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Metallica are officially the biggest metal band of the past 40 years, based on ticket sales

Metallica 2022
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images)

Metallica have sold more concert tickets across the past four decades than any other metal band, according to a new report published by live music industry 'bible' Pollstar.

The report, commissioned and published to commemorate Pollstar's 40th anniversary, states that the band formed by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich in Los Angeles in 1981 have sold a staggering 19,468,173 tickets across the last 40 years: these statistics factor in only stand-alone headline shows, and not the scores of festivals which the metal superstars have headlined since becoming a stadium-filling act with 1991's 'Black Album'.

Since Pollstar was launched as the live industry's most trusted resource, only five artists have shifted more gig tickets than Metallica: U2, the Dave Matthews Band, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and Elton John, in that order. 

The report also ranked artists in terms of box-office grosses, a chart topped by The Rolling Stones, who've raked in $2,165,280,638 across the past 40 years, having sold 22,137,799 tickets. Metallica are ranked at number 9 in this listing, having grossed $1,219,599,179, more than Paul McCartney, in 10th place ($1,193,812,645) but less than Bon Jovi, Madonna and Celine Dion, among others.

Guns N' Roses are ranked at number 23 in this list (grossing $751,306,152 from 8,470,755 ticket sales), AC/DC are at number 27 (grossing $668,427,967 from 11,512,424 ticket sales) and Iron Maiden are at number 44 ($475,817,777 gross, 9,187,132 tickets sold), two places behind NWOBHM peers Def Leppard ($514,231,844 gross from 11,321,650 ticket sales). 

Pollstar's full, fascinating report can be viewed here.

Paul Brannigan
Paul Brannigan

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.