Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rock is Dead: Rolling Stone and the Lack of Young People

Rock is dead. Or, more to the point, the youth culture that created rock music is dead. Because we don't have enough young people. Not enough at any rate to create the kind of robust, competitive, and creative youth market that characterized the course of Rock music from the 1960's through the 1980's. For anyone seeking proof of that, simply examine the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine.


[click Image to Enlarge]



This isn't unusual. See the site Magazine Death Pool for the betting line on which magazines will cease publication. Note that Blender, which ceased publication in March 2009, had on the cover such rock "artists" as Kelly Clarkson. Meanwhile, the current Rolling Stone covers such cutting edge youth concerns as Obama's Energy Secretary saving the Planet, stories on "Mad Men," "Entourage," "True Blood," and "Weeds" (all skewing heavily female, and older, mid forties or later). American Idol's Chris Daughtry, and Willie Nelson are featured, along with the shocking news that American Idol's Adam Lambert is indeed, gay. Lambert of course poses on the cover as a seductive pop tart, reminiscent of Rolling Stone's 1990's era cover featuring the edgy, youth-oriented Britney Spears (pre-meltdown, pre-Federline).

None of these features, stories, photos, or series of covers screams youth orientation, and of course nearly every bit of content skews heavily older and female.

This is because America's most scarce resource is young (White) people, who drive Rock and other aspects of youth culture.

The short story of 20th Century demographics would read something like the following. In the 1920, prosperity and an increased supply of youth (born after the turn of the Century in good times) created a youth culture. Increased prosperity also led to more babies being born. Then the Great Depression ended the Youth Culture, followed by WWII, which made teenagers who turned 18 in 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945 (born in 1924, 1925, 1926, and 1927 respectively) into adults very quickly. Youth culture did not return, until the post-War baby boom and rising incomes created it as in the 1920's. Starting with first toys and then music, youth markets exploded. The Davy Crockett craze, and toys, were as important as Elvis. For example, Hula Hoops came on the scene in 1957, along with Frisbees. Kids who were ten or eleven in the 1950's, entered their late teen age years and early twenties in the 1960's, and drove the youth culture, from music to fashions.

But, births became radically reduced in the latter half of the 1960's. Rising costs of living, declines in real wages, ending of restrictions on abortion, contraception, and the belief in delayed marriage reduced fertility and births every year starting in 1965. During the 1970's, this reduced fertility (as families were also hammered by a poor economy) only increased, recovering somewhat in the 1980's, only to fall again in the early 1990's during the recessionary period, and the high cost of housing in the inflationary period of the latter 1990's and early 2000's when the Dot-Com and Housing bubbles drove prices in urban job centers (mostly on the coasts) up past affordability for many families.

This has left marketers, publishers, creative people, pundits, and many others in a mental prison. Their model of how the world works (there is always more young people, and a large group of young people drives an ever changing culture) is at odds with the reality: there is an ever smaller supply (of young White people) who are the engine of youth culture, and this lack of young (White) people is the chief cause of the decline of youth culture in all areas.

While it is true that internet piracy, decline of the CD as a sales medium for music, and the growth of low-cost online sales of mp3 versions of music on sites as diverse as Apple's Itunes store and Amazon's own online offerings have seriously diminished the money rock artists (and everyone else) earn from recordings, live performances are still lucrative.

It's still possible to make (considerable) amounts of money from rock music, by touring and performing live, where fans will pay considerable amounts of money to see favored artists. It's interesting however to see just who ranks in live performing revenues.

The 2004 Rolling Stone Rich List has for example, James Taylor making about the same amount ($20 million) as Eminem. The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and the Eagles are the top three performers. In 2007 Miley Cyrus earned a combined $64 million from concerts and music sales. But no new artists like Elvis in the late 1950's or the Beatles in the mid 1960's are earning this amount of money, from either recording or touring. Cyrus, working the tween girl market, made close to the amount that the Eagles did in 2004 ($63 million for the Eagles vs. $64 million for Cyrus).

