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The Top Selling Music Albums in History

While many people get their music today from streaming platforms like Spotify, YouTube, or Pandora, decades of music lovers purchased their favorite songs on vinyl records, 8-tracks, cassette tapes, and CDs.

Starting in the early 1970s, certified sales started being tracked. Over fifty years, a handful of albums have sold over 40 million copies!

Another several dozen have managed to sell between 20 and 39.99 million copies!

Below, you will find a list of the highest selling albums in history. If you’re a music lover, you’ll probably recognize many of these gems!

Albums Reported to Have Sold over 40 Million Copies

Ten albums (and nine musical acts) have reported sales of over forty million copies.

When you think about it, that’s a lot of albums. Seriously.

Even in the age of the digital download, that is forty million (or more, in a few cases) times someone purchased a copy of these albums.

So, what are the highest selling albums in history?

Michael Jackson: Thriller

Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5
Michael Jackso and the Jackson Five (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

Year of Release: 1982

Genre(s): Rock, Pop, Funk

Reported Sales: 70 Million

Notable Tracks: “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” “The Girl is Mine,” “Thriller,” “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” “Human Nature,” “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)”

AC/DC: Black in Black

ACDC Concert in Tacoma
AC/DC performing in Tacoma (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/imhavingfun42 — license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)

Year of Release: 1980

Genre(s): Rock/Hard-Rock

Reported Sales: 50 Million

Notable Tracks: “Hell’s Bells,” “Shoot to Thrill,” “Back in Black,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”

Whitney Houston: The Bodyguard (Soundtrack)

Whitney Houston Theater
Whitney Houston Tribute Sign (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Simeon87 — license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Year of Release: 1992

Genre(s): Pop, R&B, Soul

Reported Sales: 45 Million

Notable Tracks: “I Will Always Love You,” “I Have Nothing,” “I’m Every Woman,” “Run to You,” “Queen of the Night,” “Jesus Loves Me,”

Meatloaf: Bat Out of Hell

Meatloaf Signer Speaking
Meatloaf (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Super Festivals — license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Year of Release: 1977

Genre(s): Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Pop-Rock, Glam Rock

Reported Sales: 44 Million

Notable Tracks: “Bat Out of Hell,” “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth”

Eagles: Greatest Hits 1971-1975

Eagles Band
The Eagles in concert (photo via Wikimedia Commons/Steve Alexander — license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

Year of Release: 1976

Genre(s): Soft Rock, Country Rock, Folk Rock

Reported Sales: 44 Million

Notable Tracks: “Take It Easy,” “Witchy Woman,” “Desperado,” “One of These Nights,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Best of My Love,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Already Gone,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling”

Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd in 1971
Pink Floyd circa 1971 (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

Year of Release: 1973

Genre(s): Progressive Rock

Reported Sales: 44 Million

Notable Tracks: “Breathe,” “Speak to Me,” “Money,” “Us and Them,” “Time,” “On the Run,” “Brain Damage,” “Eclipse”

Eagles: Hotel California

Eagles 2002 Concert
The Eagles in concert circa 2002 (photo via Wikimedia Commons/Rachel Kramer — license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Year of Release: 1976

Genre(s): Soft Rock

Reported Sales: 42 Million

Notable Tracks: “Life in the Fast Lane,” “Hotel California,” “The Last Resort”

Bee Gees (and Various Others): Saturday Night Fever (Soundtrack)

Bee Gees Memorial Painting
Bee Gees Memorial (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Misaochan2 — license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)

Year of Release: 1977

Genre(s): Disco

Reported Sales: 40 Million

Notable Tracks: “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep is Your Love,” “More Than a Woman,” “If I Can’t Have You”

Fleetwood Mac: Rumours

Fleetwood Mac Public Domain
Fleetwood Mac, circa 1977 (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

Year of Release: 1977

Genre(s): Soft Rock

Reported Sales: 40 Million

Notable Tracks: “Dreams,” “Second Hand News,” “Go Your Own Way,” “Songbird,” “Gold Dust Woman,” “The Chain”

Shania Twain: Come On Over

Shania Twain_Concert
Shania Twain (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/David Swales — license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)

Year of Release: 1997

Genre(s): Pop, Country

Reported Sales: 40 Million

Notable Tracks: “You’re Still the One,” “From This Moment,” “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” “Come On Over,” “You’ve Got a Way”

Albums Reported to Have Sold Between 30-39.99 Million Copies

Beatles_The Fab Four
The Beatles (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

While a couple of the albums above may be surprising, it may be more surprising to some that the albums below haven’t cracked the “Top 10” yet.

Likewise, only two albums in the 30-39.99 million range have come from the 2000s – and one of those is from The Beatles.

Various ArtistsDirty Dancing (Soundtrack)1987
Adele212011
Celine DionLet’s Talk About Love1997
MetallicaMetallica1991
The Beatles12000
The BeatlesAbbey Road1969
ABBAGold: Greatest Hits1992
Bruce SpringsteenBorn in the U.S.A.1984
MadonnaThe Immaculate Collection1990
Pink FloydThe Wall1979
James HornerTitanic: Music from the Motion Picture1997
Dire StraitsBrothers in Arms1985
NirvanaNevermind1991
SantanaSupernatural1999
Guns N’ RosesAppetite for Destruction1987
Elton JohnGoodbye Yellow Brick Road1973

Albums Reported to Have Sold Between 20-29.99 Million Copies

Adele (Photo via Vogue Taiwan/Wikimedia Commons — License at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)

While it seems like there might be a gulf between the albums below and Thriller or Back in Black, there is absolutely nothing to scoff at about selling over 20 million album copies.

In fact, some of the most celebrated musical acts of the past of half century can be found on this list.

Bon JoviSlippery When Wet1986
Mariah CareyMusic Box1993
Linkin ParkHybrid Theory2000
EminemThe Eminem Show2002
Norah JonesCome Away with Me2002
Eric ClaptonUnplugged1992
Britney Spears…Baby One More Time1999
Bob Marley & The WailersLegend: The Best of Bob Marley & The Wailers1984
Carole KingTapestry1971
Phil CollinsNo Jacket Required1985
QueenGreatest Hits1981
MadonnaTrue Blue1986
Simon & GarfunkelBridge over Troubled Water1970
U2The Joshua Tree1987
Prince and The RevolutionPurple Rain1984
George MichaelFaith1987
Elton JohnGreatest Hits1974
Backstreet BoysBackstreet’s Back / Backstreet Boys1997
Backstreet BoysMillennium1999
Spice GirlsSpice1996
Ace of BaseHappy Nation/The Sign1993
Celine DionAll the Way… A Decade of Song1999
Whitney HoustonWhitney Houston1985
FugeesThe Score1996
Oasis(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?1995
Michael JacksonHIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I1995
Adele252015
MadonnaLike a Virgin1984
EminemThe Marshall Mathers LP2000
Bon JoviCross Road1994
Michael JacksonOff the Wall1979
Lauryn HillThe Miseducation of Lauryn Hill1998
BostonBoston1976
Britney SpearsOops!… I Did It Again2000
Celine DionThe Colour of My Love1993
Def LeppardHysteria1987
Elvis PresleyElvis’ Christmas Album1957
Green DayDookie1994
Lionel RichieCan’t Slow Down1983
Mariah CareyDaydream1995
Pink FloydWish You Were Here1975
Shania TwainThe Woman in Me1995
SupertrampBreakfast in America1979
Tracy ChapmanTracy Chapman1988
Various artistsFlashdance: Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture1983
Whitney HoustonWhitney1987
The WhoTommy1969
Andrea BocelliRomanza1997