Rock and roll can never die/
There's more to the picture than meets the eye/
Hey hey, my my...
Song: My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) (Album Version)
Artist: Neil Young.
Has there ever been a lower point in history for Rock And Roll? The Rock And Roll Detective went in search of evidence that this musical genre is still alive. What he found is that Rock And Roll is on a respirator in intensive care.
Consider the fact that in 2010, not a single Rock And Roll record finished in the end-of-the-year Top 25. Does anyone over the age of 35 believe the next Beatles, Stones, or Who are named: Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon or Linkin Park? One of the clues to Rock's demise can be found in the lack of compelling releases in the last few years. Of course, this dearth of good new rock bands has also created gaps that are filled by other music forms such as hip hop, country, and others. Listen to TV commercials that used to copy rock music forms, and today you will hear hip hop and Acid-created drum beats filling in the background sound.
A check of the music stores selling guitars and drums in our towns found further evidence of Rock's demise. Notice that the independent stores are going out of business and only the giant corporate franchise stores remain.Some may also blame educators and politicians for cutting out arts programs, but they never wanted guitars, basses and drum kits in their "concert bands'' and orchestras" anyway.
Follow the footprints, and they end up on the doorstep of the major record labels. When major labels ignored the digital revolution and failed to latch onto early digital sharing sites, they lost a valuable opportunity to keep their money-printing operations going. Instead, they laid off executives who had the experience to sign and nurture new bands into the next big act. Then they released many great bands from their rosters. These are the moves of accountants who lacked any musical vision or understanding of how to cultivate new Rock And Roll music. They simply did what they always do for a corporation making widgets and losing money; cut expenses to the bone and layoff everybody.
Meanwhile, some top artists, such as Paul McCartney and Paul Simon, have proactively jumped to smaller boutique labels that are more attentive. While still more established artists have pursued social media marketing on their own to push new releases with mixed results. Not many multi-platinum record awards are being awarded to artists anymore. Going "gold" is now a challenge. We hear of vinyl making a revival, but The Beatles's Abbey Road was the top selling vinyl record in 2010, 40+ years after its release. This record helped The Beatles become the best selling vinyl artist in the US last year.
DNA evidence can be found on another culprit called Radio. Having merged into huge conglomerates in the 1990s and 2000s, radio is now run by "bean counters" who review computer demographic profiles to program their music. Sorry, the results of their surveys have determined no one wants to hear new rock (unless it is Green Day or Foo Fighters) or even classic rock. So they have been slowly closing down those formats in U.S. cities and moving to the newest flavor-of-the-month genre. Radio failed to break even one major rock album in 2010. When was the last time that happened? The gap is widening between the number of people a top rock-radio hit can reach in the U.S. versus a "pop" hit on Top 40 radio. A number one rock-radio hit reaches just 12 million listeners, whereas Top 40 radio reaches 81 million people.
Finger prints can also be traced to MTV and VH1, which also fail to break new bands these days. Oh that's right, no room for music on a music television channel, when we have to squeeze in dysfuntional reality programs like Jersey Shore and list the Top 25 biggest Hollywood scandals around the clock.
Lest we forget the Apple ipod factor. The advent and popularity of iTunes has spawned a new generation of music fans who only buy one song from an artist before moving on the next one.
The album format has effectively been destroyed, further limiting the amount of record sales and publishing royalties for the starving artist. And the RIAA has rubbed out even more fans by suing them for hundreds of thousands of dollars for illegal file downloads.
Touring and playing the big rock festivals seems to be the last bastion of earning money for rock bands. In 2010, Bon Jovi, Roger Waters and the Dave Matthews Band were the top earners on tour. But what about the lesser known bands? It seems possible to survive solely on the road, hitting the clubs, visiting the college radio stations and waiting for the big summer fests. But that is not the easiest way to make a living.
Hopefully, 2011 will breath some new life into the dying body of Rock And Roll. Not fake, corporate Rock And Roll as portrayed on American Idol or Glee, but smokey-bar, down in the beer tent rock. New releases are expected from R.E.M., Radiohead, Foo Fighters, the Strokes, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Paul Simon, Garbage and more.
The Rock And Roll Detective is hoping this is merely a down cycle and not the end. This year, go out and buy at least one LP or CD every month. Forget the downloads, the sound quality is not as good, and the format sucks for long term archiving (according to the Smithsonian Institute). Support an artist who is making his living writing and playing music for your enjoyment. Check out music by a band you have heard about, but haven't heard, like the Bandallamas Eye to Eye. And if you meet a rocker, buy him a beer.
2011 (c) Rock And Roll Detective(r)
For more information about the Rock And Roll Detective's services or to contact him,
head over to: www.rockandrolldetective.com