Industry Insight // Rock music Isn’t dying, You’re Just Looking in the Wrong Places
“Is this the end of guitar music?” Reads the latest article from a major newspaper’s arts section, as they relay the UK chart’s latest dismal collection of data. Rock music never seems to stay at a constant. Occasionally there will be a rock album to dominate the charts for the first time in what feels like a decade, uniting new rock fans and classic rock purists alike. Anyone with a guitar in the corner of their room has looked at it at one point or another and thought “what’s the f***ing point?”
The popular music spotlight in recent years has given a majority of its attention to other genres, with good reason of course. But gone are the days of the music scene being dominated by the stadium-filling rock giants of the ’60s and ’70s. Hence the ‘classic’ in ‘classic rock’.
If you count up the number of times that there has been a prophesied end of the world, and then count up the number of times that one magazine or another has declared that guitar music is dead, you would find that they reach relatively equal numbers. Along with the number of times those who made these predictions were correct. The ebbs and flows of the commercial success of guitar-based music are watched in the same way people watch the groundhog that predicts the length of the American winter.
Maroon 5’s Adam Levine recently said in an interview with Zane Lowe that bands were a “dying breed.” Either he hasn’t been paying attention, or you have to have moves comparable to Jagger to be considered a band.
Despite all of the doom and gloom naysayers. In the last year: Idles, Architects, Biffy Clyro, Mogwai, You Me At Six, Foo Fighters, Bring Me The Horizon, and Kings of Leon have all had UK number one albums. A couple of years ago, that would have seemed truly bizarre. To see the titans of modern rock and metal be put on the same pedestal as the likes of Taylor Swift, Coldplay, and Dua Lipa would’ve been seen as wishful thinking.
So what has changed? For starters, we’re consuming music differently from how we were even a few years ago. According to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), vinyl sales have increased for the thirteenth year in a row. Last year, 18% of all album sales in the UK were vinyl. This is especially fascinating as record stores have been closed for the majority of the last year due to the pandemic. I guess we all needed something to listen to whilst we made sourdough.
The reason this is worth mentioning is that vinyl sales can have a huge effect on an album’s success. Bring Me The Horizon’s ‘Post Human: Survival Horror’ went to number one in the UK album charts a whole three months after its release. The reason: the album’s physical release, which equated to 91% of its sales the weak it topped the charts. Whether it’s because of the pandemic, or just the general nature of the rock scene, the newfound popularity in vinyl has allowed for people to connect more to their favourite bands, and this connection is beginning to be properly recognised.
The charts aren’t everything though. It does allow us to have a general understanding of what is popular, or if that song from ‘A Star is Born' is still knocking around in the top 40 somehow, but it doesn’t tell us everything. If you want to truly understand what is going on in this country’s wonderfully diverse music scene, you may have to wait a little while longer. Live shows are the backbone of any rock music. Be that in a small underground venue to fifty people or one of the UK’s world-renowned festivals. Every major city will have there own vibrant and thriving music scenes. In the last few years, Brighton, for example, has been home to some of the most exciting new grunge bands. As well as chart-toppers Architects and Royal Blood, who started out playing in the city’s grassroots venues as any other band would. The same goes for every band and every city that helped them start their careers.
People want new and exciting music, people want to play music, and people want to put on shows. That is something that always stayed a constant. Get out there and check out the acts people are talking about. You’ll never know where they’ll end up. This last year has shown us that rock music isn’t going anywhere, and when we take time to connect with the music we love, great things can happen.
You will always hear “Is this the end of rock music? Is this the end of guitar music?” No. It isn’t going anywhere. It isn’t a genre that is one to die out. Much like the way of pop music, rap music and just about every other major genre, it spreads and evolves and creates new sub-genres which become the zeitgeist of these newfound subcultures.
There has always been incredible music out there, sometimes you just need to take a little more time to find out what you’re looking for. The live music industry is slowly warming up to come back bigger and better than ever, which looks to be only a couple of months away. In the meantime, to quote Corinne Bailey Rae: Put your records on.
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Written by: Lawrie