Metal by Numbers: the best selling metal and rock of 2017

Posted by on January 4, 2018


It should surprise no one that streaming is surpassing sales as the medium of choice for people buying albums. Yet as evidenced by the list below, people are still buying music, too. Nielsen just released their year-end report that found that streaming grew 12.5% with album sales down about 19%. Vinyl sales still increased, however, with a 9% boost over 2016 sales giving them their 12th consecutive year of growth. Also, hip-hop and R&B, driven by streaming, became the most popular format, with 24.5% as compared to rock’s 20.8%. Is that an anomaly? Probably not, which means there needs to be some new blood in the rock and metal world to spur sales. That isn’t happening right now, as Mastodon, who formed in 2000, are the newest metal band to appear on this list of the top 200 selling albums of 2017. And if there’s anything that this list proves, it’s that it’s Metallica’s world, and we’re just living in it. 


Metallica, Hardwired… to Self Destruct (Blackened Recordings)

585,500 sold

Metallica’s latest album was the 9th biggest selling album of the year. Fun fact: Taylor Swift’s Reputation was the biggest-selling, at 1.9 million, but the 1.2 million it sold in it’s first week made it the biggest-selling album of the year, and only her and Ed Sheeran sold more than one million copies in 2017.


Linkin Park, One More Light (Warner Bros.)

258,200 sold

When this album came out, the dialogue was about how much of a pop album it was until Bennington committed suicide. Then the title track became somewhat of an epitaph as fans mourned worldwide. This still would have made the list had this tragedy not occurred, albeit probably lower.


Metallica, Metallica (Blackened Recordings)

215,750 sold

While it likely cost them a lot of money to buy their masters back from WEA, Metallica are an industry unto themselves. It’s amazing that in an industry where only 43 albums sold more than this in 2017, that a 26 year-old album still has this much staying power. 


Foo Fighters, Concrete and Gold (Roswell/RCA)

212,750 sold

It’d be hard to call this album a flop, but despite the “gold” in the album title, it’s not even halfway there. The good news for the Foos is that they’re a touring powerhouse that can pack arenas and haven’t appeared to have run out of gas yet. 


Metallica, Master of Puppets (Blackened Recordings)

154,750 sold

Not a surprise to see this on here, especially since the remastered version of the album was released this year, which just helped out their bottom line even more.




Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory (Warner Bros.)

141,000 sold

Linkin Park’s debut album was already diamond (10 million sold) before Bennington’s suicide. Many fans that probably misplaced the CD that helped it get there likely downloaded this to remember the times it got them through as angsty teens.


Metallica, …And Justice For All (Blackened Recordings)

125,350 sold

Will the inevitable remaster of this album include bass? Who knows, but Metallica at their most proggy and sprawling still makes this a favorite among die-hards.



Queens of the Stone Age, Villains (Matador)

123,250 sold

Despite the way the year ended for the band (bad vibes all around after Josh Homme kicked a camera into a woman’s face) or the griping about Mark Ronson’s production, this was still a big success for Queens.



Metallica, Ride the Lightning (Blackened Recordings)

117,600 sold

Another Metallica album on the list? You don’t say! Their sophomore album keeps selling. Wonder if Load and Reload will make it on the list when their remasters come out in a few years. 



Guns N’ Roses, Greatest Hits (Interscope)

115,150 sold

You got to hear the majority of these songs if you saw the band live. So what’s next for them, a new album, maybe? A full reunion? As long as rock radio keeps spinning GN’R and their nostalgic fans remember the music, this will keep selling.


Nickelback, Feed the Machine (BMG)

114,150 sold

Nickelback released one of the heaviest records they’ve put out yet, and even the predictable backlash about how much they suck has quieted down. It seems like their sales have as well, however.



AC/DC, Back in Black (Columbia)

101,000 sold

While Rock or Bust could be the last AC/DC album now that Malcolm Young is sadly gone, this classic keeps on selling, and shows no sign of slowing down.



Kid Rock, Sweet Southern Sugar (BMG)

98,800 sold

Not even 100,000 sold isn’t all that impressive for someone that’s got a diamond album for Devil Without a Cause. Not even his rumored senate run is helping this one.



