagles or the doobie brothers. Anyway stop wastng your time in listening to today's shit music and listen to whatever you want (I know that made no sense but you get my point.) Peace, stay safe bye. Rock on

24 Oct 2020

Jimi Hendrix???

What about Jimi Hendrix? or Janis Joplin or the freakin doors? Sure the others were popular but so were they? I feel like Jimi Hendrix should replace The Beach Boys like Jimi was (in my research) the most paid guitarist at that time! Also queen should be famous in the 70s instead of Pink Floyd, sure Another Brick in the Wall is good, but even Queen's fat bottomed girls is better! Anyway, I hope y'all are doing good and staying safe. Take care and peace out! -RP

"Most success in the charts", not "best" or "best paid". As a Queen fan I can agree that "Fat bottomed girls" was a good song, but it peaked at 11. "Another Brick in the Wall" reached number 1 almost everywhere, so it is clearly (and measurably) "more successfull in the charts".

21 Jul 2020

Seger Ellis 1920s

Some say he was the third best Selling artist of the 1920s. I know tat isn'ttrue, +but I'd like to get your guys opinion and backing on it though.+

12 Jul 2020


I too have music and researched records sales for decades. No one comes closeto Elvis in sales and chart success. +My last extensive research was in 2012. As most know RCA did keep an accurate account of record sales in the '50s and neither did Sun, Elvis' first record label. +Back when 45 rpm's were the main sales platform, in the '50s and '60s there was no accurate count. Only credit with co-writing 2 or 3 songs depending on the source, he played lead guitar on many songs in the early days. In addition to the recognized sales, the in-betweens, and un-qualified albums, push him way above anyone else. The in-betweens are songs not reaching the next or first sales figure recognition, ie: gold, platinum, multi-platinum, etc. +Since the mid 1970's there have been dozens of albums released and selling millions that are not recognized by most accounts because of several reasons such as playtime, number of songs, and other qualifications that were disregarded when produced. All Elvis' accomplished was done, in my view, with bad management after the early 60s. Unlike many artist, if you take away their biggest selling album their ranking would sink, Elvis' would not change if you take his biggest-selling album or single. LP, You'll Never Walk Alone a gospel album at 10mil domestically and 45 rpm It's Now Or Never with 25 mil worldwide as acknowledged by The Guinness Book Of World Records back in the 1980's.

29 Jun 2020


The disrespect to Queen is unreal they wrote and composed all of their songs+

"Disrespect"? in what way?

14 Jun 2020

Single and album artists of the 2010s?


I see you answered a question about the overall top artists of the 2010s, with Ed Sheeran in the lead. However, could you spit that into single artists and album artists of the decade? If so, who are the top10 single artists and who are the top10 album artists, according to your calculations?


Look at the web site chart2000.com if you download the "decade" CSV files and do a bit of analysis you can answer your question. We get, for songs: 1 - Ed Sheeran, 2 - Bruno Mars, 3 - Adele, 4 - Imagine Dragons, 5 - Drake, 6 - Justin Bieber, 7 - Post Malone, 8 - Katy Perry, 9 - The Weeknd, 10 - Shawn Mendes, ,

And for albums: 1 - Ed Sheeran, 2 - Drake, 3 - Adele, 4 - Eminem, 5 - Taylor Swift, 6 - Bruno Mars, 7 - Imagine Dragons, 8 - Kendrick Lamar, 9 - Post Malone, 10 - Queen

So sorry but Ed Sheeran is still the top (and didn't that film sell a lot of Queen albums!)

10 Jun 2020

The Method.

I think your method, falls down when you consider successful acts who didn'trecord a lot favouring those who spend a lot of weeks on the chart with multiple album entries, however take Michael Jackson low number of albums but when Thriller came out it sold a lot of records very quickly

We continue to think that our method gives good results. If you think you can do any better then explain your method and publish a web site.

Except, of course, you are not interested in actual data, just in pushing your particular favourite.

27 Apr 2020

MJ is not popular? his album not selling as his proclaim? Do you ever visit Asian countries or do you have survey about MJ in Asian countries.. We are start listen western songs because MJ. He is the Prime of Western. He is the artist of century. No one can replace him. ++

Don't be stupid. You think that Bruce Springsteen, Queen and The Police were not popular? What this list says is that Madonna, Prince and U2 were MORE popular that Michael Jackson over the course of the 1980s (which they clearly were).

2 Feb 2020

Michael Jackson

Despite the fact that Michael Jackson is now the worlds most famousentertainer linked to child sexual abuse, there are still some people who want to defend him. This man only wrote 2 songs for 'Off The Wall' and only 4 for 'Thriller'. He played no instruments on his recordings. Most of the songs recorded by him were written for him or co written with professiona composers. All the music you hear was made by professional musicians. If you like his albums then give praise to all the talent behind them. The composers and the musicians who made his music.

1 Jan 2020


Thank you for all the hard work you have put into the compilation of this datathat finally illustrates who really is the most successful music acts of all time. I know that you have got a lot of abuse from Michael Jackson fans who think their idol should be No 1, but I do enjoy reading your replies. Please remember, hard core Jackson fans are known for their abuse of others, for example, the alleged victims in the Leaving Neverland documentary. So, thank you so much for all your hard work.

31 Dec 2019

What happened to Guns n' Roses?

I remember about half a year ago the band was inside the top10 of thechart2000 artist page, now they are sitting in position #100. Have you changed your formula?

No, there's just more recent data

28 Dec 2019

Biggest artists of the 2010s

Regarding artists who frequently collaborate are their collaborations counted(at least partly) or are they counted as separate music acts for the list you gave as a reply to another comment. Also you may have received a couple of blank comments that I sent on accident

The blank comments are removed by the Spam filter (we get hundreds of spam messages every day).

Artists that frequently collaberate will often score enough for the "joint name" to make the list. Take a look at the entries for "Diana Ross & The Supremes", "Diana Ross" and "The Supremes".

19 Sep 2019

Double counting streams?

Over the decade the charts included streaming and double counted them on thealbum and single chart. An artist who sold 10 Million pure copies and 0 digital singles in the first half of the decade on all the charts in your consideration had zero impact on any single chart. An artist who sold 10 Million albums by streaming and 0 digital singles in 2018-2019, gets a massive boost of points from the single chart. In the end both are similar sized recording artists but the one in the streaming era would place much higher. Any solution?

The charts listed at chart2000.com take a better approach. (but the real answer is that these issues are always present and cannot be fully fixed)

1 Sep 2019

I think the Top 5 for 2010s Decade will be something like this: 1. Adele 2. Drake 3. Taylor Swift 4. Rihanna 5. Ed Sheeran The Top 10 will also include 6. Bruno Mars 7. Lady Gaga 8. Katy Perry 9. Justin Bieber 10. Ariana Grande or Maroon 5 or Pink

You'd be wrong Ed Sheeran is WAY out in front (other than that you are close), we have all that data on the chart2000 site. The results we get (with 4 months of the decade yet to come) are:

1: Ed Sheeran 2: Adele 3: Drake 4: Bruno Mars 5: Taylor Swift 6: Imagine Dragons 7: Rihanna 8: Justin Bieber 9: Ariana Grande 10: Post Malone 11: Katy Perry 12: Pink 13: Lady GaGa 14: The Weeknd 15: Eminem 16: One Direction 17: Maroon 5 18: Twenty One Pilots 19: Sam Smith 20: Mumford & Sons

25 Aug 2019

Prince > Michael


Its crazy how off one´s pereception of music can be. Me being born in 1998 tells you a lot; i had to go back for the Thrillers and the Purple Rain´s of the past. With these two gentleman dying when I was 10 and 17 years old, I wasnt there for Bad nor for 1999, so all i was left with was the popular perception of these two. With Thriller often called the biggest album of all time and Mike referred to as the King, casual listeners like me disregarded Prince as the underdog in the conversation. As a 20 year old from Costa Rica, i must say Prince wasn´t in my radar until a couple of years ago. Yes, When doves cry came on my moms favorite radio station, and yes his passing in 2016 brought his name to mainstream news outlets, but for some reason Prince´s perception didn´t come off as such of a Legend´s as Michael´s did... until you payed attention.

PS: how important is the fact that Prince was insanely prolific, releasing (9 albums during the 80s as opposse to Michael´s 2) in making this chart?

PPS: i love how shady the admin of this comment section is to people who cantseem to understand their perception of an artist =! an artist´s success.

3 Jun 2019


Michael Jackson released the biggest album of all time in the 1980s and he ruled this decade like nobody else.

My top5 for the 2010s

1. Adele 2. Taylor Swift 3. Drake 4. Rihanna 5. Ed Sheeran or Katy Perry

12 May 2019

Age bracket of audience+

The popularity of artists in different decades may be dependent on who had the money to support them. The various decades had different age groups spending money for records and going to clubs, concerts. Teenagers didn’t have spending money in the thirties and forties, the fifties and sixties gave rise to teenage focused music because they had finally gotten the spendable cash to support their likes. I think the die is cast now and teenaged focused music will always be the most popular from the fifties on. Chasinfram+

22 Apr 2019

Why is not Michael Jackson number 1?

Michael Jackson should definitely be number 1 from the 1980s since he was thebest seller and most popular artist at that decade. He was definitely the most successful one at the time, and is not called the King of Pop for nothing.

Michael Jackson was NOT the best selling artist of the 1980s, nor was he "most popular", he was NOT the most successful. He was self proclaimed as the "King of Pop" and demanded to be refered to as such in MTV contracts.

Fouth artist of the 1980s is a fair reflection of his acutal sales and impact.

16 Feb 2019

MJ should definitely be number 1 for 80s and Queen should be in the 70s. Andwhere the hell is Johnny Cash in the 50s

The positions are based on *actual* chart success, not notoriety or personal views.

For example, while I personally am a great fan of Queen (and have original vinyl of all their 1970s albums) that was never allowed in any way to influence their ranking.

15 Feb 2019

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley was a music thief and therefor does not deserve that spot

3 Jan 2019

Whos in the lead?

Not sure if my first message went through . Apologies if it did. +I would beinterested to see who's in the lead going in to the last year of the decade. +Mostly positions one through six. +If the number one position is already far ahead of number two, and number two is not likely to release another album this year , then they could already be decided. And with all the positions etc.+

2 Jan 2019

Whos +in the +lead,?

I would love to know whos currently in the lead +going into 2019. +Could be ininteresting if +its close from 1-6 and some of +them release something in 2019. Make it exciting. +

Have a look at chart2000.com it is more up to date

19 Dec 2018

Elton John Tour 2019

Sir Elton John is my favourite musician of all time. http://mylove-dream.tumblr.com/

4 Oct 2018


Sun Records didn't even keep track of how many records Elvis sold. Even RCA admitted they could not be accurate on the amount of records Elvis sold in 56 and 57. They just don't know. Add the fact that the population addition for each decade rises. What Elvis did was incredible. Did you know that an Elvis song has been credited in more TV shows and Movies than any other single person? (look it up and IMBD.)

They say Michael Jackson was the most popular. Really? Did MJ have a concert in Hawaii in 1973 and have about a billion people watch it live via Satellite? +Elvis did... If Elvis would have had all the Social Media stuff they havenow, he would be far and above EVERYONE. Without all that, he's still the most influential Singer of all time.+

5 Jun 2018

Bradley, Kan, Moff and Goose Anguilla

26 May 2018

Im pretty sure the entire 2000s list is wrong with the exception of Eminem andmaybe Britney Spears. Beyonce and Usher should both be in the top 5. Im not sure why Madonna is number 2.

...and your data for your odd opinions would come from?

5 Apr 2018

Michael Jackson

Seriously? Elton John, Prince, and Mariah Carey were better than MichaelJackson during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s??? Give me a break. This list is so flawed and unfair. Michael Jackson has unprecedented worldwide fame and he is probably the most famous entertainer in the history of mankind. Many people barely know Prince or that freak Elton John. MJ was the king for three decades. No question. If you say otherwise you simply don't know his music or you are an idiot

At no point do we claim anyone is "better". What we do claim is that they had more chart success. Claiming that these lists are "flawed and unfair" without any suggestion about why is about as silly as claiming that Michael Jackson was "the most famous entertainer in the history of mankind"

15 Mar 2018


Chicago had MORE HITS and MORE TOP ALBUMNS than any other group in the 1970s. How the heck did they not even make your BADLY BROKEN LIST?

Clearly they didn't have more hits and more top albums across the world, there are countries other than the USA you know. And they ARE listed as the 21st artist of the 1970s.

5 Mar 2018



Other opinions are always available

6 Feb 2018


The Beatles are the greatest ever. End of story

31 Jan 2018

Too bad Elvis never performed overseas'

+As it is rca victor records and, graceland say Elvis has sold over 1 billionrecords worldwide and, that's considering that he never performed overseas other than hawaaii and, canada or, else he definately would have sold even more records. All the other major artists have which is a big advantage when they get to see you live. That's why politicians campaign when they're running. In alot of comparisons they forget to mention the fact that Elvis would have sold even more reoords. All my respects for him but, the colonel made some mistakes with him.+

28 Jan 2018

The Whole System

The whole system is bent to hell as no one outside of the USA, UK and Canada (except Abba @ No: 4 in the 70s), has a hope of making these charts.Performers of non-English language recordings have two shows of succeeding. +Fish Ho and No Show! +The fabulous Greek Singer Nana Mouskouri has sold more albums than any other female performer in history, but doesn't warrant a mention. Where are the top performers from China who have sold millions of records over the past decade or two. I think this whole project is poIntless. +Let people make up their own minds.+

Nana Mouskou is listed here, she has in fact not sold as many albums as Madonna, Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion OR Whitney Houston. She certainly has never generated anywhere near the revenue of any of those five. During the 20th century the total music revenue generated in China was less than that in Taiwan, Greece or Belgium.

You are correct in suggesting that people will make up their own minds, but the suggestion that the scoring system here is either arbitrary or deliberately biased is wrong.

And incidentally U2 are from Ireland, Kylie Minogue is from Australia and Rihanna is from Barbados.

15 Jan 2018

Thank you for the facts

Thank you for this wonderful page of research. And yes, even though there area number of crazy Michael Jackson fans who really do believe what they are saying, the facts speak loud and proud. Thank you - a great effort.

12 Nov 2017

Louis Jordan

You've done a great job, but I see more of the Pop music 1940s and 1950s. Iwould like to mention Louis Jordan was the 1940s Race/R&B top selling artist and still holds the record to this day having the most time spent on top of the R&B/Race charts. Would be awesome to see a breakdown of those charts as well. For the person that mention about the Platters..They really didn't release hit singles until late 1955...till about 1960. But I appreciate the work you gave done. I really feel Louis Jordan is heavily overlooked, and he was one of the first musicians to produce and star in his own movies during his heyday. He invented "Rock and Roll ," as they call it..and has influenced so many artist.

There is a page dedicated to Louis Jordan (just enter his name in the search box at the top right of this page)

We don't include any "genre" charts, doing so would bias the results and also it is impossible to compare them. Is a number 1 "Country Song" more or less important than a number 1 "R&B" song?

If we were to count success in the "R&B" charts, should we not also have the "Polka" charts, the "Death Metal" charts, the "Jamaician Ska" charts and the "Bakersfield Folk Music" charts. That way madness lies

Our view is that music "genres" are not a real thing. When "GI Jive" hit the Billboard number one slot in May 1944 Louis Jordan had the best selling record across all categories. During the same week Al Dexter's "So Long Pal" was the number 1 Country song, but it didn't even make it into the overall chart. For at least that week position on the "Country Charts" is not worth noting.

11 Nov 2017

The Seekers+

Did you know that the Australian band The Seekers sold far more albums than the Rolling Stones during the 60s and also outsold the beatles for 2 years in a row in 1967 nad 68.

In Australia presumably. I'm fairly confident that the Seekers never outsold the Beatles in the USA (for example). (and I say this even though I have a Seekers album)

6 Nov 2017

michael jackson

michael jackson is by far the most successful and influental artist of alltime. period. he has influenced the music industry, pop culture and entertainment industry in general from the 1960s to present day. even though he's gone he is still making money and topping charts with unreleased music. He is the greatest when it comes to music.

Despite the lack of any evidence to support your claims your opinion has been noted. Other opinions are also available

17 Aug 2017

Micheal Jackson

I would like to point out that Thriller sold 25 million albums worldwide inthe 80's. 20 million were sold in the US, which was a record setting at the time for a solo artist. Fleetwood Mac 's album Rumors sold 33 million albums +worldwide in the 70's. That didn't make the best selling artist of that decade. Thriller was one album of 3,MJ had out in the 80s. Neither of the other albums were close to being as big as Thriller, only Bad was a #1 album. I pointed out previously that Billy Joel had sold more records that Jackson in the 80s in the US. To this day Billy Joel has outsold Jackson in the US market. Neither are the top selling artist.

15 Aug 2017

I don't know why people are so surprised that Jackson is not the top artist(on the charts) in the 80's. He wasn't the top charting artist in the US. Prince was with 378 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 charts, Hall and Oates were second with 350s, as was Billy Joel who was 3rd, Madonna was 4th with 332, Jackson was 5th with 326. Billy Joel was the top selling artist selling over 35 million albums. Jackson sold 32 million in the US in the 80s. MJ was also the 35th best charting artist of he 90's +in the US. He was held up by the rest of the world and in Asia where he took of in the 90s. Also, it is true that the RIAA started certifying double albums as 2 single units in 92. Albums form the vinyl era with over 70 minutes of music were counted as 2 units. When Donna Summer's Casablanca catolog was transferred to disc in 93, the album Live and More would have also qualified to be certified twice, but it could not be fit on one disc at the time, so Mac Arthur Park Suite was included on the Donna Summer Dance Collection. Dropping Live and More to below 70 minutes. Her Casablanca catalog remains grossly under certified because of circumstance (as does the rest of her catalog as well).+

29 Jul 2017

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TOP 3 2017

This site is unreliable after about 2009, you want to look at http://chart2000.com/ that lists the top songs for every day up to the end of last month across 8 countries

25 Jul 2017

MJ and MC

Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey (Whitney Houston too if she's lurkinganywhere) should be censored from this list for their spiritless, Hallmark-inspired crimes against creativity. The fact that their fans are insane doesn't help their cause either. Speaking of insipid music, where's Nana Mouskouri?

24 Apr 2017


I would like to say thank you for this chart. It's a competent and fair system that you have developed in showing the success of each artist.

I know there are a lot of fans that get upset with your chart. But this is for(the), Whitney Houston (fans), sold 15 million albums in the US in the 80's - she had one gold single (which her record company applied for platinum status in 1989 when the switch took place). That is less than Donna Summer who sold 20 million plus albums and 15 singles in the late 70's in the US. She is under certified by the RIAA - because they didn't start multi-platinum certification until 1984. Both Donna (who sued) and the label president Neil Bogart and his wife Joyce (who managed Donna) were gone from Casablanca Records by March 1980. Thus there being no impetus for the label to have her certifications updated. The double platinum certification that Bad Girls and GHOTR have are due to a format change (albums that contain more than 100 minutes of music are counted as two units). Bad Girls was Triple Platinum in 1979, and sold over 4 million before she left Casablanca, Live and More and GHOTR both were Triple platinum by the time she left the label. That is 10 million albums in a year and half, not to mention 2 platinum singles Hot Stuff (2.6 mil), Bad Girls (2.4 mil) and one Gold single - Dim all the Lights (1.5 mil) from Bad Girls (album). Last Dance, Mac Arthur Park Heaven Knows - all Gold singles - from Live and More. No More Tears and On the Radio - Gold singles from GHOTR. Gold singles were a million - Platinum two million until 1989 in the US. Donna is not even where she could be on this list in the 70's, because of being under certified....At least Houston is properly certified.

Thanks for the info

2 Apr 2017

MJ wrote his own music. And coproduced or fully produced all his albums hewrote the arrangements and composed every more on all his music. He wasn't just a pop star. He was very talented on stage and in the studio. He could play instruments too. Prince was a master musician and performer but I feel that he wasn't number one....maybe two. He had more material but none of his music charter as long as Michael's. +And Michael has more higher placed hits than prince. Michael literally was named artist of the decade by the President. +Plus Michael had a much bigger impact on the 80's the fact that he has the highest selling album of all time...... which was released in 1983 should be enough.

None of these things make any difference. If we were listing the most influential artists, our favourite artists or the most publicity seeking ones then these things might have influence. But this site lists the artists with the most chart hits. By that measure he was the fourth artist of the 1980s

30 Jan 2017


How can KING of pop be in 4ths place in the 80s! He single handed destroy the 80s music industry.

The self titled "King of Pop" you mean?

30 Aug 2016

standard of music

Someone asked is anything after 1979 considered music. Well look who wasBritain's biggest selling artist that year (well one of them).......Gary Numan. Enough said.

16 Jul 2016

All my respect.

