On the occasion of Billboard‘s 125th anniversary, our charts team created an equally monumental ranking: Billboard‘s Top 125 Artists of All Time.
Using a formula blending all titles tallied on both the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart (since its inception on Aug. 4, 1958) and the Billboard 200 albums chart (since it became a combined stereo/mono survey on Aug. 17, 1963), we assembled a list of music’s all-time top artists. (Due to changes in chart methodology and title turnover rates, certain periods for each chart recap were weighted differently to ensure as equal a representation as possible among all eras.)
The result: a group of truly iconic acts whose achievements prove that the history of Billboard mirrors the history of pop music itself.
The Beatles crown the Top 125 Artists of All Time chart, thanks to their unrivaled dominance on the Hot 100 and Billboard 200 since their U.S. breakthrough in 1964.
How fab have the Fab Four been on Billboard‘s charts?
The Beatles have tallied the most No. 1 hits in the 61-year history of the Hot 100, with 20. Their closest competitor is Mariah Carey, with 18.
They, too, are tops on the albums front: The band’s 19 No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 are the most of any artist, five ahead of silver medalist Jay-Z’s 14.
Those 19 albums together ruled the Billboard 200 for 132 weeks, far and away the most time at No. 1 by any act. In fact, it’s more than double the next challenger, Garth Brooks, who has totaled 52 weeks in the lead.
On April 4, 1964, the Beatles held the entire top five of the Hot 100. No act had done it before or has since.
Amid Beatlemania in 1964, the Hot 100’s top spot was virtually reserved for the group. That year, The Beatles became the first act to knock themselves out of the No. 1 spot, as “She Loves You” overtook “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Then, they did it again when “Can’t Buy Me Love” dethroned “She Loves You.” In all, the group landed six No. 1 hits in the calendar year, still a record.
As the band’s clout grew, anticipation for their singles only rose. The Beatles scored the first three top 10 debuts ever on the Hot 100, with “Hey Jude” in 1968, “Get Back” in 1969 and “Let It Be” in 1970; no surprise, they all quickly surged to No. 1. No other song entered directly in the top 10 until the combined power of Michael and Janet Jackson on “Scream”/”Childhood” (and via changes in chart methodology) in 1995.
The band’s appeal, of course, extended long after its 1970 breakup. The Beatles earned a 34th Hot 100 top 10 more than 25 years later, in 1995, as “Free as a Bird” climbed to No. 6 in 1996.
Beatles hits collection 1 spent eight weeks atop the Billboard 200 in 2000-01 and sold 1.26 million copies in the week leading into Christmas 2000, still the ninth-best sales week for any album of the Nielsen Music era (since 1991). 1 ended 2001 as, appropriately, the year’s No. 1 Billboard 200 album, ahead of other juggernauts as Backstreet Boys’ Black and Blue, Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory and *NSYNC’s Celebrity.
Plus, in the Nielsen Music era alone, which began more than 20 years after The Beatles’ breakup, the band has sold 70.2 million albums in the U.S., more than any other group and second only to Brooks’ 72.4 million, proving the group’s legendary influence crosses generations and occupies a unique place in American music history.
The Rolling Stones claim the No. 2 spot on Billboard‘s Top 125 Artists of All Time retrospective, powered by nine No. 1 Billboard 200 albums and eight No. 1 Hot 100 songs. Plus, the band boasts 37 top 10 Billboard 200 albums, the most among all acts since their chart arrival in 1964.
Elton John is the No. 3 act, and top soloist, on Billboard‘s Top 125 Artists of All Time chart, as he has earned nine Hot 100 No. 1s and seven Billboard 200 leaders. Among his unequaled achievements, he placed in the Hot 100’s top 40 for a record 30 consecutive years, from 1970 through 1999.
Mariah Carey places as the No. 4 artist, and top female act, on the Top 125 Artists of All Time recap, thanks to a résumé that includes 18 Hot 100 No. 1s, the most among soloists, and six Billboard 200 leaders. She also holds the records for the most consecutive years with a No. 1 Hot 100 placement (11, from 1990 through 2000) and for most total weeks at No. 1 (79).
Rounding out Billboard‘s Top 125 Artists of All Time chart, Madonna ranks at No. 5. She has scored 12 Hot 100 No. 1s and nine Billboard 200 toppers, while her 38 Hot 100 top 10s remain a record. Plus, of all the acts in the Top 125 Artists of All Time chart’s top five, she has led the Billboard 200 most recently, with her latest LP, Madame X, in June.
The rest of the elite top 10 on the Top 125 Artists of All Time ranking features acts that launched their legacies, and made their first chart appearances, in the ’60s and one who arrived, and has since dominated surveys, in the 2000s: Barbra Streisand (No. 6), Michael Jackson (No. 7), Taylor Swift (No. 8), Stevie Wonder (No. 9) and Chicago (No. 10).