Perhaps unsurprisingly, British rock band The Beatles are top of the list for best-selling artists worldwide, with 183 million units certified sales. Second is Garth Brooks with over 157 million units sales, followed by Elvis Presley with 139 million units. All the artists who made the top twenty list are internationally renowned for their contributions to music and range from British pop-icon Elton John to American rock legends like Metallica.
What do the top-selling artists have in common?
The artists in the top twenty ranking for worldwide certified sales all made their mark in music in their own unique way. However, what is notable is that many of the artists in the list achieved fame and success several decades ago and were fortunate enough to have a lasting impact. Most of the musicians in the list were born in the United States or the United Kingdom and began their musical career in the 1960s or 1970s.
The music of the 1960s is often considered revolutionary, with politically-minded music from the likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez achieving huge popularity and psychedelic rock becoming one of the musical hallmarks of the era. British psychedelic/progressive rock band Pink Floyd as well as rock groups The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin all formed in London in the 1960s, as well as The Beatles who began their career in Liverpool at the beginning of the decade.
Which artists are still active today?
As of 2022, only a few of the artists who made the list remain active. American band the Eagles have toured regularly throughout their long career.
Sadly though, several of the world’s top-selling musicians have now passed, including Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. Certain groups are still musically active but few have retained their original line-up. Australian rock and roll band AC/DC have undergone multiple line-up changes over the years, the most recent being the replacement of vocalist Brian Johnson with Guns n’ Roses singer Axl Rose.
Top-selling artists worldwide as of August 2022, based on certified sales
(in million units)
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RIAA. (August 31, 2022). Top-selling artists worldwide as of August 2022, based on certified sales (in million units) [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved November 26, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/271174/top-selling-artists-in-the-united-states/
RIAA. "Top-selling artists worldwide as of August 2022, based on certified sales (in million units)." Chart. August 31, 2022. Statista. Accessed November 26, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/271174/top-selling-artists-in-the-united-states/
RIAA. (2022). Top-selling artists worldwide as of August 2022, based on certified sales (in million units). Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: November 26, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/271174/top-selling-artists-in-the-united-states/
RIAA. "Top-selling Artists Worldwide as of August 2022, Based on Certified Sales (in Million Units)." Statista, Statista Inc., 31 Aug 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/271174/top-selling-artists-in-the-united-states/
RIAA, Top-selling artists worldwide as of August 2022, based on certified sales (in million units) Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/271174/top-selling-artists-in-the-united-states/ (last visited November 26, 2022)