Late Michael Jackson breaks new record with Thriller

The 1982 album Thriller is the first album to sell more than 30 million copies in the US.
The 1982 album Thriller is the first album to sell more than 30 million copies in the US.BT FILE PHOTO

NEW YORK (AFP) - Michael Jackson has broken another music record even after his death, with the album Thriller certified on Wednesday as the first to sell more than 30 million copies in the United States.

The Recording Industry Association of America announced that the 1982 work was its first "30 times platinum" album, with platinum defined as selling one million copies - meaning roughly one out of every 10 Americans has a copy.

"What an exceptional achievement and testament to Thriller's enduring spot in our hearts and musical history," the industry group's chairman, Cary Sherman, said in a statement.

Thriller was considered a musical and marketing breakthrough, with the new "King of Pop" seizing on the possibilities of then nascent MTV to promote his music through videos and glitzy concerts.

Thriller produced a string of mega-hits including Beat It and Billie Jean and landed Jackson a record 12 nominations at the Grammy Awards, where he won eight.

The achievement was all the more extraordinary as the music industry was then more racially polarised, with Jackson the first African-American artist to enjoy significant airtime on MTV.

"It is crystal clear that Michael Jackson is simply the greatest, and biggest, artist of all time," L.A. Reid, chairman of his label Epic Records, said as he saluted the new feat.

Thriller scored renewed sales with the release of a reissued 25th anniversary edition in 2008 and Jackson's death a year later.

The album was certified as 29 times platinum less than two months after his death.

Thriller is also the best-selling album worldwide, with no other work coming close.

Exact global figures, however, are difficult to quantify.

Jackson's estate says that Thriller has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, although some experts believe that figure is inflated.

Nielsen Music began systematic sales figures for the United States in 1991.

British ballad singer Adele recently set the record for fastest sales in the United States since at least 1991, with her album, 25, selling more than five million copies less than a month since its release.

But many experts doubt that any album will ever match Thriller in sales, at least in the Western world, with 21st-century fans enjoying instant access to a huge array of digital music.