Although most of the bands in this list are no longer in existence, their music still lives on the hearts and minds of their fans due to syndication and the popularity the bands enjoyed during their time. Regardless of your taste in music, these bands qualify to be the greatest bands of all times based on album sales and sold out tour dates. The bands also boast of having more platinum record sales, than most artists in the game today.
It is important to note that our list of top ten highest earning bands is dominated by rock bands. There are however a few bands in this list with a pop and dance touch incorporated in their act. All in all, rock bands seem to take the day when taking about the highest earning bands of all time. Given the fact that the U.S. and the U.K have the biggest percentage of rock music fans, expect the highest earning bands in this list to come from these two countries. There are however a few rock bands in this list from other countries like Sweden and Ireland.
As mentioned above, most rock bands in this list are no longer active like old times. There are however a few that have decided to come back together due to popular demand. Most of the bands in this list have done tribute tours and one time shows long after they considered retirement. Some have even tried to get back together to create tribute records, cover songs, and special tour dates for their fans worldwide.
Such moves have cemented their earning positions to date. In fact, most of the bands featured in this list are still earning years after some of them released their last albums. They have managed to make an impressive comeback thanks to syndication rights for songs used in movies, radio and TV. If you are interested in knowing which bands top the list in terms of earnings, below are top 10 highest earning bands of all time bases on certified unit sales and other factors like tour dates, net worth e.t.c.
10 ABBA – Certified Unit Sales: 58 Million
ABBA is the only Swedish band to make it to this list. The band released their first album in 1972. They worked together for 10 years. Although ABBA was considered a pop/ disco band, they have a number of heavy hit songs under their belt. Some of ABBA’s greatest hit songs include Fernando and Dancing Queen. Considering the band was only active for 10 years, they performed extremely well given the fact that they have sold over 381 million albums and singles worldwide. The band members have a total estimated net worth of $300 million earned in album sales, tribute tours and concerts as well as music rights.
9 Queen – Certified Unit Sales: 61 Million
Queen is one of the many U.K. bands in this list with record earnings worldwide. The band debuted in 1971 as a rock and pop music band. They released their first album in 1973. Since then, they haven’t stopped touring. The band boasts of selling over 95 million records to date (66 million in certified unit sales). Because the band is still active, they continue to earn from tours and special concerts. According to the latest estimates, the band has earned over $200 million to date in record sales, tour dates and special concerts.
8 The Rolling Stones – Certified Unit Sales: 66 Million
Popularly known because of lead singer Mick Jagger, this U.K rock and blues band deserves to be in this list for selling over 66 million albums worldwide. The band is best known for their top selling Hot Rocks compilation album. The band has been active since 1962. Although the band claims to have sold over 94 million albums to date, only 66 million unit sales are certified. The band has earned in excess of $200 million in tour dates/concerts around the world.
7 Aerosmith – Certified Unit Sales: 66.5 Million
Aerosmith has been active since 1970. The band is well known because of its lead singer Steven Tyler. This American band has released very many albums. The album; Toys in the Attic however stands out for being the top selling album. The album is the band’s best selling studio album in the U.S. (Sold 8 million certified copies). Aerosmith’s popularity skyrocketed in the 1980s when the band featured many hits on the charts. To date, the band boasts of 66.5 million certified unit sales. This translates to over $150 million in earnings when you consider tour dates and concert earnings.
6 AC/DC – Certified Unit Sales: 71 Million
AC/DC is the only Australian band to make it to this list. The band has been active from 1973 to date. Although the band has hired different drummers and bass players over the years, the core members remain the same. AC/DC’s popularity soared in the 1970’s and 80’s when they released a couple of hits and a top selling album called Back in Black. To date, they have sold 71 million albums (certified unit sales). When you consider unofficial sales, the figure could surpass 108 albums worldwide. AC/DC member Brian Johnson is worth $80 million according to Sunday Time latest rich list. Combined, the band’s net worth can easily surpass the $200 million mark.
5 Pink Floyd – Certified Unit Sales: 74.5 Million
Pink Floyd is another popular U.K band to make it to this list. The band was active between 1965 and 1996. In the three decades, the band managed to sell 74.5 million albums (certified sales). When you consider unofficial sales, Pink Floyd album sales can easily surpass the 100 million mark. This explains why the band made over $250 million (record sales and tour dates) over their three decade career. Although they all ended up broke, they deserve a spot in this list for their record unit sales earnings. The band is planning a tour in 2014 to reverse their fortune.
4 The Eagles – Certified Unit Sales: $100 Million
The Eagles can easily qualify as the oldest U.S. band on this list considering they made their debut in 1971. The band was active for only 9 years after being formed (from 1971 to 1980). Afterwards, the band took a break for 14 years returning in 1994. They have been active since then. The Eagles are popular for their top selling album dubbed Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 which features some of their top soft and country rock hits. Lead singer Don Henley takes a lot of credit for making this band stand out in terms of genre choice. The Eagles hold a record in certified unit sales (100 million) and over $250 million in earnings over the years. They easily qualify to be in this list.
3 Led Zeppelin – Certified Unit Sales: 111.5 Million
This hard rock and heavy metal band easily qualifies to be in this list considering the band has over 100 million in certified unit sales. This is an impressive earnings figure given the fact Led Zeppelin was only active for 12 years (1968-1980). The band top selling album Led Zeppelin IV played a significant role in catapulting this band to the top considering the album sold a record 37 million copies worldwide. When you consider album sales and reunion tours in 1985, 1988, 1995 and 2007, Led Zeppelin has earned over $300 million to date.
2 U2 – Certified Unit Sales: 150 Million
Popularly known because of lead singer Bono, this Irish band makes it to this list because of selling over 100 million album copies worldwide. This is impressive considering the band has released only 12 studio albums since they made their debut in 1976. U2 is one of the few active bands in this list. They still tour and hold concerts to date. This explains why their net worth has soared to $838 million as of April 2012 according to the Sunday Times UK.
1 The Beatles – Certified Unit Sales: 250 Million
Although there are many claims that the Beatles have sold over 600 million albums worldwide, only 250 million unit sales are certified. The band’s top selling album; the white album sold over 20 million copies worldwide. The band is undoubtedly one of the most successful rock and pop bands of all times when you consider total earnings. It is estimated that the band made approximately $600 million in the short time the band was active (1960-1970). Unlike Pink Floyd band members, the Beatles band members are filthy rich. Ringo and Paul (the only remaining Beatles band members) are multimillionaires with an estimated combined net worth of $1 billion. Considering no other band in the world has sold more albums than the Beatles, it is easy to see why the band takes the number one spot in this list.