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January 11, 2012 / jhsaeger

Who Is The Biggest Band In The World?

   In the most recent issue of Rolling Stone, (Issue 1148, January 19, 2012) Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney lit up the interwebs with comments that decried Nickelback’s status as the “biggest band in the world.”  While Long After Dark will not argue that Nickelback and Nickelback clones are a terror to the airwaves, it won’t give much thought to them being the biggest band in the world.  Disclaimer: I honestly don’t know a single Nickelback fan, but maybe I need to get out more.  Instead Long After Dark asks, who is the biggest band in the world?  Here are some of the candidates:
   – Certain veteran acts will always be hot whenever they produce a record or go out on tour.  U2, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Radiohead, and Bruce Springsteen are some of the best examples. But it would be tough to say that any are in the height of their popularity at this moment in time.  U2 is the biggest out of the bunch right now, having just finished their record-setting 360 Tour.  The Irish band missed a bit with 2009’s No Line On The Horizon, but are due for another big record some time within the next year or so. 
    – Of the middle-aged bands that are in full swing right now, the Foo Fighters are likely the biggest at the moment.  After releasing their first number one record this spring, the band embarked on a lengthy world tour that will run into mid-2012 and have already hinted they are in the beginning stages of recording another album this year.  Other similar bands in this category are Pearl Jam, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay, and the Beastie Boys.
    – The third tier is the plethora of new acts that have come into their own over the last couple of years.  What rock music really needed, these bands have been elevating themselves to the arena tours and center stages of festivals lately.  The biggest name in this bunch is The Black Keys.  Even though the duo has been around for the last decade, their sudden popularity has elevated them to another level of stardom over the last year.  Other acts like this include Mumford & Sons, Bon Iver, and My Morning Jacket. 
   After some deliberation, it is a close call between the Foo Fighters and Black Keys on my ballot.  Keeping in mind The Black Keys’ album came out in December, it’s tough to gauge where they ranked in 2011 sales-wise, but they have been dominating the airwaves lately with singles from El Camino and might have a slight edge over the Foos.  There is no right or wrong answer, but who do you think is number one?


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  1. April Steele / Jan 11 2012 3:00 am

    Well, U2 was the hightest paid act of 2011 earning $195M… so that is a quantitative measure that speaks to me. I have never been a fan of the Foo Fighters. I am, indeed a fan of Nickelback…but I'm not in love with their latest album. I would have to say ColdPlay is tops with me right now…I do really like the Black Keys, though. And where in this discussion do solo acts in? It would be hard to argue that Adele is not the reigning queen of individual artists right now…

  2. John Saeger / Jan 11 2012 3:15 am

    April, wanted to keep solo acts separate for this and also wanted to lean more towards rock bands than pop for this one. Adele is clearly the biggest we've seen in quite some time and will hopefully continue to produce similar material. Florence + the Machine posed a dilemma in the rising acts category because I wasn't sure if they were more rock or pop (plus the media's been focusing more on her despite the awesome backing band) and her status for this argument is up in the air. As for the money, it is hard to argue U2, one of my favorites. I will say they were clearly number one when How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was released a few years ago.

  3. Janet / Jan 11 2012 3:24 am

    This is such a boring comment to make, but I'd agree that the Black Keys can safely be considered the biggest act in rock right now; I don't know a single person that doesn't like them, at least. So psyched to see them in March!Also have to throw in a consideration for Arcade Fire too, if only because of their Grammy win from last year.

  4. John Saeger / Jan 11 2012 3:32 am

    Ah, did forget Arcade Fire, knew I was missing on someone really obvious, they blew up almost as much as the Keys did with the Suburbs.

  5. Rosie / Jan 20 2012 3:31 pm

    Biggest band in the world, super sized division, are mostly all folks who were the biggest band(s) in the world when I was in my 20s (I was born the week Pat Boone's Moody River was the #1 song – look it up). I get where old peeps like me will pay a lot for tickets – thus super sized grosses – but that fact is just weird to me. I may have to do a guest post ruminating on how a 25 year old's music now may also be his 50 year old mom's music, but how that was *so* not the case when I was 25.

  6. John Saeger / Jan 20 2012 6:16 pm

    Rosie – if its good enough it is timeless, I can't wait to shell out to see Springsteen, petty, or McCartney and I think that's more true of the 26 year old age bracket then ever before.

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