If You Think Rock is Dead, You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About.

Some say rock music is dead - it's certainly much harder to hear it on the radio these days with all the rock stations going away from playing rock music anymore.. (Photo Illustration: Gene Natale, Jr.)

Nicki Minaj. Lady Gaga. Justin Bieber. These are just a few of the so-called “Hot AC” artists that dominate the radio and television airwaves today. It seems like yesterday that rock bands like Nirvana or Stone Temple Pilots dominated the air..so what happened?

Some, like former 100.7 WMMS music director Dan Stansbury, believe rock music isn’t being heard because of a lack of good musical artists. “Rock music is in the worst state that maybe it has ever been,” he stated recently in a Facebook posting, “Still, I am optimistic, the scene being stale is what led to Guns ‘N Roses and years later Nirvana.”

Axl Rose helped usher in a new era of rock music in the late 80s. (Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

However, one might ask oneself – What exactly constitutes a ‘scene’? Does it refer to listening to music on the radio? If that is the case, than rock music may as well be completely dead in Cleveland, at least as far as corporate radio is concerned. With Radio 92.3 switching to a sports talk station, V 107.3 going jazz, and 100.7 WMMS continuing their transformation into a “man-talk” station devoid of music, there isn’t really a place on the terrestrial radio to hear new rock music. But here’s the problem – when one says ‘scene’, it has nothing to do with passively sitting and listening to radio. To be in a rock scene, one has to actively participate – by going to shows.

Many people who live in Cleveland have no idea just how strong the rock scene is in this city and surrounding areas. The problem with a lot of independent bands is the fact that their fans, for the most part, have to do more work than the average music fan to find them. If they are able, there are huge rewards at stake for those who love great rock music.

I could easily list countless bands in the Cleveland area that make great rock music. Ohio Sky. Battlestar. The Missing. Via the Sun. 2nd Half. Venomin James. Deadiron. One wonders, how could I ever know about these bands? The answer is simple – go to a show.

Tyler Harvey of Cleveland metal band Deadiron, shown here proving the non-deadness of rock music. (Photo credit: Gene Natale, Jr. / 88.7 WJCU)

The problem with rock music today is not a lack of great bands – the problem is that not enough people are supporting them! If you want rock music to become huge again, you can’t just expect it to happen by sitting at home waiting for it, like Dan Stansbury. “Youth of America,” Stansbury continued in his Facebook post, “I challenge you to leave the headphones and turntables alone and pick up a guitar and inspire a nation.”

In fairness to Stansbury, however, there is some substance to his gripe about what music is popular today. So-called “hot AC” is off the charts in terms of popularity today, and this shows in the listenership of the top 40 stations in town, between KISS-FM and Q-104. Despite the fact that that type of music is so popular, it is becoming harder and harder for new artists to break through in that musical genre. At a recent talk given at Peabody’s Downunder on behalf of Gorilla Productions, Atlantic Records consultant Kevin Blue stated that record labels are dropping hot AC artists left and right. Why? There is simply too many of them!

The record industry as a whole is still in the midst of a giant transformation. The Napster wars of the early milennium unleashed a Pandora’s Box of change, one that honestly, was long overdue. No more do music fans have to spend $20 to purchase a full album of filler songs just so they can hear that one great song they heard on the radio – the power is being reverted to the consumer, and that is the way it should be! The record companies can’t get away with dumping a bunch of crappy filler tracks onto an album with a hit single and expect to get rich doing it, as they have for the last 30 years.

So the bottom line is, if you like rock music, you have never been so empowered as a fan to choose what becomes popular. Support your favorite artists, especially independent musicians. Buy their music. Go to shows. Buy merch. Tell your friends about them! The rock revolution can swing back in our favor – if we make it happen.

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