Earlier this week, the Recording Industry Association of America updated its calculations of the top-selling album of all time, pronouncing that Michael Jackson’s Thriller was upstaged, again, by The Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975.
In 2009, the two records were tied with 29-million copies sold in the US; in 2015, six years after Jackson’s death, Thriller was again on top, having sold 30M copies. Now the R.I.A.A. reports that Their Greatest Hits has shipped 38M units, versus Thriller's 33M.
In the age of streaming when artists routinely run up several hundred million streams in a relatively small window of time, the idea of using sales numbers to rank artist album titles is anachronistic. Consumer music purchases have gone the way of the Dodo, but sales rankings continue to impress those caught in a time warp and preen the feathers of those seeking legacy affirmation and a reconciliation of just who was the top dog in the day.
Revisiting the glory days when record companies fought hard to win chart points and sell records here in Canada no doubt provides a diminishing coterie of veterans with a pleasing sense of nostalgia. Divining the truth about who sold the most in the ‘golden age’ of record sales – that abruptly went into a tailspin with the advent of digital files at the end of the last century – is no easy matter. No definitive source provides a real-time count of who sold precisely what over the years.
The current de facto source of Canada’s chart information is Nielsen SoundScan; however, their sales tracking database only goes back as far as the mid-‘80s, and the methodology for determining rankings has changed over the years to reflect the shift from actual sales to music streams.
Separately, Music Canada (formerly the Canadian Recording Industry Association) maintains a database that has tracked music sales since 1975, offering a program that awards sales certifications to over 17,000 albums, singles, digital downloads, ringtones, and music videos certified over the past 43 years. The program is voluntary and post-certification, there is no requirement for record companies to update verifiable sales.
As a result, there is no definitive ranking of best-sellers that is precise and current. Below we have collated those albums certified Double Diamond (in the day representing sales of 2M+) and a partial list of Diamond sellers. The rankings are chronological in descending order.
Canada’s All-Time Best-Selling Albums
Double Diamond – 2M+ album sales
Shania Twain – Up (2004)
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon (2003)
Shania Twain – Come On Over (2000)
Shania Twain – The Woman In Me (1999)
Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill (1996)
Pink Floyd – The Wall (1995)
Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (1995)
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin 1V (1995)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (1995)
Eagles – Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 (1987)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (1984)
Diamond – 1M+ album sales
There are over 100 albums designated as Diamond award winners and we have selected those artists that have been certified from 2000 on; the complete list of 104 albums can be viewed on the Music Canada website.
The Tragically Hip – Road Apples (2017)
Adele – 25 (2016)
Michael Bublé – Christmas (2014)
Adele – 21 (2011)
The Beatles – Stereo Boxed Set (2010)
Celine Dion – All The Way…A Decade Of Song (2007)
Celine Dion – These Are Special Times (2007)
Norah Jones – Come Away With Me (2007)
The Tragically Hip – Fully Completely (2007)
Eminem – The Eminem Show (2003)
Steve Miller – Greatest Hits 1974-1978 (2003)
Avril Lavigne – Let It Go (2003)
Nirvana – Nevermind (2001)
Guns ‘N Roses – Use Your Illusion (2001)
Our Lady Peace – Clumsy (2001)
The Beatles – One (2001)
U2 – Achtung Baby (2000)
Bon Jovi – Cross Roads: The Best Of (2000)
Barenaked Ladies – Gordon (2000)
Santana – Supernatural (2000)
Abba – Abba Gold (2000)
Amanda Marshall – Amanda Marshall (2000)