All-Time Top 5 Best-Selling Artists

Many of these discussions are based on opinion and lead to entertaining debates, but listing the best-selling artists of all time is based on facts. We don’t need to negotiate or persuade because we’ve tracked the numbers (for the most part).

Some of the older band and artist names listed here will not surprise you, but others will make you wonder “how in the world did they pull that off?” and/or make you question the world’s musical taste. Some of the newcomers climbed this list at breakneck speed.


Madonna spent decades pushing pop hits up the Billboard charts, each one fueling her ascent up the list. She is one of the few artists who constantly reinvents her image and message in order to remain relevant or exciting. Perhaps more important than all of this is her constant touring, which serves as extra marketing.

She is a Golden Globe-winning actress, the owner of Maverick Records, the author of several children’s books, a fashion designer, and the owner of several health clubs, all of which help to promote her music. Attention is a valuable commodity in music, and Madonna knows how to get it.

Elton John 

Elton John is a gifted songwriter, performer, and entertainer. His flamboyance is contagious. Among his many accomplishments, he holds the record for the best-selling single of all time in the United Kingdom and the United States. He constantly tours and wins awards, but it’s possible that his work in films like The Lion King and Rocketman, a biopic about his life, has fueled his sales.

His long residency (11 years so far) at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas was an amazing aspect of his career. You know that made him a lot of money. Billboard ranked him as the most successful male solo artist and the third most successful artist overall, trailing only Madonna and The Beatles (both on this list). He’s released 30 studio albums, not to mention a number of live albums.

Michael Jackson 

Nobody needs an introduction to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. He is without a doubt the greatest entertainer of all time, as well as one of the most influential people of the twentieth century. He literally spent his entire life making some of the best music ever recorded, from the Jackson 5 to his solo career, leading to him being the most-awarded musician of all time.

If you don’t count the one greatest hits album that beats it, Michael Jackson’s album Thriller remains the best-selling album of all time. Before his run ended, his fortune was so vast that he owned The Beatles catalogue, was constantly sued and accused of everything under the sun, and his concerts were spectacles the likes of which had never been seen before.

Elvis Presley 

In many ways, Elvis Presley is similar to Michael Jackson. He was dubbed the “King of Rock and Roll” and is regarded as one of the twentieth century’s most important cultural icons. Over the course of 25 years, he released 24 studio albums, 17 soundtracks, and starred in 33 Hollywood films.

He holds the record for having the most songs chart in Billboard’s top 40 (115 songs) and top 100 (115 songs) (152 songs). He has 25 multi-platinum albums and 101 gold albums to his credit (the all-time record). The man is even named after a spider, the Paradonea presleyi. His sales estimates have a high upper limit of $1 billion.

The Beatles 

The Beatles were only active as a band from 1960 to 1970, but they still hold the undisputed title of best-selling artists of all time. Nobody will ever beat them if you include their solo material. Leading the “British Invasion” of British pop and rock into the United States was a huge part of their success. With each release, their art evolved, as did their controversies.

They have won every award, starred in films, broken numerous records, and one of their songs is the most covered ever. The songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney will almost certainly never be surpassed. Aside from their pop appeal, they were some of the best musicians to ever walk the earth’s surface. They’re so good that kids nowadays think it’s cool to watch them.

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