In reading the conversations with many people who seem to lack a third grade skill of reading your site before posting opinions or subjective, baseless commentary, you maintain a tact and veer away from personsal atracks (for the most part unless their ignorance is really begging to be pointed out). Kudos, to you and all of your colleagues and/or collaborators hard work in sorting the data and creating a methodology to explain your results.

I think my only suggestion I might give to help is, maybe (and forgive me if I missed it somewhere on your site), take artist's song data and give a higher weight so songs that stayed higher on charts longer the normalize the album data because I feel fairly confident that there is a direct significant correlation between song success and album sucess. I just think that sucess of an album (suspicious opinion ahead) due to one song (example, Pornograffitti by the band Extreme by people looking for the song, "More Than Words" might be artificially boosting some artists on your scale where it might not be truly replective or their sucess.

Undoubtedly, certain artist's, like Madonna, I would see no reason for album data to skew results like an outlier. Maybe weight the time of sucess of sucessful songs on the album as pre-scale to the album weight.

As with all data outliers will skew results in some area, but you can't just ignore artist's in you case.

I truly hope you don't take my suggestions in a nefative light. Your team undertook a huge project and have you results well laid out and explained in detail.

Again, all my appreciation for all you hard work. Thank you for yourinvestment of time to make short cutter like myself to have a great place to trust the facts of what I read.

Thank you for the suggestion. It is a topic that we have dicussed between us a few times, unfortunately the conclusion we have come to is that putting extra weight on long runs near the top won't work for this data. The reason is that many of the source charts don't have enough detail available. This is especially true for the earlier charts and those from the less well represented countries. If we were to restrict ourselves to only cover the period after, say 1980, or to only deal with the USA & UK then we have a more detailed look at runs.

Our companion site (http://chart2000.com/) shows what can be done if all the weekly position data is available. In that case we add up the success calculated daily to estimate the overall success of songs, albums and artists. That site only deals with music since 1 Jan 2000, because we have fairly complete data after that date.

The issue of "other factors" having significant impacts on song and album sales has always been with us, from Bing Crosby's 1930s radio shows to the boost in sales for "Purple Rain" in May that followed Prince's death. We naively believe (and indeed hope) that these things tend to even each other out.

24 May 2016

Is anything after 1979 even considered music?


6 May 2016


Hendrix may parallel Prince on guitar...Stevie Wonder may parallel Prince onpiano and keyboards...Larry Graham may parallel Prince on Bass...Dave Grohl may parallel Prince on drums...Michael Jackson may parallel Prince on singing and dancing...and Bob Dylan may parallel Prince in songwriting...BUT they would all need to collaborate with each other to parallel ONE PRINCE.

6 May 2016

Emperor of Pop

Stevie Wonder: "If Michael was the King of Pop, Prince should be the Emperor" So if chart success doesn't prove to you that Prince was the greatest, Stevie just did.

Emperor > King+

30 Apr 2016

The artists for the 1960s+

Elvis Presley should be the number one artist because he sold as many albumsor nearly as many albums as the Beatles and he was ju because he sold as many albums or nearly as many albums has the Beatles and he was a solo artist. There were four Beatles so technically this personall there were four Beatles. So technically Elvis sold 4x as many copies for each of the band members in the Beatles.

Or maybe all of Elvis' hits should be credited to the songwriters?

22 Apr 2016

Another one gone...brought me to this list.

Now Prince is gone too (RIP)..I was searching for the most popular artists for every decade, and this brought me to your list.

I respect your approach of course, and futhermore it has brought an interesting pov. I didn't downloaded your lists, but by reading the comments I see you based them on the album/singles/chart positions.

Statistically the best approach would be the following, by using and combining the following parameters:

List 1: List of most sold copies for album and singles in total, recalculated to an average by deviding this number by the total albums/singles released from that artist.

List 2: List of chart positions based on singles and albums, total.

List 3: Idem as 2 but now recalculated to the avarage chart position by deviding the total number of albums/singles by the everage chart position.

List 4: List of most won awards

List 5: Idem dito as 4 but recalculated to an average based on the total amount of albums/singles produced.

List 6: List of most earned (only by the total of albums/singles sold, and by sponsor contracts).

List 7 List of most viewed youtube videos. Of course, there has to be a method to recalculate it in regards to eras where youtube was know. So that elvis, beatles etc are being included fairly.

List 8: List of artist ranking based on singing abilities, vocal range.

List 9: List of artist ranking based on dancing ability.

List 10: List of artist ranking based on instrumental abolity.

List 11: List of most songs written by the artist themselves, recalculated to the average of all produced albums/singles.

List 12: List of most talked/written/tabloids occurrances.

The results of all these list should be combined, and the artists that has the highest avrage positions on all these lists are the BEST!

I don't know who would top the lists, but if I would have to guess, it would be Michael Jackson.

The most sold copies is an artifact of the evolution of the music business. Had CDs been around when Bing Crosby was active the order would be different. So that doesn't work.

The total scores, is what our list provides.

The average scores (total divided by count) provides a top 5 of 1: Michael Hutchence, 2: The Beat of the Earth, 3: U.S.D.A., 4: Pink Cream 69, 5: Dir en grey

Michael Jackson comes below 450 on that list. Interestingly the highest artist with more than 3 albums in that list is Madonna

Most won awards just depends on what awards you count. And is unfair to early artists from before there were many awards

Most earned (inflation adjusted), how would you measure such a thing? Everybody lies

Singing, writing and instrumental ability. According to who?

Dancing ability? Are we talking about musicians? The fact that Bob Dylan can't dance (AFAIK) has no impact on what I think of him as a musician

Best writer. Ah that has a possible way to measure. Maybe look at how many cover versions of their songs have become hits for others. That I would be interested to see. Personally I suspect that The Beatles, Bob Dylan and David Bowie would head up that list.

Most Tabloid? I personally don't care, the fact that Garry Glitter has a lot of Tabloid coverage certainly doesn't make him a better musician (or make his music "better")

Now this is, of course, just my opinion. I would be interested to see any analysis you do along these lines. Feel free to use the data we provide to help.

17 Apr 2016

The Platters

Seems strange that the Platters didn't make the list. +They were trailblazersin bringing "black" music to the white charts, and had many successful records, and gold albums. +For some reason, they seem to slip through the cracks, so to speak, in spite of their amazing success i the l950's.

Look on the 1950s page. They are artist #18 of the decade and artist #2 of 1956 (and artist #122 of the whole site)

12 Feb 2016

This isn't right

I'm gonna suggest that you should make a different strategy for artistsuccess. Prince in the 80s made an album nearly every year compared to Jackson. Jackson made 3 ( not counting "victory " because he barely took part). So clearly Prince will be higher because he made way more songs and albums. That doesn't mean he is more successful it means he had way more exposure opportunities yet his best album doesn't compare to jacksons . Your status system is flawed. What you should of done is total number of hits divided by albums or songs as a term for value of weight.

What you suggest would focus on the most high scoring albums or songs, we already have a listing for that.

If we measure an artist's average album success, as you suggest, then the top 10 (of all time) looks like:

1) Marty Robbins, 2) James Horner, 3) Heaven 17, 4) En Vogue, 5) Al Jarreau, 6) Bloc Party, 7) Sting & The Police, 8) Billy Talent, 9) Janis Ian, 10) The Temptations

With notable artists:

691) The Beatles, 606) The Rolling Stones, 690) Michael Jackson

If you want to find a measure which forces Michael Jackson to the top then this isn't it.

9 Feb 2016

Neil Diamond v Michael Jackson

Could expand or explain on Elvis Presley's hits or gold records. I confess I am not sure which era is which anymore but he and/ or Neil Diamond must surly be on a list BEFORE Michael Jackson! They certainly have more voice range than Michael ever did to my mind!

26 Jan 2016

i think u hav a bad way of figurin out thees things

15 Jan 2016

Flawed criteria+

Your criteria is flawed. I think you systematically created a formula to place Michael Jackson low on your list. He only released two albums in the 80s and due to a technicality he wouldn't have the opportunity to chart as well as Madonna who released albums as frequently as she visited the toilet.

Through all your endeavours and failings to make an accurate criteria here are a few other questions I pose.

1. Stevie Wonder had three of the best records ever released in history in the 70s. All three were critically acclaimed and influenced the very artists you've listed (Elton John said Songs In The Key Of Life was the greatest record of all time), yet Stevie Wonder misses your list completely.

2. I assume chart success is simply limited to western world countries that monitor their chart, which leads to a misleading title 'Most successful artists of the US in each decade' would be accurate. Your title is misleading, so your research and findings are amateur. If your research doesn't include every country of the world, it should be clearly stated.

3. Chart success as the only means to measure a musicians success is incorrectly labelled. Success is also measured through endorsement deals, awards of recognition, contract signings, world tours, television ratings, etc. For example, statistics that are readily available and work WITH your theory of 'no opinion - facts' would say Michael Jackson signed the biggest endorsement deal of the 80s with Pepsi. Michael Jackson won more awards than any artist in the history of music, including artist of the year and decade of every awards show in the world including the grammys, AMAs, world music awards, etc. Michael Jackson signed the biggest recording contract of all time in the 80s with Sony. Michael Jackson's 1984 Grammy awards are STILL the highest rated Grammy awards of all time with excess of 50 million viewers. Michael Jackson's performance at Motowns 25th anniversary had over 50 million viewers.

Quite simply, your criteria is flawed and you cannot generate a 'comeback' todisprove my claims because I am stated facts. Your criteria is one dimensional and lacks common sense.

The thought that the scoring system was especially designed to put down Michael Jackson is... quite mad. If we wanted to reduce a single artist's impact that would be easy, but why would we go to all the effort of creating such a comprehensive listing (with data from 1900 for example) if our goal was so stupid?

1. "Stevie Wonder misses your list completely": "Songs In The Key Of Life" is listed and Stevie Wonder is in the top artists of the 1970s.

2. "limited to western world countries": you obviously have not looked at much of this site. If you had you would know that we have put a lot of effort into getting as good a "world view" as possible. We certainly cannot be accused of overly focusing on the US. The fact that there are no available charts for minor countries doesn't matter because more than 90% of the worldwide revenue for music is generated in just 23 countries, the ones we cover. Even if that extra data was available it wouldn't contribute to a "world view"

3. Other measures: Your suggestions rather illustrate the point, first of all there are no reliable sources for any of the measures you mention, just look at how Jackson's fans lie about the sizes of world tours etc, secondly even if there were such "facts" available the selection of which to include and what weight to give them would provide ample opportunity for promoting favoured acts or eras. Your statement that "Michael Jackson won more awards than any artist in the history of music" is exactly the type of subjective unverifiable thing we try to avoid.

"I am stated facts" you have some facts and some opinions, and the facts you do are just isolated items. The fact that the 1984 Grammy Awards had more viewers than any other says more about US TV viewing habits than about Michael Jackson's success. When "The Beatles" was on the Ed Sullivan show 60% of all televisions that were turned on in the USA were watching them. We can't see any reasonable way to compare or contrast these two "facts".

The fact is that, as far as we can see, consolidating chart input is the least bad way to measure the success of musical acts. If you can think of a better one set up your own web site. Once you've done that come back and tell us about it, until you've acually put some work in your opinions are pretty much worthless

9 Jan 2016

hows this decade going?+

hey whos in the lead so far for this decade? top 5. ?

The way we gather data is very good for periods longer than about 10 years ago. We don't trust our results after about 2009 so any results for the current decade are, at best, dubious

7 Jan 2016


I'm pretty sure janet was the second most succesful artist of the 90's andmichael was the N.1 artist of the 80's pls

...and yet the data tells a different story

We'll stay with the data rather than your unsupported suspicion

18 Dec 2015

I thought for sure Three Dog Night would be in the top 5 for the 70's

They don't even make it to the top 50 of the 70s. You can see why on their artist page, first while they had success in the USA they didn't do well elsewhere, secondly their period of greatest success straddled the 60s and 70s.

If we were to list the top acts of 1965-1974 they would be about 57th

13 Dec 2015

No Benny Goodman?

Honestly pretty surprised to see no Goodman for the 30s. I trust your system,but I gotta say, I found that very interesting. Also, that Al Jolson came in second behind Paul Whiteman. Very cool chart here. Definitely not surprised to see Bing in first place for 2 decades, though. That man absolutely dominated the airwaves.

If you look at the 1930s page you will find Benny Goodman at number 7 for the 1930s. Given that he had few hits 1930-1934 that feels about right to us. He was the top act of 1936 (by our numbers)

This is just one of those artifacts that comes from splitting decades at the 9 / 0 boundary.

7 Dec 2015

Did you change it?

You know I'm looking at the older comments saying that Mariah Carey should be the number 1 artist of the 90's but I'm looking at the table above and Mariah is number 1. So did something change, was there a mistake? I know that she was #1, like EVERYBODY that lived in the 90's knew that, it was +Mariah>>>>>everyone else lol. Like no joke, I mean great for her she is very talented.

There was no mistake, the thing is that the order of these lists is determined by the data. The main thing that has changed is that the way the numbers are combined has been refined.

We are sure that the current results are more acurate

3 Dec 2015

you are a**

micheal Jackson at 4 in 1980!!!!!!!!!!!!!When did you born? <long rant insulting all Americans who dislike Micheal Jackson>

9 Nov 2015


70s best live band and top selling records

25 Oct 2015

Linda Ronstadt+

Surprised not to see her listed at all, particularly in the 70's. Didn't she rank at all?

She had the 35th song of the 1970s and is artist 551 of all time (in v2.3.67), but not in the top 50 artists ofthe 1970s. Not enough hit albums basically. Remember that albums contribute twice what songs do.

Of course you can download the CSV file and try some alternative way to calculate

23 Sep 2015


i think this vote got trouble. about 80's , 90's

Michael jackson is the most successful of all time in 80's and 90's ,Everyone around the world knows who he is and how much talent he had , he also is the most famous person in the world that ever live.

This is not a vote, here we deal with facts not opinions, Michael Jackson had fewer hit songs and albums than the artists listed higher. By that definition he was not "the most successful of all time in 80's"

Here no one votes

8 Sep 2015


What about Cher? She had hits music almost every decade from the sixties on

She had hits, but not many until the 1990s, see her page

19 Aug 2015


Since when did you change her rank? I've read some old comments and the argueswere about why Madonna was no.1, not Mariah. Did you change your calculation or something :-?

We did change the calculation. The version numbers indicate the scoring system (as well as fixes in the data). The 2.X scoring switched the order. To be honest for the 1990s whether Madonna or Mariah are number one in the 1990s depends on the fine details of the calculation, in reality they are close enough to each other that the difference isn't significant.

We can say that the two of them are well ahead of the rest of the 1990s acts

10 Aug 2015

The 80s

What about Phil Collins? Tallying his work from Genesis and his solo career,he has more hits and chart time than anyone from the 80s.

30 Jul 2015


look, you can debate musical talent, influence, whatever you want. but interms of SUCCESS in the 80s, michael jackson was on top. i'm not even defending him because i'm a fan, i'm just basing it off numbers. of the top 10 highest grossing tours #2 is bad tour (second to pink floyd only by 6 million dollars and they did 63 more shows on their tour than bad tour) and #6 is the jacksons victory tour. his two solo albums are both in the top 30 highest selling albums of all time, thriller being #1. he spent the most weeks of any artist in the 80s on the charts, most #1 hits, most #1 hits from a single album in the 80s. i don't know what more needs to be said, but yeah. just some facts.

Fewer hit songs, fewer hit albums, lower on our list.

Your opinion and claims don't matter (our opinion doesn't either)

15 Jul 2015

This is genius.

I see you guys have received a lot of hateful comments, and it saddens me to see people unable to look past their preconceived notions of who should be where. I admire your logarithms and think it's very cool to be able to look at various points in history and see who is on top and when.

One suggestion I have, and I have no idea how difficult it would be to implement, but what if there was an option to remove certain songs/albums from a musician's calculation and see how important that particular song/album was to that artist's career. Just an idea, but I think it'd be cool to add in. Anyways, don't let anyone stop you! Good luck!

Interesting suggestion. Actually since we make all our data available (as a CSV file) anyone can try various combinations using that data. If anyone finds a good way to apply these ideas we'd be interested to hear from you.

28 Jun 2015

Hahaha, mj only fourth in the 80's? stupid!

Ha Ha, Unhelpful comment from a Michael Jackson fanboy? Predictable!

6 Jun 2015

Are u kidding me? Usher has the MOST number #1 hit singles and the biggestselling album 'Confessions' within the entire 2000's decade, and isn't even in the top 5??

Did you read what it says at the top of the page? "the results presented for the time since the year 2000 should be treated with caution"

In case you are wondering that means it cannot be trusted

18 May 2015

Metrics to estimate significance of creative works

Hello. I think you might find this paper interesting. It's a Cross-evaluation of metrics to estimate the significance of creative works, it applied to films, but it might be interesting the same method applied to the music industry. Hope you find it useful! Here is the link: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/5/1281.abstract

Interesting, since it relies on "references" from one work to another I can't see how to apply it to music (at least at the level of songs and albums we deal with).

But its good to see other approaches, thanks

5 May 2015

2010s page?

I think I know the answer to this question but when will the current decade get its own page?

That is a really good question.

First let me say that you can generate pretty much what that page would have on it from the CSV download file (with a little sorting).

As we've said in many other places it takes about 5 years for the results we create to be "reliable" (becuase of missing data and issues with consolidation, etc) so at the moment we would not trust any of our own results from later than about 2009.

The site generation software could easily be modified to start generating the 2010s page now, but the results would be so questionable that we would not be happy to put them out there. Our guess would be that we would wait until we had a few reliable years before turning on the 2010s page (something like 2019?)

The "correct" way to solve this issue would be for someone to create a companion site that does this type of global consolidation but only for dates after, say 2000, that way it could take advantage of the greater volume of data available and avoid the heavy maths we have to do to fairly combine the 1930s with the 1990s. If anyone fancies taking on such a challange we'd be happy to discuss.

15 Apr 2015

One way of calibrating success

This is just one way of calibrating success. There are many other ways as well. For example, fame, worldwide album sales, world tour grosses or the number of total attendees, success in specific genres etc. I really haven't listened to much of the people on this list/whatever. If you take any of these into account, the list would be very very different.

The fact that you've chosen to overlook Celine's 2 of 30m+ albums in the 90s and Michael Jackson's 2 40m+ albums in the 80s (which are both in the top 10 best selling albums of all time) shows that you've chosen a very odd way (although it could be a way) of showing success.. oh wait, you haven't even mentioned how you've measured the 'success'... <various unreliable claims and a long rant removed>

This is a relatively personal account of mine but Prince never was as famous or popular as Michael (although I like prince a lot too) worldwide. I live in Pakistan, and believe me almost no one in my city knows about Prince - and I live in one of the + biggest cities of the country - whereas almost everyone knows about Michael (and most of them admire his dancing/singing/music).

Don't trash musicians just because of their hype.

First lets deal with your claims, while it is likely that "Thriller" sold more than 40M copies (and it is almost certainly the best selling album of all time) "Bad" probably sold more like 30M copies and is almost certainly NOT in the top 10 selling albums of all time.

And that is exactly the issue, some measures, such as worldwide album sales, world tour grosses and number of concert attendees have no reliable sources and a lot of silly claims. Using them to assess success would deliver unreliable results. As for "success in specific genres" we don't even know where we could find such a measure.

In contrast "position in charts" is possible to find for periods starting in 1900 and is reliable from the 1950s onward (in some places). The claim that we have not mentioned how we convert chart positions to a measure of "success" is both insulting and clearly wrong. We have described in detail how these rankings are generated (just follow the links on this page and actually read the text rather than guessing what it will say). We have also provided the raw data so you can do your own calculation, and invited anyone to explain either why this approach is unfair to certain artists or suggest how it could be improved.

One possible measure that would be an improvement would be to look at all the material released by an artist and see what proportion of it reached the charts. However we don't have the resources to discover *all* the releases by the 32,450 artists who have hits. If you think you can do that we'd be interested to look at the results, if you are not prepared to put in that work we'll continue to rely on our results (we have done the work you see)

We don't see how the statement that, according to our measure, in the 1980s U2 had more success that Michael Jackson is in any way "trashing" him. This is just a statement of fact.

10 Apr 2015

Thank you for creating this very informative site. Some of the artists listedas being the highest charting of a certain year or decade are completely different to what I had expected, but I trust that your data is far more reliable than my guesses. It's also interesting to see who the top artists of the early decades are - I would imagine that most people nowadays have never heard of Billy Murray or the Peerless Quartet, and yet they were once the most successful artists in the world.

I'm also curious about how much these lists would change if you did it for ten year periods starting at a different point, e.g. 1975-1985, 1985-1995, etc. I'm guessing that some of the artists on these lists only rank as highly as they do because they happened to have all of their hit singles and albums within particular decades.

