About Boardroom

Boardroom is a media network that covers the business of sports, entertainment. From the ways that athletes, executives, musicians and creators are moving the business world forward to new technologies, emerging leagues, and industry trends, Boardroom brings you all the news and insights you need to know...

At the forefront of industry change, Boardroom is committed to unique perspectives on and access to the news, trending topics and key players you need to know.

All Rights Reserved. 2022.

The Best-Selling Albums of All Time: Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston & More

Last Updated: June 30, 2023
From rock and roll to rhythm and soul, check out the albums that reset the sound and changed the business of music for decades to come.

No matter the generation, music has been and will always be a universal language fundamental to society. Whether you’re more inclined toward melody or composition — or you’re just a sucker for a good lyric — our memories and experiences are often connected to a soundtrack, from a first concert to a first kiss.

The rise of the album, particularly in the pop music era beginning in the second half of the 20th century, revolutionized our listening, giving rise to new ways for artists and producers to curate their own work. Even in the age of streaming numbers and “equivalent units shipped,” the way tracks are collected, ordered, and enjoyed still matters. And while industry observers might differ on what actually counts as an album sale thanks to details like whether double LPs count as one or two or how to tally albums packaged with merch, there are some records that simply stand the test of time on a level that places them in a sonic pantheon.

Below, check out the 10 best-selling albums of all time that have shaped music for generations of artists and fans to enjoy across an ever-evolving industry landscape — and find out if your No. 1 favorite made the list.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get on our list for weekly sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

Top 10 Best-selling Albums of All Time

NOTE: Ranking is based on total claimed sales derived by industry analysts and reportage rather than purely those sales certified by organizations like the RIAA.

10. The Bee Gees (and Various Artists) – Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Total sales: Over 40 million
Certified sales: 22.1 million
Top Streamed Song: “Stayin Alive” (835,111,808 streams)

The soundtrack to the hit film Saturday Night Fever was certified 16x Platinum and stayed on Billboard’s album charts for 120 weeks through March 1980, supercharging the Bee Gees’ career and becoming a cultural touchstone all its own. The 1977 disco LP has whipped up 22.1 million certified album sales to date and continues to resonate through Gen Z via social media and sampling.

9. Fleetwood MacRumours (1977)

Total sales: Over 40 million
Certified sales: 29.3 million
Top Streamed Song: “Dreams” (1,254,325,921 streams)

The 1977 offering from the British-American group is an all-timer that has enjoyed continued massive appeal in the music industry, including 29.3 million certified album sales to date. The definitive Fleetwood Mac project has received perfect scores in reviews both contemporaneous and retrospective from some of the most notable music critics in the industry, and though tastes in pop and rock music have changed considerably, Rumours isn’t considered the least bit dated.

“Records like Rumours don’t happen anymore,” producer Ken Caillat told Music Radar in 2022. “We spent a year and a lot of hell working on it. Lives were changed, people changed, everything became different. Something like Rumours could never happen these days. A record label would have shut us down after two weeks.”

8. Shania Twain – Come On Over (1997)

Total sales: Over 40 million
Certified sales: 30.4 million
Top Streamed Song: “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” (464,143,877 streams)

Shania Twain paved the way for a modern country-pop crossover with Come On Over, her third studio album. The 1997 long player has moved more than 30 million units as of this writing, helping The Canadian singer carve out her own corner of pop music, dominate mainstream radio, and provide a blueprint for countless artists to continue to follow. The record stirred up a bit of controversy at the time as some critics struggled to determine precisely which genre it album fit into, but that reckoning clearly worked massively in Twain’s favor.

7. Eagles – Hotel California (1976)

Total sales: Over 42 million
Certified sales: 31.8 million
Top Streamed Song: “Hotel California” (1,326,511,841 streams)

Hotel California received critical acclaim for its composition and creative direction, with critics noting the impressive extent to which it showcased several different layers of the 1970s rock and roll scene. The album served as the Eagles’ first with guitarist Joe Walsh, and they must have done something right, as the former James Gang member would come to be iconically, eternally linked to the celebrated LA group.

“The song itself has become one of those songs like ‘Stairway to Heaven,'” Eagles singer-drummer Don Henley said of the title track.

6. Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (1977)

Total sales: Over 43 million
Certified sales: 22 million
Top Streamed Song: “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” (157,418,723 streams)

Marvin Lee Aday created his own lane in rock music when he created Bat Out of Hell — perhaps less a concept album than an opera. Meat Loaf’s most famous release has moved 22 million units to date, setting a bold standard for hard rock and progressive rock for years to come.

“I had to learn how to re-sing ‘Bat Out of Hell’ in the studio,” Aday told Variety in 2016. “They have no idea, until musicians start to play “Bat Out of Hell,” how difficult it is… And I hear these tribute bands, and they don’t sing the melody. They will stay on the same note; they won’t go up on certain notes.”

Putting in that extra work sure paid off.

5. Eagles – Their Greatest Hits, 1971-1975 (1976)

Total sales: Over 44 million
Certified sales: 41.2 million
Top Streamed Song: “Take It Easy” (501,807,489 streams)

No, it’s not a studio LP, but no best-selling albums of all time list is complete without this one.

The Eagles’ first greatest hits release was made for the dedicated fans who have watched their journey take shape since 1971, and its timing turned out to be a stroke of genius. The album dropped in 1976 has registered 41.2 million album sales as of this writing, making it something of a soundtrack not just for the band, but those who grew up and grew old with them. The project is additionally historic in nature for becoming the first album to receive Platinum certification from the RIAA.

“After the band broke up in 1980, it just kept selling and selling and selling,” recalled Irving Azoff, the band’s longtime manager. “There became this kind of classic rock, album-oriented rock format, and we got so much radio airplay.”

4. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

Total sales: Over 45 million
Certified sales: 24.8 million
Top Streamed Song: “The Great Gig in the Sky” (220,830,047 streams)

The Dark Side of the Moon hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts, but even after falling out of the top spot, it stuck around for an incredible 900 weeks. The 1973 magnum opus has generated nearly 25 million certified sales, with hits like “Money,” “Speak to Me / Breathe” and “Us and Them” continuing to inspire. It’s definitively an art rock staple with universal critical acclaim behind it.

3. Whitney Houston (and Various Artists) – The Bodyguard (1992)

Total sales: Over 45 million
Certified sales: 24.8 million
Top Streamed Song: “I Will Always Love You” (582,867,561 streams)

The Bodyguard was a culturally significant moment for Kevin Costner and the budding acting career of Whitney Houston, but it truly skyrocketed because of the music that accompanied it. Much of the 1992 film’s soundtrack was sung by Whitney Houston, becoming a worldwide hit that has moved nearly 29 million units. Depending on your generation, you may have strong memories attached to several songs on the album, with the most notable being “I Will Always Love You,” originally written by Dolly Parton.

“I knew the song was incredible. I knew I had sung the shit out of it. But I had no idea that that record would sell so much, so fast,” Houston told Rolling Stone in 1993.

2. AC/DC – Back in Black (1980)

Total sales: Over 50 million
Certified sales: 30.1 million
Top Streamed Song: “Back In Black” (1,272,164,723 streams)

The AC/DC album Back in Black, the Australian band’s first featuring incumbent vocalist Brian Johnson, has sold over 30.1 million certified copies as one of the enduring entries in the hard rock canon. In 2007 it received a 22x Platinum certification in the US alone. AC/DC remain active today and have 17 studio albums to date, but nothing ever captured imaginations quite like this 1980 triumph.

“It just got bigger and bigger as it went along, but it never even got No. 1 in the US at the time, which Malcolm [Young] thought was really good. He said, “If you get to Number No. 1, there’s only one other place you can go,” lead guitarist Angus Young — fellow guitarist Malcolm’s brother — said of the record.

1. Michael JacksonThriller (1982)

Total sales: Over 70 million
Certified sales: 30.1 million
Top Streamed Song: “Billie Jean” (1,411,995,221 streams)

Michael Jackson had countless elite-level moments in his decades-long music career, but nothing surpasses moving over 50 million certified units of Thriller, which shook the entire music business and signaled the enigmatic superstar’s formal transition from the disco era into the King of Pop with a notable assist from producer Quincy Jones.

On the strength of singles like “Billie Jean,” “P.Y.T.,” “Beat It,” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” the record was destined to be a global hit — but its title track and accompanying John Landis-helmed music video made it the stuff of legend.