Is Rock & Roll a dying genre? A recent viral video highlights album sales over the decades. When one compares rock & roll to other genres, a sad story emerges for headbangers.. and something has to be done about it… NOW!
The video stopped me dead in my tracks the minute I finished watching it. This validated a concern I had for years and touched on the genre of music I’ve physically and cognitively connected with since I was a pre-teen.
Rock & roll may be on its way out of the music industry, almost entirely. Watch the video and read on – a clear picture will emerge.
Speaking as a rock drummer, someone who donned headphones during his teenage years and snapped drum sticks ad nauseam for hours on end, it’s time to face the truth. Today, I represent a parent who has a six-year-old boy who thankfully has an interest in playing drums. Given what I highlight further below, I plan to provide drum lessons…immediately this weekend. We cannot let rock & roll die without a fight!
Don’t believe me? Are you someone who still cranks up the volume when a Nirvana tune comes on the radio? Check out how the genre holds up over the decades:
1969: The summer of love, when everyone was on the pill, having sex at Woodstock, and dropping LSD in San Francisco… activities I would never recommend to my son, Connor. But, The Beatles are on top to no one’s surprise. Elvis is still the king and honorable mentions are due to the likes of The Doors, Pink Floyd, and Santana.
1979: At the height of the Disco era, it’s good to see The Eagles on top. Elvis is still…. STILL in the top ten at #2, which is impressive. The Beatles are still there, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin are rocking album sales too, the latter representing one of rock & roll’s greatest bands. But, there’s Abba, Neil Diamond, and The Bee Gee’s. You can make the case that all of these artists are talented but R&R, during the late 70s, continued to play a major role.
1989: There’s no question who rules the roost in ’89. R&R has slipped as the top genre of music. Michael Jackson, Madonna, and the likes of Whitney Houston and George Michael are in the top ten. One can make the case that ‘pop’ music also includes R&R music, but it is definitely not. R&R comes from the gut, requires lead guitarists, drummers, and instruments that do not represent synthesized music. However, the genre is well represented by the likes of Queen, The Boss, U2, and Guns N’ Roses.
1999: Having skipped over one of the most important decades for R&R, the grunge era, let’s see where things stand for headbangers. Two R&R artists appear at the bottom of the barrel: Metallica and AC/DC. Elton John, at this stage of his career, is a pure-bred pop artist and the Backstreet Boys make an appearance, a band that still prompts me to vomit whenever I hear their music played on the radio. Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Garth Brooks: respected artists but no rockers other than the two bands mentioned previously.
2009: There are no R&R artists in the top ten. Seven of them are Hip Hop artists. Baby Boomers are probably buying The White Album for the 5th time but that band is long gone in terms of album sales. We can confirm Elvis’s death, albeit he can still be seen on the streets of Las Vegas. There’s a clear move away from amps, snare drums and Fender Guitars. R&R, in 2009, represented an older genre of music compared to what young music enthusiasts were buying.
2019: Two decades away from 1999 and it’s obviously where R&R is headed, but those who play and appreciate this genre of music have to face the truth. R&R, in our music universe, represents the former ‘planet’ called Pluto, which is defined as something else now (but I’m not wasting my time Googling it to find out). In fact, it’s moving out of our planetary orbit entirely.
If this doesn’t prove the point, look at the instrument makers who are centered in the rock world. According to Digital Music News, “…electric guitar sales have plunged 23% since 2008.”
Need further proof that R&R is dying? Check out the visual from UCR’s story, ‘2019 Concert Preview.’ Not one band, not even a Gen-X band, is featured. Where’s that great Millennial rock band? Does Gen-Z, those in their teens and early 20’s, even know how an electric guitar makes sound? I think not.
Something has to be done, and quick. I may not be the savviest musician or music aficionado in the world but there’s one thing we can do as parents to turn the tide. We need a rock & roll revival, one that introduces real music to the next generation.
I write this having dreamt about playing Red Barchetta in a dream last night, a song I practiced hundreds of times in our family’s basement with I was a teenager. I pen this nearly a year and a half after my last R&R gig in a cover band. And, I also write this after dismantling my drum set and my son’s smaller kit a few weeks prior to host a Halloween party in our basement. It’s time to dust them off and start wailing.
We need to put instruments in the hands of our kids, and show them how to rock… right now.
I recall the time when I was growing up, when 1950s rock & roll was played on the New York metro radio station, WCBS/101.1. My mother tuned into this radio channel for years and I mentally tuned it out when she did. I would not do so today if I had the opportunity. They stopped playing that era of music years ago, but it begs the question, will there be a time when stations stop playing rock & roll?
You can make the case it will always be available on satellite radio or one can queue it up on Spotify or Pandora. But that’s not the point. We need a new generation of rockers to keep the spirit alive before it fades away. Otherwise, when our grandkids get married, we’ll be stuck at the reception watching some sh*thead behind a DJ Controller who thinks he’s ‘playing’ music.
Rock on my brothers and sisters, rock on!