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The Top Five Most Rabid Music Fan Bases

by Josh "Smokey Hell" Nelson

What do you get when you mix Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Tool, Slipknot and the Insane Clown Posse? No, it’s not the Coachella 2025 headliners. And no, it’s not the return of Columbia House. You have crossed the threshold of fandom straight into the territory of music cults.

Normally, that would be a pejorative, however, in this case, it is offered as the highest of compliments towards those who have reached the upper echelon of their respective communities.

Why does music grab us so intimately the way it does?

According to a Medical News Today article from Dr. Bevil Conway, Ph.D., our brains have evolved to have a “strong response preference for harmonic tones versus noise… our brains [have] a stronger preference for sounds with pitch than macaque monkey brains.”

In an article by Jill Suttie in Greater Good Science Center (Berkeley University of California), she states, “Music directly impacts oxytocin levels, which, in turn, affect our ability to trust and act generously toward others – factors that increase our social connection.” In layman’s terms, birds of a feather flock together based on mutual interest that strengthens our societal bonds. If you meet someone new and discover they are big into the same artist(s) you are, do you not instantly like them at least a little bit better? The science says you not only do, but you inherently trust them more as well. 

As Tom Petty said, “Don’t bore us; get to the chorus!” Here it is, Smokey’s “Top Five Most Rabid Music Fan Bases.” This list is my way of giving you your well-deserved flowers; just don’t get too close…

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The Top Five Most Rabid Music Fan Bases

5. Slipknot | Maggots

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First up, we have the “Maggots.” The moniker bestowed upon the Slipknot faithful might sound like a dig, but as always, the context provides a glimpse into the layers behind it.

In a 2022 article from the Independent (UK), Slipknot founding member Shawn Crahan (better known as Clown) had this to say about coining the term “Maggots “ for their fans: “Slipknot as a band, we deal with a lot of stuff, and I figured maggots deal with the worst stuff of all. They deal with all the death and shit, and then, at the end of it, they grow wings and turn into flies, then that fly will come back and lay an egg. […] Then there comes a day when [fans] might get married, have a kid, get a job, whatever. Slipknot’s not your everyday life anymore, but you still hear it. I call fans maggots because they grow wings, and they come back. If we’re lucky, they come back with their offspring. I’ve got two, three generations of maggots.”

Kind of sweet when you think about being named after a corpse-feasting creepy crawly. Having grown up in the era of Slipknot, I have witnessed first-hand the level of fandom elicited, both devoted and relatively tame when compared to our next entry.

4. Beyonce | Beyhive

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Have you ever seen the movie “The Wicker Man” with Nicolas Cage? Want to play a fun game? Wait for Beyoncé to release literally anything, then go online and say you don’t care for it. I will send your family flowers as condolence for setting the Beyhive on you (“Not the Beys”).

Just ask Kid Rock, who, back in 2015, kicked the hornet’s nest by saying of Beyoncé, “doesn’t have a fucking ‘Purple Rain,’ but she’s the biggest thing on earth. How can you be that big without at least one ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ or ‘Old Time Rock & Roll’?”

You see, Kid Rock has never had a No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, so you can see where the confusion stirred up in his hillbilly head came from. Using his frame of reference, Lynyrd Skynyrd (who wrote “Sweet Home Alabama”) has sold 28 million albums, and Bob Seger (who wrote “Old Time Rock & Roll”) has sold an impressive 75 million records. Vaunted company, to be sure. However, if you combined both those artists’ sales and then doubled it, you’d be getting into Beyoncé territory, whose sales are in excess of 200 million, in far less time it took those artists to reach their numbers.

While we’re at it, Prince himself only sold 75% of what Beyoncé has accomplished, even with the post-mortem sales spike. And Prince was one of the greatest musicians in human history. You sell Beyoncé short at your own peril.

3. Insane Clown Posse | Juggalos

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Is there a more misunderstood grouping of music fans than the Juggalos/Juggalettes? Yes, they may look like psychotic clowns from deep Appalachia, but don’t let that fool you; they are. However, they have good intentions!

