(Forbes article+interview) L'Arc-En-Ciel: The Richest Rock Band You've Never Heard Of
Madison Square Garden went dark ten minutes ago, and the crowd hasn’t stopped screaming since. The only clue to the headlining act’s imminent arrival is an ominous synth line emanating from the arena’s speaker system.
Suddenly an image flashes across the giant screen, a digital rendering of what looks like a cell phone screen displaying the word “callin.” More screaming. Then light floods the stage, revealing the four-man band, and decibels double as the music begins. It’s the happiest death metal you’ve ever heard, an improbable mix of Metallica’s heady guitar riffs and U2’s optimistic vocals, with a dollop of anime-inspired lyrics for good measure.
“Calling the fallen angel!” bellows the lead singer, long blond braids swirling like a leprechaun Medusa as he skips blithely across the stage. “Starting now, let’s play tag!”
The group that whipped a near-sellout crowd at the Garden into such a frenzy Sunday night is called L’Arc-en-Ciel, and it’s most likely the richest band you’ve never heard of. With 15 million albums sold worldwide, the group is celebrating its 20anniversary this year with an international excursion that includes the headlining gig at MSG, the first ever for a Japanese act.
By the time L’Arc-en-Ciel winds down its tour in Tokyo later this year, they will have played 17 shows for a total audience of half a million people around the world. For their five shows in Japan, they’ll get over $100 per ticket on average—same as Lady Gaga—and about half that in other parts of the world. When you add in merch and album sales, the band should earn close to $20 million for a few months of work.
“We wanted to do something special to commemorate our 20 anniversary, that’s why we decided to go on a world tour,” said the lead singer, who goes by Hyde, through an interpreter days before the MSG show. An eight-figure payout certainly didn’t dissuade them.
If L’Arc-en-Ciel is Japan’s quintessential rock band, it’s only fitting that Hyde is the quintessential rock star. He walked into his Forbes interview sporting a pair of oversized Prada sunglasses and an entourage to match, replete with multiple managers, photographers and publicists. Moments before our cameras started rolling (see next page), a stylist appeared next to him and spritzed something into his wavy black hair. For concerts, he transforms into a blond version of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow.
Perhaps the styling is the product of ennui, and indeed Hyde admitted he’s gotten a bit bored performing with the same group for such a long time. The band started in Osaka two decades ago, right around the time Nirvana’s was ushering in dual renaissances of rock and flannel. Hyde’s band needed to do something different from the outset.
“When we were going over the choices of band names, all the English names were pretty much taken by all the other bands so we decided to go with French, that way it’d be very unique,” he explained. “L’arc-en-Ciel in French means rainbow. We didn’t really pick the name because of the meaning, at first, but now the name has grown on us so much, and we believe that it really represents who we are in terms of music because our music is very diverse.”
Though heavy on the guitar, L’Arc-en-Ciel’s music was too bright for the grunge era. Despite the influx of foreign language and bilingual artists in the late 1990s and early 2000s—think Rammstein and Marc Antony—Hyde’s band never made the jump across the ocean.
“We didn’t see many Asian stars in America from Asian countries,” he says. “[Now] it’s just the beginning for Asian artists to succeed in America.”
But they found other ways to differentiate themselves, regularly donning outrageously futuristic outfits and occasionally performing as alter-ego band P’Unk-en-Ciel. With over 15 million records sold and a cult following around the world, the band never really needed to test the U.S. market. Its latest album, , debuted atop the Japanese charts in February with 170,000 copies sold; European releases followed earlier this month.
The group’s recent trip to the U.S. seemed almost more like an excuse to go sight-seeing than a concerted effort to make it in the U.S. market. In the middle of Sunday night’s concert, one of the group members produced an “I (heart) NY” bag and removed an assortment of tschotskes, including a souvenir mug and a Big Apple-themed Monopoly game.
But for Hyde, it’s possible that last night’s headlining gig at the Garden was more than just a game.
“After the world tour, we’re going to go on our individual solo products,” he says. “[Mine] is more toward U.S. fans, so I’m looking forward to coming back to America to perform … it’s like we’re being explorers, walking on unpaved roads.”
If so, it’s a low-risk proposition–in all likelihood, L’Arc-en-Ciel has passed “Go” enough times that they’re already set for life.
Source: forbes, forbesyoutube
Forbes call them the richest rockband you have never heard of, my country's newspaper call them the biggest rockband you have never heard of. Seems, like Laruku is the rockband nobody has heard of. :X