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Tech The 50 best-selling music artists of all time, ranked by platinum albums

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Using RIAA data, we ranked the best-selling artists of all time, including acts like The Beatles and Elvis Presley, by their platinum album sales.

The Beatles. play

The Beatles.

(AP)

  • In today's music industry, the RIAA certifies an album as "platinum" when it surpasses 1 million album equivalent units in sales or streaming.
  • Here, we rank the best-selling artists of all time by their number of platinum album certifications.

In the decades before streaming-era rules and digital downloads inflated album sales, platinum certification was more difficult for artists to obtain.

When an artist achieved platinum status back then — selling a million or more physical copies of an album — it took a more fervent effort from fans (who had to drive to record stores, find an album, and hand over their hard-earned cash for it), but many acts nonetheless reached platinum certification routinely.

Compiling RIAA data, we ranked the best-selling artists of all time by the number of platinum albums they've sold in the US.

Some of the results here are surprising. Country singer Garth Brooks, for instance, has the most diamond (or 10-times platinum) albums of all time with seven. But the legendary acts at the top of the list are ones you'd expect to see.

Here are the 50 best-selling artists of all time, ranked by platinum albums sold:

50. Prince — 11

50. Prince — 11 play

50. Prince — 11

(Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 11

Multi-platinum: 4

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Purple Rain" (13 million copies)



49. Bon Jovi — 11

49. Bon Jovi — 11 play

49. Bon Jovi — 11

(Getty)

Platinum albums: 11

Multi-platinum: 5

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Slippery When Wet" (12 million copies)



48. Eric Clapton — 11

48. Eric Clapton — 11 play

48. Eric Clapton — 11

(Getty)

Platinum albums: 11

Multi-platinum: 7

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: "Unplugged" target="_blank" (10 million copies)



47. Kenny G — 11

47. Kenny G — 11 play

47. Kenny G — 11

(Getty)

Platinum albums: 11

Multi-platinum: 8

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: "Breathless" target="_blank" (12 million copies)



46. John Mellencamp — 12

46. John Mellencamp — 12 play

46. John Mellencamp — 12

(Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 12

Multi-platinum: 5

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"American Fool" (5 million copies)



45. Toby Keith — 12

45. Toby Keith — 12 play

45. Toby Keith — 12

(Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 12

Multi-platinum: 5

Best-selling album: "Unleashed" target="_blank" (4 million copies)



44. The Who — 12

44. The Who — 12 play

44. The Who — 12

(Keystone/Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 12

Multi-platinum: 5

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Who's Next" (3 million copies)



43. Queen — 12

43. Queen — 12 play

43. Queen — 12

(Gill Allen/AP)

Platinum albums: 12

Multi-platinum: 7

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Greatest Hits" (8 million copies)



42. Ozzy Osbourne — 12

42. Ozzy Osbourne — 12 play

42. Ozzy Osbourne — 12

(Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 12

Multi-platinum: 8

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Blizzard of Ozz" (4 million copies)



41. Barry Manilow — 13

41. Barry Manilow — 13 play

41. Barry Manilow — 13

(Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 6

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Even Now" (3 million copies)



40. Linda Ronstadt — 13

40. Linda Ronstadt — 13 play

40. Linda Ronstadt — 13

(AP)

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 7

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Greatest Hits" (7 million copies)



39. Lynyrd Skynyrd — 13

39. Lynyrd Skynyrd — 13 play

39. Lynyrd Skynyrd — 13

(Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 7

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Skynyrd's Innyrds" (5 million copies)



38. John Denver — 13

38. John Denver — 13 play

38. John Denver — 13

(Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 7

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"John Denver's Greatest Hits" (9 million copies)



37. Jay-Z — 13

37. Jay-Z — 13 play

37. Jay-Z — 13

(Matt Rourke/AP)

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 8

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life" (5 million copies)



36. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band — 13

36. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band — 13 play

36. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band — 13

(Getty)

