August 8, 2012
For many of us, the immediate reaction to a question like that is: Nobody! Yeah, I’m with ya, and classic rock will probably remain at the top of my favorite genre list until the day I die. The question above isn’t so much about the music as it is about the classic rock artists themselves. These people are still packing venues, and there are some folks in the live music business who are wondering about the ability of up-and-coming artists to pack these venues like the classic rockers do.
I read an interesting story in the Kansas City Star that touched on some issues that I hadn’t thought about before. We’ve got acts out there touring that have been around for upwards of four decades. Aerosmith is currently on tour and the reviews I’m seeing say that these rock veterans still have the energy and stamina to put on a kick-ass show.
Let’s consider a few other veteran rock groups who are still out there working the live stages: U2, Rush, Van Halen, Springsteen, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Journey. The list goes on, but you get the point. The point of the story from the Kansas City Star is who can, or who will take their place? Thanks to recordings, the music of these classic rock legends can theoretically live on forever, but we know that the people who created that music will not. That has some folks in the live music business a little concerned.
Since the “elder statesmen and women” of the music world are pretty much carrying the live side of the music biz, can the next generation step up to the plate and hit it out of the park? Obviously, the music scene has changed over the years and with the internet available to bring the next great thing to the masses at the speed of YouTube, the life expectancy of rock band popularity may have taken a hit.
Back in the day we had the radio and we had the record store. Those were two places music fans went to get their fix. MTV came along sometime in the 1980’s and I spent my share of time watching music videos, but it was just radio with pictures.
Attention spans are shorter these days and I can see that first hand just by hearing what comes out of the PC speakers of my own two kids. They got off to a good start (Dad’s classic rock!) but they’ve branched out and it seems like I hear the sounds of another new band I don’t recognize coming from their rooms every other week!
That is what people in the live music industry are concerned about. Back when I started getting interested in music and I found a group I really liked, I became a fan for life most of the time. There were only so many groups that FM radio could put on the air and since that was the primary way we discovered new talent, the pool was quite limited compared to what’s out there today.
With all that in mind, it’s no wonder there is some doubt about who will pack venues when the classic rockers are no more. Take it from an industry insider like Brett Mosiman of Pipeline Productions who was quoted in the story saying, “I’ve been saying for 15 years that the amphitheaters have been filled with mostly ’70s acts, and that’s going to come home to roost sooner or later. Over the past 10 years, that still hasn’t changed.”
Due to the changes in the music industry and the speed at which new groups can become popular, there is also the danger that they fizzle out before they get their act in front of a sufficient number of fans to build the numbers needed to sustain a music career for the long run. The outlets bands have for getting their music out to potential fans and without the same dependence on record company star makers is both a blessing and a curse it seems.
There are, of course, huge stars from other genres who seem to be hanging in there pretty well. That’s a point that was made by Jeff Fortier, president and promoter with Mammoth Productions who said, “And don’t forget Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Drake. The list is longer than you think. I think there will always be acts at that level, there will always be a place for those venues.”
The day will come when there is no more Van Halen and no more Rush to fill large venues. Will there still be rock acts popular enough to take over or are we nearing a time when seeing a live rock show at a major venue is just a memory?