Why isn’t Rock ‘n’ Roll as popular as it used to be?

Photo taken by William Krause, provided by Unsplash.com.

Gone are the days of rock ‘n’ roll artists like AC/DC, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix dominating the music scene. Giant rock concerts like Woodstock are no more. While many people say that rock will never die, the genre has certainly seen a decrease in popularity. These days, hip-hop artists like Pop Smoke and Drake dominate the industry. Rock isn’t completely dead, but it certainly isn’t as alive as it used to be. So what happened? 

The decline in the popularity of rock music happened for a few different reasons. In the early 2000s, hip-hop and pop began to flourish. Once the genres caught the public’s attention, the music industry saw their popularity as potential profitability, so they began to push it. Businesses are out to make money and the music industry is no different.

Matthew Klein, owner of Sound House Records, located in Troy, New York, recognizes the efforts put forth by the music industry. “The record companies are out to sell the most records, and so they will push the acts and the music that they find profitable,” Klein said.

Genres, like hip-hop, are easier to make and more accessible than rock. Not to say that hip-hop isn’t creative or technical, but beginners will find that the learning curve is significantly lower. Electronic music is another genre that is easy to create using technology.

“Electronic music has been around for decades, but as the prices came down and it became more accessible with computers, more people were able to create music on their own,” Klein said.

 If you think about it, there are a significant number of programs like GarageBand, that allow any average joe to create music that doesn’t take as much time and effort to learn. This allows people to start enjoying the fruits of their labor much faster than they would if they decided to learn an instrument.  

Klein emphasized that the genre of rock has become so diverse and there are a lot of people using the rock template for different things.  Even popular hip-hop artist Lil Yachty’s newly released album “Let’s Start Here” sounds more like a Pink Floyd album than your average hip-hop piece. So, in that way, rock still lives on in other music genres.

But younger generations are still working to preserve that traditional rock and roll spirit. Utilizing acoustics and sticking to the ways of old. Practicing two to three times a week for up to three hours, instead of using technology to streamline the process of creating music.

Take it from Billy Gagnon, bassist for the band known as The Gallery, based out of Plattsburgh, New York.  

“It’s easier to do everything on a computer than it is with a band,” Gagnon said. The barrier to entry to create music electronically is significantly lower than it is to learn an instrument. Some people believe that hip-hop and electronic music are not as intricate and technical — it’s too easy. But Gagnon still appreciates when hip-hop artists use elements from rock in their own music. 

However, Logan Valerio, guitarist for The Gallery has a different view. He recognizes how much time and effort it took for older musicians to create music.

“One reason why I like older musicians is because I appreciate the work that was put into making these albums and making these songs,” Valerio said. 

He went on to point out that these musicians “actually had to play these instruments” and “practiced forever” to get where they are.

Logan Valerio playing guitar at Olive Ridley’s. Photo provided by Logan Valerio.

It seems that even finding and keeping band members is difficult as well. Valerio and Gagnon told a story about one of the guitarists that they had to part ways with in the past. They explained that he was a great musician, but his personality is what led to issues, resulting in his departure from the band. So it is just as important for the band members to get along with each other as it is for them to have the right qualifications to even begin collaborating creatively with other people. 

However it isn’t enough to have a member that strictly adds to the chemistry between the band members, they also have to match the sound that the band is going for. Which further narrows the pool of available candidates, adding to the difficulty of creating music as a band.

They also told a story about another member who separated from the band because he just simply did not cater toward the sound that the band was going for. Bottomline, it’s harder to get a like-minded group of people with the qualifications as well as talent than it is for a single artist to sit at a computer and create the kind of music that they want.  

So what is going to happen to rock ‘n’ roll? Well, most likely it will still remain alive and well albeit in different ways. There is hope for the future, as Klein said “rock will never die,” but whether or not rock ‘n’ roll experiences a grand resurgence remains to be seen.

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