Is Rock Really Dead?

As we face this new age of music and digital media, we must wonder if it is right to finally say "rock is dead."

Ultimate Guitar

We cringe at pop music. Radio stations, TV shows, and the whole mainstream media is just overflowing with what we can wholeheartedly call "garbage." Don't get me wrong, as a musician and artist I do like some pop; hell, I even gave Bieber's last album a listen. And it made realize that I'd like to see him step out of line, grab a guitar and record some songs. I know he's capable of doing it, but why won't he?

The music industry is an enormous monster with many heads and disgusting appendages. Although music is intended to be an artistic medium, it is often used as a method of getting rich quick.

It is true that there's the cliche of the poor musician that can't even pay the bills, but the truth is this: Only musicians that have a true passion about their craft are able to find their niche in what we might call "the industry." You may be a session musician, a performer, a teacher or a busker; every one of these roles requires hard work, dedication and love for what you are doing.

Artists create songs that mean something to them or to those that will listen. When you know how to "reach" people, you know what subjects or themes you can implement in your songwriting. You can write about your heart being broken, and you can be sure that many of us have had ours broken; the catch is to know how to develop a familiar message joined with meaningful and skillful musicianship. This is what producers try to do by joining forces with an artist; it is the basic process of successful pop music: The artist paints, and the producer manufactures.

Pop is popular. Its objective is to be digestible and catchy.

But rock is another different monster.

"To be a rock and not to roll." That's the final lyric to "Stairway to Heaven." It gives me shivers by just remembering it. Rock 'n' roll is disrupting the status quo, making noise and causing an uproar; it is about creating your place in history and rocking hard, achieving a good time for yourself and those that surround you.

The main difference between rock and pop is that pop has to be good, but rock defines itself, and then people decide whether they like it or not. Rock sets trends and movements, it joins tribes of people under one big chugga-chugga of djent guitars or ridiculous death metal blast beats. Kurt Cobain was a tremendous guitarist, but he played in a style that he knew represented him and the artistic reality that he believed in. Jimmy Page was a wizard and I do not need to say that he did whatever he wanted on his guitar. Angus Young and AC/DC, you just see how people jump in one large mass in this video. There is no room for pop in this party:

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Make noise! Make something that is novel and unique. Make sure that it sends shivers down your spine and that you love playing it. It is important to love your music. And be strict about your songwriting; it is easy to settle for what you write because you can be a great songwriter no matter what. But you must know when to store ideas for later, as you will realize which songs will be keepers.

As to when guys like Gene Simmons or some other fossil say that "rock is dead"... That is not for them to decide! What you receive in mainstream music is very different to what you can find if you truly love music. As those guys browsed record stores back in the day, you must surely browse YouTube searching for new and exciting music (if you do not, then start right now!). There are many, many new rock and metal bands that have unique sounds and shows, it is only a matter of time for them to become as large as they can. The relevance of a genre is determined by its audience, not by its players. Also be open to genres, for the love of god, UG users. Every genre, including pop and rap has something you can appreciate, try to give every type of music a chance. You never know if you will suddenly become a fan of '90s gangsta rap.

Instead of discussing whether rock is dead or not, you should be out there making it happen. Want to be the next Jimi Hendrix? Make it happen; you can do it in your own way. You can choose any effect you like, any guitar, any style, anything. Just do it, find your fire and burn everything with it, leave your mark, be stubborn and humble. Make it happen, who else will? There are many of us working hard towards the life we want, a life of different experiences, something extraordinary; not settling with established paths and career choices.

But if you want to play in a German Post-Grindcore band with Jesus Christ you're a tad too late:

