Metal by Numbers appendix: the top selling hard rock/metal ever

Posted by on August 19, 2015

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely familiar with our weekly Metal by Numbers column, looking at the weekly sales numbers of hard rock and metal music. While sales continue to decline as people adopt to streaming, there are still a solid amount of records being sold, and many of them are metal. Last week, we took a look at the best-selling heavyish stuff of 2015. It was somewhat disappointing to see that out of the top 200 albums sold in 2015, only a handful of them were hard rock or metal, and even fewer were released in 2015. But Digital Music News just looked at SoundScan data to come up with the 250 best-selling artists of all time. The Beatles, of course, are in first place, having sold 178 million albums certified by the RIAA. Led Zeppelin are the only hard rock band in the top ten, coming in at #4 with 111.5 million copies of their albums sold. While the article doesn’t state as such, we’re presuming that this is American sales only. At any rate, here’s what else is in there:
Led Zeppelin, #4, 111.5 million units sold

Given that they just re-released their catalog in expanded editions, that number should increase.


AC/DC, #11, 72 million sold

With Rock or Bust still selling and Back in Black a perennial, these guys could break into the top ten (Barbra Streisand is 500,000 in front of them).


Aerosmith, #14, 66.5 million sold

Given the lukewarm response to 2012’s Music From Another Dimension!, these guys might be a catalog-only band.


Metallica, #18, 62 million sold

Of all the bands in front of them, with the exception of Bruce Springsteen and Madonna, Metallica may be the most active. Granted, they’re not in any rush to work on their next album, but given that they’ve got two albums selling 2,000/week, it’s understandable why.


Van Halen, #20, 56.5 million sold

Another band whose catalog was just reissued, their touring seems to be helping word of mouth. Will we get another new album from them? Who knows?


Guns N’ Roses, #30, 44.5 million sold

If Guns N’ Roses ever finally get their original lineup together to make an album, they’ll probably jump on the list. In the meantime, Axl can lay back and let Appetite continue to sell.


Def Leppard, #46, 35 million sold

A lot of this is from sales of Pyromania and Hysteria. The ’80s were a magical time.


Bon Jovi, #48, 34.5 million sold

See above. Bon Jovi have continued to sell records by transitioning from the hair metal crowd to the soccer mom one. They apparently have an album coming out this week, their first without guitarist Richie Sambora. It’s appropriately called Burning Bridges.


Queen, #49, 34.5 million sold

Is Queen metal or hard rock enough to be on this list? Freddie Mercury has inspired enough vocalists, and “Stone Cold Crazy” is a jam and a half, so why not?


Pearl Jam, #57, 31.5 million sold

It’s pretty amazing that even though Ten is such a juggernaut that they’re this low down. The first “grunge” band on the list.


Ozzy Osbourne, #62, 28.75 million sold

With him concentrating on his solo career once the next Black Sabbath album is out (whenever that is), he’ll add to the tally.


Rush, #81, 25 million

Their touring is slowing down, but they’ve also reissued their catalog in the last year or so.


Nirvana, #82, 25 million

The band that killed metal is doing pretty well, given that they’ve got a relatively small catalog. Oh well, Courtney is still getting paid.


Motley Crue, #83, 25 million sold

That seems like a pretty low number, but half of them are probably Greatest Hits albums.


Creed, #83, 25 million sold

This number probably won’t increase much. There can’t be that much Creed nostalgia, right?


Kid Rock, #90, 23.5 million sold

Amazing that Devil Without a Cause sold 10 million alone. Kid’s still pretty active, so look for him to increase over time.


Nickelback, #107, 22 million sold

Blame Canada.


KISS, #112, 21 million sold

Gene Simmons is probably super mad there are 111 more artists that have sold more than them.


Linkin Park, #119, 20 million sold

Hybrid Theory is a diamond record (10 million sold)


Smashing Pumpkins, #121, 19.75 million sold

Hey Billy, when are you going to release that doom metal album?


Stone Temple Pilots, #137, 17.5 million

We probably won’t see Weiland play with them again, but there’s still an audience for grunge.


Korn, #147, 16.5 million sold

A 20 year heritage, a new album coming out next year, and for better or worse, the kings of nu-metal.


Limp Bizkit, #150, 16.5 million

And Fred Durst and friends are neck and neck. When will Stampede of the Disco Elephants be released? Who knows?


Black Sabbath, #168, 15 million sold

Why has Ozzy sold so many more than Sabbath? Probably because SoundScan didn’t debut until 1991, which wasn’t the best period for Sabbath, and his multi-platinum No More Tears was out around then.


Poison, #170, 14.5 million sold

Wow. Really? Wow.


Ted Nugent, #179, 14 million sold

That’s a lot of albums sold for someone who hasn’t had a solo hit we can remember since the ’70s.


Whitesnake, #202, 12.5 million sold

Here they go again.


Alice In Chains, #207, 12.5 million sold

That seems like a relatively low number, given the other grunge that’s on here, but you’ve gotta remember they took a long hiatus.


Nine Inch Nails, #243, 10.5 million sold

This seems a little low as well, but Trent’s still got some more albums in him.


Scorpions, #249, 10.5 million sold

They’re about to put another album out.

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Categorised in: Metal By Numbers