Arama They Didn't

4:52 pm - 03/29/2012

(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 20thanniversary 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 20th 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 Nevermind 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, Butterfly, 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

yukkiz 29th-Mar-2012 09:19 am (UTC)
Lol with "The Richest Rock Band" No no no they're not !!..I'm L'arc fan though..
I think B'z or Mr.Children is the richest rock band in Japan na~
katzsong 29th-Mar-2012 09:22 am (UTC)
Forbes haven't heard of Mr. Children yet...
yukkiz 29th-Mar-2012 12:52 pm (UTC)
Lol ,Forbes haven't heard Mr.Children but TIME know them
atarashiiyoake 29th-Mar-2012 03:42 pm (UTC)
Orly? Receipts? ^^
thewarpedmelody 29th-Mar-2012 09:30 am (UTC)
GLAY, B'z and Mr Children sells more than Laruku. (I think X-japan does too)
There are even richer rock band USA never knew of
(no subject) - Anonymous
thewarpedmelody 29th-Mar-2012 12:36 pm (UTC)
Well I read that X-Japan sold 30+ million record? idk how true is that
yukkiz 29th-Mar-2012 12:51 pm (UTC)
No ,they havn't sold over 20 million yet .They were in 80s which Music industry was downturn
ิีbut they're legend!

Edited at 2012-03-29 12:53 pm (UTC)
asakk 30th-Mar-2012 02:03 pm (UTC)
nowadays GLAY sells less than L'Arc
And X JAPAN sells less too. L'Arc has sold over 40 million records, not 15...
sergel02 29th-Mar-2012 09:29 am (UTC)
lol i remember Yahoo posting about some Asian artist or group and said the same thing "You've never heard of" and half the comments were like "uhh, yeah we have heard of them. Stop assuming we're stupid."

It made me happy =]
Too bad I can't remember now whom the article was about.
baizz 29th-Mar-2012 09:41 am (UTC)

I mean, they're the one that haven't heard of the band, yet they're the one that saying WE haven't heard of it.

sergel02 29th-Mar-2012 10:09 am (UTC)
I mean, they're the one that haven't heard of the band, yet they're the one that saying WE haven't heard of it.

lol so true. Info spreads fast on the internet, so it makes sense people might know who these folks are. I remember one music site saying something about Ayu one time and same thing, the "multi-million seller you've never heard of." The comments were like, "Dear author, if she's sold 50 million albums you can damn well bet most of us have heard of her." lol it was true, most people already knew everything the article was talking about.

My friend frequents this world of warcraft news site, and it's mostly men and women from 20-40 who use the site, and most of them know who snsd are, mainly since an author there is a big fan. Lots of friends who don't even listen to Asian music know who SNSD, Asian kungfu Generation, Utada, Wondergirls, Koda Kumi, BoA, Exile, etc. are. They all made it big with in their home countries and made effort to expand internationally. People naturally find out about them then, through friends, youtube, and just random means. Just because they may not be fans doesn't mean they don't know who they are.

Of course I have friends who never heard of folks like them, but then on the flipside, i never heard of some of the singers they stan. It's always nice to know that you're not the only one who likes something/someone. Those were my feelings when i found out I wasn't BENI's only international fan haha.

Edited at 2012-03-29 10:14 am (UTC)
princessayra 29th-Mar-2012 11:30 pm (UTC)
I read that article before, too. It was for JYJ, but all the info Yahoo wrote was all about their success as TVXQ. :)
mjspice 29th-Mar-2012 10:00 am (UTC)
LOL yeah. 50 billion fans in the world never heard of Laraku! XD

Still good for them & the PR they are getting! :D
carmine_pink 29th-Mar-2012 10:08 am (UTC)
leprechaun Medusa
a blond version of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow

lol, kinda true.

With over 15 million records sold and a cult following around the world, the band never really needed to test the U.S. market.

This. I like how Forbes acknowledges that Laruku doesn't really need to try to "make it" in the US, because they're already so big in the world as it is (though among the so-called cult following).
sheera_greywolf 29th-Mar-2012 12:45 pm (UTC)
Well, their tickets sold out in flat 15 seconds here (and I heard also everywhere); so in their case, who needs US market anyway. Their fans has done enough promotion for them; enabing them to breeze without much marketing
bleed_peroxide 29th-Mar-2012 11:24 am (UTC)
I hate that whole "lol band you're never heard of" because it sounds so hipster, and it's more like, "No, it's the band YOU'VE never heard of." Don't assume people are stupid.
aya_sama3000 29th-Mar-2012 11:59 am (UTC)
leprechaun Medusa

i knew i shouldve been a leprechaun for halloween :pouts:

smokin_drummer 29th-Mar-2012 05:46 pm (UTC)
I was fortunate to see them when they performed at the Otakon a few years ago. I don't think the people at the Baltimore Arena, where the concert was held, and possibly the con itself took the concert seriously, at least not seriously enough. 8-10 thousand people showed up for the thing and caught the folks at the Arena flatfooted. They weren't prepared to handle such a large crowd. It was mild chaos but the show was worth it.
ashitae 29th-Mar-2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
seems like Hyde is now more enthusiast about vamps rather than Larc. Well, 20 years is such a long time. I wonder what kind of music he does in Vamps, though. I was too lazy to check, but prolly need some research later.
javilind 29th-Mar-2012 10:25 pm (UTC)
Comments are so right... I'm a L'ark fan too, but L'arc is just the more popular japanese band between foreings. I don't even know why @.@
tiffa666 30th-Mar-2012 12:22 am (UTC)
It somewhat became of a catchphrase.xD
narnendil 30th-Mar-2012 05:19 am (UTC)
hyde <33

though the female translator was quite annoying imo..
arashic5 30th-Mar-2012 05:20 am (UTC)
Larc is awesome. But wait till you know Mr.Children, author..
vampyrrep 30th-Mar-2012 07:11 am (UTC)
roflmao~ there are a lot of things this Forbes writer does not know.. *shakes head and giggles*
jrock rulez! \m/
phililen3 30th-Mar-2012 09:59 am (UTC)
long blond braids swirling like a leprechaun Medusa as he skips blithely across the stage
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