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    The 20 Most Popular Musicians in The World


    Music has the power to make us laugh, cry, and bring us sheer joy.  Musicians often become our heroes and their songs become intertwined with our lives. Clearly, which musicians are most popular can be a very subjective topic, so we used hall of fame inductions and album sales, as well as the musicians’ impact on the music industry to compile a list of the Top 20 most popular musicians ever.

    All of the musicians on our list have multiple Gold and Platinum awards. In order to attain recognition from the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), an artist must sell 500,000 units to attain Gold and 1,000,000 Units to attain Platinum status.

    Here we go!

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    1. The Beatles

    183 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units.

    Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 by Mick Jagger (The Rolling Stones).


    The Beatles aka The Fab Four, burst onto the scene in the 1960’s and quickly became a worldwide sensation. They are the top-selling group of all time, having sold over a billion records worldwide, and their songs and legacy reverberates among the music community even decades after they stopped making music as a band.

    After forming in Liverpool in the late 1950’s, their introduction to the American music scene, often referred to as “The British Invasion,” remains one of the most well known events in pop culture history.

    2. Elvis Presley

    146.5 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units. 

    Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 by Sean & Julian Lennon.

    best selling solo artist

    The undisputed King of rock and roll, Elvis remains one of the most iconic and recognizable voices in music even though he died over three decades ago.  Elvis’s hip swinging gyrations were a shock to America’s cultural system when he first appeared in the 1950’s, but his soulful vocals, charisma and good looks made him a worldwide sensation.

    Elvis’s music modernized and blended a variety of musical genres, including gospel, blues, country and bluegrass, and created a sound that was irresistible to young audiences. Elvis is second to only The Beatles in all-time worldwide album sales.

    3. Michael Jackson

    85 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units. 

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 by N*Sync.

    best selling artists all time

    Although Michael Jackson faced many allegations and plenty of controversy in his personal life, his contribution to the music industry and his intense popularity can not be disputed. Jackson first captivated audiences as a child singing with his brothers in the Jackson 5.

    His practically non-stop presence in the industry along with his plethora of hits and signature dance style wowed audiences around the world for decades. His signature moonwalk and sequined single glove were two of the most iconic images of the 1980’s. One of his most famous songs, “Thriller” is considered a Halloween anthem.

    4. Elton John

    79 Gold and Platinum RIAA certified units.  

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 by Axl Rose (Guns N’ Roses).

    most awarded artist all time

    Elton John first appeared on the music scene in the 1970’s and was well known for his outrageous costumes and talent at playing the piano. The longer he performed, the tamer his costumes became, but his songwriting prowess and talent only grew stronger and endeared him to the entire world.

    Elton John has more than 50 Top 40 hits on the UK Singles Chart and the US’s Billboard Hot 100 chart. Among these are seven number one singles in the UK and nine in the United States.

    Aside from his popular music hits, he is responsible for a number of movie soundtracks and Broadway plays.  John is one of the most iconic and beloved musicians in the world. He was even knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1998.

    5. Madonna

    64.5 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units.

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 by Justin Timberlake.

    most albums sold ever

    Madonna has been a staple on the music scene since the 1980’s. Often controversial, never apologetic, but with a voice and determination that cranked out dozens of hits, Madonna is truly one of the most popular musicians ever. Her stage show is always a spectacle and she is the highest-grossing solo touring artist ever.

    Madonna has also had significant success with acting. She has starred in several films, including “A League of Their Own” alongside Tom Hanks, and her role as Eva Peron in “Evita” earned her a Golden Globe for Best Actress.

    6. Led Zeppelin

    111.5 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units. 

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry (Aerosmith).

    most popular band in world

    Led Zeppelin formed in London in 1968 and became one of the most legendary rock bands ever.  They are widely considered to have led the way for hard rock and heavy metal to become popular.

    The music that the band played is still popular today, and many in the music industry credit Led Zeppelin as being one of the most innovative and influential bands in history. Their albums reached number one on the British charts eight consecutive times and six times on the US charts.

    7. Pink Floyd

    75 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units.

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 by Billy Corona.

    top artists

    Pink Floyd started out in London in 1964 and quickly became one of the most popular psychedelic bands on the scene. They were well known for their extravagant live shows and extended compositions.

    Their most famous albums include “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall.” Both of these albums are among the highest selling albums ever recorded. Even though Pink Floyd had ups and downs with its members, their signature sound remains iconic and enjoyed by millions worldwide.

    8. The Rolling Stones

    66.5 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units.

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 by Pete Townshend (The Who). 

    most popular musician all time

    The Rolling Stones were introduced to the world in the 1960’s by way of London. They have proven that no matter the decade, they are still relevant and worth listening to. The band has won three GRAMMY awards, released 30 studio albums and 23 live albums.

    The Rolling Stones have toured for decades. In fact, at one point, they had four of the top five highest grossing tours of all time, thanks to hits like “Gimme Shelter,” “Wild Horses” and many more.

    9. Bob Marley

    21.5 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units. 

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 by Bono (U2).


    Reggae’s most famous performer, Bob Marley, is not only a musician but a cultural icon. Marley was born in Jamaica in 1945. His debut album with his band, “The Wailers”, was released in 1965.

    By 1973, they were gaining international attention. Bob Marley was one of Raggae’s pioneers, he was a Rastafari icon and a symbol of Jamaica’s music and culture. He was politically outspoken and even survived an assassination attempt before succumbing to a rare form of cancer at the age of 36.

    10. Garth Brooks

    157 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units.

    Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

    most popular musician on earth

    Perhaps the most popular country music musician of all time, Garth Brooks has sold millions of records. Brooks integrated rock elements into his country music, which helped him attain wild success, not only in the country music genre, but outside of it as well. As of 2020, Garth Brooks is the only artist in history to have nine albums that reached diamond status.

