The 50 Biggest Singles Artists in the Digital Era: U.S. Downloads and Streaming

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The number one artist has shifted an impressive 124 million singles, far surpassing the person in second place. Getty Images / Newsweek

At the beginning of this year, Cardi B made chart history by becoming the first woman to have five singles in the Top 10 of Billboard’s R&B chart, surpassing Beyoncé’s record. The Bronx rapper has since had a string of hits, including a feature on a Maroon 5 track.

But Cardi still has a long way to go if she wants to join the all-time big hitters on the digital sales chart. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has tracked the artists who have sold the most digital singles since sales began.

The number one artist has shifted an impressive 124 million singles, far surpassing the person in second place. Contrary to the list of top album sales, which heavily features men, the list is dominated by young women, who have harnessed the power of the internet.

Rap also does far better in this digital singles list (which includes downloads and streaming equivalents)—Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Drake all rank highly.

A few older artists have also done well in digital sales. Elvis Presley comes in at 10th place, despite having died long before the world wide web was even in existence. It seems his musical themes of heartbreak and loss have never grown old.

Country music hasn’t been quite so successful in crossing over into digital. Aside from Taylor Swift, who is more of a straightforwardly mainstream pop star these days, country doesn't make an appearance until Luke Bryan in 13th.

It remains to be seen if Cardi’s meteoric rise will push her up the ranks of the best-selling digital artists—but on a list which favors the young, women and hip-hop artists, it looks like she might have a very good chance indeed.

01 Chainsmokers
50. The Chainsmokers: 19 million units. Gold: 6. Platinum: 6. Multi-Platinum: 4.
Top singles: 1. Closer (7 million). 2. Don't Let Me Down (5 million). 3. Roses (3 million). 4. Paris (2 million).
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02 Michael Jackson
49. Michael Jackson: 19.5 million units. Gold: 24. Platinum: 13. Multi-Platinum: 1.
Top singles: 1. Billie Jean (2 million). 2. You Are Not Alone (1 million). 3. Thriller (1 million). 4. Rock With You (1 million).
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03 Big Sean
48. Big Sean: 20 million units. Gold: 15. Platinum: 9. Multi-Platinum: 4.
Top singles: 1. I Don't F With You (4 million). 2. Bounce Back (3 million). 3. Dance (3 million). 4. Blessings (2 million).
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04 DJ Khaled
47. DJ Khaled: 20.5 million units. Gold: 15. Platinum: 8. Multi-Platinum: 4.
Top singles: 1. I'm The One (Feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne (5 million). 2. All I Do Is Win (Feat. T-Pain, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg & Rick Ross) (3 million). 3. Wild Thoughts (Feat. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller) (3 million). 4. For Free (Feat. Drake) (2 million).
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05 LMFAO
46. LMFAO: 21 million units. Gold: 5. Platinum: 3. Multi-Platinum: 3. Diamond: 1.
Top singles: 1. Party Rock Anthem (10 million). 2. Sexy And I Know It (8 million). 3. Shots (2 million). 4. Yes (< 1 million).
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06 Zac Brown
45. Zac Brown Band: 22 million units. Gold: 13. Platinum: 11. Multi-Platinum: 5.
Top singles: 1. Chicken Fried (5 million). 2. Toes (3 million). 3. Knee Deep (Feat. Jimmy Buffett) (3 million). 4. Whatever It Is (2 million).
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07 Future
=42. Future: 22.5 million units. Gold: 19. Platinum: 10. Multi-Platinum: 3.
Top singles: 1. Mask Off (5 million). 2. Low Life Feat. The Weeknd (4 million). 3. Commas . 4. Coming Out Strong (Feat. The Weeknd) (1 million).
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08 Tim McGraw
=42. Tim McGraw: 22.5 million units. Gold: 25. Platinum: 12. Multi-Platinum: 4.
Top singles: 1. It's Your Love (2 million). 2. Highway Don't care (Featuring Taylor Swift, Keith Urban on Guitar) (2 million). 3. Humble And Kind (2 million). 4. Don't Take The Girl (2 million).
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09 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
=42. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: 22.5 million units. Gold: 6. Platinum: 5. Multi-Platinum: 4. Diamond: 1.
Top singles: 1. Thrift Shop (Feat. Wanz) (10 million). 2. Can't Hold Us (Feat. Ray Dalton) (6 million). 3. Same Love (Feat. Mary Lambert) (3 million). 4. White Walls (Feat. Schoolboy Q, Hollis) (2 million).
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10 Mariah Carey
41. Mariah Carey: 23 million units. Gold: 24. Platinum: 12. Multi-Platinum: 4.
Top singles: 1. We Belong Together (3 million). 2. Fantasy (2 million). 3. Beautiful (2 million). 4. One Sweet Day (2 million).
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11 Jay-Z
40. Jay-Z: 23.5 million units. Gold: 19. Platinum: 10. Multi-Platinum: 3.
Top singles: 1. N****s In Paris (6 million). 2. Holy Grail (4 million). 3. 99 Problems (2 million). 4. Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) (1 million).
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