In the constantly evolving music landscape, some bands have stood the test of time and solidified their status as defining acts of their decades. From Queen to Nirvana, certain bands encompass a generation and a moment; an iconic few have achieved lasting popularity.
Our experts wanted to determine if the secret to musical success is based on luck, like a game of slots, or if a formula exists to become a legendary band. We looked at Spotify metrics, Google searches and TikTok videos for almost 100 bands that gained fame from the 1960s to the 2010s. Since we based our study primarily on Spotify data, many modern bands rank in our top 10, with stream numbers being skewed in favour of recent artists. Some of the most iconic bands, including the Beatles, did not release music on Spotify until recently, resulting in lower stream numbers.
We found that pop bands have more Spotify monthly listeners on average than any other genre, at 30 million. Girl groups, including BLACKPINK, TWICE, and Little Mix, have received more global Google searches in the last year than any other band genre, averaging 33.6 million, and are the most popular genre on TikTok, with an average of almost 3.3 million videos created to their music.
The 2010s are the most popular decade on TikTok, with an average of 696,561 videos created to the music of bands from those years. Bands of the 2000s and the 1990s are the most streamed on Spotify, with over one billion streams on average for their hit songs.
The Most Popular Bands throughout the Decades
1. Queen | Band score: 9.14/10
Queen are one of the most famous bands of all time, known worldwide for their innovative music that pushed the boundaries of rock and roll and their charismatic frontman, Freddie Mercury. Queen's music spanned many genres, but the band were best known for their rock and pop music, released throughout the 1970s. The band has over 52.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify, with their most streamed song ‘Don't Stop Me Now' receiving almost 1.8 billion streams. Queen have over 49.1 million Spotify followers and a popularity index score of 82 out of 100, determined by save rate, playlist appearances, skip rate, and stream count. Queen have received 21.3 million Google searches worldwide in the last 12 months, and there have been 40,400 searches for tribute acts. Making a stir on TikTok, users have made 148,700 videos to the sound of Queen's most famous song, ‘Don't Stop Me Now'.
2. Coldplay | Band score: 9.02/10
Coldplay are one of the most defining bands of the 2000s, adored for their emotional lyrics, accessible melodies and chart-topping hits. The band have more monthly listeners than any other on our list, a whopping 73.5 million. The pop band's most streamed song on Spotify is ‘Something Just Like This', which users have listened to almost 2.4 billion times - outperformed only by Imagine Dragons' most famous track. Coldplay has nearly 48.7 million followers on the music streaming app and a popularity index of 86 out of 100 - higher than any other band we looked at. There have been 27.6 million Google searches for Coldplay globally over the past 12 months, and users have searched for tribute acts around 30,700 times. The band's popularity has translated onto social media, with TikTok users creating 54,700 videos to the sound of their most famous song.
3. Imagine Dragons | Band score: 8.80/10
Imagine Dragons are the second rock band in our top three, beloved for their catchy songs and innovative production techniques. A critical music act of the 2010s, Imagine Dragons have almost 57.4 million monthly listeners on Spotify. Imagine Dragons' most iconic song ‘Believer' has nearly 2.8 billion Spotify streams - more than any other song on our list, and the band has just over 51.5 million followers on the music streaming platform. The rock band have a Spotify popularity index of 85 out of 100 based on save rate, playlist appearances, skip rate, and stream count. Google users worldwide have searched for the band just under 17.1 million times, and tribute acts have been googled 310 times in the last 12 months. Imagine Dragons are loved on social media, with 3.7 million videos created to the sound of ‘Believer'.
The Most Popular Band of each Decade
1960s: The Beatles | Band score: 7.91/10
The Beatles are critically acclaimed for their universally loved music and cultural impact. The band are unsurprisingly the most popular band of the 1960s that we looked at, achieving a score of 7.91 out of 10 across all factors. The Beatles ranked in the top five bands on our list for their Spotify popularity index, scoring 83 out of 100 based on save rate, playlist appearances, skip rate, and stream count.
1970s: Queen | Band score: 9.14/10
Queen are the most popular band on our list and, therefore, the most successful band of the 1970s. Queen have more Spotify followers than most other bands on our list, outperformed only by BTS and Imagine Dragons. The iconic rock band are also one of the most popular bands for tribute acts, with 40,400 worldwide Google searches in the last year - only ABBA and Pink Floyd outperform the rock band in this category.
1980s: Guns N' Roses | Band score: 8.43/10
Guns N' Roses are loved worldwide for their hard rock melodies and high-charting singles. The rock band ranks in the top five musical groups on our list for TikTok popularity, with users of the social media app creating 648,300 videos to the sound of the band's most famous song, ‘Sweet Child O' Mine'.
1990s: Nirvana | Band score: 8.34/10
Nirvana are widely regarded as one of the most influential bands in rock music of the 1990s, pioneering the grunge movement and capturing the attention of a generation with their emotional song lyrics. The band's most streamed song ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit' has over 1.8 billion Spotify streams, ranking in the top 10 for this factor.
2000s: Coldplay | Band score: 9.02/10
Coldplay ranked second overall on our list of the most successful bands, with more monthly listeners and a higher popularity index on Spotify than any other group on our list. The pop band have over 73.5 million monthly listeners and an 86 out of 100 popularity index for their songs' save rate, playlist appearances, skip rate, and stream count.
2010s: Imagine Dragons | Band score: 8.80/10
Imagine Dragons are undeniably one of the most successful throughout the decades, ranking third overall on our list. The rock band are best known for their hit song ‘Believer', which has more streams than any other song we looked at. The song also went viral on TikTok, where users have produced 3.7 million videos using the sound.