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26 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Rock music isn't dead, but the rock music industry is almost dead. There's very little money to be made in rock compared to 15-20 years ago. Pirating MP3's has destroyed the industry, record companies can't make the money they once did, and they don't put the money into promoting bands like they used to. Maybe vinyl is giving the industry one last jolt as it lies unconscious on the operating table. This article puts a positive spin on things but doesn't look at the reality that's happening now in front of us. You see kids everywhere with their earbuds playing music, but what are they playing? Probably some pirated MP3 they didn't pay for.
    The industry is dying, but who knows if a revolution could come along and change things. Industry aside though, we can all keep playing and get happiness from the music we love so much.
    Great article really well written and table thumping. Rock isn't dead, but it's always been out of the mainstream, a niche market. Was ever thus, and probably will always be so. Agree with the article. Listen to anything and everything, because you'll pick up something you can incorporate in your own playing.
    Rock is alive and well and still kicks ass.
    There are many more great rockbands too many for me to count.
    I really hope rock makes a good comeback soon with all these new bands like Crazy Lixx, H.E.A.T, Shinedown, The Darkness, Airbourne, and Reckless Love.
    H.E.A.T, Crazy Lixx, Crashdiet, The Darkness, Airbourne, Reckless Love, Shinedown, all have hit their peak already. You don't bring back a dead genre, you evolve from it.
    I always find it funny when bands like AC/DC, or The Foo Fighters get used as examples of "true rawk!!!!" in this type of article, as if they aren't as deep if not deeper into the status quo and just about any mainstream pop artist of the last decade. As if they aren't staying snugly inside their, and their audiences comfort zones, pumping out unchallenging drivel they’re fully capable off. This idea that technical prowess also defines the quality of the music is daft too. This is just my opinion but, in order for something to rise above meaningless wankery, it's not just about being able to hit lots of notes, it's about knowing when not to hit them. That's what defines talent to me, putting meaning behind the music, making something more of it then just sound, or else it's the musical equivalent of watching a guy memorize a deck of cards. I mean, cool I guess? But why? What reason is there too watch that? You can marvel at the technical element but beyond that it's just a dude who's practiced memorizing cards a fuck-ton, anyone can do that, not to say you don't respect their commitment but that doesn't make it worth anyone’s time. And I mean if you want to use the "it doesn't matter its musical wank!!! It just sounds good!!!" then how can you hold that against pop artists who do the same thing? And even ignoring this, a lot of modern rock bands, even ones I see listed in these articles make incredibly simple, accessible music. Foo Fighters again, incredibly simple chord progressions, simpler than a lot of top 40 pop songs, clean production and 2 note melodies (first couple albums are dope tho). Just because it's played on guitar, doesn't make it any better than a similar song played on piano, or produced in a sequencer. AC/DC. I know it's a cliché, but every AC/DC song sounds the same, Angus knows his scales damn well, but he has a very limited knowledge of how to apply them, or how to craft anything outside the 4 power chord song structure. Once again, fun perhaps, but painfully unoriginal and lacking in any value or challenge outside base pleasure. And this whole "real instruments!!!!!" thing is just as dumb. First of all, anyone with some basic knowledge and practice can knock off a few chords on a guitar and write a "rock song". Anyone can write a Nickleback song. Anyone can write a Foo Fighters song. And anyone could probably, with some basic practice and knowledge knock out a simple pop, or EDM song. That doesn’t mean they’re good songs, or bad genres, producing a good song with a sequencer or a synth is just as hard, and can be pushed to as far out technical limits as doing the same with a guitar, and the fact you think it’s “pushing a few buttons” shows how ignorant and close minded you are. Brian Wilson, who I’d say wrote some of the best songs of the 20th century, could just barely play bass guitar and was only a decent pianist, but wrote some of the most gorgeous harmonies and melodies every written. Now that’s talent. Besides, many of the great classical composers could barely, or not at all play any instrument, but still they wrote amazing pieces for talent musicians to play, nothing wrong with that. It saddens me seeing Kurt's name being used in this article as well. Kurt loved a variety from many genres, from the gritty hiphop of NWA to the outsider pop of Daniel Johnston. Kurt Cobain loved originals. Kurt Cobain loved artists, and art, unlike pretension is not bound by genre descriptors or instruments. But yeah my 2 cents on the actual question, nope. Genres don't simply die, they change adapt, with society, technology and new styles. I can think of a number of "rock" artists who've produced excellent, original albums in the last decade.
    I believe you're missing my point. I didn't want to highlight AC/DC as "tru rawk," I wanted to show the audience and the feelings output by the band and the fans. It's not about who is "true rock" or who uses "real instruments" or not, it's about doing something different and unique, something that identifies you and doing that you love. I don't get why you do not like the fact that I mentioned Kurt Cobain. I mean, I mentioned him because he knew what he was doing with his style and his music. He achieved things that few artists are able to do. He went at it balls-to-the-wall, without care about whether people would like what he was doing or not, but we did like it. And to sum it up, there is a reason why I put the Excrementory Grindfuckers video at the end. Now that's some weird shit that can't be compared to much else, and it is fucking brilliant. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment your thoughts!