    He has released over 20 albums and he has won two Grammy Awards and 17 American Music Awards. He was also named the best-selling solo albums artist of the century by the RIAA.

    11. Eagles

    120 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units. 

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 by Jimmy Buffet.

    most successful musical artists

    The Eagles were inarguably one of the most popular rock bands of the 1970’s. They racked up five number one singles, six number one albums, six Grammy Awards and five American Music Awards. “Hotel California” is perhaps their most well-known hit, and that was even a top 10 hit in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and France.

    The Eagles broke up in 1980, and several of the members found incredible solo success. However, their break-up wasn’t permanent.

    The Eagles got back together in 1994. Their reunion tour inspired them to release an album called “Hell Freezes Over”, which shot straight to number one on the charts.

    12. Billy Joel

    84.5 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units.

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 by Ray Charles.

    most influential musicians changed music

    The Piano Man has been entertaining audiences with his songs since the 1970’s. Many of his songs are iconic, and although he doesn’t release much new music these days, he still tours occasionally and holds regular performances at Madison Square Garden, which often sell out.

    Billy Joel writes all of his own songs and throughout his career, he wrote and recorded 33 songs that made it onto the Top 40 chart. He was one of the first American artists to tour the Soviet Union after they lifted their ban on rock music.

    13. AC/DC

    75 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units. 

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 by Steven Tyler (Aersosmith).

    most popular band ever

    AC/DC is perhaps the most iconic rock band of all time. Their songs are used in movies and by sports teams around the world. Most of us can likely identify an AC/DC song by just a chord or two.

    The Australian rockers were formed in 1973 by Malcolm and Angus Young. Their album “Back in Black” is one of the best selling rock albums ever and it sent them skyrocketing to success. AC/DC has sold more than 200 million records worldwide and, despite several changes to the lineup of musicians performing in the band, they are still wildly successful and they continue to travel and tour.

    14. Whitney Houston

    60 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units.

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. 

    most popular female musician

    Whitney’s powerhouse vocals made her a one-of-a-kind talent. Both of Whitney Houston’s first and second albums climbed to number one on the Billboard 200 chart and Whitney is the only artist to have seven number one singles in a row. Houston was also well known and loved as an actress.

    Her film debut was opposite Kevin Costner in “The Bodyguard.” Not only did she act in the film, but the soundtrack included six songs that she recorded for the movie. The most famous track was “I Will Always Love You,” which became Whitney’s signature song, selling over 20 million copies all over the world.

    The song also won the Grammy for Record of the Year in 1992. Whitney would continue to record music and make movies until her accidental death in 2012.

    15. U2

    52 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units.

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 by Bruce Springsteen.

    most popular artists ever

    U2 is perhaps the most famous Irish band of all time. The group formed in Dublin in 1976 when the members were still teenagers. They released their debut album in 1980, but by the mid 1980’s they were an international sensation.

    U2, and especially their lead singer Bono, are widely considered to be one of the most socially conscious in the music industry and, together and as individuals, they have spent a great deal of time and money representing human rights and social justice causes and they are not afraid to speak out about causes they feel passionately about.

    16. Aerosmith

    66.5 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units.

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 by Kid Rock.

    most popular artists all time

    Aerosmith is one of the most influential rock bands in America. They formed in Boston in 1970, their first album debuted in 1973 and they are the best-selling hard rock band of all time. With hits like “Dream On,” “Sweet Emotion,” and “Janie’s Got a Gun,” they have released some of the most recognizable and popular rock songs in history.

    Aerosmith continues to tour and even had a residency in Las Vegas. They also hold the record for most total certifications by an American group with 25 gold records, 18 platinum records, and 12 multi-platinum records.

    17. Bruce Springsteen

    65.5 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units.

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 by Bono (U2).

    most popular singers ever

    Bruce Springsteen has released over 20 studio albums, most of them along side his E Street Band. Springsteen released his first album in 1973, but the height of his popularity was in the 1980’s after he released “Born in the USA” which sold over 30 million copies worldwide and was certified Platinum 15 times.  Springsteen is also well known for his activism and he has earned 20 Grammy’s, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award over the span of his career, as well as many other accolades.

    18. Queen

    43 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units.

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 by Dave Grohl (Nirvana and Foo Fighters) and Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters).

    most well known band ever

    Queen is one of the most beloved and most recognizable bands in music history. The London band has a string of mega hits recorded in the 1970’s and 1980’s that are still extremely popular and widely played today.

    Their original frontman, Freddie Mercury, had one of the most unique voices that the music industry has ever heard.  Queen is estimated to have sold between 170-300 million records worldwide and they have earned a collection of awards and industry accolades for their contributions to music.

    19. Metallica

    63 Gold and Platinum RIAA Certified Units.

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 by Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers).

    list best selling music artists

    Metallica is easily one of the most influential and popular heavy metal bands ever. Lead singer James Hatfield and drummer Lars Ulrich formed Metallica in 1981 in Los Angeles.

    Although the band started off in extremely heavy thrash metal, their album “Metallica” released in 1991, was much more mainstream and led the band to sell over 16 million copies in the US alone. They have won nine Grammy awards and they were the subject of a documentary film called “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster.”

    20. Fleetwood Mac

    54.5 Gold and Platinum Certified Units. 

    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 by Sheryl Crow.

    greatest of all time artist

    Despite the repeated comings and goings and drama between the members of Fleetwood Mac, the group is one of the most popular rock bands ever. They have sold over 120 million records worldwide and they were even given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    Their 1975 album “Fleetwood Mac” reached number one in the US and their next album “Rumours” was number one on the US albums chart for 31 weeks.

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