Why Did Rock Music Decline and Can It Make a Comeback?

Updated on January 19, 2018

There was a time when rock was the dominant form of popular music. The decline of rock began as early as the mid 1960s. By the 1970s, disco had taken over. However, rock still remained a force until the late 1990s. By the 2000s, pop rock was for the most part the only form of the rock that was charting high on the Billboard Hot 100. Pop rock even struggled between about 2009 to 2011 when dance and electro music largely took over pop radio.

Pop radio radically changed again in 2013 and pop rock made a comeback. Electro-rock band Imagine Dragons and pop punk band Fallout Boy enjoyed success on both alternative and pop radio. Indie, folk, and country inspired music achieved pop success as did R&B and funk.

With pop radio embracing more diverse forms of music including pop rock and electro-rock, is there a chance for the guitar driven rock similar to what was popular in the 60's and 70's to make a comeback as well?

Simplistic Arguments for the Decline of Rock

These are samples of responses from a forum that asked the question of why rock music is in decline.

"Music for youth is now about the packaging and the presentation-not the music."

"Today's 'stars' are nothing more than video created characters that rely too much on flashing lights, back up dancers, video editing to make them look like they're actually singing and much much more."

"its all about making lots of money now"

Except image has always been important in music. Rock legends like The Beatles and Elvis Presley were very well packaged. Bands from decades ago like The Osmonds and The Monkees were as much video characters as musicians. The music industry has always been about making money and finding the next big star. Some people like to blame MTV and the rise of the music video. But rock survived well into the late nineties, more than a decade after MTV's arrival.

These are reasons I think rock music may be in trouble.

Demographic Problems for Rock Music

One of rock's problems seems to be demographic. Modern rock music is mainly being purchased by young, white males. Girls and women 40 and under mainly purchase pop music. Despite the success of some later female rockers like 10,000 Maniacs and Alanis Morissette, modern rock still seems to have a problem attracting female buyers. In 2006, the website smartgirl.com surveyed girls around the world on their music taste. While the survey didn't provide percentages, rock only appeared in the other category and that was just a tiny slice of the overall pie chart. Now, it's possible that some rock fans chose alternative (which covers several genres) but this was still less than half the size of the pop category.

In one 2002 survey, 52% of whites versus 29% of nonwhites said they like rock music. Half of all American children under the age of five are a minority. Rap and hip hop have given urban and minority youth the kind of irreverent outlet that rock gave to white youths in the past. The potential buyers for rock music are in decline.

Unfortunately rock, which had it's origins in blues as well as country music, produced few well known African American stars. Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry and Little Richard (and BB King if you include blues rock) are just a few who are still widely known today. The most well known black artists from the past mostly sang soul, R&B and disco. Representation matters. Black, Latino and Asian youth may be less attracted to a genre with artists that rarely or never look like them.

The early fan bases of rock stars like Elvis Presley and The Beatles were heavily female. However, rock stars themselves were largely male. Female rocker Janis Joplin felt that she had to become one of the boys to succeed in rock. Joan Jett also had a very masculine image. Like rap music today, rock was often criticized for having misogynistic lyrics and was considered an aggressive expression of male sexuality. Despite this, women made up a large portion of the fan bases of rock bands.

Groupies were a prominent part of the 1960s and 1970s rock music scene. Groupies were girls, sometimes underage, who would seek sexual contact with members of their favorite bands. Some would actually travel with the band for a time.

So, why have women and girls become much less interested in rock music? I don't know but perhaps the feminist movement is one reason. The overt sexism and masculine nature of rock may have been a turn off to girls raised with ideas of female empowerment. The rise of strong women in pop music, like Madonna, may have made it more appealing to girls and women as both listeners and artists. Perhaps young women could identify more with independent women in pop than oversexed male rockstars.

The modern rock I hear on alternative radio is still heavily male and seemingly mostly white. Rock music probably became too white and too male to remain hugely popular.

Did rock music become too male and too white?
Did rock music become too male and too white?

Rock Has Become Too Serious?

I listen to both pop and alternative radio. Alt radio, of course, plays a lot of modern rock. These songs are often very serious and somber. Rock music wasn't always so serious. Some of it was fun.

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Queen's We Will Rock You, Joan Jett's I Love Rock n' Roll, and The Beatles Yellow Submarine and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds (which was about a picture preschooler Julian Lennon drew), were upbeat and fun songs. So, was Third Stone from the Sun by Jimi Hendrix even though the alien involved decided to destroy the Earth. The Pixies have a song about sea monkeys called Palace of the Brine. Both Van Halen, and David Bowie with Mick Jagger covered Martha and the Vandellas Dancing in the Streets.

Perhaps fun rock music is still being made but it isn't being played on my local alternative station, so I'm not aware of it. It looks like pretentiousness has taken over rock music. If a song doesn't have a serious meaning, it has no right to exist. Rock fans decry the death of "real music." This is a turn off to many people who want music to serve different purposes. Sometimes, it should be fun. Sometimes, it should be serious. Sometimes it should be about things we can relate to whether that's falling in love or a painful breakup. Sometimes it can deal with social issues.

Can Rock Comeback?

