They are the most popular artists of all time. Their albums have become classics and their songs have become veritable soundtracks for entire generations. And the sales that their music have generated have made these artists millionaires several times over.
Here is a list of the top 10 best selling artists of all time.
1. The Beatles – 1 billion records
They are the Fab Four that changed the course of music history. They came in at the right time as the world was then undergoing a socio-cultural revolution. Formed in 1960 in Liverpool, the lineup consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. You have to be living under a rock not to have hear a Beatle song at any one time in your life. Fundraising and testimonial concerts would always end these days with McCartney singing the old Beatles’ classics. From “Please, Please Me” to “Let It Be,” The Beatles will always be considered as one of the greatest acts of all time.
2. Elvis Presley – 1 billion records
He is the cultural icon that everyone refers to as “The King.” He popularized rockabilly, an uptempo version of country and rhythm and blues. He popularized rock and roll and became its face in the late 1950s. He is one of the most important figures of 20th century pop culture. Up to now, his old Graceland Mansion in Memphis still serves as a pilgrimage site to his thousands of fans.
3. Michael Jackson – 750 million records
He started out as a member of the family group called Jackson Five. They popularized songs under Motown Record like “Ben,” “I’ll be There,” “One Day in Your Life” and “ABC.” He then broke free and released several solo albums, including the monster records “Off the Wall,” “Thriller” and “Bad.” “Thriller” eventually went on to become the biggest selling album of all time. He was considered as the “Prince of Pop” that changed the way we look and listen to music with his breakthrough music videos in the 1980s, particularly “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” and “Thriller.” He was involved in scandals like child abuse, but his death triggered an outpouring of emotions for the man who had the silkiest touch and deft moves.
4. Madonna – 300 million records
Back in the 1980s, she was Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé Knowles all rolled into one. She had the naughty sex appeal of Perry, the edginess of Lady Gaga and the moves of Beyoncé. As a matter of fact, she even had the pop sensibilities of Taylor Swift. She sang her way to the top with songs like “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl” and “Papa Don’t Preach.” She also sang popular movie theme songs like the title track of “Live to Tell,” “This Used to be My Playground” from “A League of Their Own” and “I’ll Remember” from “With Honors.” Everyone was mad about Madonna.
5. Elton John– 300 million records
He owns the best selling single in the history of the Billboard Charts with “Candle in the Wind1997,” John’s tribute song to Princess Diana. He has had 56 top 40 hits, 16 top 10 songs, four number two songs and nine consecutive number one albums. His songs include “Benny and the Jets,” “Your Song,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and “I’m Still Standing.”
6. Led Zeppelin – 300 million records
Originally known as The New Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin is one of the most innovative and influential rock groups in history. Six of their albums have gone all the way to number one, while the other three have all reached the top 10 as well. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame considers them as equal to The Beatles in terms of influence in the decade they were in. Their giant hit “Stairway to Heaven” is one of the most popular and influential rocks songs ever recorded.
7. Queen – 300 million records
Queen energized the crowd with a rousing performance during the “Live Aid” fundraising concert for Africa in 1985. It has been hailed as the greatest rock performance of all time. And Queen did it by having the entire audience in Wembley sing along to their greatest hits, like “We Will Rock You,” “We are the Champions,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Radio Ga-Ga.” Freddie Mercury was on fire that night, though Queen had consistently churned out hits since its first record in 1973. Mercury passed away after losing his battle against AIDS, but the music of Queen certainly will live on.
8. Pink Floyd – 250 million records
The band is one of the most commercially successful and most influential rock groups of all time. It is distinguished by the philosophical lyrics combined with progressive and psychedelic music. The band reached its peak in the 1970s with the release of concept albums like “The Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Animals” and “The Wall.” These brought the members of the band enormous wealth and popularity, with “The Dark Side of the Moon” staying on the album charts for a remarkable 14 years.
9. Mariah Carey – 200 million records
She hit it big right off the bat with platinum awards for her albums like “Mariah Carey,” “Emotions,” “Music Box,” “Merry Christmas” and “Daydream.” The last album featured the song “One Sweet Day” that she sang with the group called Boyz II Men. That song stayed at the top spot in Billboard’s Hot 100 for 16 consecutive weeks, the longest in history. Carey is known for her vocal range that some say extends up to five octaves. Her power and use of the whistle register have also highlighted her strengths as a performer.
10. Celine Dion – 200 million records
She is the best-selling Canadian artist of all time. She also owns the best-selling French-language album of all time. She first gained recognition by winning a couple of contests while representing Switzerland. Her most famous songs include the title track of “Beauty and the Beast,” “Because You Loved Me” and “My Heart Will Go On,” also known as the theme from “Titanic.”