Can You Identify These Best-Selling Musicians of All Time?

By: Olivia Cantor
Image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. via Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Do you want to guess who the best-selling musicians of all time are?

If you want to check the facts and data, just take a look at the tally made by the Recording Industry Association of America. The RIAA gives out gold and platinum certifications for musicians who have sold units of their albums. But it's not only American artists they're tallying there. They're concerned with all the artists that have sold many albums in the U.S. So musicians in their tally could be from foreign lands, too, who have hit it big in America.

The RIAA's listing is not exactly mirrored the world over. Of course, each region or country could also have their respective best-sellers. But it's no secret that once you've hit it big in the U.S., chances are, your popularity will also extend worldwide! Whenever they visit a country they think is "obscure" or small, they will always end up in awe at the warm reception they get from their legions of fans in a certain place.

So, can you guess who these big-time musicians are? Check out the quiz and see!

The Record Industry Association of America tallies that The Beatles sold around 178 million units of their albums combined, making them the top best-selling musical artist of all time. Many of their albums are certified multi-platinum awardees.

In the best-selling tally of all time, the King of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis Presley, comes in third place when it comes to having the most number of albums sold. The King has 146.5 million units sold, including soundtrack albums from his movies such as "G.I. Blues" and "Blue Hawaii," to name a few.

Mariah Carey comes in at number 16 in the tally of the all-time best-selling musical artist in our lifetime. She has been certified gold 16 times, platinum 14 times, multi-platinum 10 times, and diamond certified twice for the albums "Music Box" (1993) and "Daydream" (1995)

The Material Girl has sold 64.5 million albums in her lifetime, so far, and she's just one notch ahead of Mariah Carey, placing her at number 15. Madonna is still very much at it, though, so that number might still increase. Her latest album is called "Rebel Heart" (2015).

Michael Jackson comes in at number seven in the tally of the most number of albums sold, with 84 million units. This includes albums of all types: vinyl, CD, cassettes, and even digital formats. This tally counts posthumous releases, too, like his 2014 album called "Xscape."

Mick Jagger and the rest of the Rolling Stones may not be included in the top 10 best-selling artists of all time, but they're still in a great place. The group comes in at number 13, with 66.5 million album units sold, majority of which are certified gold.

She might be pretty young to be in an all-time best-selling list, but Taylor Swift impressively makes it to this chart nonetheless. At number 30, she just outsold Reba McIntyre by two million units and Tim McGraw by 5.5 million units, since her tally is at 43 million units sold.

Barbra Streisand is not very far from the top 10 list here, since she comes in at number 12 with 68.5 million album units sold in this lifetime, so far. While some of her albums were certified multi-platinum a dozen times as well, she never had an album that reached diamond certification.

U2 comes in at number 21 in this all-time tally, with 52 million album units sold. It's interesting to note that they were certified gold 17 times, and certified platinum 17 times as well. To be certified gold means you sold 500,000 units, and platinum is a million units.

Canadian diva Celine Dion has multilingual fans, since she also produces multilingual albums, namely English and French. No wonder she has sold 50 million units, listing her at number 22 in this tally, just right after U2, and right above Neil Diamond.

Did you know that Billy Joel just outranked Michael Jackson by half a million units in this tally, placing him at number six? However, the band that comes just right before him has 111.5 million units sold, and that's a big discrepancy there! That group is Led Zeppelin, by the way.

Coming in at number 27 on this list of best-selling albums of all time, Eminem also holds the distinction of being the top-selling rap artist in this tally. Some of the other rap artists in the tally, but who come way lower in ranking, include 2Pac, Jay-Z, Beastie Boys, Outkast, and Notorious B.I.G.

Aerosmith actually ties with The Rolling Stones as they are also in the number 13 slot of this tally. But they both have one diamond certification, which means an album of theirs sold 10 million units. That diamond album is their 1980 release called "Greatest Hits."

Guns N' Roses actually comes in number 28 of this tally, but they're sharing that spot with Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Axl, Slash and the gang was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though, in 2012, while Bob Seger got inducted in 2004.

Elton John trails right after Michael Jackson in this list, coming in at number eight. With 78.5 million units sold, he just outsold Pink Floyd and AC/DC a bit, who come in at number nine and ten, respectively. "The Lion King" soundtrack album remains one of his best-selling works.

Metallica is in good company in this list as the heavy metal band comes in at number 17, just right after Madonna and Mariah Carey. But the top 10 tally includes their hard-rocking predecessors like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and AC/DC, so the U.S. obviously loves rocking hard to their kind of music!

Folk hero Bob Dylan, the controversial recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, comes in at number 39 on the best-selling musicians list. He was controversial for that Nobel win because it's the first time the prestigious award was given to a musician-songwriter.

The currently popular Rihanna has a multiple tie going on with many artists who come in at number 62 of the best-selling list. With an impressive 22.5 million album units sold so far, she shares this distinction with an eclectic bunch that includes Usher, Heart, Lionel Richie, and The Beach Boys.