With radio diversifying, the moment is ripe for guitar driven rock to come back. Just like Avicii popularized folktronica (folk/country/bluegrass mixed with electronic music) on pop radio and Imagine Dragons popularized electro-rock, someone may come along who makes guitar driven rock that can appeal to pop audiences, as well as women and minorities.

Imagine Dragons are having a lot of success with electro-rock

Maybe some already successful artists will bring rock back. Perhaps a group like Imagine Dragons, who are having so much success with electro-rock might be inclined to release some traditional guitar rock to pop radio. Or perhaps Fallout Boy will at some point reduce the pop in their punk and sell a rockier sound to pop radio.

Foster the People are given some of the credit for bringing indie music to pop radio. Adele is given a lot of the credit for bringing back the ballad. I can definitely see pop radio embracing rock. All that's really needed is for someone to break through and popularize it. If other artists can capitalize on their success rock may become a force in popular music again like it was in the 1990s with Nirvana and Alanis Morissette.

Maybe the rock purists won't like the form it takes because it doesn't sound exactly like 60s and 70s rock. These are the purists who consider a group like Linkin Park inauthentic because they mix rock and metal with rap and hip hop. But that shouldn't matter. Music has always evolved and changed and it always will. Great music has always incorporated influences from other genres. I would prefer to see rock change and remain popular rather than become a niche genre like jazz.

Questions & Answers


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        Federico 7 days ago

        I think the problem is better understood once we're mindful of the distinction between relevance and "success". Rock music's place in the Zeitgeist is owed more than just to chart presence. In fact, often it thrived precisely because of it's open defiance to commercialism. One conflates both at their own peril: if commercial success were proof enough of lasting cultural impact, Disco as a phenomenon would be completely inexplicable. It was a massive hegemonic force, but it's repetitiveness, cheesiness and superficiality, not only doomed it to a sort shelf life but also an immediate and serious degree of backlash by any and all, including those who were suddenly embarrassed to have ever participated in it. This should also help undertand the fact that whenever Rock was at the top it wasn't necessarily due to it being at it's most dignified (let's not pretend that Hair Metal and Grunge are an equel credit to Rock's overall reputation). One of the conclusions I draw from this is that, if Rock music has indeed irreversibly waned as a hegemonic cultural force, it's not necessarily for the worse. On the other hand, if it were to make a comeback, it's gonna take more than these pathetic PR-like efforts to merge it's aesthetic with whatever is trendy (if Imagine Dragons is the last ditch effort, Rock music deserves to die a slow, painful and undignified death). Obviously, it needs to innovate (God save us from the legions of revivalist nostalgia acts that have been kicking for at least the past fifteen years!), but that innovation has to come from a place of dignity.

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        Curtis 10 days ago

        Rock still dominates it's a fact

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        Pteronychus 12 days ago

        Frankly I don't care if the music is pop or rock. Just the tune and the lyrics has to be my taste and sensible. I stick to four rock bands :Disturbed, Evanescence, Breaking Benjamin and Within Temptation, cause I just feel calm or nice or excited by their music. I'm only talking about the songs, not the concerts because I live in India and I've never been to any concerts. One of the main reasons I don't like pop music much is because they're always so cliched. It's either love songs or partying or drugs or sex. I'm just feeling so damned bored with modern pop music. I'm also afraid that rock is developing those kind of attitudes and that's why I stick to only four bands. If you guys could suggest a new song for me, post your comment on cretoxyrhinamantelli@gmail. com.

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        Chris 4 weeks ago

        Rock has been out of the spot light for several years, but in South America , especially Brazil, rock is HUGE, europe, the fans are nuts. They hold the massive sonisphere festive that draws hundreds of thousands. I have lived in Brazil, England, Russia, and Germany and the dominant music is rock. The rest of the world appreciates rock, but the in america the popular music is pop, rap, hip hop. A lot of rock bands tour outside of the U.S. Music today has come to auto tunning, lip syncing and having writers write songs, its what can can make the most money now.

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        metalhead666 4 weeks ago

        You 'purists' are the problem!! They are in a box.linkin park's hybrid theory went diamond by riaa. Awesome man. Be happy about it. Support em. Did megadeth ever went diamond?no. When some rock band really popularizing this heavy music support em. I like megadeth,led zeppelin, black Sabbath,acdc etc. But I love bands like linkin park even Limp bizkit. People criticize Metallica for going radio friendly.. F**k off you guys. Their black album,load I love those records as much as I like kill em all and master of puppets. 16x platinum black album!! Why u hate it? You want rock and heavy metal to be underground. I respect those successful bands for making it popular. Look at hip hop fans, Eminem is the best selling artist of 2000s. Yeah rock is dead. It's your fault. Plus we don't like experiments. This is dying because it just Same revolve around electric guitars. ...and satanic image for metal is not scary anymore.Look like rock is made every way it can. Time to move on. Keep up the good work Imagine Dragons... At least they have some songs in billboard hot 100. Up the irons! Good goodbye!! \m/

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        KJ 5 weeks ago

        Disney killed rock/alternative

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        Corey Donaldson 5 weeks ago

        Interesting article !

