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"We are not Smash Mouth; we do not have a radio hit. We're not a One-Hit Wonder, we're a ten year failure."
Chris Demakes of Less Than Jake

The music business can be quite fickle. For every One-Hit Wonder, there's at least one act who manages a streak of hits that lasts for decades, or at least a handful of big hits.

Then there's the No-Hit Wonder, an artist who proves commercially successful, or at least manages to have a long career, without having a hit at all. While there are other ways an artist can achieve success besides having hits (such as album sales and concert attendance), it's considered rare since album sales are generally driven by popularity of individual songs, and artists with no hits tend not to develop enough of a fanbase to make their concerts well-attended. In many cases, a No-Hit Wonder will have had singles that never went anywhere on the charts, but which are still well-known and well-loved by a large number of people. See also Hitless Hit Album.

Examples of No-Hit Wonder include:
  • Ryan Adams has had only two charting singles stateside (yes, one of them is his near-hit "New York, New York"), but both peaked so low they might as well have not charted. Internationally, he's had more luck, with six hits in the UK.
  • Famed Canadian roots rock group The Band was one of the most influential groups of the late 60s and early 70s, but never had a song reach the Top 20 in the USA. (They did have two albums go gold and reach the top ten).
  • Comedian Tim Wilson has been recording since 1993, mixing live stand-up comedy with comedic songs, done either live or in studio. Despite his lack of chart success, Wilson is a regular fixture on The Bob and Tom Show and has album sales in the millions.
  • Rodney Carrington, even after getting an ABC sitcom that lasted two full seasons. He finally managed to crack the Top 40 in late 2009 with a dead-serious Christmas song that got to #31.
  • Michigan-based comedic act Da Yoopers has been around since 1975, self-releasing comedy albums since 1986. Though known mainly in Michigan for their regionally topical songs such as "Second Week of Deer Camp" and "Rusty Chevrolet," the band has received regular airplay on Dr. Demento shows. None of their songs have ever charted.
  • Led Zeppelin's sole entries on the UK singles chart are a couple of rereleases. They never released singles in their home country until they broke up. They were more successful overseas; "Whole Lotta Love" hit the top five in nine countries.
  • The Drive-By Truckers have released 8 albums in 9 years, but have no chart success.
  • Generally this will happen to peddlers of Album Oriented Rock — the word "album" should clue you in that they don't tend to have hit singles.
  • Also common in Texas; countless country/Americana/red dirt acts will build enormous fanbases through clubs and sell hundreds of thousands of albums, but never break through into the mainstream. Examples include Cross Canadian Ragweed and Randy Rogers Band.
  • Doctor Steel has a large and growing fanbase, but only released five albums (three of those via digital download) and never charted.
  • Phish. They came close to a mainstream pop hit a couple of times (with "Free" in 1996 and "Heavy Things" in 2000) but fell quite short both times.
  • Jeff Buckley. He never hit the Billboard Hot 100, and his only album (Grace) didn't even hit the top 100 of the albums chart (it peaked at #149).
  • The Pixies. Except in the UK and the Billboard Modern Rock Chart.
  • Whereas the other big third wave ska groups in The Nineties (No Doubt, Sublime, Reel Big Fish, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones) managed at least one hit single at the peak of the ska revival, Less Than Jake continues to be the only one that hasn't charted very highly but remains popular as a live act.
  • Country-rapper Colt Ford has had impressive grassroots levels of album sales despite having singles that got no higher than #53.
  • The Ramones. One of the most influential bands of all time. Highest charting single? "Rockaway Beach", which only made #66 on the US Pop chart in 1978.
  • The Velvet Underground, who barely scraped the lowest part of the Billboard chart with their first two albums.
  • Judas Priest. Their biggest hit "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" peaked at #67.
  • Cledus T. Judd, a country music parodist, has been constantly recording since 1995. He didn't even chart until 2000, and his best chart entry is #48 country. Yet he's recorded over a dozen albums and even had one go gold without a charting single.
  • Wire. Did well on the Independent Music charts, but for the most part have remained just under the radar since their formation. Almost had hits with "Outdoor Miner" and "Kidney Bingos".
  • Folk-rock and children's music duo Trout Fishing in America has been recording regularly since 1992, but despite a couple Grammy nominations, they've never had a single hit.
  • Rodeo star and singer Chris LeDoux never had a big hit on the country charts, but his name is well-known in the genre, especially through his longtime association with Garth Brooks — Garth name-drops him in "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)" and paid tribute to him in "Good Ride Cowboy".
  • Tom Waits has been steadily releasing music for almost four decades and has yet to have a hit single, even though his highest-charting album, Bad As Me peaked at #6 on the billboard charts. He seems to be a popular cover choice though, as Rod Stewart took a cover of Waits' "Downtown Train" to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and yet, in a stunning aversion of Covered Up, Waits' version still remains the more famous version).
  • Yo La Tengo has never had a hit single, yet they're darlings of the indie world and have had a long, successful career.
  • Dropkick Murphys have never charted on any singles chart (nope, not even the Billboard Modern Rock Chart) despite steady album sales and massive regional popularity in the New England area of the United States. In fact, their song "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" is one of a few songs to ever sell over 1,000,000 digital copies in the United States without ever charting on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Welsh Psychedelic folk band Gorky's Zygotic Mynci is probably one of the more unfortunate examples of this trope. Despite decent album sales, critical acclaim on both sides of the pond, a cult following and the endorsement of beloved BBC DJ and indie tastemaker John Peel, the band failed to have any of their singles make the Top 40 in the UK. In fact, they had singles that charted at #41, #42, #43, #47 and #49. The fact that they sounded nothing like the other contemporary young British guitar bands at the time probably only further hindered their chart success.
  • Progressive Rock band Gentle Giant's biggest hit was their album Free Hand which managed to get up to #48 in the U.S. And these guys lasted for 11 albums before breaking up.
  • The 4½-decade career of NRBQ would qualify as legendary if it hadn't happened almost completely under the radar. The now-familiar epithet "Greatest Band you've Never Heard Of" was originally coined in the '70s to describe them.
  • Primus (and their many, many splinter acts) only managed to land a #62 single (#12 in the UK) with "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver", and Top 10 albums with Pork Soda and Tales From The Punchbowl in 1993 and 1995 respectively, but have kept a loyal following since their formation in 1984.
  • King Crimson has been around since the sixties, has had multiple band members, many of whom, have worked with some of the biggest names in rock music, and has inspired most prog-rock bands of the last few decades, yet they are mostly unknown by the mainstream.
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