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Long gone are the days when an artist could put out an album or CD and fans would rush to the store to buy a copy — and obsessively study the artwork and liner notes. That model, much to the chagrin of many musicians, ended in the late 1990s with the advent of streaming services that enabled people to download individual songs for free or a nominal price. While common now, this was a big deal at the time. The heavy metal band’s drummer, Lars Ulrich, led the charge against Napster, a pioneering file-sharing internet service that allowed people to share digital musical files for free. Metallica sued Napster in 2000, alleging copyright infringement and racketeering. But by then the genie was out of the bottle. This has caused album sales to plummet.
90s, when vinyl and CD sales peaked. This helps explain why the best-selling artists, as outlined below according to the Recording Industry Association of America’s certified US album sales, all rose to prominence decades ago. The four lads from Liverpool, England — John, Paul, George and Ringo —first arrived in the United States in 1964. Music would never be the same. The band broke up in 1970, but the Beatles are still deeply relevant and continue to influence new generations of musicians. Brooks rose to prominence in the early 1990s with a unique sound that mixed elements of country, rock and pop. He supported a string of No. 1 records with wildly popular world tours, earning 2 Grammy Awards and 17 American Music Awards in the process.
After an extended hiatus, Brooks recently launched a comeback tour and released a new album in 2016. When he arrived on the scene in the 1950s, he scandalized mainstream America with his hip-swiveling performances. But it was his music — a powerful mix of rock, blues, country and gospel — that made an indelible mark. While Elvis died in 1977, he’s still an iconic figure, and every year millions of people make the pilgrimage to Graceland, his former residence in Memphis, Tennessee. Led Zeppelin helped create the template for heavy, guitar-driven music. Hailing from England, the band released its first album in 1969 — which critics savaged. But with the combustible mix of Robert Plant on vocals and Jimmy Paige on guitar, Led Zeppelin garnered a rabid following, headlining sold-out area tours throughout the 1970s.
2007, followed by an extended tour. 1973, Billy Joel has enjoyed a prolific and successful career that spans decades. While he hasn’t released any new material since 2001, with more than 30 Top 40 hits Joel continues to tour and perform before sold-out crowds. Moreover, Joel is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and has won six Grammy Awards. While his controversial personal life sometimes overshadowed his music, Jackson, who died in 2009, remains an iconic figure in the world of music and pop culture. It was the start of a career that has spanned five decades and produced seven No. 1 albums and five Grammy Awards. Previously known for his flamboyant stage costumes and antics, John is now a noted activist in the fight against AIDS and a champion for LGBT issues.
Known for their moody, psychedelic and progressive music, Pink Floyd rose to fame in the 1970s. As their popularity grew, the band embarked on elaborate world tours noted for extravagant light shows and stage production. 1973, which is one of the top-selling albums of all time. No wimpy, watered-down, pretty-boy country music for George Strait. Strait launched his career in the early 1980s and subsequently released seven No. In addition to a notable and award-winning acting career, the multi-talented Barbara Streisand is also one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Streisand’s first foray into the spotlight was as a recording artist in the 1960s, performing theater and cabaret standards.
90s and make occasional concert appearances. During her career, she has won eight Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame four times. In the 1960s, the Rolling Stones were the bad-bay alternative to the Beatles. At the forefront of the British Invasion, the Rolling Stones — led by the iconic duo of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards — played a compelling mix of rock, blues and soul, all the while setting the standard for over-the-top rock star debauchery. More than 50 years after they started, the Rolling Stones are still releasing albums and selling out arenas. Fronted by charismatic frontman Stephen Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry, Aerosmith melded rock, metal, blues and glam into a nice sleazy package that helped the band sell millions of gold and platinum albums. As the band’s popularity waned in the 1980s — partly due to drug use and inner turmoil — they had a hit collaboration with Run-D.
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Infighting still plagues the band, but they continue to release albums and are currently on their farewell tour — which reportedly could last several years. Springsteen, one of the world’s most successful American singer-songwriters, struggled to make a dent in the music industry when he started in the early 1970s. His first several albums — a blend of folk, country and rock — impressed some critics but were largely ignored by fans. One of the best-selling albums of all time, the record catapulted Springsteen into superstardom, and today, the New Jersey native is one of the most celebrate personalities in music, known for his honest, heartfelt songs and energetic, four-hour-plus concerts. Madonna’s unique and boundary-pushing blend of empowerment and sexuality was custom made for MTV, which she shrewdly used to launch her career in the early 1980s. Madonna not only made a huge splash in music, but she also became a trendsetter in the world of fashion. She parlayed her success into several film roles, but music has remained her focus.
During her career, she has released 13 albums, including Rebel Heart in 2015, and has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the best-selling female recording artist of all time. Like Madonna, Maria Carey is another pop music princess who rose to fame thanks in large part to MTV and, in her case, a powerful, high-octave singing voice. She followed this up with a string of other successful albums and was named the world’s best-selling recording artist of the 1990s at the World Music Awards. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.