Back in the day when an album was gold (500,000 copies), or platinum (1,000,000 copies), it often meant albums shipped to stores, which could have promptly been shipped right back.
With Soundscan, you could tally exactly what an album sold, and it seem that Metallica’s Black album remains the best selling album of the SoundScan era.
Metallica is one of the biggest catalog artists of all time, and according to a report on Blabbermouth, they are the #4 Top Selling Artist of the SoundScan era, which began back in May 1991.
The Black album is currently the biggest selling album since SoundScan began, from 1991 till now, with 15,735,000 copies sold. It beat out Shania Twain’s Come On Over, which is now #2 with 15,513,000 copies, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill with 14,714,000 copies, Backstreet Boys Millennium with 12,168,000 copies, and the Beatles anthology with 11,985,000 copies.
Altogether, Metallica sold fifty three million albums in the states putting them at #4 on the list, with Garth Brooks at #1 with 68 million albums sold, The Beatles with 63 million albums sold, and Mariah Carey with 53 million sold.
The Black album was a big change for Metallica, cutting down the lengthy epics of And Justice For All into shorter, meatier songs, and bigger production with Bob Rock at the helm. Metallica built their careers gradually, and with the Black album, they reached their commercial peak, which obviously still stands today, although many would rightly consider Master of Puppets their actual musical peak.
It’s also interesting to point out on both lists, biggest selling album and band from the SoundScan era, Metallica are the only metal band to sell at this big of a level, which really says something for the band’s staying power. Whatever the haters who always yell sell out feel about them, the band’s still here after all this time, and even St. Anger and Lulu couldn’t slow ‘em down.