Music Industry

Published on January 24th, 2018 | by Alan Cross

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Alt-rock’s age problem

On episode 808 of The Ongoing History of New Music, I went through a number of reasons why it’s so hard to be a rock superstar in the 21st century.

One of my laments was that those associated with the alt-rock world have done a terrible job of developing new superstars. So many of the biggest acts today are not exactly–how shall I put this?–young.

This is not an ageism thing. Anyone should be able to rock on for as long as they are able. But it is worth noting that back in the alternative 90s, the biggest acts in the world were all in their 20s. Early 30s, max.

With the exception of Lorde and–er, that seems to be it–the alt-rock world is dominated by acts in their middle 30s to upper 50s. If we’re talking about the health of the genre, this is unsustainable. While there are plenty of great young bands, we need more of them to become massive.

Take a look at this article from UPROXX.

If you listen [to alt-rock radio], songs from the ’90s are still heavily in rotation next to the latest singles. More than hip-hop and pop formats, what’s new is just a fraction of what listeners are hearing. It’s hard to say whether Walk The Moon’s hits, regardless of how omnipresent the feel now, will still be getting pushed by the radio in five years the way a band like Muse or Red Hot Chili Peppers become pillars of the genre.

Beck’s latest single, “Up All Night,” has been number one of the alternative charts for weeks, and it also sounds decidedly fresh and built for 2018 ears. Beck has long proven himself to be a sonic chameleon, with this song standing closer to a Justin Timberlake pop song than it does to, say, something off Odelay. It’s a fitting turn for a songwriter that still looks and performs like an ageless wonder. But it’s also clear that Beck will never be the kind of transcendent rock hero that R.E.M. or U2 is. Hell, more than 25 years into a career that has included the highest Grammy honors and tons of radio hits, Beck was still not the biggest artist to perform on this bill nor the one entrusted to closing the show.

Keep reading. Comments welcome, of course.




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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