Streisand’s Record Sales: For the Record

Best-Selling Female Artist of All Time?

Streisand photo by Liebovitz

There are many online debates about who is the best-selling female artist of all time? Fans place Barbra Streisand or Mariah Carey or Madonna at the top of the list.

In 2009, Streisand's album Love is the Answer debuted on Billboard's charts at #1, which placed her in the record books as the only artist to have a number one album in each of the last five decades—the 60s through the 00s!

Love is the Answer's number one status also tied Ms. Streisand with The Beatles for most albums reaching top ten chart status (behind the Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra).

Barbra Streisand's place in the history books of the recording industry is solid. She definitely wins in the category of longevity and span of career.

She has also sold a whole lot of albums!

Streisand's Albums

Barbra Streisand has recorded with Columbia Records since 1962 — That's a 47-year recording career!

As of 2009 she has released some 63 albums, which break down into the following categories:

The Billboard 200 list, published weekly by Billboard Magazine, ranks the 200 highest-selling albums based solely on sales in the United States.

Here are a few impressive facts (* as of October 2009, after her last CD was released):

Top Ten Abums

Streisand's Number One Albums

Barbra Streisand has nine number one albums. Madonna is closing in on Streisand's record, however. Madonna achieved her seventh #1 album in 2008 when she released Hard Candy.

It's also interesting to note that Streisand owns the unique distinction of having the longest span between number one albums—45 years (Sept. 1964 to Sept. 2009). Madonna is #2 on that list: she has 23 years between her number one albums (Feb. 1985 to April 2008).

Christmas/Holiday Album Chart

Billboard charts Holiday albums separately. Streisand's 1967 A Christmas Album is in a tight race with Celine Dion's 1998 holiday album, These Are Special Times. The latest figures (December 2008) suggest that Dion has a slight lead. (Columbia Records would probably have to request/pay for a new audit of Barbra's album for updated figures.)

The top 5 Holiday albums of all time are:

  1. Elvis Presley (Elvis' Christmas Album) 12 million units
  2. Kenny G (Miracles: The Holiday Album) 7 million units
  3. Mannheim Steamroller (A Fresh Aire Christmas) 6 million units
  4. Mannheim Steamroller (Mannheim Steamroller Christmas) 6 million units
  5. Celine Dion (These Are Special Times) 5,022,000 units
  6. Barbra Streisand (A Christmas Album) 5 million units

Barbra's Number One Singles

Billboard Magazine tracks the top 100 singles in America weekly and bases its list on radio airplay and sales. Streisand has 5 number one singles in her career:

Recording Industry Association of America Figures

One cannot assess Streisand's sales and therefore her place in recording history, without considering the RIAA.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry. According to their website, “The RIAA Gold and Platinum Awards program was launched in 1958 in an effort to create a standard by which to measure sales of a sound recording.”

It should be noted that the RIAA requires the record label to “request certification and pay a fee to have the sales of the recording audited.”

Their site further explains that “the audit is conducted against net shipments after returns (most often an artist's royalty statement is used), which includes albums sold directly to retailers and one-stops, direct to consumer sales (music clubs and mail order) and other outlets.” (Another note: In 2004, the RIAA extended its Gold and Platinum awards designation to legitimate digital downloads from the Internet.)

RIAA Certification Criteria
Gold ®
Platinum ®
Multi-Platinum ™
500,000 units
1,000,000 units
2,000,000+ units

(The RIAA also certifies an album as Diamond—sales of 10 million units—but no Streisand album has sold at that level to date.)

Streisand's RIAA Album Tally
Gold ®
Platinum ®
Multi-Platinum ™

Streisand appears at number 9 on the RIAA's list of Top Selling Artists:

RIAA's Top Selling Artists (April 2011)
Certified Units in Millions
The Beatles
Elvis Presley
Garth Brooks
Led Zepplin
The Eagles
Billy Joel
Pink Floyd
Elton John
Barbra Streisand

For the Record ... Summary

Barbra Archives hopes Streisand fans are impressed with Barbra's record-breaking sales. Streisand, for sure, is one of America's most popular recording artists—ever.

Although Streisand often tells interviewers that she does not pay attention to awards and statistics about her career, that does not diminish what she has accomplished and sold throughout the years.


[ top of page ]