If you take into account ticket sales and album sales combined, all indications are that the biggest band in the world right now might be, Metallica. And that opinion is shared by many.
The music industry trade publication, Pollstar, showed that the music giants have sold more than 22 million concert tickets since 1982, grossing more than $1.4 billion in the process. These numbers put Metallica “just behind” U2 in tickets sold, but that lands them ahead of rock peers such as AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, and Ozzy Osbourne.
The Pollstar article written by Ryan Borba, said, “When accounting for the reach of Metallica’s business… while playing 48 countries and every single continent (including Antarctica) over the course of their career; fervent and rabid merch consumption totaling $125 million in North America since the ‘Black Album’ and the band’s road touring with no gimmick reunion or farewell announcement necessary to drum up extra business, Metallica may just be the biggest band in the world.”
They’ve never been a band to rest on their laurels, and drummer Lars Ulrich is of the mind that the fact they have always looked forward, has a lot to do with their success: “I keep thinking and forcing myself to think all our best years are still ahead of us. That’s the M.O. It’s always, ‘What’s your favorite record?’ It’s the next one, the one we haven’t recorded yet,” he said, “It’s always about the possibilities, always about what can be, what’s coming. I think that attitude is a big part of why Metallica still connects to so many people around the world.”
The band’s manager Cliff Burnstein was quoted in the Pollstar article: “We could tour off the first five albums forever, but would we have the same staying power? Would there be an erosion of interest if we didn’t have new things to put in front of people from time to time? Would the band be as engaged if they didn’t have the goal of putting out new material to play? I don’t think so… Albums may come at great intervals, but they’re always thinking about new material.”
Ulrich continued, “What’s happening in places like Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe over the last five years is crazy. It’s unbelievable we can go into a place like Estonia and play to 60,000 people… As long as that keeps happening, we’ll keep doing it.”
The band’s North American booking agent, Dennis Arfa of Artists Group International, did not argue: “Metallica may well be the biggest band in the world. The two biggest apparel pieces in the world are a Yankees hat and a Metallica T-shirt,” he said.
There was a time when Metallica were outsiders and not part of the popular mass. How things have changed. ” Metallica belongs to everyone,” says Ulrich. “Metallica is more like a state of mind or ethereal position or situation. Nobody owns Metallica. It’s a place we go and a place we escape to and a place where we can feel better about who we are and connect to other people and to the universe.”