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 7

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Greatest Hits" (10 million copies)



35. Michael Jackson — 13

35. Michael Jackson — 13 play

35. Michael Jackson — 13

(Reuters)

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 9

Diamond: 2

Best-selling album: "Thriller" target="_blank" (33 million copies)



34. Metallica — 13

34. Metallica — 13 play

34. Metallica — 13

(Spotify)

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 11

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: "Metallica" target="_blank" (16 million copies)



33. Van Halen — 13

33. Van Halen — 13 play

33. Van Halen — 13

(AP)

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 12

Diamond: 2

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"1984 (MCMLXXXIV)" (10 million copies)



32. The Eagles — 13

32. The Eagles — 13 play

32. The Eagles — 13

(Getty)

Platinum albums: 13

Multi-platinum: 11

Diamond: 3

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975" (38 million copies)



31. Rush — 14

31. Rush — 14 play

31. Rush — 14

(Getty)

Platinum albums: 14

Multi-platinum: 3

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Rush In Rio" (7 million copies)



30. Kenny Chesney — 14

30. Kenny Chesney — 14 play

30. Kenny Chesney — 14

(Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 14

Multi-platinum: 5

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"When the Sun Goes Down" (4 million copies)



29. Dave Matthews Band — 14

29. Dave Matthews Band — 14 play

29. Dave Matthews Band — 14

(Fergus McDonald/Getty)

Platinum albums: 14

Multi-platinum: 7

Best-selling album: "Crash" target="_blank" (7 million copies)



28. James Taylor — 14

28. James Taylor — 14 play

28. James Taylor — 14

(Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

Platinum albums: 14

Multi-platinum: 5

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"James Taylor's Greatest Hits" (11 million copies)



27. The Doors — 14

27. The Doors — 14 play

27. The Doors — 14

(Elektra Records-Joel Brodsky)

Platinum albums: 14

Multi-platinum: 5

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"The Best of The Doors" (10 million copies)



26. Mariah Carey — 14

26. Mariah Carey — 14 play

26. Mariah Carey — 14

(Getty)

Platinum albums: 14

Multi-platinum: 10

Diamond: 2

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Music Box" (10 million copies)



25. Willie Nelson — 15

25. Willie Nelson — 15 play

25. Willie Nelson — 15

(Rich Fury/AP)

Platinum albums: 15

Multi-platinum: 6

Best-selling album: "Stardust" target="_blank" (5 million copies)



24. Bob Dylan — 15

24. Bob Dylan — 15 play

24. Bob Dylan — 15

(Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 15

Multi-platinum: 6

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits" (5 million copies)



23. Alan Jackson — 15

23. Alan Jackson — 15 play

23. Alan Jackson — 15

(Vince Bucci/Getty)

Platinum albums: 15

Multi-platinum: 8

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"The Greatest Hits Collection" (6 million copies)



22. Pink Floyd — 15

22. Pink Floyd — 15 play

22. Pink Floyd — 15

(REUTERS/Stephen Hird)

Platinum albums: 15

Multi-platinum: 12

Diamond: 2

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"The Wall" (23 million copies)



21. Luther Vandross — 16

21. Luther Vandross — 16 play

21. Luther Vandross — 16

(Scott Harrison/Getty)

Platinum albums: 16

Multi-platinum: 7

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"The Best of Luther Vandross" (3 million copies)



20. Kenny Rogers — 17

20. Kenny Rogers — 17 play

20. Kenny Rogers — 17

(Scott Gries/Getty)

Platinum albums: 17

Multi-platinum: 7

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits" (12 million copies)



19. U2 — 17

19. U2 — 17 play

19. U2 — 17

(Flickr/Peter Neill)

Platinum albums: 17

Multi-platinum: 11

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"The Joshua Tree" (1o million copies)



18. Bruce Springsteen — 17

18. Bruce Springsteen — 17 play

18. Bruce Springsteen — 17

(Matt Kent/Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 17

Multi-platinum: 11

Diamond: 2

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Born In The U.S.A." (15 million copies)