As an aside, it's interesting that while musicians can make money from older fans (the Stones, Springsteen, the Eagles) or young tween girls (Cyrus), there's little evidence of any performer who can draw young White men in appreciable numbers to be competitive with the top revenue earners in pop music. Young men seem completely absent from popular music.

The 2000 Census data can be found at that link, while the 1990 Census data (for White Alone) data can be found here, while the 1980 Census data (PDF only) can be found here.

Here is the graphic version of the 1980 Census:


[Click Image to Enlarge]

Using the 1980, 1990, and 2000 Census, I've constructed the following table.






















































































































2000 1990 1980
Under 5 years 12,859,892 13,649,490 11,789,394
5 to 9 years 13,944,882 13,616,268 12,200,468
10 to 14 years 14,322,638 12,853,558 13,699,871
15 to 19 years 14,167,148 13,342,703 16,138,482
20 to 24 years 13,064,891 14,523,912 16,541,315
25 to 29 years 13,501,773 16,638,544 15,262,799
30 to 34 years 14,818,786 17,351,513 14,143,721
35 to 39 years 17,031,493 16,081,606 11,290,738
40 to 44 years 17,265,995 14,506,390 9,408,654
45 to 49 years
15,810,626 11,585,703 9,034,158
50 to 54 years 14,213,875 9,504,871 9,812,613
55 to 59 years 11,107,247 8,968,416 9,990,620
60 to 64 years 8,945,842 9,211,123 8,813,447
65 to 69 years 8,040,225 8,899,637 7,641,210
70 to 74 years 7,648,193 7,126,564 6,001,564
75 to 79 years 6,530,019 5,485,025 4,229,594
80 to 84 years 4,408,597 3,552,695 2,631,873
85 years and over 3,778,504 2,788,052 1,972,317



From this data, I've constructed the graph below showing the decline in youth cohorts from the 1980 Census data:


[Click Image to Enlarge]

I must mention that the estimates from the US Census Bureau show an increase in youth cohorts, wrt to 2008 vs. 2000, but these are estimates and not complete enumerations. They also fly in the face of the other data, which suggests a birth dearth and scarceness of young people. Among others, the losses at the UPN and WB networks, and continued losses at the merged CW network, aimed solely at teen girls. For example, the highest ratings of WB/UPN series Buffy the Vampire Slayer were 5.3 million, while that of the 1980's series the A Team were 20.1 million viewers.

Nevertheless, the data for White Alone youth cohorts for the 2008 estimates show an increase in young people created during a decade of high housing costs and declining real wages. Perhaps people magically had children at little cost, unlike earlier decades. Or some other cause is at work (immigration from Europe with pre-existing children)? I do find it puzzling that the peak numbers of the Baby Boom (16-17 million per cohort) is now approached in numbers (around 15-16 million) for the younger age cohorts, under age 5 to age 29. Particularly since the numbers of age cohorts in 2000 who would naturally age (8 years later) don't match up, there seems to be an extra 3 million people added with no explanation. Completeness however demands I point out that data, and let readers draw their own conclusions. My own are that the over-counting might well be from faulty estimates and wrong classifications (Hispanic/White being put into the White Alone category).

The White Alone category is the driver of the youth market, because Hispanics tend to strongly prefer Spanish-language media. As I've noted in other posts, during the campaign for and against California's Proposition 8 (overturning gay marriage), the opponents of Prop. 8 recruited Puerto Rican actress America Ferrara, star of the ABC-TV series "Ugly Betty" to record spots against Proposition 8. In English. Proponents of Proposition 8 got actual, Mexican native and Spanish speaking Telenovela stars to record spots in Spanish for Prop. 8. This undoubtedly helped Proposition 8 to pass.

America has a substantial Hispanic/Mexican youth population, but they tend to inhabit a separate and distinct cultural universe which only occasionally intersects with the English speaking, White/Black culture. Blacks do share many if not most of the cultural assumptions and enthusiasms of the White population, and a quick check of Nielsen's excellent ratings portal confirms that Black and White preferences for Television remains pretty much the same. While Hispanics don't share many of the same viewing patterns. Howver, there simply are not that many Blacks (12.5% of the population) to make an impact as a mass-driver of youth culture.