Incubus, 8 (Island)

96,000 sold

Who knew these Ozzfest alumni even had a new record out. The band toured this Summer, and some people are still buying their albums, however.



Guns N’ Roses, Appetite For Destruction (Interscope)

93,450 sold

GN’R wrapped up their Not in This Lifetime tour this year, and while that probably spurred sales of their debut, it’s really just a classic album.



Nirvana, Nevermind (Interscope)

92,750 sold

Dave Grohl was in a band other than Foo Fighters? This grunge masterpiece that helped kill hair metal is still a perennial seller.




Mastodon, Emperor of Sand (Reprise)

85,000 sold

Mastodon’s latest album was their best-debuting album to date, and was well-received by fans as well. Even their surprise-release EP did ok (but not well enough to wind up on this list). 



Metallica, Kill ‘Em All (Blackened Recordings)

82,700 sold

Metallica’s debut is the sixth Metallica album on this list. No other artist comes even close to having six of the year’s top 200 selling records. 

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Categorised in: Metal By Numbers

  • pheet007

    It doesn’t seem to matter what anybody thinks when coming up with reasons why the band Metallica sucks. Not that sales will change my point of view – history has shown us over and over again that there are a lot of clueless teenagers and just plain stupid people who buy music because it’s popular, not because of the quality or lack thereof. The mass mentality dumbs everything down from entertainment to politics, media, social behavior, etc.
    Does that mean everybody who buys Metallica music is stupid? Of course not. What I think we are seeing here is probably the last band that will ever reach the heights in popularity and legend as those of the previous generations. Here is a list of performers whose appeal gives one a better idea of what is going on here.

    Elvis Presley Yes, there were a lot of well known and beloved entertainers before him, but the explosion of rock and roll timed with TV finally in most homes helped create a true icon for teenagers that gave them somebody to love while their parents hated it, although even parents eventually came around when Presley began his movie career and schmaltzy crooning that solidified his image but also turned him into a hack.

    The Beach Boys They were huge in the immediate years before The Beatles made it to the U.S. They continued, particularly Brian Wilson, one of the greatest music geniuses to ever live to give the Fab Four serious competition through “Pet Sounds”.

    The Beatles Their continued ultra legendary status says it all. Truly timeless music accompanied the media and fan frenzy so your little sister could scream and you could dig some of the most brilliant pop music (aside from Brian Wilson) ever, until “Sgt. Pepper’s” placed them forever at the top of the music world.

    Led Zeppelin Mystique, heaviness, and some trippy stuff made these guys another band that was a legend even before John Bonham died.

    Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” will never be equalled in chart success, musically or mythically. While Floyd has done plenty of great albums, this is special. It foresaw industrial, had beautiful guitar work by Dave Gilmour, jazzy spots, especially “Us and Them”, my favorite all time Floyd song, and just had an other worldly ethereal vibe that I truly believe came from a time and place in the cosmos where the band just happened to be in the way and intercept and record it.

    Black Sabbath No Sabbath, no truly heavy metal.

    AC/DC Treated like untalented jerks when they first broke, “Back In Black” was one of the most needed shots in the arm as far as putting real rock and roll back into pop music ever. Still a huge seller.

    So, after this long winded list, Metallica has ensconced themselves as I said, probably the last of the bands to enjoy the success and fan adulation they have. They have a divided audience though – we can see that by looking at this list, only “Metallica” aka “The Black Album” and “Hard Wired” are on it. It’s the pre-“Metallica” stuff that I think are popular with new generations of listeners who go back and hear the band when they were truly phenomenal. While I have to eat crow because I hate everything after ” . . . and Justice For All”, my argument that their best work was their early stuff is still valid.
    It could be a situation that could change though. Black Sabbath had two clunkers before Ozzy left the first time, and AC/DC never replicated “Back In Black” although there are several good albums after that classic. I don’t think Metallica will ever match their first four albums, but it is a testament to how good they are that they continue to sell. Now, about that overdue remastering hopefully with bass guitar of “. . . and Justice For All”. . . .

  • Lester Jameson

    6 albums wow