Thanks for the kind words. You raise an interesting question, given that one could claim the main "seismic shifts" in music occurred in, say 1957, 1964, 1978 and 1995 then the periods 1945-54, 1955-64, 1965-74, 1975-84 etc would each seem to be more internally consistent than the arbitrary division by decade. When we're using this data to generate our own "hits of the era" playlists we tend to do so for 5 year periods (1965-69 for example). The decades just seem to us to have too much diversity.

We would agree that the division into decades does artificially favour certain artists, of course shifting to 5 year periods or starting each decade at a different "year number" would boost a different (but just as arbitrary) set of artists.

But you don't need to wonder about who would be, say, the highest scoring artists for albums from 1985-1994, you can download our CSV file and quickly do the calculation yourself (the answer is "U2", "Madonna" and "Prince" are all about the same and ahead of all the others, unless we allow "Original Soundtrack")

Playing with the CSV file in a spreadseet provides some interesting insights into the "bigger picture". We would recommend it (but, of course we are data nerds). If you find something interesting we'd like to hear about it.

25 Mar 2015

Celine Dion at the first.

In the 90s, Celine Dion should be at the first ,and not Mariah Carey.

24 Mar 2015

No matter what, the most important is not the number 1 place, is who you love.I love Madonna and she is my always number one, and the only QUEEN.

7 Mar 2015

The Osmonds

Many do not realize that The Osmonds have sold over 100 million records. In the early 70's they beat out both The Beatles and Elvis for the most gold records received in one year at 10. +A record that is still held today. +Although known for their bubblegum image, The Osmonds wanted to become a hard rock band but were held back by their label. +With the release of "Crazy Horses" and "Hold Her Tight" you can get a feel of where they wanted to take their tunes. +Underneath all the sugar, these guys were really good.

6 Mar 2015

World outside UK and USA

MJ made his own music ! And he did play instruments. MJ didn't need anyinstrumentalist to create songs for him. He made the melody and all the arrangement himself. If someone else played instrument while recording the song in the studio, that doesn't make him/her the composer. If i repeat a song on some instrument that makes me a musician ? Am i the composer of that song now ? Beatles and Prince fans have the most dumbest ramblings on internet. Even some of the people on x-factor and American idol can sing and play instrument simultaneously.

In our experience it is very clear which artists have the dumbest fans on the internet

17 Feb 2015


Also, Jackson had to fight to get his #1 song on MTV solely because he was black. Beatles didn't ever have to worry about things like that.

17 Feb 2015


In response to (2 post down). Micheal Jackson did not need any sessionmusicians. I suggest you listen to his bedroom recording of Billy Jean. Not a far trip to the released version. It is also quite obvious, if you know a bit about lyrics, to see who wrote them. He wrote his lyrics. They were the most important thing that drove his music. It really sounds like you don't know what you are talking about. The Beatles used many session musicians too: George Martin, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, and countless horn & string players. The Beatles admittedly lifted many riffs. There is no reason for your comment. Oh, & I'm a bigger Beatle fan than you.

17 Feb 2015


Definitely wrong to include Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. They should beexempt because they were married to the CEO of their record company. Without that endle$$ promotion, they would not have amounted to much.

We measure success, it doesn't matter what caused it.

13 Feb 2015

Garth Brooks

For the person who said Garth on trails Elvis and the beatles

Check your stats

In 2013 Garth was offically listed the 3rd biggest selling solo artist in theUSA of the sound scan era, From the late 80's early 90's. Believe it or not it is face. Now is 2015 he is number 2

25 Jan 2015

Michael Jackson V The Beatles

Why do MJ fans think that if they shout loudest then they will change the stats on their fave artist. MJ was a great live performer. However, he had to hire dozens of session musicians to make the music on his albums. He also had to hire many professional songwriters to compose or co-compose his recorded songs. MJ was one of the great 'pop' singers of the 80's and yes, he was a brilliant live act. I am a Beatles fan. I am happy with their stats. I will not shout out that they should have the best selling single album. I am happy with their overall album and singles sales. They remain the biggest selling music act in history due to their original songs and their innovative musicianship and recording techniques. IT is impossible for any act to hold all the records. But the Beatles continue to hold their own. MJ fans should be happy with what he did achieve in his time. He is still popular today and remains as big as Madonna or Prince. Celebrate that.

24 Jan 2015

Where Is Michael Jackson?!

Deyy. You should list him coz he ruled the music!

5 Jan 2015


Michael Jackson should with out a doubt be at number one for the 1980s.Michael Jackson had the 1st best selling album of the 1980s which is also the biggest selling album ever (Thriller), Michael Jackson has the 2nd best selling album of the 1980s which is among the best selling albums ever (bad). Michael Jackson had more number ones than any other artist, had the most successful concert series and sold the most records. He became the most famous person in the world, revolutionised pop music and you can really justify putting him at number 4. He holds every musical record possible in the 1980s so your list is extremely inaccurate and your excuses are also inaccurate. Michael Jackson is the king of pop and the biggest selling artist in the world. He has influenced all of the most successful artists of the last few decades. If you can really look beyond those achievements by a Michael Jackson then you don't deserve to post on the internet because you're information is highly inaccurate and absolutely ridiculous. You claim that record sales don't apply yet you've placed Elvis and the Beatles at number one for that exact reason. Stop being so ridiculous and open your eyes to the truth and the success of Michael Jackson.

Its true that "Thriller" was the biggest selling album, but "Bad" was certainly NOT the second biggest seller of the 1980s and he certainly did NOT have more number ones than other artists in the 1980s. Making exaggerated claims, like that he sold anywhere near the same total as The Beatles or Elvis just demonstrates why our data driven approach is so necessary. The fact that Michael Jackson fans shout louder and are more abusive than others does not prove anything good about him.

As we've explained a few times we don't "decide" to put him 4th, that's where the actual chart data places him. Even if we agreed with you that he in some way "should" be top in the 1980s we'd have to find some strange combination of scores to put him there.

The fact is that its the data that places him as the 4th artist of the 1980s and no amount of shouting will change that.

2 Jan 2015

Sales are limited by population - clever list

Great article, and much more meaningful than grouping them all together to compare head-to-head. It's amazing what pops up - e.g. Glenn Miller. World population was much smaller at the start of the 20th century than today, and so of course were the US and UK populations. As a percentage of population, those earlier acts like the Beatles or Bing Crosby are far more impressive. It wouldn't be too hard to do some quick calculations, based on populations at time of release, to create a meaningful top 10 that compares across decades, although there are other factors to consider, such as technology and globalisation of music sales. It's always tempting to prioritise music from within our own lifetime, and to ignore stuff we didn't grow up with, e.g. by Bill Murray, who I'm not familiar with except as an actor. As a music lover, though, I want to go and seek out this stuff.

1 Jan 2015

top ten singers

Many years ago I read a newspaper article naming the ten best singers. Hereare eight: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Arethra Franklin and Barbara Streisand. By chance do you know the two other singers? Your lists make a lot of sense.

5 Dec 2014

Prince outsold Michael Jackson in the 1980s? I think not.

Read what the page actually says, then comment

4 Dec 2014


I noted Madonna was the 2nd most successful female artist for 3 decades. She has sold more than 400 albums, she is an iconic woman proudly compared in sales with Michael Jackson, Elton John, Pink Floyd and other great artists.

27 Nov 2014

You guys are idiots

Really Prince? Queen should be the #1

"Should" is beyond our remit, we list "was"

16 Nov 2014


What about Rolf Harris?

Never was much of a success in the USA so doesn't make the list

5 Nov 2014

what about queen and biggie,tupac?

Didn't get enough hits to make the list

8 Oct 2014

Wheres Lana??

wheres Lana Del Rey shes like the #5 artist from 2010s...

8 Oct 2014

2010s imo


5) Lana Del Rey 4) Beyonce 3) Britney Spears 2) Adele 1) Eminem+

20 Sep 2014

Not satisfied+

Hey I wonna know where is Taylor swift . One of the most successful country music singer and now also on pop music. +I think this list is wrong .....

As the text says the data is only reliable up to about 5 years ago (that is 2009). Most of Taylor Swift's hits have been later than that.

5 Sep 2014


Elvis was more successful because there wasn't as many options in music fromthe 40s-50s. Once the 60s came, music progressed to many variations which gave customers more options to choose from thus minimizing the individual success of all artist. That should be computed in your cheesy algorithm, as well as the civil rights act of 1964 which gave blacks completely equal rights. Your arrogance in your so called unbiased algorithm doesn't take into account the different races individual circumstances, which culturally affect product sales. It is impossible to make an accurate algorithm to determine a music artist success through many decades without taking everything into account. The only way to compare musicians without any bias is to put them in the same decade facing the same obstacles, which is impossible. The rest is just a matter of personal tastes. My opinion is that through cultural obstacles, Michael Jackson is the most successful. In terms of combination of songwriting, creativity, originality, skill, coupled with top hits and album sales, the most successful is the Beatles. I give you credit for trying, this is still biased, even though it does not reflect your own personal biases.

We discuss at length the various ways that our algorithm is biased, it is not perfect but it does try and take into account the ways that different periods interact with the charts. We think the result is about as neutral as it can possibly be.

Your suggestion that race should have any type of role is insulting, only an American would think so. Your mention of US domestic politics clearly demonstrates that you are American. The data here comes from countries outside the US, most of whom are a lot less racist than the US was for the period covered.

Michael Jackson as the most successful artist despite cultural obstacles - you must be joking. I suggest you read about the lives of Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, Nina Simone and even Jimmy Hendrix, clearly you don't know about even US history.

5 Sep 2014

are you kidding me

are you kidding me??? +what a load of bollocks and your lame excuses for youself serving fantasy charts holy crap you ball of tripe and such an waste of web space with your unsubstantiated wax banter and patter.

Feel free to not look here again then

30 Aug 2014

This is right!

Mariah should only be First! No questions should be asked enough haters,Mariah has sold over 212 million albums CERTIFIED but her teams says 275! It's a marketing gimmick, Mariah has #18 hits to her name seventeen self penned, I can't Name anyone to this day that can turn a note into the ground lift it up with a butterfly belt as high as she wants and take it further with her whistle xx she has no limits she's the queen bitch of what she does and as she came back you should all know she's coming back for all your asses!! #MC #often imitated never duplicated!

Your opinion is noted, other opinions are also available

27 Aug 2014


+I knew I would find shady here

21 Aug 2014

What of beyonce??? She sure is the artist of 2000s! She is currently the higest paid black female artist from her Mrs carter show tour??? How come she isn't on the top five list????

The song list is always about 5 years behind (so currently its only OK to about 2008)

So, as it says in the text, this is not really trustworthy, other sites will have better data

14 Aug 2014


MJ was the biggest selling artist of the 80s & you can't denied that. Prince &U2 is not that well known all over the world like MJ & Madonna is. Prince most well known album is Purple Rain which only sell 20 million copies worldwide & it's not even closed to how many MJ's Thriller & Bad album sell which were released in the 80s. Also has the most sold out tour dates in the 80s too. So MJ is the most successful of the 80s.

The list is not based on sales numbers (because in reality no-one actually knows those). Madonna had more number one songs and more number one albums, so she scores higher. It doesn't matter how much you think Jackson "deserves" to be higher (or even what our opinion is), the order on this page is determined by the facts not opinions

14 Aug 2014

Uk sales+

In the UK Shakin Stevens was the biggest selling singles artist of the 80'showever using both Singles and albums i doubt he would be No 1.+

This list combines singles and albums and covers the whole world. We suspect the fact that he does not appear is entirely fair.

4 Aug 2014

Michael Jackson is #1. +PERIOD.

HOW DARE YOU PUT THE KING OF POP AT #4 FOR THE '80s?... <rant deleted>

<other posts from the same place also removed>

26 Jul 2014

The proper way to compare record sales

You have to adjust for population growth if you use sales.

That is true. You also have to find reliable sales numbers.

(and what about the impact that the war had on sales in the early 1940s?)

25 Jul 2014

Elvis has once again +been declared 'The biggest selling solo music act of alltime' by RIIA in 2014. He will always be KING and no other artist can touch him.

8 Jul 2014


this topic is subject to many different opinions, some are based on pureprejudice ,as a long time music lover, i was born during the birth of rock and roll which also competed with pop music,country and what was then called soul music or r and b, jazz was also popular among some, if you turned on the radio these were your options,its my opinion that the best music as far as melody goes and pure variety of subject matter was 1964-1974, i notice whent he +who the +sold more records question comes up among the younger generation most want to claim its their generation . the problem is they dont have the facts to defend their positions, so there must be a standard you can go by, if we consider total sales which is really the only way to see who had the most mass appeal, , not just certain races or social groups or cultural groups, or age groups, it is a fact that elvis sold more than the beatles.and the beatles sold more than michael jackson, now considering all of these had long record selling time spans,(michael was just a kid and in my opinion was the jackson five,) this is the 123 of record sales, mariah carey is in there too.the fats are allthe others did not or will never come close to these ,no matter what people say.rap and hip hop are sold to a very small base of people compared to these 3 or 4, i can see why,i dont care what race an artist is good songs or singers +you cant help but like them, stevie wonder, the motown sound had a huge audience among a broad range of music lovers, not just white, there is no way you can compare these artists to todays hip hop so called artists, their subject matter is sex sex sex, for the most part and the melodies suck compared to motown ,todays country music all sounds the same with few exceptions, no individuality, now you can say my opinion is based on my +age, not true, my opinion is based on my ears, good melody and good subject matter distinct voices instantly recognized after hearing it only once. karen carpenter elvis, +jackson, lennon mccartney, so many others,diana ross, dion warwick, +these are timeless songs and artists all the others will never come near their talents. melody was lost at some point, subject matter was lost at some point,songwriters who could write about all kind of subjects, not just relationships and sex was also lost at some point, +elvis sold +more records than ANYONE +thats a fact ,the beatles are second, both are still selling records among old and young, the beatles had more influence on music lovers than any group in history, thats fact not just opinion,

19 Jun 2014

Michael Jackson owned the 80s

I'm quite horrified to see that MJ has been ranked 4th in the 1980s. Clearly your so called "complex calculations" logic is nothing but a joke and this site has been put up by some dumb biased Madonna & Prince fans. Please visit wikipedia and read the Guiness book of World records to know more about MJ.

This site is for those that want to use the data to come to their views. You should feel free to believe Wikipedia and not let facts cloud your opinions

29 May 2014

All you Mj fans

John Lennon said it best "before Elvis there was nothing". Mj was more plastic than human. When he died, they probably melted him down into a Lego, so little boys can play with him for a change

21 May 2014



21 Apr 2014

list of century

for sales of records; 1. The Beatles, 2. Elvis 3. Abba for importance and influence; 1. Beatles, 2 Elvis 3.Dylan. Michael Jackson or Madonna do not come close. And of course Mariah Carrey or any hiphop act does not come close. Infact; in records sold(or downloaded, or paid, The Beatles outscore any other artists since 1992.Including U2 Maodnna Eminem Mariah Carey and Prince or Michael J.

16 Apr 2014

elvis vs mj

Clearly, on this site and a few others, the mj fans can't accept the fact that Elvis sold more and had way more hits around the world than he did.

12 Apr 2014

Elvis is overrated

Simply claiming that people have changed something forever shooldn't raisethem on a pedestal. Hitler also changed the course of history, but he's certainly nobody to worship. Regardless, let me make it clear that Elvis was good, but by no means equivalent to Michael Jackson. No, i'm actually not that big of a Michael Jackson fan (Mariah Carey's my favorite) and I wasn't born until 1997, proving that my opinion is impartial and not bias in anyway...

I understand that the author of this used an algorithm and was unbiased, but for the record this is my input for the whole MJ vs Elvis "controversy"

We agree, Elvis was one of the most influential music acts of all time, Michael Jackson was not even the most successful act of the 1980s. They are in no way equivalent.

The idea that because you are young you are impartial is in direct contradiction with our experience.

So we would disagree with your opinion that "Elvis is overrated", but the goal of this site is not to change your strongly held opinions, it is to provide impartial evidence for those who are still open to discussion.

11 Apr 2014


Prince a bigger artist than Michael Jackson? It`s the total album/singles sales worldwide that counts. According to the RIAA Michael Jackson is nr 7 of all time best-selling artist in the US with sales of 75.5 million. Madonna? Nr 15 with 64.5 mill. Prince is waay down at 36 with 39,5. //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_music_artists_in_the_United_States

In the Uk, List of best-selling music artists in the United Kingdom in singles sales lists Michael Jackson at nr 5 with singles sales of 15.3 million. Prince is at nr 54 with only 5.3 million. What is your definition of success? If a an artist release an album that stays on the top spot for 37 weeks and another that stays on the top spot for 6 weeks and selling almost 100 million combined (Thriller and Bad), Neither Batman, Around the world.. and Purple rain was at number 1 more then 40 weeks combined. Michael Jackson sold 110 million albums in the 80s, more than Madonna and Prince. So he had more success

First of all our calculation shows that Prince had more success in the 1980s than Michael Jackson. On this site we have used five different methods to calculate success across decades, each has been explained in detail. In none of those 5 does Prince score higher than Michael Jackson.

The Beatles two and a half times more US sales, Elvis with almost twice as many US sales. So clearly your evidence supports the conclusion that Michael Jackson is nowhere near either of those acts.

I don't know what source you are using for UK sales figures. Worldwide sales figures for the 1980s are unreliable and certainly useless as evidence.

Our criteria for success are clearly stated, the input data is documented. We report the results of applying systematic processes to defined inputs, we won't fiddle our results for anyone.

28 Feb 2014


erm what about.............. DIANA ROSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She was artist 35 of the 1980s

Remeber this listing combines album and song success

26 Feb 2014

Nice to see an objective system at last

Having followed music sales for many years - I have always been annoyed howhype doesn't always fit real life sales or how success in one country is 'sold' by hype as being typical of global success. I think hard-core fans should just accept that their favourite acts may well not have been as globally successful as they would have liked - stop rallying against a very fair system of calculation here and just be glad of whatever successes their favourite acts have had - sales aren't everything!

22 Feb 2014

next decade 2010

When are you going to put out the next decade list... 2010's?

The data from after 2009 is, at best, of limited value. We won't be consolidating this data for a while yet.

14 Feb 2014

Michael Jackson: Incorrect 1980's Placement

ACTUALLY: Michael Jackson IS listed as Billboard's Artist Of The Decade...

Speaking of the false king and culture-thief Elvis, It's reported Michael sold more records since his death than Elvis and John Lennon combined since theirs.

This list is about worldwide success (not just success in the US like the Billboard list). Also it follows a published approach (rather than being swayed by aggressive fans and media notoriety).

The phrase "it's reported that" is a clear flag of your lack of any real data to support your views.

10 Feb 2014

Bing Crosby

It is now clear that Bing Crosby was the man.

Well he was well before my time, it appears from my research that Bing has more number One/top thirty hit's that anyone else.

In fact no one even comes close, in addition to no one being Number One for two decades in a row.

Mr. B. Cosby accomplished the above during the Great Depression and World War Two, which is quite remarkable.

I might add that Bing was a hugely popular radio/movie star +being Number Box office from '45-'49 as well as receiving academy awards. While, I love Elvis, the Beatles, & Michael Jackson the facts speak for themselves that B. Crosby is the MAN.

That is certainly a valid position to hold.

Our estimate is that any one of Bing Crosby, The Beatles, Elvis, Paul Whiteman, Frank Sinatra or Glenn Miller could feasibly be claimed to be the most successful musical acts of the 20th century, depending on how you combine the evidence. For most approaches the top act works out as Bing Crosby, The Beatles or Elvis, but the others turn up for some metrics.

Our calculation is that if Madonna continues to be successful for another decade or so she would join that elite list.

It depends on how you estimate success, but our numbers indicate that Bing Crosby is certainly one of the top 3.

9 Feb 2014


I am curious as to how you calculated this.

The details of the various calculations are all described on the site. The way the main "score" is calculated is described in the "How the site is generated?" FAQ page.

9 Feb 2014


Are U2 really the 14th highest selling artist?

This site does not track "sales" since there is no reliable source for that information and comparing sales in the 1940s with those in the 1970s would be a stupid thing to do.

According to our analysis (which is detailed in the FAQ) U2 are the 14th most successful song artists of the 20th century. They are the 7th most successful album artist.

Our uninformed guess would be that they are certainly in the top 20 best selling artists of all time (but as we said we have no good evidence for that)

2 Feb 2014


A little embarrassing to be associated with those other MJ fans, but im an MJ fan all the way . Regardless of the stats though, I still think the Beatles, Elvis and MJ are the three best and i dont even like the Beatles. As for Elvis, hes definitely the King of Rock but Jackson was the King of Pop. That said I'm curious to know who is more known worldwide, Elvis or MJ.

21 Dec 2013


isnt it great to upset the jackson fans, they just cant belive that elvis is the real king,

14 Dec 2013

how is garth brooks not on the list for the 90's

He is listed for the 1990s, artist 16 for the decade is pretty good for someone with so few song hits outside the US.

