List of best-selling music artists

This list includes music artists with claims of 75 million or more record sales. The artists in the following tables are listed with both their claimed sales figure along with their total of certified units and are ranked in descending order, with the artist with the highest amount of claimed sales at the top. If two or more artists have the same claimed sales, they are then ranked by certified units. The claimed sales figure and the total of certified units (for each country) within the provided sources include sales of albums, singles, compilation-albums, music videos as well as downloads of singles and full-length albums. Sales figures, such as those from Soundscan, which are sometimes published by Billboard magazine, have not been included in the certified units column. As of 2017, based on both sales claims and certified units, The Beatles are considered the highest-selling band. Elvis Presley is considered the highest-selling individual artist based on sales claims and Rihanna is the highest-selling individual artist based on certified units.

Definitions

All artists included on this list, which have begun charting on official albums or singles charts have their available claimed figures supported by at least 20% in certified units. That is why Cliff Richard, Diana Ross, Scorpions, Charles Aznavour, Bing Crosby, Gloria Estefan, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Tom Jones, The Jackson 5, Dionne Warwick, the Spice Girls, Luciano Pavarotti, Dolly Parton, Ozzy Osbourne, Andrea Bocelli and others have not been included on this list. The more recent the artist, the higher the required percentage of certified units, so artists such as Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Flo Rida, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Adele, Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars are expected to have their claimed figures supported by over 75% in certified units. The certified units are sourced from available online databases of local music industry associations. All certified units are converted from Gold/Platinum/Diamond certification awards based on criteria provided by certifying bodies. The certified sales percentage varies according to the first year that an artist appeared in the charts. [a]

The requirements of certified sales are designed to avoid inflated sales figures, which are frequently practiced by record companies for promotional purposes. [1] [2] The claimed figures are referenced from online articles created by highly reliable sources. For clarity, the sources used, say the term "records" (singles, albums, videos) and not "albums". However, if all available sources for an artist or band say "albums", such sources are only used if the certified album units of the said artist meet the required percentage amount. This list uses claimed figures that are closest to artists' available certified units: inflated claimed figures that meet the required certified units amount but are unrealistically high, are not used.

The claimed figures are upgraded only when there is a significant progress in artists' certified sales. In other words, the available certified sales for each artist should get relatively closer to already listed claimed figure in order for higher figures to replace the listed ones.

The certified sales of the newer artists may sometimes be higher than their listed claimed figures. This is because Recording Industry Association of America and almost all other certifying bodies count streaming towards Gold and Platinum thresholds required for Digital Single Award certification. [3] [4] [5] For this reason, some singles and even albums get over certified by hundreds of thousands of units. The over certified figures, however, are often in millions of units for RIAA certifications, one such example is Rihanna's single " We Found Love", which is certified at nine times Platinum by the RIAA, yet during the time of the certification, it had sold 5.4 million downloads. [6] [7]

The certified sales for some artists/bands who have multi-disc albums can be higher than their listed claimed figures due to Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) counting each unit within set as one unit toward certification.

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