by Alex Cosper (7/16/13)
On a worlwide scale the Beatles were the only artist listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as selling over a billion units by the end of the first decade of the 21st century. The RIAA also lists the Beatles as the best selling artist in American history. The runner up in both cases does not come close. ABBA is often cited as the number two best selling artist of all time worldwide, with sales exceeding 300 million units. Although the top artist have fluctuated over time, here are the artists that have become mainstays on the list of all time top sellers:
The Rolling Stones
There actually is no way to accurately gauge record sales, since industry statistics are based on units shipped to retail outlets. When a label in America ships a million units, the label reports the information to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which then gives the artist a "platinum" award. While there have been many instances when these awards did not reflect actual consumer sales, it's safe to assume that the top artists on this list have been legitimate big sellers. Concert ticket sales and other visual evidence confirms that these artists have had huge followings.
Prior to the rise of the Elvis Presley in the 1950s and the Beatles in the 1960s, the best selling artists of all time were in the big band realm, such as Glenn Miller and Bing Crosby, who were successful at selling singles as opposed to albums. Singles were the mainstay of pop culture through the 1970s but by the late 1960s the Beatles had helped popularize albums. The top selling albums of all time in America include The Eagles Greatest Hits: Volume 1, Thriller by Michael Jackson and the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack.
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