Music is a constantly changing industry. Throughout time, certain artists have stood out among the rest with creative legacies that reserve them a seat in music history. With millions of dollars in sales from albums, concerts and other revenues, here are the best-selling artists from each decade since the 1950s.
Elvis Presley is known as the King of Rock and Roll. He has sold an estimated 1 billion record units worldwide. In the U.S., he has more than 150 albums and singles that have been certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Presley's discography boasts 10 No. 1 albums and 18 No. 1 songs that spent a combined time of 80 weeks at the top of the charts. Even 35 years after his death, Presley is still a bestseller. His estate made $55 million from October 2010 to October 2011, making him the second highest earning dead celebrity of the year.
A decade after Presley came on the scene, a British band of four men from Liverpool, England made a splash in the U.S. The Beatles are the only other musical act to sell more than 1 billion records. The group was the first rock band to ever play a baseball stadium. The Beatles made a then-record-breaking $160,000 in revenue from the performance at Shea Stadium in New York. Despite having been broken up for 30 years at the time, The Beatles had one of the top-selling albums of 2009.
The '70s secured Elton John as one of the prominent figures in rock and roll. As the decade began, John earned his first hit single, "Your Song." He kept things going with chart-toppers like "Crocodile Rock," "Bennie and the Jets" and "Island Girl." He even had smash albums with 1973's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and 1975's "Rock of the Westies." He made Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Artists of all time in 2004. Throughout his career, he has racked up seven consecutive No. 1 records on the U.S. album charts. John's net worth is estimated at $309 million.
Prince dominated the music scene in the 1980s. He was a commercial and critical success who was lauded for singing, dancing, producing, playing several instruments and directing films and music videos. His album "1999" was released in 1982 and sold three million copies. In 1984, he released the album "Purple Rain," which spent 24 weeks at No. 1 and sold 10 million copies in the U.S. That same year, Prince starred in a film named after the album. "Purple Rain" made more than $68 million at the domestic box office and won Prince an Academy Award for Original Song Score. His net worth is $250 million.
By all accounts, Mariah Carey reigned supreme in the '90s. She is one of the best selling female artists of all time, and she has recorded 18 No. 1 singles over the span of her career. Her first album, "Mariah," netted four No. 1 singles and two Grammy awards in 1990. Her sophomore effort, "Music Box," was released in 1993 and featured the song "Dream Lover," which was No. 1 for two months. Carey's third album, "Daydream," went multi-platinum. In 2012, Carey signed a deal to be a judge on the TV show "American Idol" for a reported $17 million. She has a net worth of more than $500 million.
Eminem has been a controversial figure since he released his first major-label album, "The Slim Shady LP," in 1999. He's won 11 Grammys and he broke records with his second album, "The Marshall Mathers LP," which is the fastest selling solo album in U.S. history. He won an Academy Award in 2002 for Best Original Song for "Lose Yourself" from the film "8 Mile." Rolling Stone put him on its Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list. Eminem has sold an estimated 80 million albums worldwide to date. His net worth is around $120 million.
The Bottom Line
Only a handful of artists can claim that they ruled an entire decade of music. With hit after hit, these musicians struck a chord with the public, lined their pockets and made history.
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