20 Most Famous Musicians from New Zealand

new zealand artists

Kiwi music may not be as popular around the world as American, British, or Australian, but there are some extremely popular musicians out there that you may not even know are from New Zealand.

New Zealand is my second home, and after spending several years there, I can say that I have really discovered some of the top artists in the country. In this article, I will share with you my list of the top 20 Kiwi musicians, from relatively unknown artists to major pop stars!

1. Lorde

Without a doubt, the most internationally recognized musician from New Zealand is Lorde. She astronomically rose to fame at the age of just 16 after releasing her single “Royals”. This song, a single from her debut album Pure Heroine, went on to become one of the best-selling singles of all time, selling more than 900 million copies!

She has since released 2 more full-length albums and is one of the most successful Kiwi singers of all time!

2. Flight of the Conchords

I’ve been singing (and laughing) along to the Flight of the Conchords’ comedic songs from their self-titled album since it was released in 2008. This comedy musical duo from Wellington has become widely successful in the last couple of decades and has gained worldwide attention. The members of Flight of the Conchords, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, formed the group in 1998 and have since gone on to film TV and shows for BBC and HBO.

Flight of the Conchords is one of my absolute favorite New Zealand musical groups and is the self-proclaimed “almost award-winning fourth-most-popular folk duo in New Zealand”.

3. Six60

Easily one of the most popular New Zealand rock bands is Six60. The pop-rock band with reggae influences was formed in Dunedin in 2011 and has gone on to release 4 albums since. In 2021, Six60 performed one of New Zealand’s largest concerts ever, with more than 50,000 fans! While certainly a ridiculously popular band in New Zealand, they are not as well-known internationally as other artists on this list. But if you have never listened to Six60, you are missing out! Their song “Don’t Forget Your Roots” is one of my favorites.

4. Crowded House

Crowded House was one of the most popular Kiwi/Australian bands of the 1980s. While the band was based in Melbourne, I count them as a New Zealand artist because Neil Finn, the lead singer and main songwriter of the band, is a born and bred Kiwi. 

The band was active through the late 80s and early 90s, releasing massive hits such as “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, “Weather With You”, and “Better Be Home Soon”. They are likely the most well-known New Zealand band of all time and one of the best-selling Kiwi artists ever.

5. Benee

A recent addition to the New Zealand musician family, Benee released her debut album, Hey U X, in 2020. Interestingly, Benee gained a pretty impressive following before releasing her first album through TikTok, YouTube, and SoundCloud. Her single “Supalonely” especially helped to catapult the New Zealand singer to fame.

Since her sudden rise to stardom, Benee has done some exciting things. She played Coachella in 2023, released an EP titled Lychee, and toured with American surf-rock band Wallows. I am excited to see what the young Kiwi musician does next!

6. Kimbra

Even if you haven’t heard Kimbra’s solo work (which is awesome as well!), you have definitely listened to her most popular collaboration. She was the guest singer on Gotye’s 2011 release “Somebody That I Used to Know”, which has sold more than 20 million copies, won 2 Grammy awards, and is one of the most played music videos of all time!  

That said, Kimbra’s success did not end with this massive hit. The Hamilton-native singer has released four LPs, with her latest release, A Reckoning, in 2023. 

7. Stan Walker

Stan Walker is a Kiwi pop star who came to fame when he won Australian Idol in 2009. Walker is Māori and grew up on a marae. He had a tough upbringing, and his family struggled with alcoholism, domestic violence, poverty, and crime. Since his Australian Idol win, he has released 7 albums, including Te Arohanui, which is in the Te Reo Māori language.

He has sold hundreds of thousands of albums and even starred in films, including Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

8. Dave Dobbyn

One of the most iconic New Zealand rock artists and a homegrown legend for Kiwis. He played with several classic rock bands, including Th’Dudes and DD Smash, in the 1980s before launching a successful solo career in 1986. The most successful song from his solo career is undoubtedly “Slice of Heaven”, which has since become the unofficial anthem of the country. In fact, the song has even been used in national tourism advertisements! Other popular Dave Dobbyn songs are “Loyal” and “Welcome Home”.

9. Shapeshifter

Shapeshifter is a unique Drum and Bass band that plays all the instruments for their tracks on live instruments. I had the pleasure of seeing Shapeshifter live at Homegrown Music Festival in 2021; they put on a pretty legendary show! All of the musicians in the band are super talented and have blended jazz, soul, pop, and electronic music to create something truly unique.

The band has been pretty successful in New Zealand, with four NZ Platinum albums. They are also the most popular Kiwi Drum and Bass act.

10. L.A.B.

A reggae band from Whakatane, L.A.B. is one of the most famous New Zealand bands of all time. The band was formed in 2016 and reached massive fame when they released their third studio album in 2019. The single from the album, “In the Air,” became the biggest single of 2020 and, at 12x Platinum, the most successful single in New Zealand ever. The reggae band is known for their laid-back riffs and island-life, funky grooves. L.A.B. is one of my favorite bands to play during a beach day!