In a 2010 article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Insane Clown Posse (ICP) member Shaggy2Dope had this to say: “A Juggalo comes from all walks of life – from poverty, to rich, from all religions, all colors. Anyone can be a Juggalo. It’s just kind of like a frame of mind because you can be rich and still be a hard dog. It doesn’t matter if you’re born with a silver spoon in your mouth or a crack rock in your mouth.”

If that doesn’t put it succinctly… The Juggalos are such a force to be reckoned with, they have their own festival! The Gathering Of The Juggalos is an incredible mix of music, games and entertainment that Ma and Pa would be proud of. Between Hatchet House, the Juggalo Cleanup Crew and Juggalos Making A Difference, the ICP faithful have also proven their penchant for charitable works is as important as the buckets of paint they adorn themselves with.

Don’t be so quick to judge before you’ve walked a mile in their size 32s. 

2.  Tool | No Commonly Accepted Fans Name

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When it comes to this band, antagonistic would be quite the understatement in describing the relationship they share with their hardcore fans.

Vocalist Maynard James Keenan once referred to Tool fanatics as insufferable [ableist slur redacted]. Further clarifying his comment, he said: “Our core fanbase aren’t fanatics. They’re music lovers, artists and good people. It’s the fanatics that are insufferable.”

Captain America said it best, “He’s out of line, but he’s right.” Full disclosure:  I am one of those fans. Not those fans, the other ones. As a musician, I appreciate and respect the intricate writing and intention behind Tool’s recordings. To have the fluid time signatures displayed on tracks such as “Schism” or “Lateralus” is impressive in itself, let alone the lyrics in the latter being set rhythmically to the Fibonacci sequence.

All art is subjective, but what makes it objective is our personal interpretation. Do I feel Maynard James Keenan, Justin Chancellor, Danny Carrey and Adam Jones sit around studying numerology, Egyptology and polyrhythms? Well, perhaps Danny on that last one, but on the whole, I believe the Tool die-hards project more intricacies into the output than Tool intends.

There is nothing wrong with that; they clearly keep coming back, despite the vitriol received from the band (go listen to “Hooker With A Penis,” where James Keenan goes off on unnamed fans accusing Tool of “selling out”).

This fan base is nearly unprecedented, one I didn’t think I’d see again, that is, until No. 1 on our list came along… 

1. Taylor Swift | Swifties

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If I were ever murdered, please ask Taylor Swift to write a slightly ambiguous song about it so that Swifties could solve my case within an hour and give my family peace.

The degree of investigation Swifties employ to sleuth out references and easter eggs in Taylor’s music is almost without precedence. The only comparison I could make is to the fanatics who would search for clues in The Beatles lyrics and album covers, whether they existed or not. John Lennon, Paul McCartney (or is it William Shears?), George Harrison and Ringo Starr knew this and would play with the fanatics with tongue-in-cheek clues. However, Taylor has a vastly different approach.

Having blossomed in the millennium era, the online connection with fans has been nurtured to the point of a symbiotic relationship. She feeds them morsels and content, which they, in turn, repay with love, devotion and Brinks trucks full of money. This is how Swifties helped Taylor cross the Rubicon into Capital-B billionaire territory.

To quote our recent album review of “The Tortured Poets Department” by Trash Sandwiches: “Swifties are rabid to find Easter eggs and connections between past and present songs or speculate on the subject [of] any number of big-brain conspiracy theories.” 

I posit the following:  What artist can look at that connection with their fan base and say they don’t want that? I know if I had ever hit it big as a musician, the Taylor Swift model would be the exact game plan I follow.

There you have it, folks, dipping my toes back into the entertainment waters I was baptized in so many years ago. Honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the list include Phish, The Grateful Dead, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga and your mother.

Thank you for taking the time to read my initial foray into In-Between Media (IBT), and remember, where there’s Smoke… there’s fire! For more entertainment and sports takes, find me on Twitter, @MrSmokeyHell.

*Photo Credit: Carter Skaggs/The Enquirer – USA TODAY Sports*

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