Adele comes in at number 50, and she shares that spot with other artists that sold 28 million units of their album, including Michael Bolton, N'Sync, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees the Bee Gees, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Her last album release was 2015's "25."

With 34.5 million album units sold, Jon Bon Jovi, with his Bon Jovi band, shares number 41 of this tally with the legendary rock band Queen as well as Dave Matthews Band. Britney Spears is in that spot with them as well. Their last album was called "This House is Not For Sale" released in 2016.

With the success of the "Bohemian Rhapsody" biopic featuring the U.K. band Queen, their legendary 41st spot in this all-time tally could be bumped up some more in the coming years. The world had renewed interest in the band when the film came out, especially when it got many award nominations.

Born in 1981, Britney Spears definitely became the voice of millennials who came of age in the late 1990s and early 2000s. While she has had huge success in her career, the world still can't forget that she once had a marriage that lasted for only 55 hours.

With 65.5 million album units sold, America definitely loves their folk rockers, and Bruce Springsteen is the embodiment of this persona. To think that he started being active in the music scene as far back as the mid-'60s, he still garners renewed popularity with every new decade.

The brother-sister tandem of The Carpenters is in number 58 of the tally. They received their star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 1983, eight months right after Karen Carpenter died of anorexia nervosa complications. Her death helped open the conversation on women's body image pressures.

The Doors were active from 1965 to 1973 only, but those brief years were enough to thrust their popularity and album sales. The group is in number 43 of this best-selling tally, and they share that spot with folk singer James Taylor. Oliver Stone directed a biopic of the group, released in 1991.

Simon & Garfunkel comes in at number 33 with 38.5 million album units sold. However, without Art Garfunkel, Paul Simon is also in the list as a solo artist with a tally of 13.5 million units of his solo album efforts sold.

Interestingly enough, America loves country music so much that Garth Brooks finds himself as the second best-selling musical artist of all time, just trailing The Beatles by 30 million units sold (he has 148 million). The singer-songwriter got inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame back in 2012.

In the all-time best-selling tally, it's interesting to note that the boyband Backstreet Boys outsold many legendary older artists such as Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Prince, and Willie Nelson, to name a few. They also outsold fellow boybands N'Sync and New Kids on the Block, too.

Beyoncé may not have numbers in the hundreds of millions, but her record of 13 million album units sold, so far, is still an impressive feat. But her former group, Destiny's Child, outsold her a bit, with 17.5 million album units to their collective credit.

Singer-songwriter Barry Manilow is actually tied with Jay-Z and John Mellencamp with 27.5 million album units sold. In 2017, at the rocking age of 73, the prolific performer publicly came out as a gay man, saying that he has a male partner, and that they have been together for nearly 40 years.

Eric Clapton finds himself at the top 40 tally of best-selling artists of all time, coming in at number 32 with 40 million album units sold. He also got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thrice, because he was inducted as a member of The Yardbirds, then Cream, then as a solo artist.

R&B-pop diva Whitney Houston is among the top 20 best-selling artists where she sits at spot number 18, with a total of 58.5 million album units sold. Her unforgettable songs are karaoke favorites the world over, and contestants of singing competitions also love belting out her meaningful tunes.

Eagles, the group founded by Don Henley, Glen Frey, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner back in 1971, holds the enviable record of being the fourth musical act on the best-selling list. They sold 120 million album units, and "Hotel California" remains as one of their most popular songs of all time.

Journey continues to sell many albums up to this day. Since being established back in 1973, they have had many membership changes over the decades. The band now has Arnel Pineda as its lead vocalist, a singer from the Philippines whom they discovered on YouTube and uncannily sounds like Steve Perry.

Santana is one of the bands that performed in the legendary Woodstock event back in 1969. They got formed way back in 1966, though, and the group is led by Carlos Santana. The band got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Tupac Shakur, also know as 2Pac in the hiphop community, is one of the best-selling rap acts of all time. He was actually born in Harlem, New York, but he found fame when he moved to Los Angeles, California. He was gunned down in Las Vegas, Nevada, though, in a gang-related altercation.

One of the recognizable bands to come out of the Seattle grunge scene is Pearl Jam, fronted by vocalist Eddie Vedder. Their very first album is called "Ten," followed by "Vs." and "Vitalogy," which all helped define the specific grunge sound of the '90s.

The '70s was a very colorful decade, disco dancing-wise, thanks to the brothers that made up the group called Bee Gees, namely Robin, Maurice, and Barry Gibb. It's interesting to note, though, that they were actually formed as far back as 1958.

It's interesting to note that Frank Sinatra holds the record for 27 million album units sold, and he's tied in that number with Linkin Park and Boyz II Men. This proves that Ol' Blue Eyes is still an unforgettable act up to now, and his legacy lives on, decade after decade.

Josh Groban was born in 1981, yet he already achieved multi-platinum status in his young career. At 17 years of age, he was already working with stellar performers, notably David Foster. He was actually preparing to study full-time at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University when stardom beckoned.

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