In this era of streaming
and free music, it can be difficult to measure an artist’s commercial
success. But even though many fans are more likely to listen to an album
for free instead of buying it, sales are still a major barometer of
achievement in the music industry. In February, Michael Jackson’s iconic
1982 album “Thriller” — the top-selling album in history — solidified
its notoriety by hitting 33 million sales
in the U.S.
With this in mind, PrettyFamous
, an entertainment data site by Graphiq
found the best-selling artists of the millennium using data from the
Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) database on gold and
platinum single sales.
To measure the modern top-selling artists,
PrettyFamous only considered digitally downloaded singles, since digital
sales did not begin to impact the recording industry until the turn of
the century. In case of a tie, they favored the artist with the higher
number of diamond certifications, then multi-platinum, platinum and gold
for all singles, not just those that were digitally downloaded. Where
ties still existed, they were broken by 30-day Wikipedia page views — a
proxy for notoriety.