Rock music, an energetic form of guitar-driven pop music, passed away in 2010 after being ill for the past several years. Anemic sales, high studio costs, and lack of label development are listed as the cause of death.
Of course, there’s a bit of an exaggeration here. It’s not dead in the sense that it’s completely gone. It’s just gone in the sense that it is no longer the music that sells. You can’t even blame file trading, as pop and dance are traded far more than rock. If rock is traded, it tends to be classic rock. Current rock bands are mostly residing in the underground, and if this sales trend continues, lack of label investment is likely going to keep it there.
Here is the sad state of rock in the U.S. in 2010:
-No new rock album went platinum in 2010
-In fact, no new rock album sold over 750,000 copies in 2010
-The highest charting rock album came in at #27
-Only 8% of the top selling songs of 2010 were rock songs
-But that’s presuming you call Owl City “rock” and if you don’t, then it’s 7%
-Or OneRepublic for that matter, and if you don’t call them “rock”, it’s 5%.
Now, some times when rock is dead, people can look overseas to find rock thriving in Europe. Usually specifically in the UK. So, even I was surprised to find that rock’s death is happening there too. This year, the number of rock tracks in their Top 100 declined from 13% in 2009 to a mere 3% this year. This is the lowest level for rock in about 50 years. Even veteran DJ Paul Gambaccini is declaring rock “part of music history”.
When you start to delve into the real declines in sales, you then also start to see that the bigger declines are disproportionally in the rock category. Does this mean bigger investment in rock would keep the music business more solvent? Or does rock need to be better in order to revitalize a dormant market? Or has rock failed to adapt the Futurehit.DNA model across the board and still exist with bloated intros? Or is it just gone and the new normal music business has rock as a fringe genre?