Top 10@10: Best selling Scandinavian artists of all time

Categories: DenmarkFeaturesFinlandIcelandNorwaySweden



It’s March 10 and time for another Top 10@10 feature (well, twelve to be exact – there are ties) throwing almost hard numbers around as we present the best selling Scandinavian artists. Without revealing too much it’s a list dominated by Sweden and – not surprisingly – where the top five artists had their heydays before the new millennium.

It is hard to come by exact numbers when it comes to album sales, but these are at the very least in the ballpark, counting album and singles sales but excluding digital sales as this is still relatively new and the numbers small. But here they are: The best selling Scandinavian artists who have sold a combined total of 660 million units worldwide.


Michael Learns To Rock (DK)
Total sales: 10 million
They debuted at a talent show in hometown Aarhus in 1988 and three years later Michael Learns To Rock released their eponymous debut, which went on to sell a staggering 475.000 copies in Denmark (almost 1 in 10 should have one according to this), not least due to hit single ‘The Actor’. However, it was in Asia they really took a liking to the pop trio, buying enough albums to earn MTLR a shared tenth place on this list.


Hanoi Rocks (SF)
Total sales: 10 million
These rockers had their heyday in the early 80s and were at the time the closet Finnish rock had been to international fame, with Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, Manic Street Preachers and Dave Grohl among the acts naming Hanoi Rocks an influence. In 1985 they split up, reunited in 2002 and October last year they announced another split which will be official after their last gigs in Finland in April.


Vikingarna (SE)
Total sales: 11 million
Unofficially crowned the most popular dansband (dance band) in Scandinavia, Vikingarna (“the vikings”) sold 11 million albums over a 45 year career which was ended in 2004 with a concert in the town of Arvika, the place where it all began in 1959 when Claes Johansson founded JiCoo & The Vikings.


The Cardigans (SE)
Total sales: 15 million
They had experienced their breakthrough with their second album ‘Life’, released in 1995, but what made The Cardigans a household pop name everywhere was their third effort, ‘First Band On The Moon’ (1996), spearheaded by the brilliant single ‘Lovefool’.


The Spotnicks (SE)
Total sales: 18 million
Playing along the same lines as The Shadows this instrumental rock group was the first Swedish group to obtain significant international success. Formed in 1961 and famous for wearing space suit costumes on stage as well as their innovative guitar sound, The Spotnicks have released a staggering 42 albums selling a total of 18 million copies, and apart from a short break between 1970-71 they’ve been going at it ever since.


Björk (ISL)
Total sales: 20 million
Not only the biggest Icelandic artist but also one of the most influential of her generation, Björk Guðmundsdóttir has been on the top of the game since the release of her first really successful band The Sugarcubes’ debut, ‘Life’s Too Good’, in 1988. It is, however, as a solo artist millions across the world have come to love – and consequently buy – her music.


Europe (SE)
Total sales: 20 million
With their third album these poodle-haired Swedes fronted by lead singing poster boy Joey Tempest (born Rolf Magnus Joakim Larsson) made it big in 1986 with smash hit and title track ‘The Final Countdown’, sporting one of the best synth-riffs of all time, and grand ballad ‘Carrie’.


Aqua (DK)
Total sales: 30 million
Teeny-pop from a parallel underwater universe went on to become Denmark’s biggest cultural export ever (have to just say that this says more about the time and world than our country’s general cultural state of mind) when Aqua released their 21 million selling debut ‘Aquarium’ in 1997. ‘Aquarius’ followed in 2000 before the quartet split in 2001.


a-ha (NO)
Total sales: 36 million
In 1985 Pål Waaktaar, Magne Furuholmen and Morten Harket gave the world one of the best pop songs ever written with ‘Take On Me’ from their debut album ‘Hunting High And Low’, a song that has been almost solely responsible for the biggest success in Norwegian music history. Well, that and their grand theme song for the James Bond movie ‘The Living Daylights’.


Ace Of Base (SE)
Total sales: 50 million
The Swedish records labels wouldn’t touch this quartet (now trio) with a ten foot pole back in 1992, so Danish label Mega Records signed what has become the third biggest Scandinavian – and Swedish – musical success, kicked off by their 23 million selling debut ‘Happy Nation’. In 2007 founding member Malin Berggren left, but Ace Of Base plan to release their fifth studio album this year.


Roxette (SE)
Total sales: 70 million
Originally a side project for both Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson, Roxette (a name Gessle had used for his band Gyllene Tider in 1984 when they released their album ‘Heartland Café’ in the US) debuted in 1986 with the single ‘Never Ending Love’ and later that year the full length ‘Pearls Of Passion’. It was, however, two years later that their international and massive selling career began for real with the rather brilliant album ‘Look Sharp’.


Total sales: 370 million
You can’t underestimate the importance of ABBA for not only Swedish music, but the whole of Scandinavia. They paved the way with their victory in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with smash-hit ‘Waterloo’ and went on to become the biggest international pop success of the decade. When Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad parted ways in 1982, ABBA was registered as the ninth richest company in Sweden and to this day they still sell two to four million records a year.


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