The biggest rock band you might not know
February 28, 2019
Shinedown stays on top yet flies under the radar.
Shinedown might just be the biggest rock n’ roll secret you don’t know about.
Unless, of course, you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of fans — Shinedown Nation, as they’re affectionately known — who know everything there is to know about singer Brent Smith and his band.
This army of devoted fans has driven Shinedown to old-school arena-rock superstardom and millions of albums sold despite a lack of runaway hit singles.
It’s a model of success that looks positively throwback in 2019, but for Smith and company, it’s working exceptionally well.
Secret of success: Grueling Touring
Not that any of this should be surprising. Shinedown looked poised for success even as the band was being born in 2001. That’s when Smith saw a record deal for his band, Dreve, evaporate because Atlantic Records wasn’t happy with them. The label, however, thought Smith had potential and kept him under contract to form a new band.
Under Atlantic’s development deal, the Knoxville-born Smith moved to Jacksonville, Fla., and assembled a band consisting of bassist Brad Stewart, guitarist Jasin Todd, and drummer Barry Kerch. Atlantic liked what it heard from Smith’s second effort, and the label released Shinedown’s debut, Leave a Whisper, in 2003.
The album wasn’t an immediate hit, but after the band put in two years of grueling touring with bands like Van Halen and Three Doors Down, they eventually built the foundation of the loyal following that would buoy them through the next decade and a half.
By October 2005, Leave a Whisper had sold more than a million copies and was certified platinum.
And that was just the beginning. The band’s 2018 release, Attention Attention, is Shinedown’s sixth studio album, and its 2019 U.S. headlining tour will hit arenas from coast to coast over the course of about six months.
No big singles, but big sales
The fact that Shinedown built its success in such an old-fashioned way — by touring relentlessly for decades and recruiting an international fan base, with the support of a well-heeled record label — is likely the explanation for the incongruities in the band’s fame. The stats describing the band’s career read like something from the 1970s, not the 21st century.
Consider, first, the downside of the numbers. Of the band’s two dozen or so singles, only one of them — 2008’s “Second Chance” — managed to crack the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Only one other, 2009’s “If You Only Knew,” made it into the top 50. More than half the band’s singles never entered the Hot 100 at all.
Now take a look at the stats that make those other numbers not matter in the slightest. Every one of the band’s albums since 2008’s The Sound of Madness has reached the top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart, and each album prior to Attention Attention has been certified either gold or platinum (or double platinum in the case of The Sound of Madness).
Perhaps even more impressive is the way that Shinedown has virtually owned the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, the standard measure of rock-oriented radio airplay in the United States, since 2003.
Remember all those singles that didn’t make a dent in the Hot 100? Every one of them — each and every one — reached the top 10 on the Mainstream Rock chart, and 13 of them reached the number-one spot. That’s good enough to make Shinedown the second-most-successful band in the history of the chart, in a tie with Van Halen, which is pretty good company to be in.
Glorious Arena Rock
In fact, a band like Van Halen is an apt point of comparison for Shinedown. Like many superstar bands that came of age in the ’70s, Shinedown has relied upon the dedication of an enthusiastic fan base and the consistent attention of rock radio to keep it on top, rather than the often-fickle attention of mainstream pop fans who lose interest after a few hit singles.
Shinedown Nation — members of a fan club who plunk down between $25 and $250 a year for exclusive merchandise, contests, and early access to concert tickets — bear an unmistakable resemblance to the glorious rock-band fan clubs of decades past (remember the KISS Army?), and they show up for concert after sold-out concert.
Those concerts, too, have a throwback air about them. Smith has the ability to command the stage, bathed in laser light from the show’s high-tech multimedia production, and effortlessly direct the sharply focused attention of an audience of thousands.
Shinedown’s recent tour schedule proves that the band has no intention of changing the game plan or slowing down in any way. After co-headlining a tour with Godsmack last summer and touring Europe and Russia through the early winter, the band got back out on the road again in February with Papa Roach and Asking Alexandria. The upcoming show at the Memorial Coliseum will be one of 18 U.S. arena shows that begin in Fort Myers, Fla., and end in Portland, Ore., in July.
In other words, it’s business as usual for one of America’s biggest rock bands, a superstar act that somehow manages to both fly under the radar and stay on top of the mountain.