Is Rock music dead? Seems to be the big question in the rock and metal circles. Gene Simmons recently stated it, which by itself had many other rock artists comment one way or the other. You can read the article yourself here, done by his son, Nick: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/gene-simmons-future-of-rock. Some agreed, like Joe Perry of Aerosmith, and others like Slash kind of agreed, and still others didn’t, from Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge and a host of others somewhere in between.
I’ll go on record as saying it’s not. But the industry is. Let me explain. I think the collapse of the rock scene, as we knew it, is because of the lack of record labels and the whole technology process. Many of us who grew up before the internet and downloading became the norm, had to go to a record store and buy an album, wait in lines to get concert tickets and wait for the monthly rock mag to come out to get any news on the band, as well as what your local radio station had to offer. Times have changed. That being said, it’s all good right? I’m not so sure. If you are a new band looking to get discovered, good luck with that. With a lack of record labels, doing the business as usual gives you little chance to make it in the big leagues.
When the record labels ran rock music, it was clear they would invest in them. They would pay for them to get in the studio, make a record, get it promoted, make a video, get them on tours and support them for the term of the contract. In most cases it took three or more albums for them to catch on nationally. Based on today’s standards, bands like Aerosmith, Styx, KISS, Journey and the Grateful Dead wouldn’t make it. That’s what I think is missing today. No support system.
The other side is what today has to offer. Technology. Everyone can make their own record label, try and book their own shows, self promote through social media and try to be heard. Today, I think bands actually have to truly work their art to make any money and/or a living at it. You already know that record sales aren’t happening (Taylor Swift aside). It’s back to grass roots and trying to grow your following that way. I think that’s what most of the naysayers are saying about rock being dead, not that there is no good music being made.
You have to take a good look out there and see things at face value. Rock stars as we have known them are no longer there. Even the legends seem commonplace now, maybe because of social media. The fact that most of the bands that we love are playing clubs should indicate that there is a problem or even some of them struggle to get some kind of record deal. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see most of these bands in a intimate setting and in some cases meet them after the show. But the music isn’t dead, just how they get a following is. Maybe, it’s because there aren’t many record stores anymore and maybe it’s because everyone just downloads what they want, free or not.
When all the arena rockers are dead and gone who is going to step in. Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, KISS, Foo Fighters, etc. are all getting older and won’t be around to carry the torch. There is the festival option, where several acts will tour together and believe it or not, not sell out. But at least they are touring and playing shorter set lists because of the time limits. Fans don’t get a win-win in any scenario.
To bring this back to a positive side, there is plenty of new music out there for us to consume. Bands like Scorpion Child, Black Stone Cherry, Alter Bridge, Vintage Trouble, Rival Sons, and artists like Slash still produce great records and music and still tour. Lastly, it seems these bands do much better overseas than they do here. All the bands I just listed play arenas overseas but only clubs here. Not sure what that says but either way, they don’t get the record sales they should. If you want it, there is new music out there, it’s not dead, it’s thriving, but more at a local level. If some of them get a record deal, they get a tour and make ends meet, but being huge is going to be something of the past. In the meantime, maybe I will see you at a club.