Much made of Gene Simmons recent assessment that in his view “rock is dead”. Not the first time we’ve heard this and likely not the last. But is it true? My take on what Gene was trying to say is it’s dead for new music and new artists. Not entirely true, but again, I get where he is coming from. The truth is rock, hard rock, and metal are far from dead, but also far from the mainstream in many cases. There are some real good signs for rock out there as far as a live entity. Festivals are bigger than ever and there are more of them of all sizes than ever (maybe too many). U2, Foo Fighters, Metallica, Bon Jovi AC/DC. etc will always fill arenas and stadiums around the world. The mega bands will always draw. Motley is currently doing great business on their final tour. The road has also become a bit over crowded with too many bands touring too often. Competition is fierce out there at all levels for the concert dollar because money is not being made on album sales like the good ole days. The next tier from the pure out and out headliners are the co-headline shed bands. Think Kiss/Def Leppard. Bands teaming up and splitting set times equally to assure a good crowd. Of course this also means shorter set times and expensive tickets many times. There are very few bands not bringing name support or co-headlining these days. Most need the help selling tickets. And this is a huge problem for breaking new rock. There are so few opportunities now for a new young band to get in front of big audiences because the headliners need a name to help sell. Sure some of these packages have a new young band third billed but lets be honest, nobody is in the building that early to see them and in some cases they are buy ons, paying the headliner to play. This all ties in to the issue of the growth of rock.
Another huge problem is lack of development from what is left of record labels. It’s all about the first week now. And then albums are quickly forgotten. Sometimes not even a live show. Too many people in too many bands. Very little focus. Make a splash week one, off the charts by week four. Artist development and consistently working an album for a few singles is almost done now. Many labels hire outside “indies” to do promotion. They work hard for the weeks they are paid but when the label pulls the retainer fee they are on to the next. Tons of hired guns out there. Good people don’t get me wrong, but the real interest in the project is far from long term. Label cuts are so severe few pick up the ball after the outside help ends. Radio is also an issue. Way too many stations don’t truly support new music, or play it first week when the artist is there and never touch it again. The simple truth is mainstream radio will always do what the MOST people want. And the majority would rather hear Free Bird again than a new artist or song. Sad but true.
Delivery of music is also a problem. Everyone knows I am no fan of downloads. But to me it also kills the business. With labels less and less likely to send physical product along with some packaging and information it makes it easier to ignore. If a CD is on my desk I’m likely to have a listen at some point. If i get one of a million emails with a song attached that needs to be downloaded and transferred in any number of formats and services it is so easy to just click delete and not take the time unless it’s really something you want. I also have very little interest in the streaming services. Granted I get my music for free, but I’ve heard none of it that excites me and I think it grows the singles mentality instead of people truly getting into a band and an album. Call me old fashion but I hate when I go see a band an the entire crowd is only there for one song and is lost the rest of the time. Pure sales are so sparse now it’s hard to think who the next artist will be to score a gold record (500K). Used to be a little airplay and video play and you could make that happen. I think the RIAA is going to have to rethink sales awards.
Here’s the upside. There are a TON of artists new and classic making great new music! The bad? So little of it has a chance to break through for the reasons above and many more. But I have never been more excited than I am now for new/newer bands. Alter Bridge is growing and doing great and an arena act in Europe. Kyng, Mastodon, Scorpion Child, Rival Sons, Monster Truck, Farmikos and many more are among my favorite new things and I play them on a regular basis. So I think from that end things are healthy. But what is truly concerning is how few people I find truly care about this stuff now. And how few have no idea Iron Maiden are still around! (dead serious, listen to calls in my satellite show). Everyone is too distracted now. We are over saturated and over stimulated with too many other things. That huge release day moment doesn’t seem to exist for rock anymore. And that sucks. I don’t mean YOU. If you are reading my site and connected to my outlets you are clearly a fan who wants to be in the loop and still very much tied in. But so many who used to be have lost that passion. As a lifer for me that’s hard to understand. I know peoples lives change, but if you love rock how can you not always? Is it dead in this respect for good? No, I don’t think so. Again the mega bands will always do well. Watch what happens when a new Foo Fighters track comes out. But they have become the token mainstream rock act for every show that needs one. We need some new blood for sure getting a shot. The mega 70’s guys only have so much left and some already have stayed too long at the party. We need that one great band with great SONGS above all to come and charge the whole scene. Let’s hope they are out there in a garage somewhere right now. We’ve had those moments where everything was given a kick in the ass; the birth of thrash, the Nu Metal movement (like it or not), the release of Appetite and the impact GnR had, the grunge movement and all the good and not so good from that. We need that band and moment again and it will come. Rock is far from dead. I don’t believe it will ever die. It’s a bit underground and in some cases over saturated but is going nowhere. I have lived it my entire life. I am out there all over the world experiencing the passion so many still have for it. And after 31 years I will continue to fight to get more platforms to help grow it and expose it. It is not easy. People would be stunned to know how hard it is for me to keep all the things I have going even after more than three decades and the success I have been able to carve out with a loyal following. But it has always been for me from day one about keeping it alive. Every day I meet someone that says to me the same thing; “Eddie thanks for keeping this alive”. John 5 just said it to me yesterday on the radio. I appreciate that like you can’t believe because it has always been the primary reason I do what I do. I know rock is not dead because I see and feel the support from all of YOU in all that I do. So thanks for that! We just need a few more to join the party and that one great new band to make it cool again in the mainstream. It will happen, just a matter of time. Keep rocking my friends and keep the faith!