RIAA’s Top Selling Albums – Justified or Irrelevant?

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!

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