[Note to bloggers, for those seeking to copy/paste data into Excel from web-pages, a good Text Editor that can do regular expression search and replace is critical. For this post, I'd selected web pages generated by the US Census Bureau website and copied into TextWrangler, the free text editor from the BBEdit folks for the Mac. Using regular expressions I replaced the pattern of \r\t\r\r (a carriage return, a tab, two carriage returns) with \t (a single tab). Of course you need to show the invisibles to figure out what to replace. Gedit on Linux does not have regular expressions, both Kate and Jedit (the latter also available on the Mac) have regular expressions in Search and Replace. Once you've set up your text file properly, save it and import it into Excel or Open Office as a delimited (tab) text file and save yourself lots of tedious typing. It's faster and you don't get errors. A good text editor is also critical in replacing the junk that Excel or Open Office create when it saves HTML files, which I've done in creating this table for Blogger.]

Rolling Stone is as tedious, older skewing, aimed at a mostly older, female readership, as it is, because there just are not that many young people. Not enough young people to make say, either the Killers or Arctic Monkeys (both formed in 2002) as well-known, as popular, and as profitable as say Elvis, the Beach Boys, or the Beatles, in their hey-days, or even as the Eagles in 2004, a band at that point 32 years old (the Eagles were formed in 1972).

Everyone knows the data, but some times it takes the posed glamor shot of an ... American Idol contestant to understand how rock, and youth culture in general, are both dead. Because there are not enough young people.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whiskey,

Ive got three or four notes to make that are relavent.



Number One: YouTube. Kids getting into rock (like my younger cousins, and my pal's teenaged boy for instance) looked up Led Zeppelin footage at MY suggestion. Ive created monsters. A huge Jimmy Page poster is on his bedroom wall, and he has downloaded all their albums. "What about bands that are playing now?" I ask. "They suck" is the reply I get.
Kids can look up the Led Zep's, early Van Halen's, Rush's, Journey's, Deep Purple's, Pink Floyd's and deduce the same thing: bands in the past were not only better than whats out there now, but MUCH better usually with a few exceptions.

Rolling Stone and MTV are only interested in promoting black underclass-emulating acts, or blatantly left-wing alternative acts. This turns kids off, and kids have a choice now, via YouTube, to discover acts they enjoy on their IPods on their own. Since tastes are so different (naturally), the huge-mega acts like we had in the past aren't going to be happening, even if there was not a birth dearth.


2)Red-state christian kids (youre missing this story Whiskey) have a unique subculture that is kind of their own. I wonder how many second-and-third-tier private christian schools and homeschooling kids there are now? Lots of these kids can listen to their dads collection of music, or have downloaded it for free in the Napster years anyway.
The red state birthrate is roughly replacement Whiskey. There are still plenty of white kids out here in fly-over country. Red State Jesus-freak families have been busily building their own Mormonesque subculture in the past few years---insulating themselves from the societal assault.

3)Most modern rock sucks----big time. Grunge, which was depression music sold by MTV because it was so damned bad the liberal social (Judy McGrath) execs probably thought it would cause a flight into rap............wrecked rock. One of my younger cousins called them "whiner bands". Thats a very apt description. Thats precisely what they are. Rap sucks also, but at least the violent troubadors or Wolfian dog-sex seem upbeat about mayhem and lust. Therefore you'd be suprised just how many kids listen to rap, even though they know its shit. If boys think the girls like it, thats what the boys will listen to. Since rap exudes mega-masculinity, ditzy hormonal girls will listen to it.



4)On your LA Times post: I'd love to read a daily paper, but I refuse to give my local Gannett-syndicate rag my money. Im not going to support leftism or its propaganda. Thats why I quit reading it in the early 90's. I look at copies that -other- people have bought at work, but will not pay for it. I hit up their website some, but wouldn't pay for it. The local TV news and blogs will have to suffice. Buying our paper would (for me) be like buying a National Organization for Women magazine monthly for 50 bucks a year. I refuse to give them my money. Thats why I dont read one, and I suspect why whites in LA dont either.