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        Zeke 5 weeks ago

        Im teen and im am the few who listen to rock because , most people at my high school will hate on you because of your music which is very stupid

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        Nikki 5 weeks ago

        " Perhaps young women could identify more with independent women in pop than oversexed male rockstars." That is very very true

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        Aditya 8 weeks ago

        Another problem, not really spoken about here is global expansion of listner-ship beyond traditional markets means music being produced is in line with what will sell in these new markets, and in turn, influencing the music that is actually coming out of said markets as well.

        As a massive fan of Hard, classic and Psychedelic rock and being based in India, I would know. I have to say Rock music has taken a nosedive off a cliff in the past decade here and there certainly won't be any music coming from this country.

        The 60-80's produced a first and small audience (like my dad) in India, which in turn got a lot of my generation interested in rock music too. Now ideally this should have been a turning point for aspiring rock musicians from India, who looked to listen into the music coming out from rest of the world to shape their own styles.

        My generation growing up was particularly influenced by grunge, hard rock and metal, and there was a time where bands were exploding out with new ideas, but the larger market moved towards consumer pop, and what could have been a beautiful thing was nipped at the bud as most of the rockers hung up their guitars and gave up due to a lack of listens.

        Now I know this is India specific, but I think that emerge of musicians who are different to what sells in the market is discouraged or simply not financially viable is a common phenomenon everywhere.

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        90s kid 8 weeks ago

        As a teenager in the 90's, I saw alternative rock became mainstream :)

        Although most people admired rock acts of the 60's/70's/80's, they detested the hair bands and all their glam. Alternative rock was really in. Grunge, punk, brit-rock, hard-rock, emo, metal really played on radio / TV. Pop was popular but rock was everywhere as well - in the music stores, in concerts, in your neighbour's music system.

        It all went downhill from 2000. Most of the fans mellowed to either country stuff (which is on charts nowadays) or went into the extreme metal scene (pretty much underground everywhere). I found my refuge in atmospheric black metal.

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        nabilahsafira 2 months ago

        That's why I'm listening to Japanese bands now. The rock genre is still pretty much alive there.

        You could try Tricot, Ling Tosite Sigure, toe, and Downy for starters. Of course, language is the main barrier for personal enjoyment.

      • JoanCA profile image

        JoanCA 2 months ago


        A lot of the criticism of misogyny in rap and rock is of songs that treat women like things, or encourage abuse. Think of lyrics like “Turn around, bitch, I got a use for you/ Besides, you ain’t got nothing better to do/ And I’m bored” or “Won’t your daddy be disgusted when he sees your pussy busted?” It's rare for women to sing songs like that about men, and when they do, it's often for parody purposes and to make a point about how music disrespects women rather than to denigrate men. Disrespectful lyrics can be a real turn off for women who don't want to listen to male singers denigrating them or encouraging violence against them.

        As for misandry in entertainment in general, most movies and tv shows are written and made by men. So, men really need to rethink how they negatively portray both themselves and women. Because there are far two many negative portrayals of both men and women in entertainment.

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        JoeEveryMan 2 months ago

        "Like rap music today, rock was often criticized for having misogynistic lyrics and was considered an aggressive expression of male sexuality. Despite this, women made up a large portion of the fan bases of rock bands."


        That's because it's not "misogynistic", if those songs are misogynistic then it would be fair to call Swift, Rihannna, Beyonce and other female artist who write negative songs about men as Misandrist.

        The reality is the rock and rap stars are writing songs complaining about women the same way women complain about men. Throwing the word "misogyny" around every time you don't like a song written by a male artist cheapens the meaning of actually misogyny. Having said that if we are to redefine the term then I'd argue Misandry is more prevalent in entertainment then Misogyny. It's always men who are being vilified and marginalized in songs and movies. When was the last time you saw a movie full of faceless,nameless disposable female henchmen being brutally killed?

      • JoanCA profile image

        JoanCA 2 months ago

        I'm referring to rock in the mainstream and top 40. None of these are mainstream acts.

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        Foo 2 months ago

        Ridiculous. Go listen to any of these bands and rethink this entire article.

        Greta Van Fleet

        Goodbye June

        Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown

        Order of the Emporer

        Black Country Communion

        Black Pistol Fire

        Blackberry Smoke



        Natural Child

        JEFF the Brotherhood

        Diarreah Planet


        Moon Taxi

        White Room


        False Heads



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        MarkE 2 months ago

        I think the best rock was in the 80’s. You had a wide variety of rock bands. There were the hair bands like Poison, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Europe, Twisted Sister, Great White, etc. These bands either wore makeup but they all had one thing in common. They had great videos, a variety of music (ballads, hard rock, fun songs, and pretty much anything that people could relate too.) They were creative and flat out had great songs and also kept the hairspray co. In business. Then there was also your heavy metal bands. Bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Metal Church,etc. These bands played harder and faster but every now and then I needed that music to get me through some days. Some ppl like one or the other types of these bands but I loved it all. The guitar and drum solos from these bands at the concerts were priceless, Then the bands from the 70s blended in like Kiss, AC DC, Rolling Stones, etc. Also there were bands like Night Ranger, Journey, and Loverboy that were more pop/rock but they could jam on the guitar. There was a lot of great guitar, long hair, and variety of bands. All had their own look and style.It was a wonderful decade of rock !!!!

