Sweeping Rock Trends Take Longer To Materialize In The Digital Age

Has Rock stopped evolving? I don’t think so. I believe Rock continues to evolve in wildly inventive ways, just like it always has. And I think his eminence Sir Rocknuts is missing the forest for the trees when he argues otherwise.

Style Versus Substance

ipodsOff the top, I have a problem with the premise of his argument. He classifies glam, punk and grunge as being “breakthrough idioms” or “chasm-jumping new forms” of Rock. He goes on to argue that “today’s ‘new rock’ forms are much more about style than about substance.”

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But wasn’t each of glam, punk and grunge always more about style than about substance? Weren’t they all “throwbacks” to music that came before? Wouldn’t they be more accurately classified as being stylistic trends as opposed to being substantive tectonic shifts in Rock?

The Two Rock Revolutions

I would tend to side with the British researchers who studied 50 years of popular music and recently released their findings. They concluded that there were only two major tectonic shifts in the history of Rock. The first was the Rock Revolution of the mid-to-late 1960s which forged so many of the characteristics that we associate today with Rock. The second major tectonic shift was the ascendancy of synthesized, electronic instrumentation in the early 1980s.

Everything that Rock is, or ever will be, owes something to the Sixties Rock Revolution, or to its combination with electronic instrumentation. Beyond that, its evolution and innovation will continue to come from the almost limitless exploration and combination of styles that Rock artists are always discovering.

But there’s still more to the story. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that grunge was a sweeping stylistic trend and not a substantive new form of Rock. The core of Sir Rocknuts’ argument remains the same – Why haven’t we seen similarly popular trends take hold over the last 20 years?

What Has Changed Is The Way Rock Is Delivered

I would argue that the most significant change in Rock over the past 20 years hasn’t been at the creative end, it has been at the consumer end. The way recorded Rock music is delivered has changed drastically since the days when grunge was king, and I would argue that the internet has actually worked against the widespread popularity of a new stylistic trend like grunge.

Back in the early 1990s, you had to either listen to the radio (or watch MTV) to discover new music. It was so much easier for sweeping Rock trends to develop when there were so few sources to listen to Rock. Today we have hundreds of thousands of sources for our music. The creativity of rock musicians is exploding off in all directions like never before. But not enough people are following any one new style to create a significant trend.

So will we ever see another sweeping stylistic trend like grunge? I think so, but it will just take longer for the trend to materialize. We are still in a transition zone between old media and new media. I think as Rock music sites like this one mature and build critical masses of audience, then conditions will ripen for the Next Big Rock Thing. The creativity and innovation is there. It is simply a matter of delivering the right music to enough of the right people.

Photo Credit: By Chris Harrison from Augusta, GA, USA (iPod(s)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One comment to “Sweeping Rock Trends Take Longer To Materialize In The Digital Age”
  1. Pingback: Rock Rolls On. Or Not… | Rocknuts

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