| 15 Jul 2024
Talking Business: Highest sellers among female music artists

MUMBAI: In recent years, streaming has become one of the fastest growing parts of the music industry. The format is the future of music listening, but remains a point of discussion due to royalty payments and control issues. Many artists like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé withdrew their catalogues for the same reasons, but these stars are setting rules about how their music is to be consumed.  

In this new era, where digital sales and streaming have taken the top spot, physical media sales were diminishing, but then came Adele, who retaught the world that it takes genuine talent and depth to sell an album.  When Adele decided not to stream her album ‘25’, the industry questioned the decision, but the album was a record-breaker and a game changer. If you want to hear Adele, you have to buy the album. ‘25’ sold 22,000 vinyl records, 1.71 million CDs and 1.64 million downloads at a rate of 335 copies per minute.

Often there is a hustle between physical sales and streaming. Streaming is accused of hampering actual sales, which is why the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) divided all-time charts between physical record sales and digital sales.

When it comes to the contribution of women to the music industry, it has been celebrated, enjoyed and respected. We list down for you the women who have ruled the music industry with sales:


Every list ever made will have Madonna on 1st spot because she is one of the very few artists in history who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility. ‘Like a Virgin’ and ‘Material Girl’ are two of her most popular songs. Madonna’s record company ‘Maverick Records’ claimed that she sold more than 300 million records worldwide, but via the available official markets reached 170 million. She is the best-selling female artist of all time as declared by Guinness Book of World Records. She has not only impacted the global music world, but has set standards for future artists to come.

Mariah Carey

She was the best-selling artist of the 90s. She has eight number one singles in the US, which are also the most number one singles by a female artist. Her duet with Boyz II Men, ‘One Sweet Day’ has recorded 16 weeks on Billboard Hot 100 in 1995, and remains the longest running number one song in US chart history. She rose to prominence after releasing her self-titled debut studio album Mariah Carey in 1990, but her signature use of the whistle made her famous worldwide. In a career spanning over 20 years, Carey has sold over 131 million records worldwide and has been ranked as the best-selling female artist of the Nielsen SoundScan era, with over 52 million copies sold.

Celine Dion

She was first recognized for her singing talent around the world in 1982 when she won an award at the ‘Yamaha World Popular Song Festival’ and the 1988 ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ where she represented Switzerland. She went on to become one of the most successful musicians in history, selling more than 123 million albums throughout the world. Her first English album was titled, ‘Unison’.

The French-Canadian singer is the only female artist to have two singles to sell more than a million copies in the UK. Her 1995 album ‘D’eux’ is the best-selling French-language album of all time till date. Dion has won ‘Chopard Diamond Award’ at the World Music Awards for becoming the best-selling female artist of all time.

Whitney Houston

Known for her best-selling debut by a woman in her time in the 1980s’, her song ‘I Will Always Love You’ became the best-selling single by a woman in music history. ‘Bodyguard’ is one of the highest-selling soundtracks till date. With certified sales of over 112 million and countless awards and honours under her belt, Whitney Houston’s greatest legacy will always be her incredible voice. She is the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits; for her 1985 debut album called ‘Whitney Houston’.

Barbra Streisand

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Streisand grew up to become a singer-songwriter. Among her bag of awards are four Emmys’ and eight Grammies. With 71.5 million albums sold in the United States alone, Barbra Streisand is the biggest-selling female artist in US history with songs that include ‘Happy Days are Here Again’, ‘My Heart Belongs to Me’ and ‘Somewhere’. She has been more successful domestically in the US than abroad.

Britney Spears

Once one of the greatest teen music stars in the world, she enjoyed enormous success in the 1990s’ and early 2000s’.  She started her career with acting roles in stage productions and television shows. She signed with Jive Records in 1997. Her studio album ‘Baby One More Time’ in 1999 and ‘Oops!... I Did It Again’ in 2000 received international successes in commercial terms. She was also ranked fourth in VH1’s ‘50 Greatest Women of the Video Era’ show list, ahead of most of her contemporaries and only behind veterans Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Whitney Houston. In her career, she crossed 80 million sales worldwide.