How many records have ABBA sold?

Links for recent TV interviews and info about chart success in different countries.

BREAKING: During April and May 20024 various ABBA TV and radio programmes will be broadcast on the UK's BBC network to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision win. These include "When ABBA Came to Britain" an overview of their career and a more in focus "Against the Odds" which concentrates on their heyday 1976.80. here

12 European countries have collaborated on the "Against the Odds" documentary. here

ABBA to get special award from the King of Sweden. here

Contact Me with comments.

On this site be click on the countries and other links on the left have side to look into specific details. This opening page will outline some of the pitfalls in calculating global sales.

Here are factors to consider.

1. There's no official  global organisation that calculates global sales

There is NO global organisation that compiles global charts*. In the case of ABBA, their record company, Universal, has been their record company since the early 1990s. Before that various companies during their career in the 1970s/early 80s.

* The IFPI has only compiled Top 10 annual albums, songs, artists since 2013. It has never compiled an All Time Chart or global charts prior too that date.

The claim by Universal of 400 million on 2nd September  2021 is just that - a claim. They have NEVER been able to break down that figure by country or record.

2.  The vast majority of sales are in a few countries

There are around 200 countries in the world but the vast majority are sold in just a few countries. The Major Markets of the US, UK, Germany, France,  Canada and Australia account for the vast majority of global sales.  (Japan is the 2nd biggest market but it is dominated by domestic acts)If we look at the detailed breakdown of Gold Greatest Hits we see this is the case. Look to at  this graphic (from 2013) certification levels of gold and platinum records they are rather a good indicator of the size of the record industry in particular countries. Additionally, for songs in the English language, why should people in most of Asia, Africa or Latin America be Europe be interested in them?

Platinum Award levels 2022 (albums)

USA  1,000,000

UK 300,000

Japan 250,000

Germany 200,000

France 100,000

Canada 80,000

Australia 70,000

South Africa 50,000

Brazil 40,000

Netherlands 40,000

Sweden 30,000

People who argue "There are 200 countries and a global population of 8 billion" are right in that but totally wrong in understanding the music industry and global sales if that's their excuse for exaggerating sales.

By the way, lists of the biggest music markets focus on revenue not units sold. They don't distinguish between English Language/International (like ABBA) and domestic, non-English language songs/music.

3.  Exaggerated claims often go unchecked - and indeed get repeated by even respectably media.

Case Studies: 

Blondie's Parallel Lines LP did not sell 20,000,000 nor did Yes Sir I Can Boogie sell anything like 16,000,000. I love both these but it's not right to inflate sales.

Bing Crosby's White Christmas is not the biggest selling single ever and Michael Jackson's Thriller is the best selling album ever but its sales aren't over 100 million. 

4. The further you go back in  time the less you have reliable data

Certifications - (Gold and Platinum discs)- The United States' RIAA was introduced in 1958. The UK and France did not introduce them until 1973,  Germany until 1976, The Netherlands until 1978, ABBA's Sweden in 1987 and most countries much alter.

Charts - The UK had charts since 1952 but didn't start tracking sales from record shops until 1969. In the US charts have been around since 1940 but proper tracking of sales, for chart purposes,  since only 1991.

5. Downloads were hugely popular(for about a decade)

Download of individual songs were very high roughly from about 2004 to 2014. Their cheap price about 99 US cents or 99 UK pence in this time was considerably cheaper than CD singles at the time or vinyl singles back in the time.

6. Streams are not sales!

Streaming became important in the 2014-17 period and are now the way to monitor a song, album or artist's popularity. Most countries have formulas for converting streams into sales - there is no global consistency. 

The "Sweet spot" for sales , roughly mid 1980s to mid 2010s, - many countries had certifications and charts and before the advent of streaming.

7. ABBA Claimed Sales Timeline

(realistic claims in brackets)

1976 - 50 million

1982 - 128 million

1992 - 250 million (140 million)

1999 - 350 million  (170 million)

2021 - 400 million (220 million)

You can see the problem here. No way did ABBA sell as much in 1983-92 as they did from 1974 to 1982. Sales are exaggerated by over 100 million. Nor did they sell 100 million from 1992 to 1999. At that time ABBA Gold was "only" on 15 million. Other albums really did not amount to 85 million.

8. Limiting Factor for ABBA : USA sales.

ABBA are not as high up on World Ranking for sales because of their relative under-performance in the USA. For sales, they are just not in the same league as The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, etc. As the USA is the world's largest market this is significant. ABBA "only" sold about 20 million albums in America. If their success was like that in the UK, this would be 100 million, given the much larger population and music market.