This site lists artists which have had significant impact round the world

25 Nov 2013


Reading through most of the comments on this page, It amazes me how many people get really pset that there favorite artist/band is not listed as the biggest seller in a particular decade. Firstly, Its on record sales, If they are not top they did not sell enough. Secondly, you love that artist/band, why should it make any difference to you weather they are top or not?


You would have thought so wouldn't you

16 Nov 2013


Michael Jackson was a huge pop star back in the 1980s and I understand why hisfans think he should be No1 for that decade. But they forget that Michael was not very prolific as a recording artist or writer. He only wrote 26 recorded songs by himself on his studio albums, without any professional co-writer help. All other songs were written for him. And he had to hire musicians to make his music. He only released 1 album on average every 5 years. But, the Beatles deserve their rating. They recorded and released 11 studio albums in just 7 years. They wrote over 200 recorded songs in just 7 years. And that music not only made them the biggest selling music act in history but it also changed the way popular songs are written and recorded.

15 Nov 2013


Thats a joke, Elvis stoled from black artist. I have never heard black orwhite artist wail and rock like Elvis in such songs as Jailhouse rock and Little Sister and sing ballads like Cant help falling in Love. A black artist did reord Hound Dog (written by a White guy) but its nothing close to Presley's vesrion. That like saying Ray Charles stoled all his music from a white artist because whites invented the piano.

14 Nov 2013


Eminem = Rap God

8 Nov 2013

Mariah carey annaylated the 90s highest vocal range to this day more albumssold and more no.1 hits than any one in the game still ripping it with #beautiful goin classic mariah no.1 in over 30 countries and sold PLATINUM +

1 Oct 2013


haha while all of you are debating about Michael Jackson, im sitting here happy that my man Slim Shady made it on the list. LEGEND FOREVER GO EM!

15 Sep 2013


It's always nice to hear how big Elvis was, and indeed he was a great singer and performer. And along with the Beatles and Dylan one of the greatest influences in music. But as it comes to songwriting, he has achieved nothing. All the big hits are written by other people. And that's why the Beatles and Dylan are both bigger than Elvis.+

9 Sep 2013


I'm sorry. Elvis was good. But he was in no way bigger than Michael Jackson atall. Elvis stole alot of dance moved and his singing style from black artists as mainstream media back the blew it up to be something new and original.

Michael Jackson and Madonna are both the King & Queen of pop. This whole chart is sketchy.


21 Aug 2013


The 50s weren't even Davis' best decade.

19 Aug 2013

What's in a name pt. 2

Thank you for answering my question, "how much does a name influence the success of an artist?" Your reply was, "How would you define a test to measure such an effect? The data is available for download, if you can use it to answer that question we'd like to hear about."

Honestly, I was asking for your personal opinion on the matter. I'm in theprocess of finding the information to support my argument that an artist name is VERY important, but I would like to hear what you have to say about it. It seems like all Male artist with no more than 2 syllable first names and last names are often very marketable and liked the most. Paul McCartney may be the most successful solo male artist there is, counting his work with the Beatles, but his name is an exception because of his history with the Beatles. Madonna is another exception that falls into the category of one word names being easier for fans to remember. I have to do a lot more research but I would like your opinion on what is in a name and it's correlation with success. I honestly don't think Bob Dylan would've made it as "Robert Zimmerman" or Jimi Hendrix as "James Marshall Hendrix." It just doesn't roll off the tongue right, haha.

I really don't have a good feel for the impact that an artist's name has, as you say Robert Zimmerman or Priscilla Maria White don't sound like pop stars, but maybe that's just because they changed their names, if they hadn't maybe we'd have thought that anyone called "Bob Dylan" was never going to hit the big time.

But just looking at the successful artists doesn't tell you anything, you have to contrast their names with "typical" showbiz names (and where you get them from is a different question). I guess you could look at all the artists that "broke" in a particular year and contrast those that became a success with those that didn't...

Like I said, we'd be interested in your results

16 Aug 2013

Where is avenged?

If you mean the group "Avenged Sevenfold" it will be some time before they accumulate enough hits to be on this list.

14 Aug 2013

From Bing Crosby to Emminent M- +wow

Kind of tells you how far we've regressed, doesn't it. From the style and crooning of Bing, Elvis and even the classic Beatles to the crap of Rap


30 Jul 2013

The sun never sets on a legend !!

Elvis wont be beaten there will never be an entertainer who will be thatunique to impact on people lives around the world like he did and even though he as been dead for over 35 years he still as big draw to his hometown of memphis and continues to sell records and gain gold and platinum awards year on year!!

19 Jul 2013

Most successful artists of each decade

Marcia - here is a starter. +There are many sites that list top songs through the decades. +Let's see what exciting sheet music or albums you have to share. I can't wait!!!!


1 Jul 2013

Queen of Pop

Madonna should be 1 in 80s and MJ 2 but ok...80's,90's,00's she is #2 and she deserve this..!!!!!!

27 Jun 2013

RIAA says Elvis sold the most

While I enjoy diversity and the talent the many artists have displayed over the years, I wanted to know which artist sold the most records. It wasn't as close as I thought.

According to the R.I.A.A., the governing body that certifies Gold, Platinum, and Multi-Platinum Record Sales, (Recording Industry Association of America) the Leading all time Artist in Record Sales is ELVIS PRESLEY. Elvis is the leading sales artist for both Solo Artist or Group. Elvis has sold over 2.5 Billion Records Worldwide. ( A Billion is 1 Thousand Million). Elvis has been on the charts more times than any other artist or group. Elvis has the most hits in the Top 100, the Top 40, The Top 10, and has had 32 Number 1 Records. Elvis is the only artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Country Music Hall of Fame, The Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and The Rythm and Blues Hall of Fame.

John Lennon said: "Before Elvis there was nothing". Bruce Springsteen said: "There are pretenders and contenders... but their is only one King". Elton John said: "There is no one greater as an artist on this earth, Elvis was my inspiration... he is the Man. Period."

Paul McCartney said: "I thought the Beatles had gold records, until I had a private tour of Graceland... the hall of Gold says it all... Elvis has the most Gold, Platinum, and Multi-Platinum sales of all of us.... amazing man... simply amazing".

According to the R.I.A.A., with help from EMI, the Beatles place number 2 on the list of All Time Record Sellers with nearly 1.6 Billion Records sold worldwide. Hey Jude was their Biggest selling record followed by Yesterday.

Michael Jackson made the top 20, placing number 16 on the list of all time Record Sales. His Album Thriller is the Biggest Selling Album of all time with over 50 Million Copies Sold. Michael's personal sales as a Solo Artist, along with the Jackson 5, has sold a total of 185 Million Records worldwide. (His Album BAD sold 22 Million copies).

These certifications, current as of March 1, 2009. Every 3 months the R.I.A.A., with the help of BMI, and ASCAP... update record sales awards.

So, there ya go folks. Those are the true facts. And, I might add, Elvis, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson continue to sell records daily.

So, their record sales will continue to increase. But remember, in Elvis and the Beatles day, you had to sell 1 million copies for a single, and 500 thousand for an album to be certified gold. Now days, you only have to sell 500 thousand singles and 250,000 albums to be certified gold. That's what makes the sales records of Elvis and the Beatles even more impressive.

The Fans and Other Entertainers called Elvis, "The King of Rock and Roll". The term "King of Pop" was self imposed by Michael Jackson. It stuck from there, but Michael called himself that... that's what he wanted to be called.

The Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C., named Elvis Presley, "The Greatest Entertainer of the 20th Century".

Source(s): The Recording Industry Association of America, ASCAP, BMI, Billboard Magazine, RCA Records/BMG Records.

18 Jun 2013

What's in a name?

Through your research, how much does a name influence the success of an artist?

Also, do you think this new trend of one word names for artist is more beneficial to an artist career than the conventional two names?

How would you define a test to measure such an effect?

The data is available for download, if you can use it to answer that question we'd like to hear about it

17 Jun 2013

1920s and 1930s

From what I have been hearing around I thought that George Gershwin would have been more successful during these decades. What place is he in right now?

We list the performers not the writers

16 Jun 2013

mj to be number 1+

Michael Jackson should be number 1 in the 80s. Thriller sold 65-110 million copies and bad sold around 40 million no other singer could match them sales.

Firstly this is about success across the whole decade, other artists had more singles and albums in the charts.

Secondly no one who has actually examined the evidence could possibly believe 110 million copies, and anyone that suggests that number cannot be taken seriously.

12 May 2013

Elvis No1

Elvis should be in top 5 in 70s. +He spend more time on the UK charts than any other artist in the 70s-- Most weeks on UK Singles Chart by decade 70s- Elvis Presley 331weeks Elton John 223 weeks Diana Ross 220 weeks Paul McCartney/Wings 216 weeks Rod Stewart 209 weeks

PLUS had many big hits in the 70s worldwide like The wonder of you, Burning love, Moody Blue, Way down, My Boy, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, My Way, and Always on my mind. King of rock and roll.

Our algorithm says Elvis is 11th. We think that reflects his global performance.

If you disagree download the CSV data and try your own approach, tell us if you find an analysis that puts Elvis near the top for the 1970s

11 May 2013


How did Mariah Carey not make the top 5 artists of the 2000's decade??? Her album The Emancipation of Mimi was the best-selling album of 2005.

We are almost certain that "X&Y" by Coldplay outsold it even in the US in 2005. Being a top artist of the deacde requires more than one top album

9 May 2013

I wonder if madonna was more successful in 80s than m.j!

In the 1980s - Madonna: 4 number one albums, Michael Jackson: 2. Madonna: 14 number one songs, Michael Jackson: 13

Our algorithm says that Madonna tops Jackson in the 1980s (easily), but we provide the data (in the CSV file), download that and see what the order is when you try your method

28 Apr 2013

Most Successful Musical Act

Elvis Presley is the Greatest Selling Musical Act of All-Time bar none. Sony,his current music company, have recently stated that his Worldwide sales are over 1.1 Billion. That is more than The Beatles or Michael Jackson. In fact, Michael Jackson's sales do not even total half of what Elvis has sold. One only has to do the math for the number of albums Jackson has released to see this. If every album sold as many as 'THRILLER' or BAD' he would still be nowhere near 500 million in sales. Of course, Elvis was far more than just a singer/entertainer but quite an historical figure. It was he alone who broke down social and cultural barriers in 1950's U.S.A. making it easier for all artists who followed in his footsteps. In doing so he paved the way for the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. Elvis was the complete package: he had the talent, the looks, the voice, the charisma, the moves, the attitude and was extremely humble with it. Today, Elvis is still the template by which success is measured in the music industry and his voice and image are everywhere from motion picture films (his image is even featured in the latest futuristic Tom Cruise film) to musical stage plays to touring concerts and TV soap operas to being the most impersonated entertainer ever. Elvis is also the most photographed person of all-time. He was simply THE BEST and truly 'sui generis'.

26 Apr 2013

elvis presley

Just a thought but I would think Elvis would be in the top 5 for the 70s

Our estimate is that Elvis was the 11th artist of the 1970s based on hit songs and albums

14 Apr 2013

Thank You

Thank you for using DATA to come up with the CORRECT figures. This page is packed with reliable information that is not biased in any way, shape, or form. Thank you for standing firm with results when some posters try to argue otherwise. Some people can't appreciate anything.

12 Apr 2013


Garth Brooks trails only the Beatles and Elvis in alltime record sales...

That is so obviously wrong its not even worth reading your rant any further

9 Apr 2013


The younger generation doesn't know shit about Elvis Presley. His legacy died a long time ago... ...even little kids know who Michael Jackson is...

White people don't want to accept the fact that MJ was bigger than Elvis and The Beatles...

Your racially based bias in favour of Michael Jackson is both blatant and deplorable. It has no place in any rational discussion.

We use data rather than personal opinion to assess success, Prince had more hits in the 1980s. Your suggestion that we have in some way promoted hime above Jackson because we are "white people" is both insulting and obviously stupid.

6 Mar 2013

Are you a fan of Prince? Just curious

Not really. But there again that's the whole point, our opinion shouldn't matter.

5 Mar 2013

Gross sales

I'm wondering whether you have sales figures for individual records. I'm particularly interested in when any jazz-oriented artist first reached the million mark. Did the Original DIxieland Jazz Band? Paul Whiteman? Ted Lewis? Thanks for your help.

We don't trust any published sales figures.

Wikipedia claims that the first "Gold Record" was presented to Glenn Miller in February 1942 to celebrate "Chattanooga Choo Choo" which had sold 1.2 million copies.

Given the fact that the war caused there to be fewer artists with bigger sales, our guess would be the first million selling records would be in the early 1940s rather than the 1930s. We would suspect that Glenn Miller really was the first artist to reach this mark.

There are few enough reliable sales numbers from the 1970s, so finding this type of information for the 1930s would be a welcome surprise (if you know of any please tell us)

4 Mar 2013


No doubting MJ's musical talent @ stage presence. However, he never eclipsedeither ELVIS or the BEATLES & probably never would. As good as he was, those two were proven to be more successful & probably more popular. They were all great though.

28 Feb 2013


I'm happy to see many legends as The Beatles, U2, MJ, Madonna, Prince and Elvis Presley. They are not only the most successful artists, but legends too, people will remember them forever.

There are also some other lucky artists that that somehow managed to enter thelist but then they weren't being successful as Mariah Carey and wait for Britney.

27 Feb 2013


There's gotta be something pertaining to the Beach Boys. The greatest sellingAmerican rock band ever and the most important, influential and timeless. Maybe they didnt surpass the Beatles in sells but certainly in quality and longevity.

The Beach Boys are listed as the number 5 artist of the 1960s

25 Feb 2013

Pearl Jam

The original grunge

14 Feb 2013


I commented here back in 2009 complaining about madonna being #1 and mariah #2 in the 90s. look now, 4 years later, they are finally reversed. nice update, huh. mariah would win by miles in the 90s if asian countries tally their own charts. we all know how BIG she is in Asia. even bigger than MJ and The Beatles. Not a Madonna hater, but nobody really cares about her in Asia.

Proof: Her highest grosser tours never had a stop in Asia (one in Israel, but that's somehow in Europe)

10 Feb 2013


Where the hell is Nirvana?! They were way more successful than Mariah Carey and they changed music forever.

Artist number 6 of the 1990s (by our metric)

27 Jan 2013


I'm glad to see Queen so high on pretty much all lists. After The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, they are up there along with other great bands. There are several poll critics and similar stuffs employed in here, combined with charts stats, which is something I don't share. Not questioning it, just mentioning it isn't why I would opt to do myself. I suppose that if no "critics" lists were used, Queen would be higher as they were always hated by most of them.

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.

21 Jan 2013

The Beatles

It is interesting that Michael Jackson fans are so convinced that their idolshould be the best selling music act in history. And there is no doubt that MJ still has a lot of fans. However, if they took the time to research official music data sites such as RIAA, they will discover that the Beatles are the top selling act in USA with MJ at No 11. Or check out Musicwire for the top selling acts 1991 - 2012. Beatles are No 2 and MJ is not in the top 10. In fact, he was not even in the top 50 until he died. And there is always the Guniness Book of Records that shows the Beatles as the top selling act in history with Elvis as top solo act. MJ was popular in his day, but MJ fans think that popularity in record sales continued into the 90s and 2000's. He was a good singer, but remember, there were many writers and musicians who made his music.

8 Jan 2013

just wanting clarification

I was just trying to make sure I am understanding the method by which the list was compiled. I understand this list goes by number of hits and worldwide placement of said hits, but does it count the number of weeks at the position, or just the position in general? I.E., if an artist had say 4 top 10 hits each of which spent 3 weeks in the top 10, vs. an artist with just 1 top 10 hit that spent 15 weeks in the top 10, who would be more successful per your method? Would it be the artist with more top 10 hits, because they had more hits, or the other artist with more weeks in the top 10, who only had the one top 10 hit?

The calculation is described in one of the FAQ pages. We don't take account of the number of weeks because quite a few of the source charts don't have that information.

We do publish the data in the CSV file, so you can try using another method, tell us if you find anything interesting

20 Dec 2012

America the Beautiful

I'm a huge arabesque fan & of Turkish music, too. Ibrahim Tatlises has sold 100 million records across a number of countries in the Arab region. What about Um Kartom (Egypt)? She was the voice of the Arab world until her death at 92.

In America, my favorite in the 80s was Madonna; glad to see the she rates number #2 across three decades. So Prince beats Michael Jackson - though I liked Michael better, for me it was Off the Wall and Thriller; the rest was junk. Prince's Dirty Mind and Purple Rain were worth the money. U2 also deserves (and has earned) the right to be top 5 over three decades, like Madonna. Thanks for going ALL the way back to the very beginning of the twentieth century - very fascinating! How about Rihanna? I bet she will be the top artist of the "teens", as she has 12 billboard number ones and counting. Lastly, where are Abdel Halim Hafez (Egypt)? Ferdi Tayfur (Turkey)?

Harout Pamboujkian (Armenia)? Again Ibrahim Tatlises has sold many records in countries where his language is not spoken

Thanks for the kind words.

The artists you mention are not listed just because we don't have any good chart listings for Egypt, Turkey or any of the Arab countries.

12 Dec 2012

mj is 1

michael jackson is clearly the biggest star of the 80s and probably the most talented performer of all time. u2 deserves there spot if you where alive then youd know u2 was the biggest band of the 80s. nirvana should have made it for the 90s.

11 Dec 2012

best ever

Elvis is still the best and most successful. EVER The King

21 Nov 2012

Michael Jackson vs Prince

I'm sure by your criteria Michael Jackson places third for the 80s. But if the question comes up Who Was the Biggest Star, who had the broadest fan base, who will be remembered, who stands out in the public consciousness and who is the greatest talent from that period. It is clear to most people the answer would be Michael Jackson.

To tell you the truth he kind of Creeped me out toward the end of his life butthere is no denying his talent. Prince is a flash in the pan by comparison. I know you will say that's my subjective opinion and I am entitled to it. That doesn't make it any less true.

That's your subjective opinion and you are entitled to it. Other people would have different views.

3 Nov 2012

Just to understand your list

Is your list based on number of released albums and singles, or is it based on number of hits? And if it is based on number of hits is there a fixed amount of points that the artists get for each hit? Or do you also wheigh in the amount of sales each hit sold?

What I am asking is:

if you compare two artists and the first artist had 1 hit that sold 100 million copies, and the other artist had 5 hits that sold a total of 50 million copies. Which of the two artists would be ranked highest?

John/RIAA Washington

The answer to your questions is on the "FAQ: How the site is generated?", it explains the algorithms used and why they are as they are.

To clarify one point sales figures can't be trusted. No one knows the real sales figures for "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", anyone who claims they do is either deluded or lying.

31 Oct 2012


Fascinating work. Only thing I can't reconcile is absence of acts who make RIAA top ten in all time album sales (US & Canada). For example Garth Brooks is 3rd on that list behind Beatles and Elvis, Eagles are 5th, Pink Floyd 7th, Streishan 8th, George Straight 9th. Seems your calcs are too pop heavy, whereas RIAA measures sales regardless of genre. And I get your worldwide emphasis, still seems there is a need to differentiate between CD sales and popularity of pop singles thru airplay, sales, downloads etc.

Garth Brooks is already in the "most successful artists of the 1990s" list. He is rated as 16th.

You ask if our calculations are "pop" heavy, we would say that they are not, our goal is to reflect Worldwide success and Country Music has had little impact outside North America.

A French speaker might just as well complain that our focus is too much on songs in English. We would claim that the most successful songs of the last 100 years happen to have mostly been in English, because of the market available and the emphasis of the record companies. We list the songs with greatest success, and they happen to be in the English language, this reflects the world, its not because we have a bias against French lyrics.

Similarly the "Pop" genre has greater success round the world as a whole than Country Music, Disco, Reggae, J-Pop, Barbershop, Progressive or Skiffle. We would claim it's not that we have "pop heavy" calculations but just the way the world is (or rather was).

We would certainly be interested to explore the difference between album sales and "the popularity of pop singles". Outside the USA and the UK we don't think we have enough data to make a reasonable job of that. This tends to be an area where personal opinion (especially when loudly expressed by fans) overwhelms any attempt to take a more measured (and data based) approach.

28 Oct 2012

Bee Gees not on list?

I am baffled by the Bee Gees omission during the decade of the 70's. For four years no one could touch their numbers.

We are baffled by your bafflement. The Bee Gees are number 6 in the list of artists of the 1970s (look at the 1970s page). Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Abba and Led Zeppelin all had more hits (especially when albums are taken into account).

Four years is less than half the decade

24 Oct 2012

You're missing George Strait in the 90's or Garth Brooks. Strait has the most number one singles of all time in any genre and Garth was a huge crossover artist. And Strait has 39 albums produced. Queen could also be used for the 70's. Not a bad list at all otherwise. Good job.

