It’s a subjective argument but an important one, laced with history. Who is more popular out of Michael Jackson and Prince?
While many regard Prince as the more powerful and capable musician, it’s Michael Jackson who is infinitely more popular. The King of Pop outsold, outperformed and out-earned the Purple One many times over.
Read on to learn more about these two pop sensations and their incredible success and rivalry.
Pop vs. Purple
Michael Jackson and Prince weren’t separated by generations. They were both releasing music and performing at the exact same time. They had chart-topping battles and even ran a popstar rivalry at one point.
They were both at the top of their game and had fans falling at their feet. Their musical acumen was unrivaled in the industry, and they achieved worldwide fame. Tragically, both artists passed before their time, Jackson in 2009 and Prince in 2016.
Being born just two months apart, the pair entered music almost at the same time. However, their journeys into the industry were dramatically different. While Michael experienced rigorous – and often abusive – mentoring at the hands of his father, Prince didn’t struggle. His parents were both integrated into the industry, being jazz singers and songwriters.
Prince would perform with his mother and be doted on by both his parents. He wrote his first track when he was seven years old, and although his parents split shortly after, he was still set on music. There were some familial issues as the years wore on, but it didn’t ever cause turbulence for Prince.
Conversely, Michael Jackson saw his fair share of troubles when he was growing up. He was born into an enormous family, in a very small and poor home. When his father discovered his children bore musical talent, he leaned into it massively.
Allegedly, he would whip the children, particularly Michael, whom he disliked. Michael, along with his brothers, was pushed to the hilt with their training. They would practice and rehearse relentlessly, and Jackson often described his youth as ‘isolated’ or ‘lonely’.
However, both men ultimately found massive success in the music industry. They gravitated towards slightly different genres on occasion, but the rivalry remained alive and well throughout their careers.
Head to Head
When it comes to cold, hard numbers, Michael Jackson wins by a dramatic length. As of 2020, he was the third best-selling artist in history, behind The Beatles and Elvis. In his lifetime, he’d sold around a quarter of a billion records – certified. It’s arguable that Jackson dedicated his entire life, start to finish, to producing music.
Prince’s career may have lasted almost four decades and spawned almost forty studio albums, but he didn’t come close. An article in 2017 estimated that he had sold around 100 million albums during his time. This is far less than half the number that Jackson boasted.
In particular, Jackson’s album Thriller found untold success. Statistically, this became the second best-selling album in the history of music. It shipped an incredible thirty-three million copies, a staggering number for any artist.
Regarding actual net worth, it was Jackson who had the bigger fortune. When he passed away in 2009, he boasted a massive fortune of five hundred million dollars. Prince, on the other hand, had amassed a three hundred million dollar fortune.
Prince actually enjoyed a massive surge in sales following his death in 2016. Through the flood of sales, his albums once again topped charts. Streaming services saw an enormous uptick in users listening to his music. It’s estimated that in the year following his death, he sold around 3.5 million units.
However, Billboard estimates that since Jackson’s passing, he has sold more than sixteen million albums. This is bolstered by an estimated thirty-one million digital downloads, with Thriller leading the charge. This shows that even in death, Jackson remains more successful. This Instagram post explains Jackson had over seven billion streams online in 2019 alone.
You can see a video below of the titular track from Thriller.
So, while Prince may have been a more skilled musician, it’s Jackson who is more popular on paper. His numbers decimate Prince’s, even years after the death of both artists. Prince may have been an accomplished guitarist, songwriter, and composer, but Michael Jackson truly was the King of Pop.