Which are the best-selling albums of all time?
Ever wondered which albums have sold more than all others in history? Here we look at the best-selling albums of all time, including interesting facts about their releases and the number of albums sold.
The figures are estimates, because they account for worldwide sales which are hard to track, but they are widely accepted in the industry to be the most accurate estimates.
The albums include all types of music, including movie soundtracks, pop, progressive rock, country and folk rock, soft rock, hard rock, heavy metal and disco.
The sales figures refer to sales of new albums, not those sold second-hand. Some are double albums which count as one.
9 Led Zeppelin IV
Sold: 37 million
Led Zeppelin are arguably the best hard rock band of all time, and though they are no longer together this album is a great tribute to them.
In typical Zeppelin style they didn’t record the entire album in the studio but recorded different tracks in many different places.
They chose a spooky Victorian house called Headley Grange which was supposed to be haunted to record the legendary When the Levee Breaks.
The album has been acclaimed by writers and critics as one of the greatest rock albums ever and it includes many of their greatest hits including their signature song Stairway to Heaven.
8 Shania Twain — Come On Over
Sold: 39 million copies
This was only the third album released by Canadian singer Shania Twain and she stuck to what she does best, singing country music.
The number one track, Man! I Feel Like a Woman, became an iconic tune for women on dance floors around the world.
The singer did introduce a bit of a rock feel to the album, but managed not to lose the country influence — and as soon as it was released it shot to number one in the Billboard Top Country Albums, remaining there for 50 weeks running.
Twain re-released Come On Over in 1999 as an International album adding some new songs to give it more of a pop influence but it is this original version that has got her into the list of the top-ten best-selling albums of all time.
7 Fleetwood Mac — Rumours
Sold: 40 million copies
This album was inspired by personal grief and tensions going on within the band. Bassist John McVie filed for divorce from his wife Christine (keyboards/singer) at the same time as guitarist/vocalist Lindsey Buckingham split from vocalist Stevie Nicks who was secretly consoled by drummer Mick Fleetwood.
With all this tension going on it is amazing the album ever got made but in each of the songs bandmates sing lyrics about their fellow bandmates, spilling out home truths which make fascinating listening.
Although this is a very fine musical album, the very public break-ups were part of what made it such a huge success.
6 Bee Gees (and others) — Saturday Night Fever
Sold: 40 million copies
This is the original movie soundtrack from the musical phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever. It also the album which got disco back on to dance floors all over the world.
In the early 1970s, the music’s appeal was fading but due to the success of the movie and the subsequent album featuring songs like Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever and How Deep is Your Love, it became extremely popular again.
Mainly because everyone wanted to emulate John Travolta dancing in his white suit in the movie.
3 Eagles — Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975
Sold: 42 million copies
This album was the first ever to receive the RIAA Platinum Award for selling one million copies in the USA.
It is a compilation of the Eagles’ best-selling singles and of the nine tracks five of them were listed in the top 10 charts.
These include two number ones, One of These Nights and Best of My Love.
The Greatest Hits 1971-1975 is a rock album with a difference as it includes several different types of rock music: folk rock, country rock, and soft rock as well as the traditional rock music the Eagles are known for.
10 Meatloaf — Bat Out of Hell
Sold: 43 million copies
The debut collaboration between composer Jim Steinman and American rocker Meatloaf is what made this album such a success.
Bat out of Hell is completely unique — as it is gothic, operatic and even funny in parts, with some of the songs having ridiculous lyrics.
But there are also those that are heartbreaking like Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, and Meatloaf brings out a huge amount of emotion in his sad, serious songs.
This was the album that sent Meatloaf’s name and reputation soaring upwards round the world and paved the way for him to release a string of other successful albums.
4 Whitney Houston — Soundtrack to The Bodyguard
Sold: 44 million copies
Although this is the soundtrack to the entire The Bodyguard movie, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, it is mainly remembered mainly for just one song — Whitney Houston’s magnificent rendering of I Will Always Love You.
The song overshadows all the other music in the film, even though it did have a great score.
The Bodyguard was one of the most popular films ever released and one people continue to watch on DVD today.
But despite the great scenery and storyline, it is that one song that remains lodged in people’s memories above everything else.
2 Pink Floyd — The Dark Side of the Moon
Sold: 45 million copies
The progressive rock band Pink Floyd featured various themes on their eighth album, including a track called Brain World about mental illness which was inspired by the deteriorating mental condition of founder member Syd Barrett.
Barrett had to leave the band in 1968 after he suffered a complete breakdown caused by taking LSD.
He became a hermit after that and died on July 7 2006. Following the album his bandmates, upset by his illness and death, released the single You Crazy Diamond as a tribute to him.
5 AC/DC — Back in Black
Sold: 50 million copies
This album might never have been made if it wasn’t for the parents of Bon Scott, the Australian rock band’s lead singer who died tragically aged 33 in the same year the album was released after a night out drinking with friends.
AC/DC were ready to disband but Scott’s parents encouraged them to carry on and they released Back In Black with their new lead singer and lyricist Brian Johnson.
It is as popular today as it was when it was released and the band continue to sell millions of recordings around the world.
1 Michael Jackson — Thriller
Sold: 65-70 million copies
Michael Jackson was a complex character, a Peter Pan who never grew up, but he has been acclaimed by some as the best entertainer who ever lived and his early death following a cardiac arrest in June 2009 will always remain a tragedy.
Thriller was the King of Pop’s sixth album. Rolling Stone magazine described it as carrying a dark, harrowing message, and Jackson admitted in the run-up to its release that he was very unhappy and lonely at the time.
After hitting stores, the album began selling one million copies a week. Of the nine tracks Jackson wrote four of them himself. Although already the best-selling album of all time, it saw a massive boost in sales following his death.
This list was last updated on March 22, 2016. Please let us know of any inaccuracies or missing information.