It has been a long time since rock music dominated the music industry. Nowadays the music charts are mostly filled with bands made famous by TV shows such as The X factor and classic RnB and pop bands. There has been the odd occasion where a rock band has made the top ten in the charts or even topped it, but it is not a frequent occurrence. Many music experts and producers would say that guitar music is dead, or at least dying, but what has caused this to happen? Talent shows such as American Idol and The X Factor do get a lot of the blame and rightly so, however they are an easy target. There are other issues that are contributing to the demise of guitar bands within the charts, yet there are those who would argue the charts aren’t as important as they were 30 years ago, and regardless of the charts, rock music is as healthy as ever.
Since 2011, The X Factor has managed to produce 15 number one singles by participants on the show. One Direction, a band that has taken over the charts in recent years, has had a number one album since their performance on the show as well as a number of singles topping the charts. Their puppy-love, parent-friendly pop music has earned them numerous fans from around the world, with young teenagers falling at their feet. Combined with Justin Bieber, boy bands have slowly rose to prominence in recent years, pushing rock music out of the charts as thousands of young kids and teenagers download boy bands’ biggest songs. This commercial success has only increased the popularity of pop music and RnB, two genres that overlap and complement each other, and shunned rock/guitar music. However, it is not only the music produced by these bands that are affecting rock music, but the image of the boy bands that is destroying rock’s reputation.
Boy bands are often the subject of abuse from punks, metal-heads, rockers and hipsters, yet boy bands are trying to present an image to the world that they are “rock ’n’ roll.” It is a regular occurrence to see a member of a boy band strumming a guitar in a music video insinuating that they are a rock band. Not only that but the members of One Direction recently had tattoos done to try and further present this joke of an image, with rumours that their management told them to get them done. The band then stated that they are a rock band with influences such as The Who and Queen; copywriting songs written by these bands does not count as an influence. Bands such as One Direction give rock a bad name by trying to act like rock stars. True fans of rock know that One Direction are about as far from rock that you can get, but the sad reality is that there will be many young kids and teenagers out there who will class them as that. This image gives crazed fans, who have threatened to murder people on Twitter, an argument against true rock fans. This spurs on an army of fans to ensure that One Direction remains one of the biggest bands in the world, thus leaving rock and roll to struggle to make the charts.
Aside from boy bands and The X Factor, there are other issues for new rock bands trying to make it big. The resurgence of band reformations in recent years has arguably prevented recent bands the commercial success they deserve. Recently bands such as Pulp, The Stones Roses, Black Sabbath and The Rolling Stones have reformed or come out of a hiatus to perform live again, and in some cases record a new album. These bands have gone on to headline major festivals in the past few years, preventing new bands from doing so. Headlining a major festival brings a dramatic increase in album sales, as Mumford & Sons discovered after their Glastonbury slot in June 2013. Until 2013, the last band to headline a major festival within 5 years of releasing their debut album was The Killers at Reading Festival 2008, with The Darkness managing to headline Reading in 2004 with their debut out only a year before. It is hard to see a band such as The Vaccines headlining Reading in the next two years unless they really pump out the hits on their third album; however all is not lost for rock music.
The major festivals in the UK and globally started out as rock festivals and many still try to keep that identity. Year after year these festivals sell out all their tickets with rock bands headlining the events, with some festivals, such as Glastonbury, having such a high demand for tickets that they can’t cope. Tickets regularly sell out in hours, even when ticket prices have soared in recent years. True, Reading Festival and others tend to sell out a little bit later than they used to, but they are still selling all their tickets to an event by bands who have not necessarily dominated the charts. Not only are festivals helping rock music survive, but the fans of rock are as dedicated as any others. There is no better example of this than when Rage Against The Machine earned a Christmas number one with “Killing In The Name Of,” as fans of music protested about The X Factor’s influence over the charts. Fans of rock music do not seem to listen to the charts anymore. There are so many other outlets for rock music nowadays as an alternative such as Kerrang Radio. Rock may not be churning out number one after number one, but it is still alive and well. Big named bands still have number one albums, such as Muse and The Killers, they just do not seem to write new albums or singles as frequently as pop and RnB stars do.
It is true that rock/guitar music has seemingly had a rough time in recent years, and judging by the charts you could argue that it is. X Factor, pop and RnB bands have dominated the charts in recent times and the image presented by some boy bands may have dented the rock image slightly too, but rock is not dead. It may not be as popular as it used to be according to the charts but it is as popular as ever with the fans. Headlining major festivals all over the world more so than the bands in the charts demonstrates its popularity. As for the charts, they don’t seem to say much nowadays, particularly as they do not take into account online streaming, something that would drastically increase the number of rock bands in the charts. The Official charts and the Official Streaming charts show a big difference in the singles and album charts with regards to the bands that are listened to. Maybe it is time for the charts to change the way sales are calculated to demonstrate how healthy rock music is. Rock is definitely not dead. Not by a long shot.
Image Courtesy: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bike/3281092829) ; Jasmine Mueller (Flickr: One Direction) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons