Monday, January 11, 2016

In This Aging State of Rock Music, Can This New Trend Keep Rock Alive?

Scott Weiland Lemmy David Bowie

They say these things come in threes. This may be one of the more brutal threes I can remember. First, it was Scott Weiland. Then, we were shocked by Lemmy’s passing. Only to then be blindsided this morning (as of when I’m writing this) by the announcement that David Bowie died overnight. It’s been a rough 5 weeks in the rock music world.

Sadly, rock music is at a point where many of the big players aren’t going to be around much longer…at least on a concert stage. We’ve got two Beatles left that are in their 70’s. Most of the Rolling Stones are in their 70’s (Ronnie Wood is still a spry 68!).  The big 70’s bands like Led Zeppelin, KISS and Aerosmith are in their mid to late 60’s. Bands like AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Rush, and even Motley Crue have either announced (or finished) their final tours, or our likely there even if they haven’t announced it.

So who’s going to carry the torch for the next generation? Who are the current major bands that will have some longevity and be considered classic at some point? Unfortunately, there aren’t many options. The short list is dominated by Foo Fighters. I’d add Metallica to that list, but they’re even closer to already being classic rock.

There just aren’t many new bands that have the potential to be around for 20 years or more. The music business doesn’t support a band like it used to. It’s incredibly hard for bands to break out and even harder to sustain any momentum.

That said, there is a new trend that may be gaining some steam – franchising. Eddie Trunk has been talking about this for a little while now. What does that mean in the rock world? It’s bands licensing their name to new players to tour, and in some cases even create new music, under the name of popular bands. Sound farfetched? It’s already happening with at least two bands and on the verge with another.
  • Foreigner: They are currently touring, and have for some time, with no original members of the band. Granted, guitarist Mick Jones will play on sporadic select dates, but it’s not often. He licenses out the name and makes money on a new version of the band. They’re showing success, which has some other bands at least considering the idea.
  • Blackfoot: Who? You know…Ricky Medlocke? Highway Song? Train Train? With a couple of minor hits, is there enough interest in seeing the original band, let alone a new band with all new members? Medlocke (currently playing guitar for Lynyrd Skynyrd) was on Eddie Trunk’s podcast discussing it. He’s heavily involved and plays on their new music and occasionally in concert (which, in my mind, creates other issues), but is anyone clamoring for it?
  • KISS: Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are the only two original members in the band. However, they’ve stated on many occasions that they believe KISS can go on without them. And from the sounds of it, that may happen much sooner than later. With KISS, the members of the band portray characters. KISS in makeup has always been more popular concert draw than without. Does it matter who’s behind the makeup? We’ll soon find out.

One of the reasons it works for Foreigner is that the music was always bigger than band members. While Foreigner has a bunch of hits, you’d be hard-pressed to name more than two members of the band. That is likely the recipe for success: huge nostalgic hits + low individual band member notoriety = franchise success.

My personal opinion is that these are the equivalent of a tribute band, even if they have the original members’ endorsements. Are people going to shell out hard earned cash to see the bands they used to love with all new members? Like most fads, it’ll work well for a few (like Foreigner) and then tons of bands will follow with decreasing success.

Do you want to see an Aerosmith without Steven Tyler or Joe Perry? How about the Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger or Keith Richards? Yes, the songs are what made the bands great. But the mystique of the bands playing those songs are what made the experiences great. You can only fake that for so long.

Let me know what you think of this trend. Does it interest you? What new rock bands should we check out? Tell us in the comments below.

Image Sources:
David Bowie: Victor Pineda

Scott Weiland: Daigo Oliva

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