Wait. What? Did you read that correctly? Sadly folks, yes, you did. And what’s worse, it’s shockingly true. Nickelback, and specifically main man Chad Kroeger, are indeed musical geniuses. Maybe not for All the Right Reasons as one of the Canadian rock band’s album titles suggests, but they’ve got at least 50 million reasons to suggest that there is a level of genius to their craft. Easily one of the most maligned popular bands of the past decade, Nickelback has still outsold all of their peers, filled stadiums tour after tour, and Kroeger himself has branched out beyond his band to create a small media empire for himself. And don’t be fooled; the band’s massive success wasn’t by accident. Their entire ascent from Canadian indie band to becoming the most hated, but also best-selling rock band in the world has been meticulously planned detail for detail. So, love em’ or hate em’ (and honestly, who’d admit to loving Nickelback anyway?), these are five reason why, like it or not, Nickelback are musical geniuses.
5. The Formula
Have you ever noticed how every pop star today has a very strict formula to their music? It’s like each and every song an artist releases is written by one or two of the same people (funny enough, they all are written by the same people, but that’s another article). Furthermore, the singles these pop artists release follow a strict template as well. Release a song about a broken heart, follow it with a song of empowerment, or a song about sex, and then follow it with a song about having some fun, probably in the summer. That’s a good few months to a year of heavy radio airtime and the summer single kicks off a massive tour, like clockwork every time.
Well, Nickelback have perfected this exact same formula. They are a pop band, just louder, and with guitars. The writing and production of a Nickelback album is as manufactured as a Katy Perry album. From the types of singles the band releases, to the order they release them in, to the massive summer tours, it’s all the same. Katy Perry, Britney Spears and… Nickelback. The promotion and image cultivation is just as precise.
How many times have you seen Chad Kroeger in his trademark aviators pose for a photo op? Far, far too many, but it’s all part of the deal. And, as criticized by the press as the band is, at every single show Nickelback always have members from local radio stations hanging out back stage with them to position themselves for airplay. Free booze and a taste of the rockstar life goes a long way in helping a DJ decide what song to play the next day at work. Despite this proven record of success in cultivating and maintaining a formulaic image, it was still the music that created Nickelback fans in the first place, and when it comes to a proven song writing formula, the band is second to none.
4. Mass Appeal
Like it or not, Nickelback write what people want to hear. The band’s broad range of musical styles, from sappy ballads to borderline heavy metal, have enough mass appeal to hit every market. And the lyrics, I mean c’mon. College guys, single guys, and party animals love the “no shirt and s$%t faced” anthems about sex and drinking. “Burn it to the Ground” in particular has become the let loose, get wasted and “swing from the ceiling” call to arms for a good night on the town; the song is played in every bar when it’s really time to get the crowd going and start selling booze. It’s also the theme song for the WWE further broadening its appeal to a specific demographic.
Then the band does a 180 and writes smooth sappy ballads about love like “Gotta Be Somebody” that help counter the lack of morality in some of their songs and appeal to those searching for the “one to spend forever with.” There’s also the throwback nostalgia tunes, like “Photograph” where Chard and co. get to relive their childhood, naturally reminding the listener of their own days of youth. What Nickelback has been best at though, ever since “How You Remind Me” hit the air over a decade ago is writing songs about breaking up. And what is more universal than a painful breakup? Whether it’s a Nickelback song, or someone else’s, we can all relate to lyrics like “How You Remind Me,” and the equal massive hit “Someday.” Formulaic, effective calculated songwriting and it works like a charm. Chad Kroeger has been called “a song scientist” and for good reason.
3. Corporate Efficiency
For proof of how successful the Nickelback formulas is, one only needs to see the list of other successful artists Kroeger has written songs and produced albums for. Nickelback’s success not being enough for him, Kroeger has used his songwriting and image calculating formula to great effect when writing and producing songs for other successful rock bands.
He’s a sample of some songs he’s also written for various artists:
“Here’s to Never Growing Up”- Avril Lavigne (Platinum in US)
“No Surprise”- Daughtry (Number 1 US adult pop charts)
“September”- Daughtry (Number 2 US adult pop charts)
“It’s a Business Doing Pleasure with You”- Tim McGraw (McGraw’s fifty-second chart entry on the Billboard country charts)
“Hero”- for the Spiderman Soundtrack
“Nothing Could Come Between Us,” “Make Up Your Mind”- Theory of a Dead Man
“Porn Star Dancing” ft. Ludacris and Zakk Wylde (WTF??)- My Darkest Days (Number 1 US rock charts)
And if THAT weren’t enough, Kroeger co-owns the record company that released Carly Rae Jepsen’s summer smash hit a few years ago, “Call Me Maybe.” The song sold over 9 million copies, and Kroeger’s label got 50 percent of the profits.
Furthermore, in another genius move, Nickelback has had many of the opening bands on their tours, Default, and My Darkest Days being but two, who Kroeger owns royalty rights to their songs, further promoting the work he’s done on other artists behalf, and further lining his pockets. As My Darkest Days keyboardist says, “they have applied 100 percent corporate efficiency to rock ’n’ roll. It’s so cool to see.”
2. Embracing The Hate
No press is bad press. Bad press is good press. That’s the Nickelback motto. It doesn’t matter if they don’t like you, as long as they keep writing about you. And yes, the press and public as a whole continue to take shots at Nickelback, but it doesn’t matter to the band. “They have realized they are polarizing; usually polarizing equals success. “They are not going to change what they do,” manager Bryan Coleman says about the group. The band also finds the negative publicity amusing. They clearly don’t take themselves all that seriously either. After an online petition to prevent the band from playing during halftime at a Detroit Lions game drew 50,000 signatures, the band did a series of “Funny or Die” web skits making fun of themselves. When a critic asked the band to please just die on Twitter, the response: this would be impossible. “We’re Immortals, sent here to torment you.” Neo rocker Patrick Carney, drummer of the Black Keys, told Rolling Stone magazine “rock ’n’ roll is dying because people have become ok with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world,” Kroeger’s response? To thank him for calling Nickelback the biggest band in the world. Nickelback have learned that no matter what people are saying about you, it’s a good thing because they’re still talking. It’s when the talking stops that you cease to be relevant.
1. Maintaining Success
Ultimately, like any other industry, money makes the engine run; in music you can do everything right and be a total failure, and do everything wrong and be a massive success. For Nickelback, despite all of the scorn the band receives from press and public alike, the level of success they have achieved is undeniable. In 2008, the band signed an exclusive “360 deal” with promoter Live Nation who paid an estimated $50 – $70 million to be the exclusive sponsor of Nickelback’s tours running through this year. The profits are split fairly evenly between band and promoter. Only Jay-Z, Madonna, and Shakira have similar deals. Beyond the Live Nation sponsorship deal for their tours, Nickeback pulls in an additional $671,000 a show, resulting in nearly $53 million a year on ticket sales alone. Merchandise can rake in an additional $16 million over the course of a tour. They’ve sold over 50 million albums worldwide, “How You Remind Me” was the No. 1 most played song on U.S. radio in the 2000s according to Soundscan, and Nickeback is the best selling foreign artist of the 2000s in the United States, trailing only the Beatles. Not too shabby at all for the most hated band in the world.