The Top 10 Acts in 2021 Total Pure Album Sales Are All Rock Bands (Except for BTS)

Who said rock is dead?

rock music vinyl
Vinyl for sale at Out On The Floor Records in Camden Town on the 27th March 2018 in North London, United Kingdom (photo by Sam Mellish / In Pictures via Getty Images Images)

    Somebody please inform Gene Simmons that rock is not dead. The top 10 acts with the highest total pure album sales in the United States thus far in 2021 are all rock bands, except for the wildly popular Korean band BTS, who topped the chart. The Beatles and Metallica came in second and third, respectively.

    “Pure Album Sales” are actual sales of physical and digital album units shifted in the classic sense. It’s different than Billboard’s overall chart metrics, which also tallies streaming and individual track downloads.

    The new report by Chart Data proves that people are still actually paying for rock music on a wide scale. Following The Beatles and Metallica on the chart, in descending order, are: Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, and Led Zeppelin.


    While BTS’ universal popularity notched them No. 1, the rest of list is dominated by classic rock and metal bands that remain as visible and vital as ever. Fleetwood Mac received a major boost from the viral TikTok skater; Queen’s stock has been surging since the 2018 Bohemian Rhapsody biopic; AC/DC just dropped an excellent new album in late 2020; the 30th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind is approaching; and Metallica’s “Black Album” continues to sell thousands of copies every week, and will receive a 30th anniversary super deluxe edition this September.

    On the other hand, if you look at the Billboard 200 chart for this past week of July 17th, the only rock representation in the Top 20 is Queen’s Greatest Hits at No. 16. Although that indicates most US listeners are streaming more music than ever, the Pure Album Sales chart proves that rock and metal audiences are still committed to purchasing full albums, both physical (vinyl and CD) and digital.

    In our interview with Gene Simmons from earlier this year, the KISS legend explained why he keeps saying “rock is dead,” telling us, “Rock is dead because if we play the game from 1958 until 1988, which is 30 years, you had Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones, Pink Floyd, and on and on and on. And you can go to the heavy part of it, which is Metallica, Maiden, if you want to put KISS in there, that’s fine. AC/DC, on and on and on. Even U2, Prince, Bowie, Eagles. And then you get to disco stuff, and Madonna, and that stuff, and Motown, of course. And then from 1988 until today, who’s the new Beatles?”


    He went on to say, “The reason for that is not because there’s a lack of talent, but because young folks, that kid living in his mom’s basement, decided one day that he didn’t want to pay for music. He wanted to download and file share. And that’s what killed the chances for the next generation of great bands. The fact that the music was for free. So nowadays new bands don’t have a chance.”

    The fact that the list contains mostly legacy rock bands somewhat validates Simmons’ explanation, but still contradicts the blanket statement that “rock is dead.” It appears that the resurgence in vinyl and the unwavering impact of these iconic bands are helping to fuel Pure Album Sales for rock music. On top of that, rock-led festivals and tours continue to see strong ticket sales, thus keeping the genre alive and well.

    See the full list of total Pure Album Sales in 2021 via Chart Data’s Twitter post below.

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