Skip to main content

Ask Billboard: Steve Vai, Jay-Z, Radiohead

Readers request (and receive) album sales figures of artists ranging from rockers to rappers, including Radiohead.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Gary Trust at Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Requests came in this week for sales recaps of various artists, so this week’s Ask Billboard breaks down the numbers, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Hi Gary,

Can you find out how much Joe Satriani‘s “Surfin’ With the Alien” and Steve Vai‘s “Passion and Warfare” have sold since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking U.S. album sales? It would also be nice if you could post the numbers of each artist’s career album sales.

In my opinion, these two albums are masterpieces in structure, delivery, musical competence, creativity and emotional release. A listen to “For the Love Of God” and “Always With You, Always With Me” will leave no doubt about that.

Best Regards,

Ivan Kargovski

Hi Ivan,

Satriani’s 1987 album “Surfin’ With the Alien” has sold 434,000 copies during the SoundScan era (since 1991).

In that span, only his 1992 release “Extremist” has shifted more (810,000).

Vai’s 1990 release “Passion and Warfare” is his highest-selling, with to-date sales of 309,000.

Who’s sold more, according to Nielsen SoundScan, since 1991? Satriani’s sum stands at 3,596,000. Vai’s is 1,188,000.

Hi Gary,

I’ve been trying to find up-to-date sales figures for Jay-Z‘s albums, and you’re the only source I could find that might be able to help. Could you please provide sales data of his biggest albums?


Steven Wineglass
Hartford, Connecticut

Hi Steven,

Ahead of the release of “The Blueprint 3” Sept. 11, here is a look at Jay-Z’s albums that have sold at least a million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan:

5,299,000, “Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life”
3,345,000, “Black Album”
3,093,000, “Vol. 3…Life and Times of S. Carter”
2,608,000, “The Blueprint”
2,521,000, “Dynasty Roc La Familia (2000 -)”
2,069,000, “The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse”
1,934,000, “Collision Course” (with Linkin Park)
1,514,000, “Reasonable Doubt”
1,510,000, “Kingdom Come”
1,412,000, “In My Lifetime, Vol. 1”
1,131,000, “American Gangster”

Jay-Z has notched 10 No. 1s on the Billboard 200. With nine of those logged this decade, he easily claims the lead for most leaders since 2000. Kenny Chesney, Eminem and R. Kelly rank second with five each in that span.

Dear Gary,

Which band has sold more albums, Depeche Mode or Radiohead?


Ruben Cala

Hi Ruben,

Since the start of the SoundScan era, Radiohead has sold 10,013,000 albums. 1997’s “OK Computer” is the band’s top-seller (2,292,000).

Depeche Mode, in that span, has sold 8,597,000 albums, led by 1,566,000 copies of 1990’s “Violator.”

(Depeche Mode does outrank Radiohead in terms of most entries on the Alternative Songs airplay chart. Depeche Mode has placed 17 songs on the list, beginning with 1989’s No. 13-peaking “Everything Counts.” Radiohead has posted 12 charted titles, starting with its biggest, the No. 2 “Creep” in 1993).