    I think I see what you mean now, although I'd argue that it's not about rock but music in general. I definitely agree that doing some different and unique is 100% what music's all about(even if AC/DC aren't an example I'd use, different strokes for different folks), that's actually the problem I have with a lot of modern rock music (looking at you, Mr Grohl), the originality, the genre pushing, the fuck-it attitude that made rock the genre staple it is today, and that's why so many people are starting to view it as washed up/dead. But that's a problem with music in general. There's bland derivative pop music, there's bland derivative rock music, there's bland derivative electronic music. Equally, there are absolute talented revolutionaries in all those styles. Kurt's an interesting example and it just gets me riled when I see his name thrown about. Interesting you make the point "he knew what he was doing with his style and his music" and "He went at it balls-to-the-wall, without care about whether people would like what he was doing or not" because I think a lot of people forget, Kurt fucking hated Nevermind. And I see why. Not saying it isn't a classic album (even if it spawned some shite grunge and post-grunge - ew), but it's not really Kurt Cobains unbridled vision, there was a lot of it that was severely watered down, the production was clean, and the sound was much poppier then Kurt wanted. But that album still has classic tunes that people really connect with. Really though, and Kurt himself thought this, that album was closer to a pop album in the traditional sense, but nothing wrong with that. That was also my point with Kurt's influences, he loved bands and artists regardless of genre, who went at it balls-to-the-wall without a care about whether people would like it, and I think that's universal. Things can still be accessible, even a little pander and be good (Nevermind), and things can be boundary-pushing and original (In Utero) There's something I can wholeheartedly get behind. We need more originals brave enough to take risks. But sadly I believe few (be they pop, rock or electronic) of those artists will ever break into the mainsteam, most people just don't care about the soul power that much. No problem dude! Really well written article Also nice to have some proper mature debate on here rather then mindless circlejerking.
    Amen!!! This is why I love psychedelic rock, progressive, and jazz fusion so much, experimentation and being different is the name of the game there! And it's not just powered by drug use either, for example the members of Pink Floyd stopped using drugs after Syd Barrett had a mental breakdown because of them.
    History repeats his self. The Era of digital, repetitive music is very akin to the disco days. To quote the limousines... It's rock n roll, it'll dig it's self back up again.
    I know people like to scoff at the electronic and hip-hop genres but honestly I find there's where a lot of the boundary pushing work is happening lately. It's still relatively new. There's still a lot of sounds to be discovered. Even the mainstream footing has caused some interesting new sounds that separate from the typical band setup (I might not like all the songs but still). Rock isn't really new anymore. There's still cool stuff happening all the time, but it's had its "revolution". Pretty much any new field gets a lot of hype when it starts. The exploration in rock music is still great, but relaxed, and that's probably why it feels dilluted to those that lived during the earlier decades. But no, it's far from dead. Still very popular too.
    Music is not in a renaissance. Most kids are more than happy to be swiping their phones and texting to someone while they are in the audience where a real person is destroying a real guitar solo. There's the EGM (musick?) with a couple of geeks pushing buttons and twisting a knob (you mean this kinda knob?), lights and a smoke machine going through 8 bass bins while the audience is in some drug induced dance frenzied sex on the dancefloor orgy of sweat and BEAT, pumping them into ecstasy. Three fourths of them couldn't care less if there's ever a guitar again in "musick". There's always that 1/4th left to keep rock going. Let's hope they have a lot of money and spend it on seeing rock musicians play out and buy their merch at the shows too. Let's HOPE.
    Rock quite often talked of drug use which is a key characteristic of the rock n roll style, "Sex, Drugs, and Rock n Roll". I can't help but feel nowadays that with the increased pressure from governments (particularly speaking for the UK as that is my home) in educating young folk into not doing drugs, this theme has been dampened in effect. It's no longer cool to do drugs apparently (although there are examples against this for example the 'rock scene' in London which is rife with MDMA, Ket, and Coke currently). Or maybe it's no longer cool to talk about doing them.."Yeah man I got so shitfaced last night, I'm a right K-hole". Sex has been numbed because censorship has decreased over the years regarding sex. It's slightly reversing right now back into being censored more but for a long while you could see tits in every news shop. Let's not forget that there are so many women both in music and outside of it showing their bodies for empowerment, and Calvin Klein has images of naked men on every billboard. The biggest downfall I think to Rock n Roll however is that the world has started to want censorship as opposed to fighting against it. We want to censor things because it 'may upset people'. It's something I'm guilty of myself, I want to censor racist bigots (not saying that to be racist is rock n roll). I remember talking to my Dad recently about a more serious topic of ISIS. He told me that generations have culture shifts over time that rebels against what their parents wanted. In ISIS' case, it was younger generations of Muslims fighting against their parents in order to become more conservative Muslims. Maybe we killed Rock n Roll by becoming more conservative? Lets also not forget people's expectations in regards to the production of music. Everyone expects clean, crisp, highly produced (sound wise) music. If it's anything close to being raw, people tend to class it as amateur and disregard it. It's part of the reason why Metal has started to homogenise to the point a large majority of bands pretty much sound the same. Every band in X genre must have X guitar sound, X vocal style, and X rhythms / grooves. If they don't they are bad. Let's not forget how screaming in music has started to sound the same from band to band with only a few particular people highlighted as having an original scream (although it then gets imitated by many bands afterwards).
    This is a well-thought out, well-written post. Why is it -18?
    Because I mentioned drugs and real rock n' roll antics. Most of the UG'ers are against that which exactly proves my point.