11. Unknown Mortal Orchestra

I have been listening to Unknown Mortal Orchestra long before I came to New Zealand. In fact, it was only recently that I realized they were a Kiwi group! The band is based in Portland, Oregon, but Ruban Nielson, the brains behind the operation, is from Auckland.

Nielsen is the guitarist, singer, and primary songwriter for Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and before that, he was the guitarist of The Mint Chicks. 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a psychedelic rock band with a VERY different vibe from the Mint Chicks. The band released their second album, II, in 2013, which was very successful in indie music scenes in the US, New Zealand, and Australia.

12. OMC

OMC (Ōtara Millionaires Club) was a New Zealand musical duo from south Auckland consisting of brothers Pauly and Phil Fuemana. The brothers were from one of the poorest suburbs of Auckland, which they speak of in their musical lyrics. The group’s hit 1995 single was “How Bizarre”, which was on the US Top 40 Billboards for an astonishing 32 weeks!

While OMC may have been a one-hit-wonder with “How Bizarre”, this song still lives on as one of the most iconic Kiwi anthems of all time.

13. The Beths

I have been listening to Expert In A Dying Field, the third album by The Beths’ on repeat since it was released in 2022. The Beths are an Auckland-based indie rock band formed in 2013. While the band’s first 2 albums had some minor local traction, Expert In A Dying Field is what really catapulted the New Zealand musicians to success.

In 2023, The Beths toured with some HUGE names in indie music, such as Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service, The National, and Sidney Gish. In 2024, they are playing shows with Alvvays and at the Coachella music festival!

14. Katchafire

Interestingly, Katchafire started out as a Bob Marley tribute band in 1997 before they eventually started recording and performing original songs. The band’s name comes from the Bob Marley and the Wailers album Catch a Fire, which was one of the first commercially successful reggae albums.

These New Zealand musicians play reggae to its core and have significantly impacted the popularity of the genre in the country. In fact, today, reggae is one of the top 10 most popular music genres in New Zealand. Katchafire has released 6 full-length studio albums. Their first album, Revival, contained the single “Giddy Up”, which was one of the most successful singles from a Kiwi band in 2002!

15. Shihad

Shihad is an alternative rock band from New Zealand that gained significant popularity in the early 2000s. The Wellington-based band formed in the late 80s and released 2 albums in the early 90s with some success. But, the band didn’t reach immense levels of popularity until the late 1999 with the release of General Electric, which is their most successful album.

Shihad still tours and plays shows to this day and is easily one of the most iconic bands from New Zealand.

16. Hayley Westenra

Westenra is an incredibly talented singer and musician from New Zealand. In 2003, at the age of just 16, she recorded her hit album Pure, a classical crossover album that has sold more than 2 million copies and was a number 1 hit around the world. This album remains the best-selling album from a Kiwi musician, and she is the best-selling New Zealand artist of all time.

Since Pure, Westenra has performed in front of the Queen of England, toured around the world, and has recorded 5 more albums.

17. The Mint Chicks

You may recognize The Mint Chicks as the predecessor band of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The band was initially formed by brothers Ruban Nielson and Kody Nielson in 2001. The Mint Chicks were a garage rock and punk band that was relatively popular in New Zealand, even opening up for some prominent bands such as The White Stripes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio, and The Black Lips. The band’s most popular album was their 2006 release Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!

18. Scribe

A Kiwi of Samoan descent, Scribe is the most successful rapper from New Zealand who really helped to boost the hip-hop scene in the country. Scribe’s debut album, The Crusader, sold nearly 200,000 copies and contained some hit singles such as “Dreaming” and “Not Many,” each of which has more than 10 million streams on Spotify.

The Christchurch native has struggled with addiction throughout his life and has been arrested several times. He is set to release his third and final studio album in 2024, titled Scribe is Dead.

19. Keith Urban

Keith Urban, like Russell Crowe, has been claimed by both New Zealand and Australia. The massively successful country star was born in Whangārei, New Zealand, but moved to Queensland, Australia, at the age of 2. So, his musical style was definitely more influenced by his time in Australia. That said, Kiwis certainly still have the right to claim him as one of their own!

He is one of the most successful country musicians from New Zealand with hit country songs like “It’s a Love Thing”, “Blue Ain’t Your Color”, and “Somebody Like You”.

20. Rosé

One-quarter of the K-pop supergroup Blackpink, Rosé was born in Auckland before moving to Australia at around 7 years old. At just 16 years old, she signed with YG Entertainment and moved to South Korea. She joined the all-girl music group Blackpink in 2016, which became an instant success after their first single release, “Boombayah”. They are currently one of the biggest female groups in the world and have sold more than 17 million albums! The group headlined Coachella in 2023 and is one of the most globally recognized Korean pop groups.