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        hairydave 2 months ago

        rock is dead. even queen looked old during live aid.

        back in the day everything sounded different, produced differently, unique singers, unique guitarists. every band had a unique style. just sucks today, heard it a billion times, and digital production ruins the vibe. all sucks now.

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        The Man 55 3 months ago

        Without getting into diversity and any other socio economic reasons, the simple music played now makes money. Less time writing, less dynamic, mixed on a computer, and sticks to the format that works. The average Rihanna single costs 50K to get on the radio. Studio, mixers, songwriters, producers etc. It is a less risky investment to put out the same song, beat, progression, over and over again cause it works. If Led Zeppelin came out right now, they would have followers on spotify, but would never make the radio. Back then people looked for something different, now people look for a hook. A dynamic band in any genre, doesn't have the sources to be mainstream.

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        BryanCA 4 months ago

        Rock never left ......

      • JoanCA profile image

        JoanCA 4 months ago


        The listening preference study is a pdf. Unfortunately, it doesn't cover alternative/modern rock (just classic rock and heavy metal), so it doesn't fully relate to the issue of modern rock's struggles. It's helpful though to establish racial preferences for rock overall. This is the link.


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        Diegoborgh 5 months ago

        I think the main reason why it’s dead it’s that mostly we’re living better lives now. There was a certain angst in societiy, a disconform and rebellion that produced one of the most extraordinary music. Back then nothing was accessible at out fingertips like it is now. We didn’t have internet. I think Trump may awaken some of that dissatisfaction spirit back, so we may have a chance of having great music again (no pun intended)

        I hate to say this, but when people suffer they create the best music, and we’re happier now.

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        Sawyer Wolf 5 months ago

        Hi! I was wondering about where that 2002 survey comes from mentioned in the section titled "Demographic Problems for Rock Music" ???

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        Heywood Jablome, esq. 5 months ago

        There's plenty of upbeat rock, and plenty of depressing pop music. That seems more a matter of individual perception than reality... I mean, compare just about any song by The Weeknd to whatever pap single the Foo Fighters are clinging on with at any given moment.

        Demographics, or representation, isn't likely a huge issue, either. Ed Sheeran - the whitest of white boys to ever white - is HUGE, meanwhile Denzel Curry ("I raise up black fists as black as the Raiders... black to Asian; we the nation of U.L.T.") is only kinda sorta popular to people who spend way too much time on Rateyourmusic or checking out random mixtapes. I feel like it's kind of insulting to assume the vast majority of minorities dismiss something just because a lot of white guys do it (as if minorities are so simplistic and base... and I'm Hispanic/mestizo, fwiw to this rant).

        Nor, do I think, it's the instrumentation itself. I've heard many arguments about how electric guitar is dated... But how many contemporary pop ballads rely on piano as the primary instrument, WAY older than electric guitar? And even sampling/looping/etc... that dates back to at least the 1940s (albeit it was avant-garde back then, but whatever). And again... Ed Sheeran has a number of hit songs where the guitar is prominent. Nor is dance music really a novelty - bear in mind the music that rock replaced was dance music, with mostly feel-good lyrics over syncopated rhythms. Dance music is nothing new - the instrumentation may be new, with roots in hip-hop instrumentation/production, but the idea of some "pop star" smiling/dancing to some syncopated rhythm while they sing? Old.

        Nor was rock always as huge as people make it out to be. Check out the Billboard charts from the '70s... typically, fewer than half the songs any given year were rock (and many of the "rock" songs would fall well into bubblegum territory). In the '90s, R&B was way bigger than rock. People may remember Nirvana, but seem to forget Mariah Carey, Color Me Badd, Vanessa Williams, Boyz II Men, Ace of Base, Whitney Houston, etc... completely dominating the Billboard charts, even at the height of alt-rock. Smashing Pumpkins, one of the legends of rock "at its height", only ever had 1 song break into the Billboard Hot 100 (1979 reached #12). Pop has dominated far longer than people like to think, rose-tinted glasses being what they are. Barring the late '50s-'60s, rock was never the most commercially dominant style of popular music - not in the '70s, not in the '80s, not in the '90s. And now people act like it no longer dominating the charts is new???

        I think the biggest problem with rock is this sort of traditionalism within its audience... this expectation that rock should sound like older music - that newer music should somehow pay homage to that older music, or be qualified in relation to it... this feeling of wanting to stay "true" to something, with everything new being somehow referential to something old. It's the kind of traditionalism/classicism that killed jazz... as it became more rigid in its approach, or any attempt at innovation was seen as needing to reference an older style, it lost any potential to stay relevant; as it became formalized and theorized, it couldn't evolve. The same is true of rock - see: literally any guitar-based video on Youtube (pedal demos, technique lessons, whatever) and how it all relies heavily on classic rock guitarists/their legacy and sound/style/whatever. Though I think rock could still be saved, but rock fans need to be willing to hear/accept something new, rather than keep babbling about Jimmy Paige or Jimi Hendrix or whatever other "Jim"-guitarist. Those sounds from the decades ago? They're from decades ago. Pop and hip-hop don't have that same habit of referencing their own history; when's the last time you heard a pop star talk about trying to stay true to ABBA, or rap star talking about trying to stay true to Rakim?

