When you think of music–especially bands that tour the world–you probably assume that they have an amazing and inspiring origin story. We hear about bands where the members went to high school together, toiling away in a garage and learning the skills to become master musicians. Usually, the band members meet organically and bond over their shared love of a certain sound.
While that scenario is definitely common, there’s another way that bands come into existence: they’re manufactured. Usually, a manager holds auditions with potential band members, finding the right people to fill the lineup. They often focus more on the looks or personalities of the people they choose, rather than on their musical abilities. This formula can be super successful and many of the top boy bands and girl groups started this way. There have been many big manufactured musical acts to create a stir in the industry, garnering legions of adoring fans.
Read on for our list of the top 7 manufactured musical acts. These groups have seen a ton of success and a wide following. You may even be surprised by a few of these.
7. Girls Aloud – 10 Million Albums Sold
These days, reality shows are the new way for manufactured musical acts to be formed. Along with another group on this list, One Direction, Girls Aloud was created during a UK reality TV show. In 2002, contestants competed on a show, Popstars: The Rivals, to compete for a spot in both a boy band and a girl group. The contestants were whittled down and Girls Aloud was born. The group consisted of Cheryl Cole, Nadine Coyle, Nicola Roberts, Sarah Harding and Kimberley Walsh. Though they eventually broke up in 2013, their 11-year run was very successful. In that time, they released five studio albums and had 20 consecutive top-ten singles in the UK. Though their biggest fans are UK-based, they have had broader success selling over 10 million albums worldwide.
6. One Direction – 13 Million Albums Sold
One Direction is one of the newest successes when it comes to manufactured musical acts. They got their start in 2010 when the five bandmates, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson entered the British reality show, The X Factor. The show put the guys together to form a five-person boy band and they got to third place. After that, X Factor judge Simon Cowell decided to sign them to his record label, Syco Records. From their performances on the show and their subsequent albums, One Direction’s fanbase has exploded. They’ve released three albums in the last few years and have already sold 13 million albums worldwide. They’ve also won 128 awards as of May, 2014–and there’s no end in sight.
5. The Monkees – 15 Million Albums Sold
The Monkees is a special entry in this list. Not only are they a manufactured musical act, but they also go their start acting. See, The Monkees started out as a fictional band on a TV show of the same name in 1966. They went through a lengthy series of casting calls to find the perfect bandmembers to fill the lineup for The Monkees, eventually choosing Davy Jones as the lead singer. The creation of The Monkees was in response to the immense success of The Beatles, though this manufactured band was a lot sweeter and more focused on pop music. Although the television show only lasted two seasons, the music that The Monkees performed went on for a lot longer. They had new albums into the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, though it was the music from the early days that really stuck with fans, having created four number 1 albums in the span of just one year. Over the course of the band’s career, it has sold over 15 million albums worldwide. They were also inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2008.
4. ‘N Sync – 50 Million Albums Sold
Why have just one successful boy band when you can have two? That was the idea when Lou Pearlman started ‘N Sync. He had already started Backstreet Boys in 1993 to great success. In 1995, Chris Kirkpatrick, who didn’t make it through the Backstreet Boys auditions, approached Lou and suggested starting another group. Thus, ‘N Sync was born. They brought on Justin Timberlake, Joey Fatone, JC Chasez and Lance Bass to fill in the lineup. The first self-titled album was a huge success, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide. But, after that first album, ‘N sync decided to follow Backstreet Boys’ lead and sever ties with Lou Pearlman. After that, they continued some serious success. They sold more than 50 million albums worldwide until the band’s breakup in 2002. That’s a lot considering they only released three studio albums. Of course, the band members have had loads of success on their own–especially in Justin Timberlake’s case.
3. New Kids on the Block – 75 Million Albums Sold
In the early ’80s, New Edition was the big boy band of the decade. Maurice Starr, the creator of that group, wanted an all-white counterpart to New Edition, so he came up with New Kids on the Block. He started with Donnie Wahlberg, the first member of the boy band, and worked his way from there. While there were a few other members to spend a short time with the group, the lineup eventually ended up with Donnie, Jonathon, Joey, Jordan and Danny. Maurice had them practicing after school to perfect their act before releasing their first album. That seemed to be the right choice, since they were a major success for a decade from the mid-’80s to mid-’90s. They’ve released seven albums from the inception of NKOTB until 2013 and have sold over 75 million albums worldwide. They’ve even recently toured with another boy band on this list: Backstreet Boys.
2. Spice Girls – 80 Million Albums Sold
It’s hard to think of the 1990s without picturing the colorful British pop group, Spice Girls. They were such a huge part of the decade, spawning three popular albums, a slew of merchandise and even a feature film. But, these five girls, with their unique personalities and trendy outfits, didn’t find each other naturally. Instead, they were brought together by a management team comprised of Lindsey Casbon, Bob Herbert and Chris Herbert. The trio saw how popular boy bands like Take That, Boyz II Men and All 4 One were at the time, and wanted to fill a gap in the market with an all-girl group. It was a successful choice. The Spice Girls sold over 80 million albums worldwide from 1994 to 2010. They’ve also happened to win most of the awards they’ve been nominated for with 53 nominations and 42 wins. It seems that their management team was right about forming an all-girl pop group.
1. Backstreet Boys – 130 Million Records Sold
Lou Pearlman has had his hand in the creation of many bands, and Backstreet Boys is his biggest achievement. In 1992, he placed an advertisement searching for band members in a local Orlando newspaper. AJ McLean responded to the ad and was the first official member. In 1993, Lou held another casting call and found the rest of the members: Howie, Nick, Kevin and Brian. Lou seemed to have the magic touch, because Backstreet Boys were an immense success. They’ve released eight albums from 1996 to 2013 and have sold over 130 million records worldwide. That makes them the best-selling boy band of all time! While Lou Pearlman started them off, BSB eventually filed a lawsuit against him in 1997 for taking way more money from the band than he should have. They seem to still be doing just fine without him.