It’s said that “there’s no accounting for taste,” and the Recording Industry Association of America’s list of Top Selling Albums of All Time is proof. There’s probably at least one title on the list that will leave you scratching your head. It’s nearly impossible to compile the “Best” Albums of All Time, so it would seem that best selling would have a natural correlation. However, the RIAA’s criteria for naming the top selling definitely skew the results.
For instance, the number of units shipped does not exactly translate into the number of units sold. Shipping 10,000 copies of Shania Twain’s “Come On Over” isn’t indicative of how many people actually buy the record, and digital versions (purchased through iTunes, Google Play or Amazon, etc.) aren’t even counted. Another problem with the RIAA’s math is that double albums, when sold as a single package, are still counted as two records. An example of this would be Billy Joel’s “Greatest Hits, Volumes 1 and 2.” Once you count that as a single record, it’s not even on the list.
The most glaring oversight, according to author Chris Molanphy, is that recording labels must request certification, which means that hundreds of Motown albums have been excluded.
Take a look at the list below to see if the albums ranked match your expectations.
RIAA’s Top Selling Albums of All Time
1. Thriller – Michael Jackson
2. Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 – Eagles
3. Greatest Hits, Volumes 1 & 2 – Billy Joel
4. The Wall – Pink Floyd
5. Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin
6. Back in Black – AC/DC
7. Double Live – Garth Brooks
8. Come On Over – Shania Twain
9. The Beatles – The Beatles
10. Rumours – Fleetwood Mac
11. Appetite for Destruction – Guns ‘N Roses
12. Boston – Boston
13. The Beatles 1967-1970 – The Beatles
14. The Bodyguard (soundtrack) – Whitney Houston
15. No Fences – Garth Brooks
16. Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morisette
17. Cracked Rear View – Hootie and the Blowfish
18. Greatest Hits – Elton John
19. Metallica – Metallica
20. Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin
21. Hotel California – Eagles
22. Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
23. The Beatles 1962-1966 – The Beatles
24. Supernatural – Santana
25. Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen
What do you think after reading this list? Any surprises? Based on the RIAA’s tallying formula, would you feel proud of being included here? In your opinion, which metrics should be used instead? Sound off in the comments below!