The total number of national number ones number one songs George Strait and Garth Brooks has had in the Billboard Hot 100 is zero. We ignore all genre specific charts, being number one on the country music chart has almost no impact outside the USA. Neither artist has had much success outside the USA.

Queen are already in both the 1970s listing and the 1980s one. They had more worldwide success in the 1980s.

(Personally I think their 1970s albums are much better than the 1980s material, but my tastes have no influence on the order - Steve)

20 Oct 2012

Partly correct list

Interesting list you've put up. However not completely correct. Like most people state here (maybe just because they are fans), Michael Jackson should be put as the number 1 artist in the 80s. I've worked 34 years for RIAA (and still do)...

I'll come back with all the information you need...

John/RIAA Washington

First your claim that "most" people here feel Jackson should be considered the most successful artist of the 1980s is quite wrong. Most of the pro-Jackson posts here come from just a handful of IP addresses, there are clearly more individuals that disagree (but they each write fewer posts).

And I'm afraid you are completely wrong, the data here IS completely correct. We've said many times why claimed sales numbers are a bad indicator of success (and often obviously lies as well). You, of course, are welcome to give them more importance and credibility than us.

The way we work is that we clearly define the criteria for measuring success, then crunch the numbers and present the results. We don't start by assuming that we know which artist is "should" be top and find evidence to support our personal biases. Even if we disagreed with the results the rules we have set for this analysis would not allow us to later fiddle the results and place Michael Jackson at the top of the list.

So the data listed here IS completely correct. You might claim that it is incomplete (which of course it is, for this topic all such sets are incomplete). You might also claim that the metrics we use are not appropriate (but then you'd have to propose some better measures of success of course).

We'd welcome any suggestions you could make to improve the way we define success (and, for example, giving special favour to any particular artist would not be an improvement).

When you provide actual information (that we can access in independent sources) rather than unsupported assertions we'll be interested to see how we can use it.

28 Sep 2012


Very interesting list, most of the artists are living legends that continue having successfully careers, I've to admit I'm surprised the fat Mariah Carey was successful in 90's, Who is she? I saw her on a clip with Nicki Minaj, and in some photos of an American show, but that's all. In 00's list she almost dissapear from the list. I don't have anything against her, but she is overrated. I bet this new decade she won't appear on the top 40.

16 Sep 2012



12th highest placed act of the 2000s

As the text on the years after 2007 says our data has some issues so the decade 2000-2009 might generate some dubious results. But placing Linkin Park below, Eminem, Madonna, Britney Spears, Coldplay and U2 and above Radiohead, Alicia Keys, Green Day and Nickelback seems reasonable to us.

12 Sep 2012

Where's Whitney?

What about Whitney Houston? How did she not make the top 5 in the 80s or 90s?She had 2 of the biggest selling albums of the 80s and THE biggest selling album of the 90s - The Bodyguard.

Maybe because she released fewer albums? I don't know, just seems weird that Whitney Houston is nowhere on this list, she was a huge star. Or maybe because her peak was from 1985-1995 so it split between two decades?

Fewer albums, scores split between the decades, yes both those contributed.

4 Sep 2012

I've done some research myself and I've concluded that, in terms of top 20 hits worldwide in the 80s, you get:

1. Prince - 28 2. Madonna - 24 3. Michael Jackson - 23 4. Bruce Springsteen - 17 5. U2 - 16

I don't think Michael and Prince fans should fight about this. If somebody's your favorite artist, then listen to their music. They don't have to be #1 on every list for you to like them. This man (Steve, I think) is very good at calculating these numbers and sales, and after doing research myself I am convinced that the top 5 of his 80s list is completely correct.

Prince scored five #1 albums worldwide and twenty eight top 20 hits. It's quite plainly obvious that he was, in terms of charts, the most successful artist of the 1980s. Madonna followed closely with four less top 20 singles and two less albums. Jackson's argument is way overdone. Because of his two-album input, he's at 4.

U2 has the least hits out of the 5, but four #1 albums puts them much higher. And Bruce Springsteen, while he had a pretty good time with 17 hits and three #1 albums, falls one album short of U2. Even though he has one more hit than them, albums count more so U2 is obviously ahead.

Just because Jackson was super-popular in America or U2 in Ireland etc... does not mean they had the same level of success on charts or worldwide. It's a little weird seeing Jackson at 4, but after doing your own research you'll realize that Steve did a great (and accurate job).

What a great summary (and we're not saying that just because you agree with our results).

We'd be interested to learn more about your research. Especially the sources of chart data you used.

31 Aug 2012

@the guy who wrote "2 all yall MJ fans"

U actually forgot Do me Baby, Dirty mind, and raspberry beret, this brings prince's # up to 29 top 40 hits in the 80s alone :)

30 Aug 2012

Michael Jackson

I have heard lots of no 1 songs in my life but I could only remember the songs of Michael Jackson, personally I believe he is the most successful artist of all time no matter how many hits the others have, Michael is the most influential successful artist of all time to most people. No list is accurate not even yours so it doesnt really matter.

24 Aug 2012

Interesting list

I think this is in all honesty an interesting list, as you can clearly see the changes between the centuries. As a 70s fan of course I may be extremely biased towards Bernie, Elton, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles due to having a truck full of vinyls from that time. But from an unbiased view: whether this list is 100% accurate may still be debatable (as with all lists and things on the internet) but it still shows us a decent amount to judge for ourselves what we find as music. After all, music is music, love is love and people are people. This is simply market sales, so there's no need to get too annoyed or saddened if your favourite artist is not on the list, seeing as this is just statistics.

We would claim that unlike most "things on the internet" we have provided enough links to allow the reader to check that we are being as accurate as we can be and to tell us how we could do better.

We would agree that "whether this list is 100% accurate may still be debatable". That just comes with our choice of subject (and the duration we attempt to cover).

This list is, as you say, "just statistics". As you suggest it should provide a starting point for each reader's personal view. But outside personal opinion what else is there but "just statistics"?

22 Aug 2012

OMG ms Houston

Where is Whitney Houston

Number 7 in the 1990s and number 15 in the 1980s.

15 Aug 2012

this is for yall mj fans

to all you Jackson fans, let's see the results... I will write all Top 40 hits for prince in the 80's (not just in US, ANYTHING that charted in any world chart is included), and the top 40 hits for Jacksonn

prince: I wanna be your lover, controversy, 1999, little red corvette, delirious, when doves cry, let's go crazy, purple rain, i would die for you, take me with you, pop life, kiss, mountains, girls & boys, another love hole in ur head, sign of the times, if i was your girlfriend, u got the look, i could never take the place of your man, alphabet street, glam slam, i wish u heaven, batdance, party man, arms of orion, and scandalous

prince = 26 hits, three #1s, three #1 albums

jackson: shes out of my life, the girl is mine, billie jean, beat it, wanna be startin' something, human nature, pyt, thriller, farewell my summer love, girl ur so together, bad, the way u make me feel, man in the mirror, dirty diana, another part of me, smooth criminal, leave me alone, and liberian girl

jackson: 18 hits, seven #1s, two #1 albums

I apologize for the length, but this is obviously in Prince's favor. He had more #1 albums, and more Top 40 hits worldwide. Sorry Mikey fans, but Prince WINS!!!!!!!

Oh, and I looked at Madonna's sales... she had 24 Top forty hits, just 2 less than prince, but a considerable amount more than michael. Considering she has the same amount of #1 albums as Prince, but two less hits it makes sense Prince is one ahead of her.

although it seems madonna had more hits than him, prince (surprisingly) is ahead of her in terms of worldwide sales.

6 Aug 2012

Best voice ever !!!

Mariah carey has broken almost evrey record there is, she has more nr one hits in europe and asia than madonna, madonna is a overated singer, mariah carey is named the voice, and she has own more than 10 oustanding awards and some of them where made just for her, mariah carey is better, hotter and bitchas she has wrote her own thing all the way through her carrier. She has influsend almost every big artists now, from beyonce to simon cowell, you dont have to love her but threat her like one of the kind cause she is truly amaziing, #the voice

We "threat" her just like every other artist, and will continue to do so. The thing that counts here is actual achievment, not personal opinion.

2 Aug 2012

Do these statistics really answer the question of "who is the most successful artist"?

I want to make one thing clear before I make my comments: I am not stating who I may like better or who I am a fan of. I am simply stating my opinion as to how the basis of the statistics may not be indicative of who is more successful. Instead, these statistics should be used as PART of the analysis when indicating who is more successful.

So it seems like the way you've listed these acts is more about quantity over quality. Yes, Michael Jackson only had two albums released in the 80s (plus he released some songs off of the "Off the Wall" album in the very early 80s.) This is a lot less than the other folks on the list. So when talking about quantity, yeah MJ is behind.

But trying to measure quality on a statistical basis is a lot harder. For example, while MJ had one superb hit, Madonna had to make two hits just to equal the impact that MJ had. And if you had to ask anyone, from the elderly to the young who were the biggest names in music it would be MJ, the Beatles and Elvis (this has more to do with the quality of the music & their impact rather than the quantity). So what that Mariah had more number one hits than Elvis, he still had a much bigger impact than her.

And Rihanna for example has had more weeks at number one than Michael Jackson, are you ready to say that she is now more successful than him?

Anyway, what I'm basically trying to say is, is that there is more than just "how many hits the singer has had" that makes them successful. This website is just looking at one question, and thats fine if that is all you want to rank these artists by.

But if you really want to know who is the most successful singer, you've got to look at the whole picture, and in my opinion this website hasn't done that.

First, to be clear, we do not just "count the hits" to come to the results we have, we do assign different weights to number one hits, top ten hits and those below. We have applied a number of different ways to measure success in the charts and they almost always come to similar conclusions.

Of course any measure of "success" ends up being subjective. So some of what you say is a valid set of reasons to be wary of any "fact based" measure of an artist's success.

However in any such discussion people hold irrational views (we include ourselves in that statement). In our opinion any analysis based on actual facts is always better than personal views. We don't know of any other measures that are better than chart success, if you have any (concert attendance, mentions in history books, plays on mp3 players) then we would be most interested to see your data. Until you make that available this data, flawed as it is, is the best available.

There can be no better illustration of the dangers of subjective measures of success than your suggestion that "anyone" would list Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Michael Jackson as the three most influential artists of the 20th century. That might be true of those who were teenagers in the 1980s, or fans of the Jacksons but we would guess that most of the people we know would name Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Madonna, Abba, Elton John, Queen Glenn Miller or others before getting to Jackson.

If we were to ask about the most important artists of the 1980s then we would suspect Madonna, U2 and Michael Jackson would be the obvious candidates, but even then Michael Jackson would probably be last (which is what the chart data says as well of course). We do, of course, understand that this reflects more on the people mix with rather than the wider world.

By using chart data we have an objective measure that is not influenced by a small number of vocal and aggressive Michael Jackson fans, in the way that, for example Wikipedia is. It is also true that some of the sensational aspects of Jackson's life (and death) have given him a high level of coverage in the tabloids. But media's obsessions and the bully-boy tactics of devotees should not be allowed to impact an objective assessment of the real musical impact of any artists.

So we agree that measuring chart success does not deliver the complete story, but it is certainly an important element and, at the moment, the best data we have. If there are other reasonable objective measures we'd like to know what they are.

30 Jul 2012

are u telling me PRINCE had more worldwide success than material girl record-breaking MADONNA??????

i doubt the purple one could surpass Madge in sales, impact, album, etc.. in her biggest decade, the 80s!!!!!! how could he sell more than her when she has more top 10 hits in one decade than he had in his entire career?

Yes, that's what the numbers tell us. The main reason is albums. This metric puts more emphasis on album success and Madonna's first real hit album was 1984.

The numbers would, of course, come out differently for the period 1985-1995. If you want to use a different calculation (or a different date range) then download the CSV file and see what results you get.

9 Jul 2012

Nice list; Beatles still rule

I enjoyed your list, and loved your Buddy Holly explanation; "impact" is different than pure chart performance. Also applies to The Doors and other seminal artists; but I like your "metric". You must thank god for the Beatles when developing a list like this; it makes the number one artist a simple, unassailable choice. However, it looks like Japan has surpassed the USA as the number one market for recorded music as of 2011. Good thing they love the Fab 4 too!

8 Jul 2012


everybody is good at singing if they try.

4 Jul 2012

In the 80's,

prince - fourteen top ten hits (us), six top ten hits (uk), three #1 albums (us), one #1 album (uk), four #1 hits (us), and zero #1 hits (uk)....

madonna - seventeen top ten hits (us), twenty one top ten hits (uk), three #1 albums (us), three #1 albums (uk), seven #1 hits (us), and six #1 hits (uk)...

u2 - three top ten hits (us), ten top ten hits (uk), two #1 albums (us), four #1 albums (uk), two #1 hits (us), and one #1 hit (uk)...

michael jackson - thirteen top ten hits (us), fourteen top ten hits (uk), two #1 albums (us), two #1 albums (uk), seven #1 hits (us), and three #1 hits (uk)

sorry i wrote so much, but based on this information... i understand if Madonna is in front of Michael jackson, (and while I love prince i still think madonna had more success and should be #1), I don't understand how U2 is #3??? if not Michael Jackson at #3 after Prince and Madonna, why not Phill collins or george michael?

madonna - #1 prince - #2 mj - #3

u2 is way too far ahead in this chart than they're supposed to be

thanks for ur time

Your numbers are strictly US & UK, once the rest of the world is taken into account, especially Europe, U2 pull ahead of Michael Jackson because of the number albums they released.

Of course we've just picked a scoring system that we think is fair. If you download the CSV file you could try a different approach. We'd be interested to hear about any alternative that works

24 Jun 2012

Your list is based on what?? Try to do something else because you don't knowwhat you are talking about!!

Our list of sources and the way we calculate scores is very well documented here. If you want to actually suggest an alternative we'd welcome your input.

17 Jun 2012


How is it so difficult for people to understand that this list was drawn from facts and not emotion? 'Bob Bobson should be number 1 cuz I love him and have all his albums and he was really big in Western Chile.'


15 Jun 2012

Rick Astley

Rick Astley is supposed to be in that chart, his Never gonna give you up, was the umber songs of all time in europe and America and almsot all over the world.

The song "Never Gonna Give You Up" is in the chart (at number 23) and Rick Astley was the 3rd most successful act of 1987, but he didn't have nearly enough hits to make the 50 highest placed act of the 1980s.

7 Jun 2012

Old vs new

Hi, great list, I was just wondering what kind of quantities earlier artists like Billy Murray and Arthur Collins sold in, would their sales be anything in comparison with today's biggest artists like lady gaga or Katy Perry?

Sales of what exactly? If you mean sales of physical disks then no, the real kick off of sales came a different times in different markets (1955 or so in the US, a couple of years later in other countries). But then again Lady Gaga and Katy Perry sell fewer physical disks than did the artists of the 1990s (because much of their revenue comes from digital).

However for Billy Murray and Arthur Collins their revenue didn't come from records, it came from sheet music, radio performances, films and live shows. How would you compare selling a movie seat to someone in 1939 to see Judy Garland sing "Over the Rainbow" to selling a ringtone of "I Kissed a Girl" in 2008?

Also we don't know of many trustworthy sets of sales statistics anyway. It is really quite hard to know how many copies of The Beatles "Abbey Road" were ever really sold, especially when you take into account that at the time of its release it was illegal to buy it in Russia (so everyone did).

This is why we don't place much importance on absolute sales numbers, we feel that the music charts (which have been arround in some form since the 1890s and in pretty much the current form since the 1950s) are a better way to measure musical success.

Of course if you can suggest ways we can improve we are always happy to hear them.

29 May 2012


Haha. How old are you? That's obvious you are not objective and you know whatfck your list fck your sources thats all wrong michael was the best in 80's 90's and shut the fck up! ;)

Ah, another objective and constructive comment from a Michael Jackson fan.

28 May 2012


Do you consider sales in Asia? You were talking about POPULATION in one of the post here. Asia, i think accounts for a third of the world population. And also, if you were only taking into account songs and album sales, this list is NOT totally representing the most successful artists as opposed to the title "Who were the most successful artists of each decade?".

No disrespect. Just some of my observations. Decent list, anyway.

Actually most of the time we discuss success in terms of revenue, not population. The population of China and India dwarfs that of the USA, however the revenue from those countries is a tiny proportion. Have a look at the FAQ on "Why are there so many/ so few USA based charts?".

The biggest problem is with reliable statistics, the Billboard chart has its issues, but we don't know of any data that gives even a hint of what is commonly heard in China (for example). Given the level of pirate sales of CDs across the whole of Asia (at least up to a few years ago) we suspect there is no way to even come close to knowing if Michael Jackson was more popular that some local artist in 1983, or if Madonna outsold Nirvana in India in the 1990s.

Our experience is that we hear Western music when we are in India and the Far East (China not so much, but the ex-Soviet countries certainly). But in the US and Europe we never hear Indian, Chinese or Far Eastern music.

So we agree that in terms of population our listing is unfair. We'll use any sources we feel we can trust (like the Hong-Kong gold albums, but we know that's a special case). But we feel that our current list is as good as we can get within the constraints we have.

But, BTW, we certainly welcome any suggestions for how we could improve, so thanks for the input.

25 May 2012


How was Mariah careh more successful in the 90s than oasis blur suede shovelhead spice girls backstreet boys eminem Williams elastica kylie minougue space garbage catatonia take that travis Gomez all saints kula shaker madonna blondie guns and roses stone roses bluetones james... I've yet to meet anyone that can name 1 Mariah careh album! She had a couple of Little songs that did well in local markets like the US but nothing more... My top artists - 50s elvis 60s Beatles 70's abba 80's madonna 90's oasis 2000's eminem

This is worldwide success, not UK success.

"local markets like the US" - since the US market is at least three times the size of the UK one this is an interesting phrase that tells us where you are comming from.

16 May 2012

Queen Of Kings

42 number 1 hits on the Billboard Dance Charts (Girl Gone Wild being the most recent - thanx avicii !) 38 Top Ten Hits (US- the most), 62 Top 10 UK hits. Ever since 1984 EVERY MADONNA SINGLE reached the UK Top 20 - that was, until "Miles Away"(2008) failed to crack one of the top 20 slots. Biggest Grossing Tour By A Solo Artist In history (Stick-Sticky & Sweet -- luv to say that). This, ladies and gentlemen is remarkable. Most recently she became the solo artist with the most #1 albums in the UK. You just can't make this stuff up..

....And the two most painful things for a madonna fan to hear: *deep breath* Into The Groove being a B-side to Angel in the US (becoming her biggest hit in the UK with over 800 000 singles sold) & the second being...*bows head* 6 #2 hits (more than any other artist in the US). If all those went to the peak position and "Groove" was actually released as a single we would not have been stuck at "cherishing" a thought of 19 #1's (HEY, it could have been).

(Btw Madonna won the 1990 VMA Artist of the decade award, not Michael Jackson. So why is the award suddenly named the "MJ Video Vanguard Award"? - you do the research) michael jackson I find too creepy, sorry. I know it's about the music I KNOW, but there's just something still bugging me...

Madonna is the REAL DEAL. Ladies and gentlemen, this woman may be the greatest recording artist to ever live, check wikipedia's page and you'll see "1982-present", then look around at other artists - they GONE! People telling her she's "old" she should stop making music (the same stuff whitney was told-screw that) and all of you will jump on the "I love madonna since the get-go" waggon just like yall did with MJ. (Nothing personal, just intentional :)

Madonna will continue being QUEEN.. But for now, let's just wait for MORE hits heading our way... Love this threat btw-(did my research :)

13 May 2012

The Beatles

Although Eminem is the biggest selling act of the 2000's, let us not forget that the Beatles total sales for the past 10 years places them at No 2. Not bad when you consider these sales are only based on the album '1', 'Love' and their re-released 'remastered' collection. The Beatles were the No 1 selling act of the 1960's and remain the biggest overall selling music act in history. In fact, if you were to put all of Michael Jacksons and Madonnas sales together, they still fall short of the Beatles.

28 Apr 2012


If I may add this, First Madonna is one of the most arrogant female artist... Not even MJ liked her, She think shes the best in everything, only what she can do is going naked in some magazines... <boring rant trimmed> You say only succes in the USA? You know how many people live in the USA? around the 350 million, thats almost whole Europe, Madonna is just a whore...

The population of Europe is more than 500 million. The population of the USA was estimated as 312 million in 2011. So success in Europe is just as important as success in the US.

24 Apr 2012

I am not surprsed Mariah Carey is the Most successful artist of the 90's. She sold loads and has had major success. Considering Madonna has been around a lot longer than Mariah, Mariah has made pretty amazing accomplishments and she has been a huge influence on many stars today, such as: Beyonce, Alexandra Burke, Christina Aguilera, Melanie Amaro, Leona Lewis, Kelly Rowland, Michael Buble, Justin Bieber, R Kelly, Usher. Michael Jackson has also expressed his absolute desire for Mariah Carey as have Whitney Houston, Simon Cowell,Cheryl Cole and more. She is considerd as one of the best voices on the planet.