        Country, interestingly, is older than rock... and yet has made a huge comeback - with guitars, drums, bass-guitar, etc... And people complain that new country doesn't sound like old country, but... Maybe that's why it's still relevant, because it progresses? I don't often hear country stars talking about "staying true" to the styles of George Strait or Johnny Cash (I'm sure they enjoy them, but they don't base their own music on that).

        Rock definitely has an audience out there... kids still discover Pink Floyd and wear Leddy Z shirts, and games like Rock Band/Guitar Hero have at least recently been popular, including with people who are now still teenagers. But when most new rock is either a dull approximation of classics, or watered down into dance pop, why bother? There are some great bands, but they're tough to find.

        I also think part of it is the Age of Producer. As producers have become more vital in shaping sound (producers have become arrangers, many doing EVERYTHING on a track), and rock labels have consolidated, producers are less of a risk than artists. Investing in one producer can assure results with 10 artists, with minimal investment necessary in those artists if a producer - who's proven themselves - is doing all the work in the studio. Fewer variables, more guaranteed sound. Perhaps hence the dominance of samples/electronic music (as it's largely in the hands of producers... as they're less risky than a band with an untested sound, that could implode as a band at any moment). I think rock really suffers from those 2 issues: 1.) a rock band is riskier than a producer and more difficult to develop and market, and 2.) so much rock now is so referential to past genres (be it classic/alt rock or lo-fi indie, or... see: all of the "revivals" of the early '00s) that it's really kinda boring and needs to ditch its traditionalist mentality.

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        Jay 5 months ago

        There was a wonderous flicker of hope that started in the early 2000s. We saw bands like Linkin Park , Nickel Back & Evenescence give way to other acts such as My Chemical Romance, Him, Taking back Sunday, Hinder and many others. Although not conventional, it was glorious to my ears to here any of these acts vs. main stream "blah-blah" music.

        It all started to change after 09. At first it was gradual but by the end of the Obama era and even still, there is virtually no music. Only "jiggy jiggy whoop whoop shiiit" on the radio. Music is mastered on a mac and lyrics are spewed from lazy lips that sound like the singer is choking on mashed potatoes.

        Aside from a few bright spots, the industry is a wash with mindless drivel. It reflects in their sales. Blame it on spotify if you will. The garbage that is forced on the masses isn't nearly as popular as those doing it to us want us to believe. Look at the best selling albums of all time. Adelle, even Bruno Mars is proof enough that people will pay for real music performed by a talented artist.

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        Raze 5 months ago

        It's totally dead, a lot of mainstream rock bands disowned their core music and fans.

        This year is the shittiest, all those famous rocks bonds moved to pop because of shithead teenagers.

        They are Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, The Script. Paramore, they all trow their genre to accommodate stupid kids who are fans of K-Pop shit artist.

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        EDM Artist 6 months ago

        For me personally, before I switched to doing EDM, I was a Rock Musician who used to play the Lead Guitar. I really miss those glorious days of Rock and Metal Music honestly.

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        Shaye 6 months ago

        Personally, I appreciate every genre and music in general. I hate that people's opinions on what is real music or not interfere with them trying new genre's (i.e; alternative). Why can't we all just realize that music is a huge web of art?

        I love rock music (Deftones, Atreyu, Slipknot, and much more because I primarily love rock music), I love old school rap artists (Eazy-E, Ice Cube, etc) and modern rap artists (Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, etc). Basically, anything that sounds good to me.

        People need to understand not every single song needs to be lyrical, that people listen to music for different purposes. Not everyone is going to listen to a song to get over a breakup, not everyone will listen to a song just to dance. The diversity is too much, and now that modern rap is mostly what people listen to now, I don't feel as if rock music is irrelevant.

        I just feel as if the people who listen to rock are afraid to come out and admit they love rock music. Hell I sure am, I get anxious whenever I tell people that I listen to all genres in itself.

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        Stevie 9 months ago

        Rock music is totally irrelevant to young people today and Rap and hip hop has firmly established itself. Even the way people speak is all from Rap scene.

      • JoanCA profile image

        JoanCA 9 months ago


        All forms of music have to deal with piracy and leaks. It's not something experienced solely by rock acts. That in no way explains why rock acts have trouble breaking into the top 40.

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        Jen 10 months ago

        Mike is right. I grew up listening to rock music, I still love it and rock my skull sweater, but most of it is waaaay too negative and depressing nowadays to the extent that I think rock fans are more likely to off themselves. I got into bands like London's New Young Pony Club and LA's The Moth and The Flame because they had catchy, uptempo and inspiring singles ("Ice Cream" and "Young & Unafraid," respectively) and then you go and listen to the rest of their records and while musically and instrumentally beautiful, it's depressing af!

        I don't agree with Mike that rock music being too much about drugs is killing its mainstream appeal. The Weeknd had a radio hit about a face being numb off of cocaine. But at least you could dance to it!

        The only happy-sounding rock band I can think of these days is Spoon, and I don't think it's any coincidence that for a couple of guys in their 40's, they played 2 sold-out gigs in my city back-to-back 2 nights in a row and had teenagers and college kids in the audience. Word-of-mouth. Their songs are not depressing, even if the lyrics have meaning!