9.  Limiting Factor for ABBA : Studio albums/back catalogue sales. 

ABBA's studio albums just don't have the continual sales of many high selling acts. High sales while in the charts, then next to nothing. The only ABBA album to sell throughout years, indeed decades is Gold Greatest Hits. ABBA's studio albums sold about 40 million during their original career. You might have expected them to double to 80 million but they are really only on about 45 million.

Case Study: UK back catalogue sales. We have information on studio catalogue sales for a period of over 20 years (1994 to 2015). They really are quite small. Arrival, ABBA's most successful studio album sold over 100k in the UK in that period and probably about 200k since the 1970s.  It sold about 1.5m during its chart span 1976-78 but only about 0.2m since leaving the charts.


 180 - 195 million
CountrySingles *Albums
US 8,000,00022,000,000
Australia 2,000,000  6,000,000
Canada 1,000,000 3.000,000
Germany 7,000,00013,000,000
France 5,500,000  3,500,000
Japan 1,500,000  5,500,000
Sub- Total35,000,00074,000,000
World estimate50-55 million 130-140 million


ABBA are amongst the All Time Best Sellers in terms of Physical Singles and Greatest Hits albums.  The huge sales of Gold Greatest Hits  meant it was more worth it to buy the CD of 19 tracks than download individual songs. ABBA's download sales were low. In terms of Streaming ABBA aren't even in the Top 200 Artists of All Time.

11. Comparison with other artists

The issue of comparing different formats arise. Can you really compare sales of physical singles which the much cheaper download tracks? Or real album sales with streaming? This site has come up with a weighted formula to iron out the differences. It uses streaming equivalwnt sales but in the context of albums not individual songs.

Top 21 Artists (Adjusted to take account of different formats)

1. The Beatles 424 million

2. Michael Jackson 339 million

3. Elvis Presley 321 million

4. Queen 280 million

5. Madonna 248 million

6. The Rolling Stones 244 million

7. Pink Floyd 238 million

8. Frank Sinatra 231 million

9. Elton John 209 million

10. Eminem 208 million

11. Led Zeppelin 207 million

12. AC/DC 202 million

13. U2  201 million

14. Celine Dion 199 million

15. Rod Stewart 191 million

16. Taylor Swift 178 million

17. Mariah Carey 177 million

18. Eagles 176 million

19. Eric Clapton 175 million

20. Metallica 168 million

21. ABBA 164 million

All these artists had considerably more album success in the US than ABBA did.

Total Sales - raw dataStudio AlbumOther AlbumPhysical SingleDownload TrackStreaming "sales" (Studio Albums)
The Beatles 547mM Jackson 182mElvis Presley 212mElvis Presley 135mRihanna 257mDrake 65m
M Jackson 454mPink Floyd 169mThe Beatles 202mThe Beatles 116mEminen 204mEd Sheeran 49m
Elvis  443mBeatles 160mQueen 139mM Jackson 79mDrake 169mJ Bieber 48m
Eminem 376mMadonna 146mM Jackson 101mMadonna 75mTaylor Swift 159mTaylor Swift 41m
Queen 355mLed Zeppelin 141mEagles 96mRolling Stones 72mJustin Bieber 113mEminem 38m

ABBA 212mABBA 45mABBA 91mABBA 53mABBA 18mABBA 5m

Here is another link for the Top Selling Artists of All time. They are a mixture of Claims (which are more plausible than the one for ABBA) and Certifications. It just adds streaming "sales" together with physical album and physical single with song download - hence why several 21st Century artists in the list. The Streaming "sales" include individual song certifications. That's why Drake, for example, is so high on the list.

1. The Beatles 600 million

2. Drake 523 million

3 Elvis Presley 500 million

4. Michael Jackson 400 million

5. Rihanna 363 million

6.Eminem 331 million

7. Madonna 300 million

8. Elton John 300 million

9. Led Zeppelin 300 million

10. Justin Bieber 293 million 

Summing Up

Be sceptical when you read or hear about global record sales. Ask yourselves, Who compiled this? What does it include and Can it be broken down by single, album or country?

During ABBA's career in the 1970s there were gold and platinum awards from the USA, UK, Germany, France and a number of other countries. By the late 1980s more countries had certification systems and multi-platinum awards were awarded. This period up until about 2005 for singles and 2015 for albums was the era for the most accurate physical sales. It was in this era Gold Greatest Hits was released of course.

From about 2015, most "sales" are actually dominated by streaming and countries use formulas to estimate equivalent sales figures.

It is of course very difficult to compare artists' "record sales" from different eras. Use this site to see how ABBA's singles and albums did in individual countries and the estimates globally. Any comparisons should be between counties or type of record not other artists.

In short, the 400 million record claim doesn't add up. The 30 million plus for Gold Greatest Hits is far more credible as it can be broken down realistically.

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