The Most Popular Song of each Genre
Rock: Imagine Dragons | Believer: 2.77 bn Spotify streams
Unsurprisingly, Imagine Dragons' hit song ‘Believer' is the most popular rock song on Spotify. The track, released in 2017, reached number four on the Billboard 100 and was the number one song on the Billboard year-end charts, including the Hot Rock Songs chart, proving its success and popularity.
Pop: Coldplay | Something Just Like This: 2.35 bn Spotify streams
Coldplay's ‘Something Just Like This' is the most popular song by a pop band on Spotify, reaching over 2.35 billion streams. First released in 2017, the hit song reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and was also the sixth best-selling track of 2017 in the United States.
Alternative: Foster the People | Pumped Up Kicks: 1.61 bn Spotify streams
‘Pumped Up Kicks' is the most famous song released by the alternative band Foster the People, instantly recognisable thanks to its catchy tune. The song has almost 1.61 billion streams on Spotify, proving its popularity.
Boy band: BTS | Dynamite: 1.77 bn Spotify streams
‘Dynamite' by the K-pop sensation BTS is the most popular song by a boyband on Spotify, with almost 1.77 billion streams worldwide. The track is loved for its global accessibility through English-language lyrics and infectious, upbeat sound.
Metal: Linkin Park | Numb: 1.50 bn Spotify streams
‘Numb' is one of Linkin Park's most defining songs and the most streamed metal song on our list. Since its release in 2003, the track has been loved by generations for its relatable lyrics and emotional connection. The song has over 1.50 billion streams to date.
Girl group: BLACKPINK | How You Like That: 912 m Spotify streams
‘How You Like That' has been a commercial success for K-pop girl group BLACKPINK since its release in 2020. Thanks to the group's global fandom and the song's catchy sound, ‘How You Like That' has almost 912 million Spotify streams.
The Most Popular Bands on TikTok
Rock: Imagine Dragons | Believer: 3,700,000 TikTok videos
‘Believer' by Imagine Dragons is a success on streaming services and went viral on TikTok. Outperformed on the app only by BLACKPINK's ‘How You Like That', Imagine Dragons' biggest hit has inspired 3.7 million TikTok videos.
Pop: ABBA | Dancing Queen: 520,600 TikTok videos
Europop group ABBA have had many viral hits, but ‘Dancing Queen' is their most loved song on TikTok. The catchy tune has 520,600 TikTok videos using the sound, with users showcasing their dancing choreography, cooking skills, and daily life.
Alternative: Foster the People | Pumped Up Kicks: 451,700 TikTok videos
Foster the People's smash hit ‘Pumped Up Kicks' is not only its most streamed song on Spotify but has resonated with TikTok users, making it the most popular song by an alternative band on the social media app. There are 451,700 TikTok videos incorporating the sound, with users showing off their pets, makeup skills, and even cheerleading routines.
Boy band: BTS | Dynamite: 2,700,000 TikTok videos
BTS' most streamed song on Spotify is also its most popular song on TikTok, with users creating 2.7 million videos to the song ‘Dynamite'. Many of these videos show fans recreating the music video's iconic choreography and filming the K-pop group's street performance on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
Metal: Evanescence | Bring Me to Life: 429,800 TikTok videos
‘Bring Me to Life' is the most loved song by metal group Evanescence on TikTok, inspiring 429,800 videos on the social media platform. Users have created videos with the song showing their motorcycles, drawing skills, and workout routines.
Girl group: BLACKPINK | How You Like That: 9,400,000 TikTok videos
BLACKPINK ranks first on our list for the most TikTok videos, with their song ‘How You Like That' inspiring users to create 9.4 million videos. Many of these videos show users' creative makeup routines, street fashion, and dancing choreography inspired by the music video.
The Most Popular Tribute Bands
For design - data tab ‘DATA' - graphic with the top three bands for ‘Annual tribute band searches’
1. ABBA - 65,400 Google searches for tribute bands
ABBA are one of the most popular bands to impersonate, with tribute acts relying on the nostalgia and cultural impact of the 1970s pop band. There have been 65,400 Google searches worldwide for ABBA tribute acts in the last year.
2. Pink Floyd - 65,400 Google searches for tribute bands
Pink Floyd is in joint first place as one of the most popular bands for tributes. Around 65,400 people worldwide search for tribute Pink Floyd bands, thanks to the legacy of Pink Floyd’s innovative music and desire for the live experience.
3. Queen - 40,400 Google searches for tribute bands
Queen are in third place as one of the most impersonated bands. There have been 40,400 Google searches globally for Queen tribute bands, likely thanks to the band’s global appeal and sing-along anthems.
We wanted to find the most popular bands of each decade from the 1960s to the 2010s, so we compiled a list of bands using ChartMasters, Wikipedia, and MusicGrotto. We assigned the most relevant decade to each band.
We sourced the number of followers each band has on Spotify, monthly listeners, the most streamed song and the number of streams, popularity index, and genre using Spotify on 11/12/2023.
We sourced the number of worldwide Google searches each band had between 01/12/2022 and 30/11/2023 using Google Ads Keyword Planner. We also used Google Ads Keyword Planner to source the number of worldwide Google searches for tribute acts of each band.
We sourced the number of TikTok videos for each band's most streamed song using TikTok on 12/12/2023. We used the most popular TikTok sound related to each song, including covers and remixes.
We gave each band a normalised score out of 10 for each factor before calculating an average score across all factors. This score formed our ‘band score /10', which we used as the basis of our ranking.
We removed the following bands from our list due to a lack of available information: The Beach Boys, Destiny's Child, Fall Out Boy, and Spice Girls.