        Learn from this, rock bands!

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        Mike 12 months ago

        The reason rock is dead is few things. First off 50s-60s rock was successful cause they were singing about positive things not how bad there lives were or how strung out on drugs they are or how they have daddy issues. Listening to negative garbage makes you negative if you hear it long enough. Secondly every sound in rock has been heard already that sounds worth a damn to hear. Lyrics of today's rock is so cheap and negative.

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        Jo 12 months ago

        Muse. Nuff said

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        Kolby 13 months ago

        Rock music's decline is directly correlated to labeling shit non-rock bands and blasting them over rock radio. I.E. Imagine dragons/mumford and sons, both blasted on rock radio, debated if they're even rock at all. So when these style of bands started to pop up, the rock stations in Louisville, Ky closed down and now all we have is like a classic rock channel. The new forms of heavy bands and them becoming soft is also a problem. Identity of these bands used to be metal even and now they're worse than top 40 pop (Five finger death punch, All that remains, Shinedown, Atreyu, breaking bejamin.) These bands listed are all in tolerable and are continued to be plastered all over the radio like nobody even cares. They're not up to par to their predecessors and are not even close to that par. The record sales show. Look at linkin park for example, Their own fan base is suck listening to then constantly promise a heavy record and then they always do some shitty poop record instead. Linkin park, Stick to writing rock. You're the worst pop act I've ever seen. (Other than papa roach, Shit pop acts.) (in hindsight both linkin park and papa roach atleast had one real album a piece.)

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        SynGates 13 months ago

        Rock was always alive, from bands like Papa Roach, to Slipknot, to Linkin Park (maybe not their latest release though) to Green Day with Revolution Radio, which I thought was an amazing album. Papa Roach is one of the hardest working bands I know of, and if you listen to their recent songs Help and Crooked Teeth you'll see what I mean. Although (in my opinion) Help is a much, much better song than any of the mainstream pop songs which get 100 million views on YouTube in two days, hardly anyone knows about this song. The reason behind this is, as you mentioned, the packaging of pop artists today. They are packaged so well that the whole media advertised them everywhere, from the radio to the television and, as a result, people are only exposed to pop music. I do not blame the people who listen to pop music. I blame the media for advertising only this kind of music. People must be aware of these amazing bands and should here them on the radio more to KNOW that they like their songs. That is when rock will be back into the mainstream.

        Great article, by the way, very interesting.

      • JoanCA profile image

        JoanCA 15 months ago

        Magic Kat,

        You make a great point about what is marketed to young people. I have a young daughter who's developed an interest in alt rock with twenty one pilots as her starting point. Even though they aren't traditional rock, they gave her a taste of something beyond the pop and electronic she also loves. And she got that taste through pop radio. I don't know if twenty one pilots are going to be the ones to set in motion the rise of rock on pop radio but the potential is there.

        I agree that young girls aren't really getting a lot of exposure to rock and that impacts their level of interest. What I wonder though is why boys are more likely to seek out rock than girls.

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        Magic Kat 15 months ago

        Hi Joan, Thanks for writing this article. I am glad to read someone who cares so much about rock music and wanted to offer a different point-of view you may like.

        My "good" news: The demographics you refer to might be the result of researcher bias and the initial "simplistic" explanation form the forums might be closer to the truth!

        First, the bias of the survey you mention: If pop music is what is being marketed to young girls then that will be the music they report liking. You see, they have been told that is their music. If the media were to all of sudden tell them that most pop artists are lame and that rock was the new thing for them, they would start buying rock again. Young people (male and female) are easily swayed by trends and when they respond to a survey the majority will report themselves as being hip to the trend.

        Second, another look at the "simplistic" explanations: It is true that the music industry has always sought to make the artists into a controllable commodity they can sell not only to the public but to other businesses. The industry is focused on the bottom line and they do want a winning formula. Rock groups (from the 1960s on) have historically been a counter-culture and anti-corporate force in our society. From the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin to Rush, the rock artists wanted success but not at the expense of compromising their art. They got into the music because they love the music and the Album-Oriented-Radio rock artist appeared because singles took too much of their attention away from playing and writing the music they truly cared about.

        I know you probably already know this but lets have a quick review:

        During the early 70s, the industry was making money but the ball was in the artists court thanks to album sales. The artists were close in age to their audience and could write music the "kids" could like for the sake of the music alone. Music from record albums became the lifeblood of the counter-culture. Singles, on the other-hand were for non-rock artists like the Captain and Tennille, Sonny and Cher, Donny and Marie and was very formulaic well into the 1980s (Disco was a singles game). In many ways, MTV killed the radio (AOR) star and slowly formulas emerged for rock that the corporations began to exploit (New Wave, Billy Idol fashion punk, glam metal, etc, etc). For a time, in the late 80s rock almost became the pop music when in 1987, all 5 of the top 5 selling artists were rock groups. But Guns N Roses started dressing down and rock artists rebelled against the 80s glamour and eventually, by the 90s rock had become grunge.