Parting smart-ass shot: Its funny to me that the Mexicans (duh!!!) want to read Spanish-language papers. I bet some staffers at the LAT actaully feel "betrayed" by that. They really are a short-sighted bunch.



Yes..............Im aware of how cruel and insensitive I am.

Whiskey said...

Good points.

What puzzles me is the total failure of any act to generate a male following. All the stuff even the rap junk is followed without much passion by White Male teens, while Disney and others fight over tween girls.

It's a puzzling marketplace failure. Since Rock is cheap to get into, basically a guitar and a pal with a garage and a drum set.

It is striking how musicianship, passion, virtuousity, and everything else was stronger during say 1960-1988, and has simply disappeared from Rock today.

RF Interference said...

Anonymous - you cherry pick the best bands spread across decades and compare them to the here and now and determine they just don't make 'em like they used to?

H o r s e h o c k e y.

As time passes the mediocre bands from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are forgotten. The mediocre bands of today are still touring and releasing albums.

When I compare Hydra to Shiner (1970s mediocrity versus 1990s mediocrity) I don't see a huge decline in rock music. I'm happy listening to either. Thinking about it, if I had to pick one album among any made by either band, I'd choose The Egg.

Whiskey, I'm sure the demographic shifts you point out have had an impact, but I don't think it's the death of rock. Hell, it's the clowns at Rolling Stone that keep telling us shit bands like the Vines have saved rock, when it was never in much danger in the first place.

Rolling Stone were born of the boomer lefty student movement. Their kind were originally into folk as they remembered rock and roll from the previous decade via tin pan alley and payola and saw it as kids stuff not suitable for advancement of the revolution. When rock finally pinged back from across the pond carrying some great bands (and a health dose of anglophilia with it) it was safe to get back on board.

But these types have always distained middle class white kids, who generally make most of the rock. There were lots of good surf and garage bands around before the British invasion who went largely ignored by the college kids.

The draw for these rock critics was never rock, it was politics. You see this loud and clear with Obama's energy secretary on the cover of Rolling Stone.

But rock music hasn't died, except maybe in the U.K. where the press and artists themselves got way too into the late era Beatles and Bowie and are far more interested in celebrity as canvas than actual music (save for the electronic folks who are doing interesting things, but that's not really rock).

It's gone back to suburbs, a lot of it has gone metal and metal has never gotten much love from liberal rock critics because it's the product and domain of middle to lower class white males.

Check out current prog metal bands like Mastodon and Baroness.

You've got to go out and find Comets On Fire. Everything is spread out all over the damn internet nowadays. It takes some work. Do you want to subscribe to Arthur and Vice and skim through all the liberal crap contained within (though Vice does poke fun at its own audience a lot) to pick out the few gems you'll gain exposure to? How many MP3 blogs are you subscribed to?

Weighing the music of today is messy stuff. You've got to wade through the shit. Weighing the music of the past is easy, the cream has already risen to the top.

apex said...

I call bull on the "not enough young people" theory. You still have more young white people than England had in the 60s, and they did most of the heavy lifting in the rock music business.

What has changed is the culture, and rock isn't part of that anymore, it's on its way to accepted classical music (see anonymous Number One paragraph). Mozart and Verdi, they were the rock bands of their age, and time moved on. We'll see what comes next, but it won't be rock, or maybe there will be a retro-fad with rock, but rock as you think of it is dead.


apex

Anonymous said...

Some good points here, but I think apex is pretty close to the mark. Kids are probably opting out of the mainstream rock when they leave the tweens.

There was an old article I remember reading that made a point about the popularity of the Artic Monkeys amongst the boomer/genX crowd and inferred how this would effect the youth of the day. The kids would not accept the band as relevant because they were finding out about them from their parents.

Cowboy said...

The old rock n' roll megastar is a thing of the past because what fuelled the phenomenon was record sales. Record companies could tolerate Keith Moon driving a Cadillac into the hotel swimming pool and Pete Townshend smashing up thousands of dollars of equipment on stage every night when millions kept flowing in to the coffers due to album sales.