23 Apr 2012

music question (that may not appear in the above)

I'm trying to get an answer to two questions. The first question is... whose (singer-artist-performer) first twelve albums all contained at least one top-10 hit on hot-100?

The second question is....what rapper with at least one top-40 hit on Billboard Hot 100 is named after a real drug kingpin who spent over 10yrs. in jail?

could you provide some assistance with these two...?thanks+

The obvious candidate for the first would be Elvis (or The Beatles)

We list chart hits, we have little interest in, or knowledge of, rapper's names.

14 Apr 2012


If you can't find any sources for Guinness world records why don't you buy the books on amazon so you can't get this chart sorted and I don't like mj or any of his music but even I know that bad was the second best selling album of the 80s and also why isn't adele in the chart she had massive success worldwide.

This website is dedicated to worldwide statistics. "Bad" may have been the second highest selling album of the 1980s in the UK (behind "Brothers in Arms" we would suspect) but it certainly wasn't the second in world sales (if RIAA is to be believed).

If someone claims that Thriller was the best selling album (which it was in the world, but not in the UK), they can't also claim that "Bad" was second (which it was in the UK but not in the world)

Adele's albums are too recent for the statistics to have settled down yet. The way we gather and analyse data delivers good results after about four years, so you shouldn't really trust our listings from years later than 2007 (as it explains at the top of those pages)

All data gathering techniques suffer from similar restrictions, we're just a bit more up front about explaining under which circumstances you can't trust our results.

3 Apr 2012


Hi, I was wondering why U2 are #3 on the 80s chart. I like the band and all, but their hits only started coming around 1984-1985, halfway into the decade and before then they only had New Year's Day at #10 in 1983.

Since this chart is based on chart success, how did U2 beat out so many other artists with only about a handful of Top 10s?


As it mentions in the text this ordering is by total success (not just songs), the album success has been given three times the weight of single success, so the top artists here are those with both albums and singles in the charts.

If you want to discover who we rate most highly based only on singles success you can download the CSV file (from the versions page). A quick session in a spreadsheet program reveals that based solely on singles success (as listed in version 2.1.12) the top 5 artists of the 1980s were: 1: Madonna; 2: Michael Jackson; 3: Prince; 4: Phil Collins; 5: U2.

Of course that is using our selected approach, you might want to try a different criteria, that is exactly why we make the CSV data available. If you find anything interesting we'd like to hear about it.

1 Apr 2012

Really interesting list!

I wonder if there is a way to include concert revenue / merchandise revenue as a way to further measure success. U2, for example, generated a ton of money (and publicity) through touring--and even today, they are regularly in the top 5 tours worldwide whenever they go on the road. If we look at merchandizing, it might propel a band like KISS much higher in these charts--their brand has enables them to make money in substantially more ways than just album sales. +It would even be possible to look at the revenue generated by films and music videos--The Beatles had a series of hit movies that are not measured simply in album sales, for example, and The Band's Last Waltz concert film has been highly successful in terms of sales as well.

Great work all around, I'm taking a History of Rock and Roll class, and I found looking at this list to be highly educational!

We would be interested in such a listing, but can't think of any reliable way to gather the basic data.

18 Mar 2012


I'm just curious where Styx fits in, as they are not listed at all in the top 50 for 70's or 80's. I recall hearing "first group with three consecutive triple platinum albums" or some such.

That is a good question, There are two different reasons why they don't get placed in the top 50s for the 1970s or the 1980s. First of all their peak was from 1975 to 1984, so when we look at either 1970-1979 or 1980-1989 the hits they have are split across the boundary.

One option is to download the CSV file (from the versions page) and try some analysis, lets total up scores for 1975-1984, mutiplying album scores by 3 to account for their higher value. Then we can sort by the results and we find that Styx is artist number... 59 (just after Rush).

And that leads to the second reason why they don't make the decade list, they didn't have much success outside North America.

Personally I (Steve) think this is a surprise, I think they are one of the best groups of their period and would have guessed that they "should" be in the decade list... but on this site us administrators don't get to pick, we just have to list the results that come out. Of course, as we keep saying, the listing here shows success in the charts, not how good an artist is.

8 Mar 2012

shit list

This list and the criteria is flawed from the start. To be an artist of a decade you just need to release two albums per year score a hit or two here and there and you are on the top. If you want people stop attacking the table, you should change the title from "Most successful artist of the decade" to "Artist with the most shit released and charted"

No artist managed to release two high charting albums a year for the whole 1980s, if any had they would deserve to be ranked highest (and would be top of this ranking).

Your approach seems to be to adjust the ranking criteria to make sure that the artist you want to be top arrives in the number one position. We don't think that is a good metric (to put it mildly). Your closed mindset is the opposite of the approach we have taken, we believe in listing actual verified evidence of success, without any regard of our personal tastes.

When criticism is based on verifiable evidence, or constructively suggests improvements to our sources or metrics we pay attention. When the stupid tell us what results we should have got and pepper their posts with swearing and insults we don't. We don't want to release a listing that panders to ignorant idiots.

3 Mar 2012

Shouldn't buddy holly be one of the top 5 in the 50s

Where an artist "should" be is often different from where the actual numbers place them. Buddy Holly had a very short career.

We would agree that the number of actual hits he had does not reflect his impact (and in my personal opinion the quality of his music). But on this site we process the chart numbers, we don't let anyone "adjust" the results (even us).

26 Feb 2012


Hi, nice to see Prince as #1. He deserves it.

I got a question though. A lot of websites claim Prince sold 80 million records worldwide, while others claim Prince sold 100 million records worldwide. I personally think its the latter, because Prince has been around forever, but could you clarify it the best you can?

Really appreciate it. Thanks.

(P.S. I'm the same guy who wrote the My Version of 80s List and Oh OK :)

As you will have seen elsewhere we have a lack of faith in all claimed sales numbers. We would guess that both numbers are wrong.

25 Feb 2012


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.

25 Feb 2012

Michael Jackson

I'm really starting to hate these Prince fans who think MJ didn't do anything... (long dissertation on Michael Jackson's genius deleted)

The one comment from a Prince fan doesn't quite yet match the volume of input from Jackson fans

16 Feb 2012


I love alot of MJ's music but I am really starting to hate these "MJ fans" they are everywhere and if their man is not #1 on every list they have aneurysms!!! Prince owned the 80s!!! get over it! he was waaay more prolific! Could play tons of instruments!! obviously had more hits in the 80s so naturally that means he made better music and he ACTUALLY MADE better music (wrote, composed and arranged all his songs) and didnt need no quincy jones to do it! Prince truly performed live, unlike mj who lip synched and just danced like a Las Vegas performer or imitator!! Prince is more talented and a waaaaaaaaaaay better musician. he invented his own musical genre (minneapolis sound) MJ invented nothing all his moves were rip offs and his # 1 song (Billie Jean) was admittedly ripped from Hall and Oates hit song "I can't go for that"

I dont hate MJ but when comparing him to my all time favorite artist MJ is getting tossed under the bus!!

15 Feb 2012

United Kingdom

Wow Mariah Carey is the second biggest selling artist of the 90's in U.K behind only madonna!

Wow... Thats realy true... But Mariah +Rules the U.S and Japan/Asia during the 90's...

Very nice thread... I like it...

15 Feb 2012


Madona Rules the music and world...

15 Feb 2012


WORLD MUSIC AWARD - State Mariah Carey is the biggest selling music artist of the 1990's ...(long rant making various unsourced assertions removed)...

Your statistic is wronged biased favor to your favorite artist, this is 100% inaccurate and its clearly shows your ignorat in music industry, you dont know calculate!

You don't know who our favourite artists are, we might be "ignorat in music industry" (we don't know what that means) but we do "know calculate".

If you can't quote reliable sources, make reasoned (and reasonable) suggestions, and avoid personal attacks please go and participate in a forum that better matches your biases.

3 Feb 2012


The Biggest Selling female artist of all time is Madonna - doubt any female artist is ever going to beat Madonna.

Mariah has about 200 million to go to beat Madonna

3 Feb 2012


I think you need to more clearly articulate the name of the list ... As far as I understand it is based solely on the success in the charts and only in the United Kingdom, because if you take into account all the factors: the success of the charts, album sales, the impact and popularity, it is it is clear that Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd should be on the list

Robbie Williams Number 2 in the world in the 00's ..... you're kidding? He does not interest anyone outside of UK

Sorry, but you do not know anything about music.

The lists are indeed based solely on success in the charts, but not in the UK. As you would have seen if you had bothered to look at the FAQ page that answers "Why are there so many/ so few USA based charts?" the UK provides about 20% of the source data.

The page about the 2000s says quite clearly "the results presented here should be treated with some caution, there are other sites that focus on the more recent information, their data is probably better".

However your suggestion that Robbie Williams did not have any success outside the UK is wrong. He had number ones in Ireland, New Zealand, Spain, Holland, Switzerland and Germany. Again if you had looked at the page you would have seen those entries.

3 Feb 2012


Wow/ You really hate MJ with passion

30 Jan 2012


I know that Madonna and Prince had more album released in the 80s but MJs 2 albums had monstersales, Thriller with 30 million and Bad became the second bestselling album of all time, both Madonna and Prince had great sales but none of their albums sold like MJs. MJ did became the artist of that decade because of his huge album sales so i dont know, yes Madonna and Prince had more hits but MJs songs spent more at the top, either way MJ already owned that decade so none of this matters really

The purpose of this site is to inject a more objective note into these types of discussion. For example while we don't place much faith in estimates of album sales your suggestion that "Bad" was, at any point, "the second best selling album of all time" is clearly wrong.

We understand that our asking fans (any fans) to restrict their web comments to provable sources is unlikely to have much impact. if you don't like our way of estimating overall success then don't use it.

26 Jan 2012


And please, Michael Jackson was the mos successful artist of the 80's, not Prince neither Madonna ! With just his 2 best selling albums released in the 80's ,Michael surpaseed Madonna and Prince in the 80's !Wake up,people !

...and "Candle in the Wind '97" sold more copies than any other single so Elton John was the most successful artist of the 1990s

26 Jan 2012


Mariah Carey was the most successful artist of the 1990's worldwide... ...The 1998 Guiness Book of World Record ...mentions clearly that Mariah Carey is the most successful artist of the 1990's.

We doubt that the Guiness Book of World Records said any such thing. Firstly we've seen that type of claim before (but usually for different artists). Where is a source we can check?

Secondly, any claim for "success in the 1990s" made in 1998 has to be at least a bit suspect

Finally it doesn't matter anyway, we claim here that by our metrics of success she wasn't, and your opinion doesn't alter that (and of course nor indeed does ours). Extra data, a reason for rejecting existing data, or a suggestion for how to tune the metrics might change the results. Unsourced opinions won't.

24 Jan 2012

artist of 1980

Noticed that Def Leppard, Journey, John Mellencamp not represented even with monster albums in the era. Not popular elsewhere?

Indeed. Look at the artist's pages for these three artists (they all make the top 1000 artists in both album and song charts) you will see that they didn't have stunning success in the 1980s, but their continued success into later decades means that they do end up in the overall charts.

18 Jan 2012

Zeppelin & Floyd

I am somewhat surprised to find that Led Zeppelin wasn't on the 70's list. They were huge back then, along with Pink Floyd. 2 of the greatest and most well known bands of all time not even up there...

We think you have misread the list. Led Zeppelin is the 7th artist entry of the 1970s (Pink Floyd are number 8).

Of course you have to remember that Led Zeppelin decided to not release singles in the UK (which was almost 15% of the world's music market), and despite that still made number 7

15 Jan 2012


Mariah Carey followed by Janet was the best selling artist of the 1990's

...and of course that must be true because anonymous sources on the internet that don't mention where they obtained their data are never wrong

14 Jan 2012

Amazing I always thought Tom Petty Was pretty sucessful in the 1980's. Now that I think about it though I guess he never had a huge single or album. Great list and great website!

6 Jan 2012

This page is great!

While I thoroughly understand the arguments of the Michael Jackson fans (which I am also), your ranking system also makes complete sense.

Keep up the good work.

9 Dec 2011

Didn't achieve nothing

I'm not trying to start an argument I have another question. So MJ didn't achieve anything on both the U.S. and U.K. charts or is that he just had more success with the U.S. charts, then what he had with the U.K. charts.

9 Dec 2011

Artist of 1980's

I like MJ, but I'm not an obsessed fan. Guinness Book of World Records listed MJ as the Most Successful Entertainer of all time. You that they go by facts, so if he was listed as that why is he number 4 on you guys list.

We think you have misquoted, he is listed as the highest earner after his own death, but given inflation that is not too surprising. We can't find any reputable source that states Guinness have claimed he was the "Most Successful Entertainer" of all time.

19 Nov 2011


this must have taken ages, thank you so much! +Great work! Have used it to do a rundown of songs that were being sung over the decades for my Grandmother's 90'th birthday (coming up in December)

I think they will love it!

Thank you.

That's exactly the type of use that the site was designed for, we hope your family enjoy the selection.

11 Nov 2011


After I posted my comment up, "My Version of the List", I realized I sounded kind of stupid and misinformed. You're right. Although Michael Jackson was very popular and Thriller is the best-selling album of all time, Prince definitely had more albums, and together, their sales probably beat MJ's by some. Prince is very well as #1, and Madonna is undoubtedly #2.

Sorry guys. I understand your list now that I've opened my mind to statistics rather than global opinion. And your list didn't say, "Most Popular Artists of Each Decade". It said "Most Successful", so... big difference...

But I was wondering... how come Prince is #5 in the 1990s? Wasn't that his harder period when his music barely went gold? I was just wondering. One more thing. I saw a list of best-selling artists worldwide, and it listed Beatles as #1, Elvis as #2, and Michael Jackson at #3. MJ has sold about 700 million, and Prince 80 million. Of course, I could be wrong, so could you explain?


It is a pleasure to have users with such a constructive and open attitude.

If you look at Prince's page, at the "Artist Profile" picture in the top right, you will see that he continued to have some success every year in the 1990s. Contrast that with, for example, Michael Jackson's profile you will see that he tended to release albums every two or three years (rather than every year). Also Prince's solo career was fairly "focused" between 1980 and 1998 (or so), while Jackson's started earlier and finished later.

There are two things to say about comparison with "global sales" sites. Firstly as you mentioned our goal is to list success in charts round the world, not to estimate global sales. Otherwise we'd ignore acts from the 1930s whose careers were over by the time record sales started to become important. That is exactly why we list "Most Successful" rather than "Biggest Sellers", or "Most Popular", or even "Best".

The second thing is that we don't believe that anyone really knows how many records The Beatles, Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson really sold. If there were statistics that we found even close to believable we'd use them. That is exactly why we restrict ourselves to "Most Successful in the Charts". We have never found a "global sales" site that we find convincing (of course your milage may vary).

We would claim that the listing on this site should help inform discussion about music. If this listing suggests that, for example, your 1987 retro playlist should include Rick Astley its up to you to realise that you really dislike his music and cut out his songs. If someone is claiming that The Doors were the fifth most successful group of the 1960s we provide suggestions for 20 bigger groups. If someone claims that "Eternal Flame" was a bigger hit that "Poker Face" this site provides some evidence to help with that discussion.

There are some things we would happily claim, for example that The Beatles were clearly the overall most successful act of all time. That result seems to come out whatever reasonable measure we use. We'd also happily state, for example, that Roxette were not amoung the 50 most successful musical acts of all time but they were in the top 500. But we wouldn't want to be much more precise than that, their exact position depends too much on the particular scoring method.

We are always looking for ways to improve our listing, from discovereing new source charts, tuning the scoring approach or doing extra analysis. Anywhere that we can't defend our approach or results to honest questions should be reviewed and revised (that's exactly why the version 2.0 listing has such a radically different scoring). We always welcome input from those willing to have an open mind and look forward to any other questions or suggestions you can provide.

7 Nov 2011

Can anybody tell me who mariah carey is??

Hello! I'm from Rio da Janero, Brasil and I've got tired of reading of the "fight" between mariah carey(??) and madonna. Nobody here knows her, that's why I can't understand why the comparation. And Just for the record i'm not a madonna fan, I'm a huge fan of Michael Jackson and the beatles I was just wondering who the hell is that woman, is she from the states?

14 Oct 2011

why was led zeppelin not in 1970 list

Led Zeppelin are in the 1970s list, they were the 7th highest placed artists of the decade. They released no singles in the UK during the 1970s, that was enough to ensure they didn't make the global top 5.

27 Sep 2011


This site really sent some fans into a frenzy, but facts are facts. For anyone who wants to find out the real figures and truths about chart/sales fact then visit The United World Chart, Billboard Top 50 Hot 100 Artist of all time and the Guinness Book Of World Records.

No, Michael Jackson is not more successful then Elvis, The king is still the King in the US and Charts all over the world. The Beatles are in a category by themselves, no band comes even close to their achievements. And as far as Female Singers, the ONLY name on top is Madonna.

Even Billboard placed Madonna ahead of Elvis in their Top 50 Artist of all time, she was second only to the Beatles. In the United World Chart, as far as number one/top 10 singles she's even ahead of the Beatles. Sorry for all the fans, but Celine, Mariah, Britney, Janet are not even mentioned in the top 10 world-wide sales artist of all time. The facts are the facts, so accept them!

27 Sep 2011

My Version of 80s List

At #1 would probably be Michael Jackson. You are absolutely correct in saying he has only 2 albums out in the decade, but maybe u are forgetting that they were HUGE. After Thriller, he was the biggest icon on earth, he made girls' hearts melt, he had the hottest music... In the 1984-1985 era he was so famous for his hospital and charity and acknowledged by Ronald Reagan himself. Everyone loved him and went crazy. In the 1986 period, he was number-one Mr. Talked-About when he got paler and had rumors. And, in the late 80s, Bad was about one of the biggest decade hits, with 5 NUMBER ONE HITS, and a great new fashion. He was indisputably the biggest star of the 80s, anyone u ask will tell you. And if he was only #4, then how come the ENTIRE FRIKKIN world, from children to adults, know and cherish his name???? "Billie Jean","Thriller", "Beat It", "Bad", "Dirty Diana", "Smooth Criminal", and "Man in the Mirror" are legendary!

Prince, in my opinion, was amazing too. He was the biggest, hottest bad boy for most of the mid-80s, and really had some sparkling hits on the charts. His hair was amazing, and his driven lyrics amazed and caused controversy. "Little Red Corvette", "Let's Go Crazy", "When Doves Cry", "Raspberry Beret", "Kiss", and "Batdance" were his biggest hits in the decade, and he made girls go nuts with his revolutionary music. I really love Prince. But... on a scale of Most Popular 80s Artists, Prince would definitely rank #2 after Michael Jackson. Yeah, he had a lot of music, but hell, only the adult population have fond memories of him. And though he had about 11 #1 hits worldwide, he only had 5 in the U.S. Michael Jackson had #13 worldwide. And I think Prince's symbol-era really hurt his starpower bad.

Madonna would definitely be #2 or #3, somewhere with Prince and Jackson. She was the biggest, most beautiful woman in the 80s teenage boys had posters and girls were so inspired! she had great music and she totally was the Queen. Her many hits are still, to this day, not forgotten. If anyone were to be higher than Michael Jackson, it would be Madonna.

And where the hell is George Michael on this chart??? he was huge too for his voice and looks in the mid-to-late 80s! He was so famous!

And, concluding this, Michael Jackson had the most starpower, is recognized by the Guiness World Record Book as the Most Successful Performer Ever, and has sold copies so high that only Elvis and the Beatles shunted him to #3.

He deserves to be #1, Madonna #2, and Prince #3. ...and somehow u2 is higher than michael jackson...

A well reasoned description of your personal picks. Of course our listing only relies on chart success, not notoriety nor "fame". We don't place acts by where they "deserve to be" but by their actual success in the charts. On this site no-one gets to vote, not even us administrators.

You claim that Michael Jackson was "indisputably the biggest star of the 80s", that is clearly not correct, there are people who disagree with your opinion. Given that U2 had 8 albums that were international hits in the 1980s, and during the same period Michael Jackson had 2, there are at least grounds for discussion.

George Michael's ranking (at 48th) suffers from two facts, first many of his hits are credited to Wham! (at 34th), secondly the fact that his first success was in 1984, almost half way through the decade. If a listing of success for 1985-1995 were calculated he would, no doubt, be much higher.

If you want to try doing that analysis the CSV file (on the "Versions" page) contains all the information you would need.

21 Sep 2011

Phil Collins

Surprised no one mentioned Phil Collins on here as one of the most successful of the 1980s. I am a little shocked he doesn't land in the Top 5. Where does he land according to your data? He had 7 number one singles in the 80s (the same amount as Madonna and 3 more than Prince), and sold 24 million certified albums in the US. Where does he stand then? And just curious, but if you factored in his work with Genesis would he place as number 1? Becuase I believe the 2 combined would give him the most top 40 hits of the decade.

If you look at the list on the 1980s page you will see that using our metric we calculate he was the 7th artist of that decade.

Of course our calculations don't include his participation in Genesis

2 Sep 2011

Well Done

Ha Ha, I bet you feel like a stuck record don't you, trying to get it into peoples heads that this list is based on FACTS OF SALES and not fans fantisies. Brilliant list, thank you. I too was suprised by some of the results... But I don't dispute them. A fact is a fact whether people wish to believe it or not !!!! Unfortunately, MJ fans seem to "twist" the facts slightly to suit themselves. He was big (huge infact) for 2 out of 10 years in the 80's ..... Get over it.

27 Aug 2011

Great but wish I saw Cher+

The list is great I guess it depends on the definition of successful. Would have liked to have seen Cher. Obviously when people think of 60s they think of Beatles and when the think 80s they think Michael Jackson. But the 90s make me think Cher.

As you say it depends on the definition of success. By our calculation Cher was the 33rd highest rated artist of the 1990s

Our calculations suggest Madonna, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion were more significant. And personally I'd have picked one of those three before Cher, but obviously that's not your experience. It would be a boring world if we all agreed

20 Aug 2011


no, mariah has been named the most successful and biggest selling female artist in the 90s!, she has sold 120 million albums, and over 20 million singles in the 90s alone, selling 40 million more albums and 10 million singles than madonna.

mariah is the biggest selling non asian artist in japan, selling 18 million albums there, twice as much as madonna.

"has been named", by who? We generally don't believe sales figures, especially when no source is given.

Mariah was most successful in the US, but Madonna outsold her in the rest of the world. In our opinion the balance of evidence is that Madonna had more global success in 1990s.

14 Aug 2011

nothing wrong with the list

I'm a fan of Michael Jackson but I do believe that he wasn't the biggest seller of the 80s, Madonna definetely sold more albums worldwide than Mariah Carey and Eminem was by far the most successful singer or rapper of the 00s

8 Aug 2011

Get over MJ

wow, people on here really need to stop obsessing over Michael Jackson. it has been two years since he died, and people are still angrily defending him whenever someone says he was not the best-selling artist or all-around greatest musical artist of all-time. I bet most of these assumed young defenders didn't even care about him before he died.

25 Jul 2011

Love it!!!

Amazing list. And the Beatles are my favorite band, so I'm glad to see it at the top of the 60's column. :)

3 Apr 2011

Michael Jackson

The reason I think Michaqel Jackson should be placed higher than number four for the 80s is these reasons:

- As mentioned, he won an unprecedented 8 grammy awards in one ceremony

- Despite the discredited 100 millions copies, whether it is 50 million or 100 million, it is still higher than any other album by a large margin.

- Furthermore, the album bad,is in some ways even more successful than thriller, generating 4 US number ones of one album, which was a record at the time. Furthermore, globally 9 out of the 10 original tracks were number one in one country or another.

- An arguemnt you presented was that he had no 'solo' hits in 1985. This is true. However I will argue that despite releasing less singles in the 80s than other artists, his ratio of successful singles to singles release is the highest. i.e. Prince made 6 studio albums in the 80s of which only 3 were number ones, and only one in the US/UK. Michael Jackson released 2 albums in that decade, both of which were number one and are in the list of best selling albums.

- Now i will list some artist you have labelled above Michael Jackson in the 80s and how many number one singles they achieved globally in the 80s; Prince 10 (out of 47), David Bowie 6 (out of 30), Rolling stones 3 (out of 22). Now Michael Jackson... 15 (out of 22). Feel free to challenge this information.

- I understand that Michael Jackson had a controversial private life but it often bothers me that people let this interfere with his musical success.

- If you consider many aspects of music to get your results, then I think its worth adding that Michael Jackson's Bad tour was the largest attending concert even, until that record was broken in 1993 and 1997, both by Michael Jackson again!

- Michael Jackson is also the artist to receive the most American music awards and is one of the highest awarded artists of all time and Guinness world records most successful artist of all time. Please reconsider... Thank You.

You have presented a reasoned argument with a number of interesting points. If we had a website that listed the "best" artists you're points would be valid. However on this website we use the number of entries in charts round the world as a measure of "success". We feel that this provides a measure that is more objective and less subject to individual biases (including especially our own biases).

Our goal on this page is to find ways to objectively measure how successfull each artist is. Considerations of individual award ceremonies or the success of individual albums in certain countries doesn't really cut it.

Just to clarify we don't list David Bowie or The Rolling Stones above Michael Jackson for the 1980s. In our 1980s list (based on the 1.08 data) the top four slots are 1: Prince, 2: Madonna, 3: U2, 4: Michael Jackson.

Your idea of masuring the proportion of all releases that became hits is an interesting one, we suspect that would work as an objective measure. We don't know how you'd gather a list of all songs released by every major artist in a selection of the countries of the world, but if you could do that we'd be interested to look at the results.

We have some sympathy with your claim that chart success is just one measure and, for example, live concert size might be an additional measure. However again we don't know where reliable figures can be obtained for a reasonable number of acts (we know lots of places where unreliable figures can be found for just a few acts).

So, we will continue to measure success by the number of hits in charts round the world, and by that measure Michael Jackson will continue to be below Prince for the 1980s.

14 Mar 2011

Whitney, Janet and Michael

Both these artists were huge in the 80s and most of the 90s, but I guest they didn't make the 80s list because they started out in the mid-80s.

Just curious where they ranked on the list of the 80s and 90s. Whitney probably ranked higher because she is more successful on the charts and in record sales.

PS I agree, Michael is probably the most successful artists of all time but he didn't top the 80s list because he only released 2 albums. In the years he did release an album, he was the top artists of that years. If he had released one album almost every year, then that would keep his momentum going pushing him to the top no doubt.

The rankings by our criteria are already shown here. You could try out various other comparisons using the spreadsheet of data that we provide on the versions page.

For example how about scatter plotting year v score for albums by those three artists from 1980 to 2005?

We'd be interested to see any results that provide insight

3 Mar 2011

The beatles

They are the most suuccessful artists of the 60s and i would say are the mostsuccessful artists ever. Yes jacko fans the beatles are more successful than you're boy toy

23 Feb 2011

some of the greatest rock bands like nirvana, guns and roses, bonjovi, ledzelpein, the who, black sabbath is not included in this list anywhere. also what about linkin park or metallica, it looks like this list is dominated by few particular forms of music like pop, rhythm and blues, funk. why didnt one of theses bands at least make it to the list?

This is a listing of the bands that were successful in the most charts, so it will be dominated by music that has a wide audience across many countries. As you say it is dominated by "pop".

Notice that the title of the page talks about "success" not about "quality". I'm sure we can all list artists that have been successful without ever being "good".

Speaking personally I would agree with many of the choices you list, however on this site personal opinion is ignored (even our own). We actually work quite hard to ensure that the only thing that counts is the source chart data and all personal bias is removed.

So don't use this for your personal playlists, although it might remind you of a few forgotten gems. However, if you're creating a playlist for lots of people (especially if they come from a wide variety of places) it might be a good place to start.

17 Feb 2011


Pleased to see a rapper, especially Eminem, on this list, with such music legends :)

17 Feb 2011

wheres cher!

By our metrics she was the 33rd most successful artist of the 1990s. She just didn't have enough entries to make the top 5 in any decade.

30 Jan 2011

Ok ...yeah he only released two albulms always preffer qaulity over quanity and he had 8+ number one singles in the 80s plus did prince Madonna ect embark on a 125 million dollar world tour ?!!! NO therefore how the hell is prince more succesful than MJ ?!! I mean thriller was flying off the shelves same with bad and he was also in the victory tour so .... I don't know how you can come up with MJ being in 4th place that's just ridiculous !

13 Jan 2011

The Beatles

I think your assessment is fair and accurate. I find it amusing that MichaelJackson fans think the hype they read about him being the king of pop makes him the biggest selling artist of all time. It would appear that he has to sell a lot more records to catch up with Elvis and the Beatles. And based on the sales of his new album 'Michael' I do not think he will ever outsell the Beatles.

3 Dec 2010


CELINE DION is the most successful artist of the 2000s

No, clearly she isn't.

24 Sep 2010

Madonna/Michael Jackson/Prince/U2/Mariah

It seems to me that people checking out this website expect to see a "Most Famous or Well Known Artist Countdown" instead of a statistically correct chart success countdowns, even if in your country people know more one artist, which makes you think he/she should be more successful than other artists don't forget there are almost 200 more countries in the world that may have a different favorite artist, which that doesn't matter anyways because what counts is how high the artists charted in all those countries.

Most of the time people don't even recognize the artist when he/she has a big hit in their country because they only listen to them on the radio, they may not have TV, even if they have TV is hard to recognize an artist more if they tremendously change their appearance, for example, Madonna tends to do so a lot. Also keep in mind that when an artist is able to have a hit in a country is because radio airplay, sales and currently digital downloads contribute in placing a single in the chart. So even though, there is no "Best Selling Singles/Albums of All Time" there are "Best Charting Singles/Albums of All Time" where you can indeed find the best charting singles and albums. Radio airplay, sales, digital downloads and also individual statistics that each country may use to contribute to a single/album placement in their popularity chart is what makes a single/album become a top 20, top ten, top 5 or a number 1.

Everyone who visits this website, please realize it is not "Sales Countdowns", "Popularity Countdowns" nor "Quantity of Awards Won by Artist Countdowns", it is "Singles and Albums Charting Success Countdowns" that are presented to you here. It is not this website's fault that Michael Jackson charted more poorly than other artists like Madonna, not only in the world, but even in the U.S.A. alone Madonna is more successful than Michael Jackson when it comes to chart success, although that doesn't take away the fact that Michael Jackson is in more tabloids, newspapers and articles because of his media invaded life.

For all of those non-believers for this website's credibility please check out The United World Chart website, which is a statistically correct (without public vote) world chart countdown website since the creation of their music charts, but they are still compiling all their charts to fill in the gaps, if you go to http://unitedworldchart.de/ you'll see what I'm talking about. If you do go to the United World Chart website make sure to click on the STATISTICS link, which you'll find in the left hand side under TRACKS, once you've clicked on STATISTICS make sure to click on ARTIST SECTION link so it'll list every single artist that has made it to the top ten in the United World Chart with a list of their respective songs that made it to the top ten or you can also go to this link http://www.mediatraffic.de/track-artists.htm to check that out as well.

If you are just looking for a statistically correct "Most Successful Artist of All Time Countdown", this website will offer it to you in three different approaches, which have been created directly from correct factual information. It is the closest to the "Most Successful Artist of All Time Countdown" and I can support that since all their sources are legitimate. To also contribute to the fact that Michael Jackson is not the best charts act you can check out The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists, although keep in mind it's ONLY U.S.A. statistics, NOT World statistics, and it's only from 1958 to present, so it's not even near to this website countdowns that offer chart historical information since the 1900's, but if you want to check out The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists go to the following link http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/specials/hot100/charts/top100-artists-20.shtml

Going back to the United World Chart subject, once you get to the United World Chart's STATISTICS link and click on the ARTIST SECTION link it's easy to tell that Madonna outnumbers everyone else having the most hits so far in the United World Chart, but there are still years that have not been put out of the archives so she's still not officially the best or most successful artist of all time, although there is a big possibility for her to be, since in the U.S. she's the second best act, just after the Beatles. But please remember, that does not mean she is the most talented, nor the most loved, nor the most creative, nor the most impacting artist of all time, it just emphasizes her success in the charts around the world. It is up to every single one of us to decide who is our favorite artist, and no one can take that away from us, but let's not try to implement our fanatic beliefs in this statistically correct website, this is all about numbers, not favoritism nor opinion. Also Madonna has been around for almost 30 years, whereas the Beatles were around for about a decade. Since the last single from Michael Jackson's Thriller, Michael Jackson was absent from the music scene in 1985, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009 until his death, which contributes to the fact that he has not have as much chart success as Madonna, Prince, U2 or Mariah. Since her debut in 1982, Madonna has only been absent from the music scene in 2010 so far. Since his 1978 debut, Prince has only been absent from the music scene in 2000, 2003, 2008 and 2010 so far. Since their debut in 1980, U2 has been absent from the music scene in 1986, 1990, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2010 so far. And last, since her debut in 1990, Mariah has only been absent from the music scene in 2007. So all of those aforementioned acts certainly have less years of absence from the music scene than the late Michael Jackson.

As a last thought, PLEASE do not "attack" these people that are doing us a favor by really representing the world wide factual music charts information. They go as far back as the 1900's, what other website or book has been able to put all this information for everyone to see free of charge. So be grateful and appreciate all the facts and success of the music history that this website has to offer.

19 Sep 2010

Michael Jackson and Madonna

It seems to me that people checking out this website expect to see a "Most Famous or Well Known Artist Countdown" instead of a statistically correct chart success countdowns, even if in your country people know more one artist, which makes you think he/she should be more successful than other artists don't forget there are almost 200 more countries in the world that may have a different favorite artist, which that doesn't matter anyways because what counts is how high the artists charted in all those countries.

Most of the time people don't even recognize the artist when he/she has a big hit in their country because they only listen to them on the radio, they may not have TV, even if they have TV is hard to recognize an artist more if they tremendously change their appearance, for example, Madonna tends to do so a lot.

Everyone who visits this website, please realize it is not "Sales Countdowns", "Popularity Countdowns" nor "Quantity of Awards Won by Artist Countdowns", it is "Singles and Albums Charting Success Countdowns" that are presented to you here. It is not this website's fault that Michael Jackson charted more poorly than other artists like Madonna, not only in the world, but even in the U.S.A. alone Madonna is more successful than Michael Jackson when it comes to chart success, although that doesn't take away the fact that Michael Jackson is in more tabloids, newspapers and articles because of his media invaded life.

For all of those non-believers for this website's credibility please check out The United World Chart website, which is a statistically correct(without public vote) world chart countdown website since the creation of music charts, but they are still compiling all their charts to fill in the gaps, if you go to http://unitedworldchart.de/ you'll see what I'm talking about. If you do go to the United World Chart website make sure to click on the STATISTICS link, which you'll find in the left hand side under TRACKS, once you've clicked on STATISTICS make sure to click on ARTIST SECTION link so it'll list every single artist that has made it to the top ten in the United World Chart with a list of their respective songs that made it to the top ten or you can also go to this link http://www.mediatraffic.de/track-artists.htm to check that out as well.

If you are just looking for a statistically correct "Most Successful Artist of All Time Countdown", you will not find it here, but you will only find the "Most Successful Artist of Each Decade Countdown". For right now the closest thing to a "Most Successful Artist of All Time Countdown" would be The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists, although it's ONLY U.S. statistics, NOT World statistics, but you can check it out at http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/specials/hot100/charts/top100-artists-20.shtml

Going back to the United World Chart subject, once you get to the United World Chart's STATISTICS link and click on the ARTIST SECTION link it's easy to tell that Madonna outnumbers everyone else having the most hits so far in the United World Chart, but there are still years that have not been put out of the archives so she's still not officially the best or most successful artist of all time, although there is a big possibility for her to be, since in the U.S. she's the second best act, just after the Beatles. But please remember, that does not mean she is the most talented, nor the most loved, nor the most creative, nor the most impacting artist of all time, it just emphasizes her success in the charts around the world. It is up to every single one of us to decide who is our favorite artist, and no one can take that away from us, but let's not try to implement our fanatic beliefs in this statistically correct website, this is all about numbers, not favoritism nor opinion. Also Madonna has been around for almost 30 years, whereas the Beatles were around for about a decade. Since the last single from Michael Jackson's Thriller, Michael Jackson was absent from the music scene in 1985, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009 until his death, which contributes to the fact that he has not have as much chart success as Madonna, Prince, U2 or Mariah. Since her debut in 1982, Madonna has only been absent from the music scene in 2010 so far. Since his 1978 debut, Prince has only been absent from the music scene in 2000, 2003, 2008 and 2010 so far. Since their debut in 1980, U2 has been absent from the music scene in 1986, 1990, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2010 so far. And last, since her debut in 1990, Mariah has only been absent from the music scene in 2007. So all of those aforementioned acts certainly have less years of absence from the music scene than the late Michael Jackson.

As a last thought, PLEASE do not "attack" these people that are doing us a favor by really representing the world wide factual music charts information. They go as far back as the 1900's, what other website or book has been able to put all this information for everyone to see free of charge. So be grateful and appreciate all the facts and success of the music history that this website has to offer.

Thanks for the support.

One minor correction, we have not one but three different "Most Successful Artist of All Time Countdowns". Each using a slightly different approach and, of course, coming to slightly different conclusions. We don't emphasise those pages (which is why you didn't see them), because the CSV data allows each reader to do their own version of this calculation.

15 Sep 2010

michael jackson

It seems according to you ,michael jackson achieved nothing in his life... (followed by 50 more lines of justification for why Michael Jackson's entries should be ranked higher)

I think that being classified as one of the 20 greatest artists of all time is hardly claiming that he achieved nothing.

Quoting Michael Jackson fan sites, and sites that rely on the unsupported opinions of users with such fan based names as "MJDangerous" is hardly helping your case.

However none of that matters anyway, we have an automatic process for calculating worldwide success. That says that an artist with 43 hit songs in the 1980s had more success than one with 26. It doesn't matter how much you write to say differently (or indeed what anyone's opinion including our own says) 43 is larger than 26, by any reasonable metric Madonna had more worldwide success in the 1980s than Michael Jackson.

27 Aug 2010

michael jackson

okay,i want to give a rebuttal to the mj rebuttal.first of all, over his entire career, michael jackson has sold more than prince,madonna,mariah carey,and u2.according to all records,the lowest estimate of sales of mj is 300 million,and the highest is 750 million.i think the figure of 750 million is not the correct one,because its impoosible.but taking his lowest estimated career sale of over 300 million indicates one thing only,poeple loved mj while he was there ,more than they have loved prince,madonna,u2 or mariah carey.then how come,for christs he has sold more than this list of musical legends.how come a man who has sold this many albums be degraded in this way.prince havent reached the 100 million mark in terms of album sales whie madonna,mariahand u2 have estimates ranging from 200 to 250 million albums.also he has 372 major music awards,where is prince in the picture now.i am from the indian sub continent and from a third world country.here people +make less than 50 dollars a month,but still if you have a chance,come to this region and tell them"do you know michael jackson"and they would say yes.and followed by praises and applauses.do you think princes music could get the attention of this poor people.the people in this region cant even get food for a meal,leave alone hear music.my question to you is that,can you give a reason why this millions of poor people try to buy a mj cd instead of the listed artists i have mentioned.i am a local so you cant question the verification of the question.just answer it.also,ther arent any sources in the whole world which would say mj has sold less than madona,or prince or u2 or mariah carey.insted the RIAA itself puts mj in 11th position in the list of highest selling artists in the usa with a toal sales of 69 million in his whole career.this number is more than u2,madonna,prince or mariah carey.in terms of awards mj have won 372 major awards.among them he has 23 american music awrards and 13 grammys.only u2 has got more grammys than michael jackom from that list.michael jackson has 28 top ten hits,only madonna .beatles and elvis has more.michael jackson has 13 number one hits only mariah carey has more from that list.what do you think know,where is prince and the other artists.prince is not even in the list of the singers with most top ten hits.wow i wonder how can aperson who cranked out hits everyyear throughout 1980s and the 1990s could give 28 top ten hits.madonna i believe placed with 37 top ten hits and jusstifies the statement made in the mj rebuttle,marih carey record also signifies everything said in the mj rebuttls 21 july 2010,but u2 and prince.come on mj beats them hands down.let me tell you u2 and prince is not even on thelist of artist with most hundered entries and most top forty hits,so how come if they had a hit every year in the two decades of the 80s and 90s and they still dont make the list.i am saying again madonna and mariah both have more than 25 top ten hits and more than 12 no1 singles,so taking these two in consideration its justified.also mj had 13 number ones and 28 top ten hits right,so howcome according to you he was a jerk whos album output as low and didnt give enough hits.in the early 200s mj record saales were estimated to be more than 200 to 250 million albums,he got a world music award in the year 2000 for being artist of the millineum,in addition him getting this award was facilatated by the fact that estimates aroung that time pionetd that mj sold over 250 million records.look even madonna havent reched that mark in 2010,prince is miles away,while u2 and mariah linger in the 200 million mark in 2010.even if you consider 20 years in the music business,from 1979 to 2000,mj sold 200 to 250 million albums,which is more than what maiah,or u2 or prince has ever achieved.even more mj is the most downloaded artist in the internet according to nokia novi music store.i can just go on and on and tell you i how many ways mj is atlesat better than prince mariah carey and u2.madonna is parallel to him.another thing is that,i aam good in maths and i understand how complex calculations of these record sales can show a totally diiferent picture.please RIAA,do not consider just hits,consider sales and effect and everything that makes music so wonderful.in addition,dangerous sold over 32 million,pirince has very few albums whuch sold over 20 million,and the doudle disc cd sold 20 million.prince selling 20 million +copies of his album is the most rare thing in the whole world.prince accordinr to all estimates tough i am qouting wikipedia has sold over only"88 million albums" from the 1980s +till 2010.u2 has sold over 150 million and mariah over 175 million albums.evaluate on everything and then make alist.you can use math and do anything with it to show the false,but facts are facts deal with it.leave with it.oh,however didnt michael jackson sell over hundred million albums from 1990 to 2000.since his death he has sold over 30 million and counting.please evaluate on that and think.especially the RIAA

We get it, you prefer Michael Jackson to Prince, U2 and Madonna.

