Queen's Greatest Hits sells seven million copies, breaking UK chart record

By Mark Savage
BBC Music Correspondent

  • Published
Queen frontman Freddie Mercury on stageImage source, BBC / Queen Productions
Image caption,
Queen's Greatest Hits is a perennial best-seller

Queen have made UK chart history by becoming the first act to sell seven million copies of an individual album.

Their first Greatest Hits collection, from 1981, is now owned by one in every four households in the UK, said the Official Charts Company.

The record, which features classic singles like We Will Rock You and Bohemian Rhapsody, has been a perennial best-seller for years.

It recently spent its 1,000th week on the UK album chart.

Queen guitarist Brian May called the latest achievement "joyous news".

"No album has done this before in history," he said in a statement. "Thank you, we appreciate it."

Drummer Roger Taylor added: "The British public and their infinitely-great taste have made this the biggest-selling album in history.

"Thank you very much; we're humbled and honoured. We salute you!"

Image source, Record company
Image caption,
Queen's first Greatest Hits album features the songs Bohemian Rhapsody, Bicycle Race and We Are The Champions

Queen's Greatest Hits leads the all-time album chart by almost a million copies, ahead of Abba's 1992 compilation album Gold.

"When it was released for the first time in 1981, career-spanning packages such as Greatest Hits were relatively rare, the preserve of only the very biggest acts," noted Martin Talbot, chief executive of the Official Charts.

"There is no doubt that its massive success has done as much as any other release to turn hits packages into the omnipresent album concept that they are today."

Queen's second Greatest Hits album, released in October 1991, a month before the death of singer Freddie Mercury - is also the UK's tenth biggest record, with sales around the four million mark.

Back in 2014, Queen's Greatest Hits became the first album to surpass six million sales in the UK.

At the time, the chart only counted "pure" sales - ie vinyl, cassette, CD and downloads.

A year later, audio streams were incorporated into the calculations, with every 1,000 song streams converted into one album "sale".

Since then, Queen's Greatest Hits has accumulated 1.26 billion total UK streams, equating to roughly 1.26 million sales (the actual figure will be lower, due to balancing measures applied by chart compilers).

The album's most-streamed track is Bohemian Rhapsody, which boasts 240 million UK streams and counting, the chart company said.

The band's back catalogue received a massive boost from the release of the Oscar-winning Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody in 2018.

On Spotify, Queen are currently the 31st most-streamed act in the world, ahead of other classic artists like The Beatles, who place 44th, and Michael Jackson, who is 68th.

New artists suffering?

According to the accounts filed by the band's company, Queen Productions Ltd, sales and streams of their music generated £39m in royalties in the last financial year.

However, Sir Elton John has warned that the constant presence of greatest hits compilations on the album charts is starving newer acts of opportunities.

"The albums chart is full of things like me, Abba and Queen," he told Music Week.

"The odd thing comes through, like Sam Fender or Harry Styles, or you get a new artist coming in at number three and then disappearing.

"It's depressing - there are a lot of good albums that deserve to be in the albums chart, like Juanita Euka, Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen. What I want to know is, why aren't they there? Because of people like me!"

UK's best-selling albums of all time

  1. Queen - Greatest Hits
  2. Abba - Gold
  3. The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  4. Adele - 21
  5. Oasis - (What's The Story) Morning Glory?
  6. Michael Jackson - Thriller
  7. Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon
  8. Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms
  9. Michael Jackson - Bad
  10. Queen - Greatest Hits II

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