        It is really difficult to market ugly people to teenage girls so grunge was the nail in the coffin for rock as pop. Enter the Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls and the manufactured, packaged pop groups we still have today, like One Direction. Since the 90s most rock bands have kinda looked like your brother or guy on the street (a few exceptions of course). There has been no rock Elvis or Beatles or Marc Bolan or anyone with that "universal star quality" to appeal to the mainstream. Instead we got Weezer (and now a lot of guys who might need a shave).

        So I am not negating your article but saying the problem isn't that rock is for white boys and pop is for girls - this is something the industry has decided. You probably know that much of the pop music today is written by a small group of 5 or so middle-aged Scandinavian men - another formula. The people want good music and much of what is written for pop is formulaic and after awhile monotonous- always the same.

        I live near Toronto, Canada and personally know many young people of different races and genders who love rock. We have Vag Halen playing around here (a Canadian Lez Zeppelin). It isn't just for young white males - even if that seems to be the primary audience. Rock music has always been loved by young people because it was written with the idea that people could have their own identity distinct from the uptight norms of the culture in which they were raised. Kids dig that. They want to rebel and develop their own identities.

        The mainstream rock comeback will happen Joan: Vinyl records continue to increase in sales and popularity because they sound warmer to the young person's ears. Vinyl sales are currently beating streaming sales in the UK. The digital Scandinavian middle-aged male-written computer pop music is okay for streaming but if you expect vinyl warmth real instruments will have to played. People who learn real instruments learn from classic rock. The corporations will have to find music that fits the vinyl medium and Kesha will get her chance.

        I think the new rock will be different in some ways from the old but enjoyed by people of all kinds.

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        Alex 15 months ago

        I don't think it's a flat plane as regards music. Sure a lot may be produced in every period but I don't believe or take for granted that the creation of art is separate from the culture or society we live in. It's kind of a neoliberal position to assume a division between independent creatives and the environment they're placed in. What I mean by this is that when people say there's never been a better time for music, that you can find any band you want on the internet they're half right. It allows a dude like me to get my music out there (such as it is), but when I ask people to name said bands, well on the off chance that they do, I can't say I'm impressed. So much rock music out there is derivative and I say this knowing full well my own music isn't original. But why? I think the environment isn't there to innovate, maybe it's also the fact that rock has reached maturation but a lot of bands are just interested in playing to a scene, sounding exactly like one band or just playing covers. There's a limited audience for music, people are more interested in the culture of social media, music isn't their primary medium for self expression. There's a whole confluence of factors I'm not smart enough to articulate precisely but we're living in an age of the Jerk, rich assholes running corporations have put a stranglehold on culture, corporatised it and made it difficult for artists to break through, this isn't just in music, it's in film, literature and beyond culture, in areas like social policy. What they fail to realise is that profit driven motives are like oil to the water of artistic creation, or say education and healthcare. You have the stagnation of the West via hyper capitalism, a broken system that's about to collapse under the weight of its contradictions. But in the age of the Jerk it muddles on, it's supported by rank and file jerks. And there's just a collective willful ignorance, a reaction against art or culture in favour of instant gratification and superficiality, it's a dynamism or zeitgeist, intangible, certainly not quantifiable for the neoliberal/capitalist informed mentality but there all the same and even more apparent retrospectively. The same ignorance and crappiness of culture could be seen in the 1930s/40s, there's very little I like about that era, or in the ultra limited art of the feudal era. Every so often the jerk mentality dominated and then is either broken or implodes under its own weight. So rock reflected a positive moment in human history, it was part of a postive dynamism with respect to the civil rights movements and counter culture of the 60s and since we're in the age of the Jerk/asshole, with everyone being assholes, it's no longer popular.

      • JoanCA profile image

        JoanCA 19 months ago

        Thanks MagicKat. A lot of women do say they've encountered significant amounts of sexism and harassment in the rock music scene, which may explain why some women may have felt they needed to be more masculine to fit in. But I agree that's not necessarily every woman's experience. However perceptions count for a lot. If women believe the rock music scene will be hostile to them, they may be wary of entering it to begin with. Fewer female artists may then mean fewer female fans.

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        MagicKat 19 months ago

        Thanks for the great article! I am a fan of rock n roll from all different eras. The only thing I would disagree with is the so-called feminist perspective. I don't really believe the "cock rock" myth about rock music. Women artists who play rock are not trying to be boys but are being strong women. Despite Janis trying to be one of the boys, I think rock is a self-assured / confident expression from a youth perspective and women rockers do not pretend to be something they are not. For example, Suzie Quarto said that it never came to her mind that she could not play the music because she was a girl. She just wanted to do it. Rock is not for wimpy people.

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        mumys123 2 years ago

        I think this article is great.

      • JoanCA profile image

        JoanCA 2 years ago


        I wasn't really focused on the history of rock here. But yes the heyday of rock was the 50's and 60's, perhaps into the mid 70's.

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        AlexDrinkH2O 2 years ago from Southern New England, USA

        Okay but you start in the 1960s and ignore the real "birth" of rock n' roll, the 1950s (you mentioned Elvis and Little Richard and that's about it).How about Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Dion, the 4 Seasons, and all the "doo-wop" groups? Most of the crap that passes for "rock" today couldn't hold a candle to any one of them.

