Did The Beatles Really Sell More Records Than Zeppelin and The Stones Combined?

If you ever look at the list of top-selling recording artists, you’re going to get some surprises. For example, the album sales of Jimi Hendrix (23 million units) don’t come close to the numbers posted by, say, the Dixie Chicks (30.5 million).

But once you get to the top 10, things start making sense. That’s where you find names like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson. These artists electrified entire generations, and their albums continue to sell at a remarkable clip decades after their release.

However, it’s still difficult to fathom just how many records The Beatles have moved over the years. For example, the band’s White Album (24 million) sold more copies than the entire Hendrix discography.

That brings us to the comparison with the Rolling Stones, the Fab Four’s supposed “rivals” in the 1960s. If you go by record sales, the Stones boast only a fraction of the Beatles’ numbers. In fact, if you add the Stones’ figures to the output of the massive-selling Led Zeppelin, they still come up short.

The Stones sold 66.5 million records to Zeppelin’s 111.5 million.

The Rolling Stones sitting for photos in 1970 | Timm/ullstein bild via Getty Images

According to certified numbers from The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Stones have posted 66.5 million album sales over the years. Obviously, it’s a huge number, and only 12 recording artists ever sold more.

Barbara Streisand (68.5 million) and country singer George Strait (69 million) sit just ahead of the Stones before the top 10 begins. That’s where you find heavyweights like Elton John (78.5 million) and Jackson, the so-called King of Pop (84 million).

At No. 5 on the list, you find the hardest-rocking band among the elite: Led Zeppelin, which sold an astounding 111.5 million albums since the group’s 1969 self-titled debut.

Going down the list of “Diamond” records (more than 10 million copies sold), you see how Zeppelin amassed that total. They have four such records — including Physical Graffiti, which sold 16 million units — and that’s more than even The Beatles can claim.

But the Fab Four’s overall sales dwarf even Zeppelin, and they still add up to more when you throw in the numbers of the Stones.

The Beatles have sold 183 million records, topping both bands combined.

September 1964: The Beatles land at London Airport. They arrived to a rapturous welcome after their second tour of the US, where they earned £250,000. | Keystone/Getty Images

With 183 million certified album sales, no artist compares to The Beatles. The nearest competitor (Garth Brooks, 148 million), stands at 35 million sales short of that number. And that’s not even counting the No. 1 singles the Fab Four released over the years.

You can add the numbers of industry giants Zeppelin and the Stones together and, at 178 million, the two bands still come up short of The Beatles. Another way to look at it: The Beatles come close enough to tripling the sales of the Stones.

When you look back at the so-called rivalry between the two bands, it’s useful to have some of the data at your disposal. In fact, John Lennon once said Mick Jagger was jealous of The Beatles’ success, which is why Mick would knock the Fab Four.

If Jagger was jealous, he would definitely be within his rights.

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