The 1980s produced many great artists. That isn't breaking news. But the decade also saw musical artists find audiences more consistently worldwide than other artists in other decades. Sure, there were a handful of musicians who were hugely successful on other decades, but the amount of ones from the 1980s is astonishing.
The list that follows is based on record sales put together by ChartMasters.org. I did cross-reference most of what Chart Masters had with Billboard charts and other sites. While it is nearly impossible to put an exact number of record sales worldwide, Chart Masters does a good job of at least trying to confirm the numbers.
Outside the top three best-selling artists that follow, the top ten is rounded out by numbers four through 10: US, Queen, Prince, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and George Michael and Wham! Of note, so far in the 2020s, the best-selling artist is BTS which has almost more than doubled second-place Taylor Swift.
Three best-selling musical artists of the 1980s
No. 3 of the 1980s - Phil Collins (119,105,000)
This is the one that might shock you a bit. Not that Collins isn't popular, of course, but popular enough to have the third-most record sales from the 1980s. That seems insane. More insane is that Collins released only four studio albums in the 1980s and each one did fantastically well. This was not a dud among the group.
Two of the albums - 1985's No Jacket Required and 1989's ...But Seriously - were worldwide number ones. His decade started with 1981's Face Value which sold more than 5 million copies in the United States and almost 2 million in the UK. Of course, Face Value was helped by one of the best-known songs from the 1980s, "In the Air Tonight." But Face Value may also be my favorite Collins album of the decade as there are other stellar tracks such as "I Missed Again" and "The Roof is Leaking."
No Jacket Required sold more than 12 million in the U.S. and nearly 2 million in the UK. And ...But Seriously sold nearly 3 million in the UK and more than 4 million in the U.S. Hello, I Must Be Going did weakly, though. It only sold 3 million in the U.S. (Clearly, I am joking. Selling 3 million copies of any album is ridiculously good.)