Music recording sales certification is a system of certifying that a music recording has shipped or sold a certain number of copies. The threshold quantity varies by type (such as album, single, music video) and by nation or territory.
Almost all countries follow variations of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) certification categories, which are named after precious materials (gold, platinum and diamond). Nielsen SoundScan figures are not used in RIAA certification; the RIAA system predates Nielsen SoundScan and includes sales outlets Nielsen misses.
List of certifications:
- 500,000 units: Gold album
- 1,000,000 units: Platinum album
- 2,000,000 or more units: Multi-Platinum album
- 10,000,000 units: Diamond album
So here's a list of the best-selling albums in the United States based on RIAA certification and Nielsen SoundScan sales tracking.
10. Hootie & the Blowfish - Cracked Rear View (1994) [16x Platinum]
"Cracked Rear View" is Hootie & the Blowfish's most successful album. It was the highest-selling album of 1995, with 10.5 million shipments that year alone. The record reached number one on the Billboard 200 five times over the course of 1995. The album also reached number one in Canada and New Zealand.
9. Eagles - Hotel California (1976) [16x Platinum]
"Hotel California" first entered the US Billboard 200 at number four, reaching number one in its fourth week in January 1977. The album stayed on the top of the chart for eight weeks (non-consecutively), and it was certified platinum by the RIAA in a week of release. In its first year of release it sold nearly 6 million copies only in the United States. In 2001, the album was certified 16x platinum, denoting shipment of 16 million in the United States, and has sold over 17 million copies in the US by 2013. Worldwide, the album has sold 32 million copies.
8. Metallica - Metallica (1991) [16x Platinum]
Metallica's "Black Album" is the best-selling metal album worldwide, and also the best-selling album in the United States since Nielsen SoundScan tracking began. The album was certified 16x platinum by the RIAA in 2012, and has sold over sixteen million copies in the US, the first album in the SoundScan era to do so.
7. Boston - Boston (1976) [17x Platinum]
The debut album by Boston was certified gold two months after its release, and sold another 500,000 copies within 30 days, going platinum for the first time in November 1976. By January 1977, the debut disc sold two million copies, making it one of the fastest selling debut albums in rock history. It has continued to sell very well, accumulating 9 million in sales by the 10th anniversary in 1986, reaching diamond in 1990, and 17x platinum by 2003.
6. Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction (1987) [18x Platinum]
With about 30 million copies sold worldwide, GN'R's debut is also one of the best-selling records ever. By September 2008, it had been certified 18x platinum, having shipped 18 million copies in the United States. According to Billboard in 2008, it is also the best-selling debut album of all time in the US.
5. The Beatles - The Beatles (1968) [19x Platinum]
Although "Abbey Road" remains one of The Beatles' best-selling albums, according to the RIAA it's only 12x platinum. And The Fab Four's self-titled record, being a double album, is The Beatles' most-certified album at 19-times platinum.
4. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (1977) [20x Platinum]
Fleetwood Mac's eleventh studio album was certified platinum in America and the UK within months of release in 1977 after one million units and 300,000 units were shipped respectively. The record has received a Diamond Award from the Recording Industry Association of America for a 20× platinum certification or 20 million units shipped, making it, as of 2012, the sixth best-selling album in US history.
3. AC/DC - Back in Black (1980) [22x Platinum]
AC/DC's "Back in Black" became the band's first platinum album in the United States, selling over one million copies. Worldwide, it's the second best-selling album of all time. "Back in Black" was very successful around the world, and despite never reaching no. 1 on the US Billboard 200, it received the 22x multi-platinum distinction, denoting 22 million albums sold.
2. Pink Floyd - The Wall (1979) [23x Platinum]
Although "The Dark Side of the Moon" is one of the best-selling albums of all time and is in the top 25 of a list of best-selling albums in the United States, according to RIAA certification it's only 15x Platinum. Pink Floyd's most-certified album is "The Wall," that was certified 23x platinum in 1999 (according to the RIAA's special sertification rules for double albums).
1. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV (1971) [23x Platinum]
Led Zeppelin's fourth studio album is one of the best-selling albums of all time with more than 37 million copies sold. And with such of the band's best-known songs, including "Black Dog," "Rock and Roll," "Going to California" and "Stairway to Heaven," it's one of the highest-certified albums in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America at 23x Platinum.
0. Michael Jackson - Thriller (1982) [33x Platinum]
Although it's not a rock album, with over 100 million sales worldwide and more than 33 million sales in the United States, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is the first album ever to be certified 33 times multi-platinum!