It’s hard for people around this county to comprehend that rock is going away. Country music and hiphop could be next. I was listening to EDM since 2002 like ATB, John Digweed, Sasha, Paul Oakenfold, Tiesto, Ferry Corsten, Armin Van Buuren. Long time before the ‘rock is dead’ articles appeared.
9. For all of the attention paid to the ever-elusive 18-to-34 demographic, there just hasn’t been enough reason over the last decade for major labels to continue chasing them, particularly those outside the standard pop market. In the 50s and 60s, this demographic was the biggest get for rock and roll, as noted by the pandemonium caused by Elvis and the Beatles. And sure, this age group is still considered the biggest overall seeker of new music, but that doesn’t always translate to a consistent cash flow. And thus, simply getting the young demo to hear the new music isn’t enough. So the rock industry has shifted its targets to the entrenched middle grounds, aiming to satisfy those who very rarely seek out new music, because those are the people who will really latch onto a particular band and buy the crap out of their merchandise.
8. The internet has given us many wonderful things, including more variety of entertainment than a child growing up in the 70s could have ever dreamed possible. Games, movies, and yes, music, have all had a ballooning of availability thanks to the World Wide Web. But with a seemingly endless pile of music shoved onto our laps, we’re now living the curse of “the man who suddenly got everything he wanted.” Except, unlike the assumption posited by Willy Wonka (er…Roald Dahl), not everyone is living happily ever after. This overwhelming abundance has made it almost impossible to sustain a decent attention span. It’s become more and more difficult to really immerse yourself in any particular band, because there’s always another similar-sounding band just around the digital corner, and maybe they’re even a little better, and boy you’d really be remiss if you didn’t at least give them a listen to compare. And it’s also killed the idea of the giant, rock star world tour, because unless you’re the Rolling Stones, most fans seem content to look up a clip of the concert on YouTube and call it a day.
7. Supply and demand is the basic tenant of all commerce, whether that product happens to have any artistic merit or not. And since we’ve already established that there is far too much new music being generated for any one band to really corner the market, that means that most of these up-and-coming bands now have to settle for a pittance. It was recently assumed (and even more recently disproved) that the best way for a new artist to get their music heard, and thus, get more money in their pockets, is by using the many facets of the digital age to their advantage. Online radio stations like Pandora, for instance, could help bands introduce themselves via similar-sounding artists. Other streaming music services such as Spotify act in a similar fashion, almost like a dating service for musicians and their possible fans. The problem is that Pandora has become increasingly influenced by the record companies, and are now filling up the bulk of their “suggestions” with already established artists. The little guys, ironically, are now finding it harder to get into the mix, which seemed to be the initial point of the service. And forget about making any real money off it even if you’re lucky enough to squirm your way into their catalogues. Pandora only pays artists $0.001 per stream. (Spotify’s price points are only slightly better.)
6. Touring costs have been driven up significantly over the last decade, to the point where it’s becoming damn near impossible for up-and-coming bands to get their live music heard to enough people to pay for their food during the tour. That coupled with the aforementioned notion that too many younger listeners are choosing to stay in their homes and watch a bootlegged concert that someone filmed using their iPhone (who probably wasn’t even paying attention to the show), on their laptop instead of going out to a show. Even if there’s a small cover charge to get into the venue that’s hosting a bunch of live music, much of the younger crowd scoffs at it. So now lower tier bands are finding it harder to fill the seats. Even established rock artists are finding it hard to sell out club gigs, while the perennial megastars (U2, Stones, Chili Peppers) might still be selling out arenas, they’re playing shows much less frequently to raise the demand.
5. If the central argument for why it’s so difficult for new rock bands to get noticed today is because there’s no longer any money in it, then that’s short-shrifting the idea that rock and roll was supposed to be more about art than commerce. Obviously, no one should be living in poverty for the sake of their art, which may be what they’re getting at with that argument, but shouldn’t the lack of big time money help weed out those who are only in it for the money? In theory, that’s exactly what’s happening. It just happens most of these legitimate “artists” aren’t receiving any kind of notable exposure. Because there’s your Catch-22: Stay true to your artistic integrity or “sell out” for more recognition. But even the lines of what constitutes a sell-out have been completely revamped in this new age. After all, what musician hasn’t authorized at least a song to be used in an advertisement or a movie. It’s one of the most efficient ways to earn income nowadays. But that’s not to say “selling” your song to pop culture will get you noticed…
4. Unless you make music that can fit neatly into the mold of pop radio’s ever-narrowing standards, you’re unlikely to experience the kind of mainstream success that would make you a true star. And that’s why you see fewer and fewer “rock stars” coming to the forefront–or even the middle–of the music crowd. That’s not to say that some rock bands don’t do very well for themselves (largely because of rigorous touring), but you’d be hard-pressed to name a true rock star that’s emerged in the last couple of decades. Maybe Jack White? Truthfully, in terms of sheer popularity, the closest thing we have to a figurehead is Chris Martin. Or, possibly even worse, Adam Levine. But those guys are, at best, pop icons who occasionally dabble in rock sub-genres. They don’t make traditional rock and roll.
3. The full quote from Gene Simmons about the sorry state of rock music is as long-winded as it is churlish, but here’s a snippet:
“The death of rock was not a natural death. Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered…You’re better off not even learning how to play guitar or write songs, and just singing in the shower and auditioning for The X Factor… Where’s the next Bob Dylan? Where’s the next Beatles? Where are the songwriters?”
Well, if we’re using Dylan and the Beatles as the definition of rock and roll, there’s certainly no shortage of them out there. Singer-songwriter types pop up constantly, it’s just rare for them to get the kind of radio play those other two examples quite frankly lucked into back in their day. But herein lies the main problem: What the hell constitutes rock and roll?
2.op rock, punk rock, soft rock, hard rock, indie rock, acid rock, garage rock, alt rock, art rock, surf rock, space rock, rap rock, skate rock, glam rock, goth rock, folk rock…there’s even Viking rock. So just what the hell do people even mean when they’re talking about rock and roll? It seems to be more about an attitude than any clear genre boundaries, but it’s still worth exploring what types of bands usually fall into the category. We give bands like Guns N Roses and AC/DC a lifelong pass onto the hollowed grounds of rock and roll, even though their styles are closer to blues and heavy metal than the sound of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. The fact is, there hasn’t been a “pure” rock and roll band in mainstream music for a very long time. Really, ever since the first major pop-rock groups came onto the scene in the 60s (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc…), rock and roll was already becoming a thing of the past.
1. Most of the time when you hear someone talking about “rock and roll,” they’re using it as an interchangeable term for “classic rock.” That’s to say, the music chosen from the album-oriented rock format from the 60s, 70s, and 80s that radio stations have decided to grant the tag of “real” rock music. But that’s not even the most popular time span for rock and roll. Honest-to-goodness rock and roll exploded in the late 40s and lasted for another decade or so before getting diluted and splitting into dozens of sub-genres. Most music historians agree that the purist form the of the genre pretty much fizzled out in the waning years of the 50s. Once The Big Bopper, Richie Valens, and Buddy Holly went down in that plane crash, that was pretty much the final nail in the coffin of “traditional” rock and roll. (“The Day the Music Died” should really be called “The Day Rock and Roll Lost Its Way.) But it doesn’t matter. The spirit of rock and roll has lived on in various forms ever since, even if it’s not exactly the same as it used to be. So…maybe we should all stop trying to recapture something that was already lost more than 50 years ago?