Discerning The Relative Popularity of Rock Bands and Pop Stars


I have lost all concept of the relative popularity of bands. It used to be easy. All you’d have to do is see which bands had chart-topping hits and which albums were selling hundreds of thousands of albums a week. Now? Now, I have no idea and I’m constantly surprised.

Any given week I typically have the following reaction: wait, the Black Keys have reached arena status? When the fuck did that happen? Some bands you think are huge play small clubs and vice versa. It is nearly impossible to figure out the music industry hierarchy anymore.

Priceonomics recently published a very long, leaked list of the fees some of the world’s favorite bands and pop stars charge for a concert appearance. The list comes from a third-party booking agency, Degy Entertainment, which specializes in booking college shows and so while the list might not be entirely accurate it does, finally, paint a relative picture of which bands are more popular than others.

Why does this sort of thing matter? Ultimately, it doesn’t. But it is interesting for music nerds.

It’s something I think about constantly while watching ‘Nashville’, for instance. How does Juliette Barnes’ popularity compare to Taylor Swift? Is Rayna James on the same level as Faith Hill or is she more like a slightly more popular Neko Case? The show never really addresses these comparisons and why it’s so important for Juliette Barnes to need the good graces of the Nashville industry when she could just move to LA or Austin or Portland especially if she were Taylor Swift popular and not Carrie Underwood popular.

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