17. Billy Joel — 17

17. Billy Joel — 17 play

17. Billy Joel — 17

(Rick Diamond/Getty)

Platinum albums: 17

Multi-platinum: 12

Diamond: 2

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II" (23 million copies)



16. Madonna — 17

16. Madonna — 17 play

16. Madonna — 17

(Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Platinum albums: 17

Multi-platinum: 12

Diamond: 2

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Like A Virgin" (10 million copies)



15. Chicago — 18

15. Chicago — 18 play

15. Chicago — 18

(Scott Gries/Getty)

Platinum albums: 18

Multi-platinum: 8

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Chicago 17" (6 million copies)



14. Aerosmith — 18

14. Aerosmith — 18 play

14. Aerosmith — 18

(Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 18

Multi-platinum: 12

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Aerosmith's Greatest Hits" (11 million copies)



13. Led Zeppelin — 18

13. Led Zeppelin — 18 play

13. Led Zeppelin — 18

(Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Platinum albums: 18

Multi-platinum: 14

Diamond: 5

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Led Zeppelin IV" (23 million copies)



12. Reba McEntire — 19

12. Reba McEntire — 19 play

12. Reba McEntire — 19

(Charley Gallay/Getty)

Platinum albums: 19

Multi-platinum: 9

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Greatest Hits, Volume II" (5 million copies)



11. Rod Stewart — 19

11. Rod Stewart — 19 play

11. Rod Stewart — 19

(Kevin Winter/Getty)

Platinum albums: 19

Multi-platinum: 10

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Foot Loose & Fancy Free" (3 million copies)



10. Alabama — 20

10. Alabama — 20 play

10. Alabama — 20

(Kevin Winter/Getty)

Platinum albums: 20

Multi-platinum: 10

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Mountain Music" (5 million copies)



9. AC/DC — 20

9. AC/DC — 20 play

9. AC/DC — 20

(Getty Images North America)

Platinum albums: 20

Multi-platinum: 12

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Back In Black" (22 million copies)



8. Neil Diamond — 21

8. Neil Diamond — 21 play

8. Neil Diamond — 21

(Ethan Miller/Getty)

Platinum albums: 21

Multi-platinum: 12

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"The Jazz Singer" (5 million copies)



7. Elton John — 27

7. Elton John — 27 play

7. Elton John — 27

(REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)

Platinum albums: 27

Multi-platinum: 14

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Greatest Hits" (17 million copies)



6. The Rolling Stones — 28

6. The Rolling Stones — 28 play

6. The Rolling Stones — 28

(Getty)

Platinum albums: 28

Multi-platinum: 11

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Four Flicks" (19 million copies)



5. Barbra Streisand — 30

5. Barbra Streisand — 30 play

5. Barbra Streisand — 30

(AP)

Platinum albums: 30

Multi-platinum: 12

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Greatest Hits Volume II" (5 million copies)



4. Garth Brooks — 30

4. Garth Brooks — 30 play

4. Garth Brooks — 30

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 30

Multi-platinum: 16

Diamond: 7

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Double Live" (21 million copies)



3. George Strait — 33

3. George Strait — 33 play

3. George Strait — 33

(Kevin Winter/Getty)

Platinum albums: 33

Multi-platinum: 13

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Strait Out Of The Box" (8 million copies)



2. The Beatles — 42

2. The Beatles — 42 play

2. The Beatles — 42

(Getty Images)

Platinum albums: 42

Multi-platinum: 26

Diamond: 6

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"The Beatles (The White Album)" (19 million copies)



1. Elvis Presley — 67

1. Elvis Presley — 67 play

1. Elvis Presley — 67

(Wikimedia Commons)

Platinum albums: 67

Multi-platinum: 27

Diamond: 1

Best-selling album: " target="_blank"Elvis' Christmas Album" (10 million copies)



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