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        Dave 2 years ago

        I can't wait for the day when an excellent band comes around and brings everyone together with Beatle-esque songs and hopefully, Beatle-esque popularity

      • JoanCA profile image

        JoanCA 2 years ago


        I agree that rock is far from dead. I think it's become so much easier to discover new music that being outside the mainstream isn't such a bad thing anymore. Many rock and R&B acts are having successful careers without having top 40 hits. It will be interesting though to see if rock bands can come back into the top 40 at some point. Popular music is always evolving and trends come and go so it's possible.

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        Doogie 2 years ago

        I actually don't think rock is really in decline. There are still plenty of good commercial alternative rock and mainstream rock stations out there with plenty of newer bands. I have also met plenty of high school and college-aged kids who listen to rock, both new rock and classic rock. Classic rock stations are still thriving. When people say "rock is dead," they're just referring to its lack of presence on today's pop radio stations or major music award shows.

      • JoanCA profile image

        JoanCA 2 years ago


        I think a lot of 80's rock was far more pop radio friendly than the alt. rock that's common today. I could really see it making a comeback. If something like Van Halen's Jump was released now I think it would be a huge hit.

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        Kv 2 years ago

        Im a white girl who is a teenager and ai listen mostly to 80s rock. I wouldn't say that rock is dead, but I would say thet it isn't popular to most younger people. But a lot of people do listen to rock still. And a lot of the old rock bands like ac/dc bon jovi still tour and still have sold out concerts. I think rock will eventually make its way back to being what everyone listens to.

      • JoanCA profile image

        JoanCA 3 years ago

        Country Girl,

        Record labels and country radio embraced bro-country because it attracted a large (mostly young male) audience that hadn't listened to country music before. They think they're expanding the number of country music buyers. The problem is they may drive away a lot of female artists and listeners in the process and end up making less money in the long run if they don't put out music women want to hear and buy. It makes sense to cater to everyone, something country largely stopped doing with the rise of bro-country and something rock isn't doing either.

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        Country Girl 3 years ago

        The same thing is happening in country music. There were never many minority singers but lots of women. In the past few years bro-country has largely pushed women off country radio and labels aren't providing much support to women. Female artists are becoming frustrated and it won't be to shocking if many would be women country singers switch to other genres. Bro-country is more popular with men so country may start to lose women as both listeners and artists if the labels and country stations don't make an effort to encourage diversity.

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        Ell 3 years ago

        The presence of women at rock concerts doesn't tell us much about popularity. A certain portion of those women will be there accompanying husbands and boyfriends. What counts is sales and streaming and women aren't doing enough to get rock bands into the top 40.

      • JoanCA profile image

        JoanCA 3 years ago


        If you had comprehended the article correctly you would know I was referring to rock declining in the mainstream. And I never said women don't listen to rock. I listen to it. But it is far less popular with women.

        There are actually some statistics to back up the claim that rock has far fewer female than male fans. A study on gender differences in streaming found rock is far more popular with men and pop with women.

        And it's wrong to conclude women are to be blamed for the decline of rock. Sexism and a disinterest in encouraging diversity in rock music is a major problem. To quote Jack White "It's a real shame that if a woman goes onstage with an instrument, it's almost a novelty."

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        Nyx 3 years ago

        HA im a girl & feminist & only listen to rock music, dunno why I'm being blamed for the death of rock LOL! Author doesn't sound like they really know what they're talking about. Rock n roll is still alive often there are 2-4 punk/prog/psych rock shows a week were I live and the crowd's and pits are only getting bigger. You have all genders attending the jams, the whole bro thing is dead. If you're talking about mainstream rock, yeah it is in decline - which is a good thing. a lot of the really good artists these days don't get featured in the media so their shows are cheap and uncorporate. You want to hear music comparable to the old days? You gotta turn the tv off and see it live.

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        Jacob 4 years ago

        Demographics is a huge problem for modern rock. It's too dependent on males in their 20's and under. Everyone buys pop music. Blacks, whites, Asians, hispanics, men, women, teens to people in their 40's and 50's, straight and gay. Rock has to find a way to appeal to a wider demographic to become relevant again. I think the success of Imagine Dragons is a good start. Maybe as people become more used to hearing rock, they'll embrace it more.

      • JoanCA profile image

        JoanCA 4 years ago


        I'm hearing more rock on HAC stations here, which play a mix of pop and adult contemporary. The top 40 stations are playing more pop rock and electro-rock. So, I think it could happen that we'll see more rock in a couple of years. Things seem to be moving that way.

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        Matthew Hegarty 4 years ago

        I think Rock music has already made a massive comeback in the UK with heavy acts like While She Sleeps, Enter Shikari, Bullet For My Valentine, Bring Me The Horizon, Marmozets And not so heavy Rock bands like Mallory Knox, You Me At Six, The Vaccines etc all getting in the charts and on the BBC Radio 1 daytime playlist within the last 2 years alone and A7X, BMTH haven gotten in the top 5 albums there is always guitar bands on BBC Radio 1 (biggest UK Current music station) and an increase in popularity for many bands and those bands are also becoming very successful and last year in the US Rock was the most popular music in the charts with over 30% (more than any other genre got) so I think Rock's comeback is happening but you just don't realise it yet