This week, Nielsen Music released a poll charting the genre most people listen to or consume. For the first time ever, hip-hop and R&B are the dominant genres, accounting for 25 per cent of music consumption. Rock music now accounts for 23 per cent.
John Lennon’s son Sean made the generalizing statement in 2007 that rock and roll was dead. He cited that the music was not as relevant as it was when his father was alive, and that most things had already “been done” in the genre. But is this why rock music no longer dominates?
The music landscape is a lot more different than it was when Lennon made that statement 10 years ago. Social media is now the key avenue through which listeners receive new music, guitar-based or otherwise. The music video is still alive and well on YouTube (no thanks to MTV) and concerts by big names like Ed Sheeran and Beyonce sell out regularly.
Rock music, when it works, is reactionary. We would never have had Elvis, The Beatles, the Sex Pistols or Nirvana if they didn’t shake the musical landscape up a bit. The trouble is, record companies are now selling an image. And after the success of the first season of “American Idol”, the same safe image is being sold over and over. It’s the same reasoning behind why there are so many reboots and sequels being made in Hollywood. It’s too much of a risk to promote something original or non-mainstream.
The conception, creation, marketing and selling of popular music these days is much less about the instrumental talent. Rock bands don’t have to learn guitar by playing along with their favorite song on the radio anymore. A band that writes their own music is no longer revolutionary. But anyone can sing.
The advent of talent shows like “The Voice” and most pointedly Justin Bieber’s discovery through YouTube are key milestones that have informed the charts ever since. Even if you have a guitar it isn’t enough – you have to sound good and match commercially acceptable standards of singing on TV before making it big. It’s hard to imagine “Love Me Do” making a trickle let alone a splash on a talent show these days.
Maybe there will be a backlash against the current pop charts and rock or even guitar-based music will become mainstream again. If the revolution has started, chances are it’ll be in someone’s basement.