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Music

The top 50 bestselling musical artists of all time: can you guess who are in the top five?

  • Artists are graded by the number of million selling platinum albums they have released
  • The figures are based on data from the Recording Industry Association of America
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 December, 2018, 10:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 December, 2018, 10:02pm

In the decades before streaming-era rules and digital downloads inflated album sales, platinum certification was more difficult for artists to obtain.

When an artist achieved platinum status back then – selling a million or more physical copies of an album – it took a more fervent effort from fans (who had to drive to record stores, find an album, and spend their hard-earned cash on it), but many acts nonetheless reached platinum certification routinely.

50 bestselling albums of all time in the US – and the bands you would never guess made the list

Compiling data from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) data, we have ranked the bestselling artists of all time by the number of platinum albums they’ve sold in the US. Also included are the number of diamond albums, which sold more than 10 million copies.

Some of the results here are surprising, but the legendary acts at the top of the list are perhaps ones you’d expect to see.

Here are the 50 bestselling artists of all time, ranked by platinum albums sold:

50. Prince

Platinum albums: 11

Multi-platinum: 4

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: Purple Rain (13 million copies)

49. Bon Jovi

Platinum albums: 11

Multi-platinum: 5

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: Slippery When Wet (12 million copies)

48. Eric Clapton

Platinum albums: 11

Multi-platinum: 7

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: Unplugged (10 million copies)

47. Kenny G

Platinum albums: 11

Multi-platinum: 8

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: Breathless (12 million copies)

46. John Mellencamp

Platinum albums: 12

Multi-platinum: 5

Bestselling album: American Fool (5 million copies)

45. Toby Keith

Platinum albums: 12

Multi-platinum: 5

Bestselling album: Unleashed (4 million copies)

44. The Who

Platinum albums: 12

Multi-platinum: 5

Bestselling album: Who’s Next (3 million copies)

43. Queen

Platinum albums: 12

Multi-platinum: 7

Bestselling album: Greatest Hits (8 million copies)

42. Ozzy Osbourne

Platinum albums: 12

Multi-platinum: 8

Bestselling album: Blizzard of Ozz (4 million copies)

41. Barry Manilow

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 6

Bestselling album: Even Now (3 million copies)

40. Linda Ronstadt

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 7

Bestselling album: Greatest Hits (7 million copies)

39. Lynyrd Skynyrd

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 7

Bestselling album: Skynyrd’s Innyrds (5 million copies)

38. John Denver

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 7

Bestselling album: John Denver’s Greatest Hits (9 million copies)

37. Jay-Z

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 8

Bestselling album: Vol. 2 … Hard Knock Life (5 million copies)

36. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 7

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: Greatest Hits (10 million copies)

35. Michael Jackson

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 9

Diamond: 2

Bestselling album: Thriller (33 million copies)

34. Metallica

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 11

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: Metallica (16 million copies)

33. Van Halen

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 12

Diamond: 2

Bestselling album: 1984 (MCMLXXXIV) (10 million copies)

32. The Eagles

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 11

Diamond: 3

Bestselling album: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 (38 million copies)

31. Rush

Platinum albums: 14

Multi-platinum: 3

Bestselling album: Rush In Rio (7 million copies)

30. Kenny Chesney

Platinum albums: 14

Multi-platinum: 5

Bestselling album: When the Sun Goes Down (4 million copies)

29. Dave Matthews Band

Platinum albums: 14

Multi-platinum: 7

Bestselling album: Crash (7 million copies)

28. James Taylor

Platinum albums: 14

Multi-platinum: 5

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: James Taylor’s Greatest Hits (11 million copies)

27. The Doors

Platinum albums: 14

Multi-platinum: 5

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: The Best of The Doors (10 million copies)

26. Mariah Carey

Platinum albums: 14

Multi-platinum: 10

Diamond: 2

Bestselling album: Music Box (10 million copies)

25. Willie Nelson

Platinum albums: 15

Multi-platinum: 6

Bestselling album: Stardust (5 million copies)

24. Bob Dylan

Platinum albums: 15

Multi-platinum: 6

Bestselling album: Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits (5 million copies)

23. Alan Jackson

Platinum albums: 15

Multi-platinum: 8

Bestselling album: The Greatest Hits Collection (6 million copies)

22. Pink Floyd

Platinum albums: 15

Multi-platinum: 12

Diamond: 2

Bestselling album: The Wall (23 million copies)

21. Luther Vandross

Platinum albums: 16

Multi-platinum: 7

Bestselling album: The Best of Luther Vandross (3 million copies)

20. Kenny Rogers

Platinum albums: 17

Multi-platinum: 7

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits (12 million copies)

19. U2

Platinum albums: 17

Multi-platinum: 11

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: The Joshua Tree (10 million copies)

18. Bruce Springsteen

Platinum albums: 17

Multi-platinum: 11

Diamond: 2

Bestselling album: Born In The U.S.A. (15 million copies)

17. Billy Joel

Platinum albums: 17

Multi-platinum: 12

Diamond: 2

Bestselling album: Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II (23 million copies)

16. Madonna

Platinum albums: 17

Multi-platinum: 12

Diamond: 2

Bestselling album: Like A Virgin (10 million copies)

15. Chicago

Platinum albums: 18

Multi-platinum: 8

Bestselling album: Chicago 17 (6 million copies)

14. Aerosmith

Platinum albums: 18

Multi-platinum: 12

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits (11 million copies)

13. Led Zeppelin

Platinum albums: 18

Multi-platinum: 14

Diamond: 5

Bestselling album: Led Zeppelin IV (23 million copies)

12. Reba McEntire

Platinum albums: 19

Multi-platinum: 9

Bestselling album: Greatest Hits, Volume II (5 million copies)

11. Rod Stewart

Platinum albums: 19

Multi-platinum: 10

Bestselling album: Foot Loose & Fancy Free (3 million copies)

10. Alabama

Platinum albums: 20

Multi-platinum: 10

Bestselling album: Mountain Music (5 million copies)

9. AC/DC

Platinum albums: 20

Multi-platinum: 12

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: Back In Black (22 million copies)

8. Neil Diamond

Platinum albums: 21

Multi-platinum: 12

Bestselling album: The Jazz Singer (5 million copies)

7. Elton John

Platinum albums: 27

Multi-platinum: 14

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: Greatest Hits (17 million copies)

6. The Rolling Stones

Platinum albums: 28

Multi-platinum: 11

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: Four Flicks (19 million copies)

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5. Barbra Streisand

Platinum albums: 30

Multi-platinum: 12

Bestselling album: Greatest Hits Volume II (5 million copies)

4. Garth Brooks

Platinum albums: 30

Multi-platinum: 16

Diamond: 7

Bestselling album: Double Live (21 million copies)

3. George Strait

Platinum albums: 33

Multi-platinum: 13

Bestselling album: Strait Out Of The Box (8 million copies)

2. The Beatles

Platinum albums: 42

Multi-platinum: 26

Diamond: 6

Bestselling album: The Beatles (The White Album) (19 million copies)

1. Elvis Presley

Platinum albums: 67

Multi-platinum: 27

Diamond: 1

Bestselling album: Elvis’ Christmas Album (10 million copies)