This site lists success in the charts, that's all it is based on. We employ a simple calculation to combine individual chart entries that is described in detail. There are no numbers to adjust, there are no factors to estimate, everything is driven by the chart data we have. Here no one gets to vote.

Doing that calculation leads to the results shown. If you can explain how the current calculation is unfair, or you can tell us which source charts discriminate against a particular artist we will listen to what you say.

However until you do that we have to continue to conclude that Michael Jackson did not have the largest number of chart hits in the 1980s.

We are not claiming in any way that U2 is better than Michael Jackson, that has to be a personal viewpoint. We don't believe claimed sales figures, and you acknowledge that claims for Jackson's sales range from 300 to an "imposible" 750 million. We don't even believe our own rough estimates of album sales.

You ask us to "do not consider just hits", well we don't know how to measure "sales and effect and everything that makes music so wonderful".

If you think that measuring an artist's success requires a consideration of things other than entries in the music charts then set up your own site. We happen to think that our metric comes closer to reflecting real historical trends, rather than being a subjective view dictated by more recent events.

22 Aug 2010

List is incorrect in so many ways

There are artists missing and invalid sources. Please recheck your facts esp. in the year 2000

What an incredibly unhelpful message. Which artists do you think are missing? Which sources would you prefer? What facts should be checked?

21 Jul 2010

MJ rebuttal

I'm surprised at how many people have been so defensive about Michael Jackson, saying that he should have been the number 1 artist of the 80s. However, people forget that MJ only released two, yes, only two, albums in the 80s, while the other four artists, Prince, Madonna, U2 and Queen released several throughout the decade. I think Prince even released an album during every year of the 80s. so, while those other four artists were all cranking out hits for almost every year of the 80s, Michael only really had hits in '83 and '88, due to his low album output. Of course he was going to be outnumbered in the hit song department. For those who think he should have been on the 90s list, news flash, MJ released only one hit album in the early 90s before fading off the pop music map. And I remember no one cared about the double album he released in the mid or late 90s.

21 Jul 2010


michael jackson is the most sucessful artist of the 80s thriller has sold 100 million copies was the best selling album in the world two years in a row bad sold 30 million he should also be included in the 90s for 31 million copies for dangerous and fourty million for history correct your list

You provide no source for these assertions, every one of which is at least questionable. For example Thriller sold more like 65 million copies, the claim of 100 million is completely unbelievable and not supported by any credible source.

Where we have sources we have included them, that is why "Thriller" does top our list of albums, however the fact is that Jackson had 2 major hit albums in the 1980s, while Prince had 7. Under the criteria used to assemble this list that puts Prince above Jackson.

This is a list of success in charts, and Jackson didn't have as much real success as you clearly think he did. We won't change the data to suit your opinion, indeed we won't change it to support anyone's opinion, even our own.

If you want to suggest sources that support your viewpoint we'd be happy to consider them, unsupported assertions will always be ignored.

17 May 2010

MJ was #1

By the End of the 1980's Michael Jackson had the two biggest tours of the decade (Victory Tour with the Jacksons, and The Bad Tour solo), the two biggest selling albums of the decade (Thriller sold 50 million by the end of the decade, Bad sold about 25 million by the end of the decade) (and it dosn't hurt to mention that Thriller ALONE was #1 in the US for 37 weeks), more #1 hits than any other artist for the decade (according to billboard he had 9 #1's that decade, 10 if you include We Are The World). Plus, even if Madonna had 3 albums in the Top 100, MJ's Thriller outsold ALL of Madonnas albums combined. It was MJ's decision to release fewer albums overall. And was the biggest selling artist of the 80's, with an unprecedented sale of over 110 million records during the 80's. And he was also named many times over as the Artist and Entertainer of the decade as well.

So yes, MJ was defiantly the top artist of the decade. No one has come close to his success. Just becuase other artists have more chart entries, doesn't mean they were more successful.

A number of your individual claims are either clearly wrong or, at best, questionable. However that doesn't matter, the clue is in your last sentence, the rankings at this site are a measure of chart success. Its not just that chart entries count, they are the only thing that counts, nothing else matters at all.

You may claim that this is not a good measure of an artist's greatness, that's certainly a viable viewpoint. However if you are measuring "chart success" (which is what we are measuring) then chart entries are the only thing that indicates who comes out top.

If you had a reliable set of sources for tour success, album sales and artist of the decade nominations you could set up a web site that lists how different artists measured up and do your own ranking, but you don't and you haven't (Michael Jackson fan sites don't count)

You claim that, for you, Michael Jackson is the greatest artist, we would have to agree that is clearly your opinion. If someone else thought that Rick Astley was the greatest artist of the 1980s we would have to agree that was their opinion. However, if you were to claim Michael Jackson had the most worldwide chart success of the 1980s we would disagree, and have numbers to back us up. It is up to the reader to decide how much chart success should be considered when comparing different acts against each other.

25 Apr 2010


not being funny but michael jackson would be no.1 in 1980s. r u seriously saying u2 r higher than michael jackson. fuck the statitics

It seems to us that you have a choice:

Use objective metrics to measure worldwide success, in which case Michael Jackson is beaten by U2's more consistent and sustained list of hits.

Alternately express a personal opinion, in which case you are free to believe Michael Jackson was the best artist of the decade, and your opinion is just as valid as someone else who prefers Hall & Oates.

We believe in basing conclusions on actual evidence, and the evidence demonstrates that Michael Jackson was not the most successful artist of the 1980s, whatever you or any other fans claim.

If you want to be constructive you could suggest alternate ways to measure success or you could point out any of our data sources that are systematically biased against your favourite artist in some way. An unsupported, obscenity rich rant from a biased fan is not constructive and makes us less liable to take your comment seriously.

22 Apr 2010

Extended Tables

Hi there...

Is there any possiblity for you to extend the tables by decade?

Mainly since the 60's... As it is (100) don't you feel like some other hits are missing? I Know they aren't but i just miss them in the chart! :) Thanks for your great Work!

We could extend the number of entries in the decade charts, but that would make the pages always take longer to load and most users are, we think, only interested in the top few songs anyway.

However, you can, of course, work out the decade positions from our CSV file with any spreadsheet program. For example in Excel load the file, add a decade column by setting cell N2 as "=INT(D2/10)*10" then copy that cell for all the N column and sort by type, decade and score (high to low).

This is why we supply the CSV file, not only can you work out which song was number 200 of the sixties but you can try out all sorts of different ways to analyse the data. If you find anything interesting tell us about it.

21 Apr 2010

Most Successful

Thanks for your hard work, I just wonder how huge Billy Murray would have been if he lived in more recent times. According to Joel Whitburn he had 169 indivdual hits, from 1903 - 1927. Finished first on your list in 1900s as a solo artist and 3rd as a member of the Haydn Barbershop Quartet (total 62 hits). Finished 2nd in the 1910s, as part of the American Barbershop Quartet (66 hits) and 5th as a solo artist. As well as being a duet with Ada Jones (the Sonny & Cher of the 1910s) (44 hits). The official interpreter of George M.Cohan e.g. Yankee Doodle Dandy etc. and this is not his complete hit list.

His hit's featured in movies from Doris Day's On Moonlight Bay - The Titanic. So its great to see him rewarded on a list, and we can now download his hits all over again. thank you for going back to the 1900s. Just for the record, including all, he had 48 N0.1 hits, 18 as a solo, 24 with the duets and 5 with Ada Jones. Where is he on your all time list, if you add the Quartets, his duets and solo hits all together?

Thanks again from Adelaide, South Australia sixtiesdj Johnny K.

You seem to have a pretty good set of numbers about his impact yourself.

Of course there are many different ways to compare artists from the early 20th century with those of more recent times, unfortunately they all suffer from different shortcomings. As you will have seen our all time artists list he was between David Bowie and Queen, and that is without taking into account his duets and group contributions.

Given the shortage of suitable charts, especially for locations outside North America, it has to be acknowledged that the potential margin of error for any entries from before 1920 is rather large.

As you say the joy of these early lists is their potential to give us songs and artists to check out. If that leads to some great finds then fantastic. When we discover huge hits that don't match today's tastes, well I'm sure the success of "Crazy Frog" will baffle our descendants just as much.

Thank you for the encouragement

10 Apr 2010

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was undeniably the biggest and most successful artist of the 80s! Why is he at #4?? His album Thriller sold 100 million copies and become the biggest selling album of all time! He also won 8 Grammy awards in a single night. Also he released Bad in '87 which was very successful. And I think he should have been mentioned in the 90s section. This is the most ridiculously stupid list I've ever seen. It was made by someone that knows nothing about this.

No, despite your outburst, by our metrics Michael Jackson was not the most successful artist of the 1980s. While he had some years of enormous success he failed to sustain it, for example he had no solo hits in 1985.

In our lists Michael Jackson is the 9th placed artist of the 1990s, we feel that qualifies as "being mentioned".

Thriller may have been the biggest selling album of all time, however quoting the widely discredited 100 million sales claim just confirms that are not being objective in your comments.

On this site actual facts are more important than mere opinion, and by that we mean anyone's opinion including our own.

The decade rankings were calculated with data from external sources that can be easily verified and the metrics used are clearly described. The calculation is automated and cannot be "adjusted" for any reason.

If you disagree with the result you either feel that the data is in some way invalid or that the metrics are unfairly emphasising particular acts. Tell us which data is wrong or which alternate metric should be used, then we'll take your comments seriously.

Saying this is the "most ridiculously stupid list I've ever seen" just makes you sound like a petulant teenager (except of course few modern teenagers are Michael Jackson fans)

6 Mar 2010

michael jackson

see the problem is your looking at it from a points stnadard. We all knowMichael Jackson is the biggest artist of the last three decades. In a span of eight years 82-90 the man literaly became the third most popular face on earth after jesus and ronald mcdonald. He literaly holds the guiness record for having the most records! the only reason he doesnt have any more albums in the top 100 is cus he only released 2!. which at the time of 88 were the top two selling albums of all timeeee. prince literaly till this day releases an album every year. He never misses a beat. Yes Prince is a genius i am a hugeeee fan believe me. but when mike walks into a room the cameras rush to him more then prince and madona. Madonas affect in the 80s lasted but not like michael jacksons. madona invented sex in music. michael invented everythign else.

Clearly your opinion of Michael Jackson is not going to be moderated by anything as inconvenient as actual facts.

1 Jan 2010

Mariah vs. Madonna

Up to this point Madonna is still more successful around the world than she isin the U.S., and Mariah is still somewhat more successful in the U.S. than she is around the world.

Madonna continuously keeps making top ten hits even number 1's around Europe, Latin America, Canada, Australia and Asia. It's easy to prove that Madonna has had at least 2 top tens from each one of her albums in the UK, Canada, Australia and many more countries.

She also has scored at least 1 top ten from every of her albums in the U.S. except for her Celebration (2009), You Can Dance (1987), Remixed and Revisited (2004) and GHV2 (2001) albums, all of them are compilation albums and the last three didn't even had new world wide single releases made. Even her three soundtracks were able to spawn at least 1 top 10 each one. Madonna also has the most number ones and top ten's in the United World Chart, 29 top ten's and out of those 15 are number 1's and there is still more number ones and top tens to come, because United World Chart week by week keeps posting past charts.

On the other hand Mariah only has 18 top tens and out of those only 2 are number 1's in the United World Chart. Madonna managed to make her latest single Celebration to peak at No. 6 in the United World Chart where Mariah's not latest single but latest moderate successful single Obsessed peaked at No. 14. This shows how much of an impact charting in the U.S. and in the rest of the world does. This is why I respect and honor the methodologies that they used for these "countdowns".

18 Dec 2009

lol, you dont know mariah carey? words from an idiot are not taken into consideration

You know I think that user comment was maybe not quite serious. Your life would be easier if you moderated your responses a bit.

I'm surprised, most people I have met in Malaysia have a sense of humour.

14 Dec 2009

Totally true! Madonna is the most successful artist of the 90`s. I love Celine Dion, REM, and Prince, Who is Mariah Carey?

24 Nov 2009

Michael Jackson

Am I seeing something wrong? I count 4 Jackson albums in your top 100. I don't see that many from any other artist, of course I just tabbed thru quickly.

You raise an interesting point. We feel that the "standard" list is too heavily dependant on the input charts that are available. There are about 4 times as many entries for the 1980s as there are for the 1960s, so more recent music is scored too highly.

So when contrasting acts and releases across the years we feel that it is better to compensate for this modern bias. The "real list" of top albums adjusts the scores to give what we feel is a better comparison across the years. In this list Michael Jackson has an entry at number 2, his next album is at number 47.

There are some good reasons for not adopting this approach for the standard lists. The way this adjustment is made works well for acts and releases that are at the top of the list. But it is not clear that it works so well for later, less widely supported, entries. In addition the simplicity of the standard score makes the standard list more transparent. Also it could be argued that the larger number of entries after 1980 reflect the fact that more people are interested in that era, hence music from then should be over emphasised.

In the standard list Michael Jackson does have four albums in the top 100, however The Beatles, Madonna and U2 all have six. If we were to believe that this list was a good measure of success then "REM" (with two entries) would have to rate better than The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Radiohead, Dire Straits and Guns & Roses (who all have just one). We suspect there are few people that would be prepared to argue for that view.

Of course you are free to disagree with our analysis, that is why we make the standard data available in CSV form. If you have a different way to summarise the data that illustrates an alternate view we would be interested to hear from you.

11 Nov 2009

RE: mariah vs madonna

ok.. so with ur computation.. u actually weighed north america and europe equally... and in fact according to your reply they are not equal and also aside from europe and north america, there are also other large markets like Japan where 7 of mariah's 90s album amassed million/s of sales each... and all other female intl artist that follows sell less than half of Mariah's... mariah's singles are also very successful in Japan...

so i kinda doubt the quoted statement below..

"So no, sorry even if the scores are adjusted according to the size of themarket Mariah doesn't beat Madonna. We've tried a variety of different ways to look at the data and they all result in Madonna being above Mariah. Your intuition was just plain wrong. Of course this tells us that Madonna was more successful round the world in the 1990s, it does not prove that her music was in any way better."

No you're wrong we didn't weigh them equally, Europe got a weight of 9.01 and North America got 15.14 (based on the sales numbers).

So lets look at Japan. In Japan Madonna had 28 hit songs in the 1990s and Mariah had 25. Mariah's hits were slightly higher in the charts so her total score was 22.47 while Madonna's was 21.67. In other words Madonna scored 96% of Mariah's score. Now, in fact the sales of "International" music in Japan is only about 10% of the market, so Japan's factor should be 0.643, but lets be generous to Mariah and pretend that all $6.43B was "International" music.

If we add these results into the mix we get:

Madonna: 0.94*15.14 + 1*9.01 + 0.96*6.43 = 29.41 Mariah: 1*15.14 + 0.53*9.01 + 1*6.43 = 26.34

...and Madonna *still* beats Mariah.

It is possible that Mariah's albums outsold Madonna's in Japan in the 1990s. We have no reliable data that supports that, but it is possible. If the low percentage of "International" music is taken into account then Madonna could have sold absolutly nothing in Japan in the 1990s and her global total would still beat Mariah.

It doesn't matter how much you "doubt the quoted statement", it remains true even with the scores weighed by sales and with Japan included. Mariah was beaten by Madonna in the 1990s. As we said, we tried a variety of ways of looking at the data and Madonna wins every time.

The problem is that you clearly don't appreciate just how much more popular Madonna was in Europe in the 1990s.

Speaking personally (SH) I don't understand *why* she was so popular, her 1990s material doesn't sound good to me. But that's exactly the point, on this site no-one gets to vote the data determines the outcome, personal opinion doesn't have any influence. If the data didn't sometimes tell us something that is against initial expectation then we wouldn't have created the site.

16 Oct 2009

Mariah v Madonna in the 1990s

This site treats all the charts in the world equally... thats why, they comeup with Madonna no.1 and Mariah no.2.. if they would give higher regard to bigger markets like USA... Mariah wud take the top spot easily...

Your first comment is exactly right, all the charts are weighed equally in the standard calculation. If only the North American charts were counted Mariah would be the number 1, but of course that would hardly give us a reasonable view of the world's music.

You are also correct that the number of chart entries does over emphasise the European nations since each one of them contributes more entries than can be justified by their share of the world music market. This is a side effect of the fact that each European country has people who want to publish their particular national chart, while there is less incentive for the inhabitants of, for example, Wyoming to publish their own weekly state chart for the 1990s.

However those two facts don't necessarily mean that Mariah would take the top slot in any properly weighed summary, and certainly not "easily".

Since we have data immediately available for the success of songs in North America and Europe let's try a quick test with that. In North America Mariah Carey's total score for the 1990s was 84.75, Madonna's was 79.97 of course the absolute values are meaningless, but the relative difference gives us a measure of their performance, Madonna has 94% of Mariah's score.

In Europe Mariah Carey's total score for the 1990s was 90.35, Madonna's was 169.88 Mariah has 53% of Madonna's score.

According to the IFPI the biggest 10 music markets in 1999 were: USA $14.25B, Japan $6.43B, UK $2.91B, Germany $2.83B, France $1.98B, Canada $0.88B, Brazil $0.67B, Australia $0.66B, Spain $0.64B, Italy $0.64B Which gives North America $15.14B and Europe $9.01B (we'll ignore the smaller countries that would bring the Europe total to more than $14B).

If we give the top artist 1 and the lower one a proportional score and then scale by the number of billion dollars in each region Mariah gets 1*15.14 + 0.53*9.01 => 19.93 and Madonna gets 0.94*15.14 + 1*9.01 => 23.29

So no, sorry even if the scores are adjusted according to the size of the market Mariah doesn't beat Madonna. We've tried a variety of different ways to look at the data and they all result in Madonna being above Mariah. Your intuition was just plain wrong.

Of course this tells us that Madonna was more successful round the world in the 1990s, it does not prove that her music was in any way better.

5 Sep 2009

Artist of 1980.

Michael Jackson should be the most successful artist of the 1980s having produced the most successful albums of all time. He also holds a record in the Guinness Book of World Records as The Most Successful of All Time.

First of all by any reasonable criteria Michael Jackson certainly didn't produce more than one album in the all time top 10, so the when you say "albums" you should rather use the word "album".

Secondly having the most successful album of an era is just one of the measures that are used here. Michael Jackson had 2 songs in the "1980s 100 songs" list, against Madonna's 5. He had 2 albums in the "1980s 100 albums" list, against Madonna's 3.

Finally even if we agreed that Michael Jackson's position in the "top artists of the 1980s" was too low we couldn't directly do anything about it within the rules of the website. The way that "success" is measured here is clearly defined and strictly follows a mechanical process, no-one gets to "adjust" the values later whatever their opinions. Even if one of the administrators wanted to boost his rating they couldn't, the best they could do would be to change the scoring mechanism. Prince, Madonna and U2 all had more number 1s in more countries than Michael Jackson in the 1980s, that is why they end up higher.

31 Jul 2009

mariah carey is the most successful artist

i totally agreed with RIA subsmition that m c is the most successful artist of 90's. she has most highest number of sales so she deserve s to be the most successful

There are a number of issues with your assertion. First we still don't know who (or what "RIA" is). Secondly we have no evidence that she has the highest number of worldwide sales in the 1990s, we don't even know where we would find trustworthy numbers for that. Next even if she had the highest number of total sales in the 1990s that wouldn't place her top of the list, this list reflects chart success, not sales.

Finally the fact that you think she "deserves" to be top of the list is unimportant. Your opinion about a particular act has no influence, indeed our opinion about the merits of any act are also irrelevant. The final results are generated directly and automatically from the chart positions, no-one, not even the administrators get to "adjust" them.

13 Apr 2009

Artist of 1990

RIA has stated that Mariah Carey is the most successful artist of the 1990's

We don't know who the "RIA" are. If you mean the "RIAA" (The Record Industry Association of America) then of course they list success in the USA while this page lists worldwide chart success. It is easy to see how Mariah Carey can have been the most successful artist of the 1990s in the USA while Madonna had more chart success throughout the rest of the world, remember that the USA while it is the single largest music market accounts for less than 35% of the world's music revenue.