50 Best-Selling Albums in U.S. History

The 50 best-selling albums of all time in the U.S.

There was a time—not too long ago—when albums were the beating heart of the music industry, for musicians and labels alike. There were albums that defined generations, soundtracked lives and made legends—and millionaires—of musicians.

Today, however, the album seems less suited to our times. In the digital age, our attention spans are shorter, and our Spotify playlists longer, than any album can account for.

With the exception of Adele, there is no overlap between the artists featured on Spotify’s 100 top-played songs and the 50 biggest-selling albums of all time in the U.S., shown here.

Sales figures further indicate the album’s slow and stark demise. In 2007, 500 million albums were sold across all different formats, according to Statista. In 2017, the total number fell to less than 170 million. The music industry as a whole has struggled with this: Total revenue worldwide fell by $9 billion between 2002 and 2015. With Spotify paying artists such a minuscule amount per stream—leading some musicians to boycott the site, and allowing the site itself to make a fortune—this is little surprise.

That said, maybe it is still too soon to be writing the album’s obituary. Vinyl’s resurgence has been well reported, and music-streaming services have made the great albums of the past more accessible than ever, giving them a new lease on life.

“What was the first album you ever bought?” was once a favorite question for music fans. Although the question may soon be redundant—to be replaced, perhaps, by Spotify’s record of your first stream—this list shows 50 classics that have stood the test of time.

Click through this gallery to see the best-selling albums in U.S. history, according to data compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America.