That age of excess is over, and with it went the huge marketing push of the record labels and the mystique they could create around pop icons to push their brands.

Music is now also carefully targeted around specific demographic niches. This is also a consequence of evaporated album sales. It's easier and more reliable to target niches than to produce something with mass appeal (that was always a crapshoot).

I remember watching the Grammies with my whole family. Everybody knew all the artists and had familiarity with all the songs up for awards. Each demographic, mom, dad, sister, brother, might have had a different favorite horse in the race, but all the horses were known by all. That's gone these days due to the demographic stratification of music and radio industries and the same phenomenon with Internet groupings. Increasingly the Best Song and Best Artist winners are folks that huge swaths of Americans have never heard of. Heck they have whole categories of awards now that have older folks wondering what the heck they are for.

So, not only do we have dwindling numbers in the demographic cohort of the youth, we have a very much heightened sense of balkanization among the various demographic grouping that we didn't have before.

You can't sustain a broad culture when such balkanization is present. That works at cross-purposes to what culture writ large really is, and that's a set of common things. Culture is a commonality at heart, not a strewn archipelago.

Whiskey said...

The career path for young White British musicians in the 1960's, Apex, was to work dive bars, go overseas (to places like Hamburg), play for months, come back, try and get a demo, leverage the youth market of free radio, and get signed.

That's a very low-cost strategy. Not much cash. It's what the Beatles did, what the Stones did, heck what Presley did in 1954 at Sun without much cash and with a smaller population.

But the point was that each successive year brought a larger population, and each age cohort was bigger than the one before. Everyone could see the opportunities, in selling fast, danceable music to young kids who wanted to dance. Which at it's heart is what Rock was and is. No more or less.

Which brings us to the question, where are the new dance bands or musicians of today? Why is it that unlike 1954, when an amalgam of R&B, Gospel, Blues, Country and Western, and Bluegrass all together, in Memphis Tennessee, was able to appeal to most youth and today, there is nothing? With aging rockers like the Eagles outdrawing the most Youth Oriented guy, Eminem.

It's as if young people in the 1960's were listening to Guy Lombardo and his orchestra, or Lawrence Welk. Both are equidistant in time.

We are seeing a declining market, one that has seen only one sustained new trend since the 1980's: Rap. Only Rap has appealed in any way to young men, and most of it has been Black. White rappers are considered jokes.

It's extremely unusual since the dawn of recorded music for young White men to be so absent in popularity and revenue. If record deals don't make money (and they don't, Elvis Costello rakes it in on tour but his albums sell poorly) live touring is remarkably renumerative for bands that reach a certain critical mass, and that was true even before the Internet with the Grateful Dead, who sold poorly but made great livings out of touring.

It doesn't take much cash to take up a guitar, start playing, and if you have talent, make danceable music that you can make money from. That's been the model since Elvis in 1954 and suddenly it stopped working around the time Grunge (thankfully) died? Why did it suddenly stop working?

That Rolling Stone would even put American Idol guys on the cover, in a non-ironic fashion, is telling. Or Blender have a cover with Kelly Clarkson (another Idol contestant).

Novaseeker said...

Whiskey --

I think there are a couple of other things going on as well.

One is that, as you relentlessly point out elsewhere, the economic power in the culture has shifted decisively female since the height of the rock era. As a result, the music industry, like the film and tv industries, have skewed female. There is an overwhelming emphasis on the female tween set because they are grooming and molding the next generation of American consumers -- predominantly females. The entertainment industry, like many others, has almost completely lost interest in males because females spend a lot more money than males do in consuming virtually everything. Females *are* the consumer economy, more or less -- males are economically irrelevant on the consumption side.

What does this have to do with the decline of rock? Well, if you go back to the height of the rock era -- and by that I mean classic rock like The Who, Zeppelin, The Stones, The Eagles, Rush and so on -- this music was (even at the time) deeply masculine music. The notes, the forms, the lyrics, the vibe was all deeply and unapologetically masculine. Sure, there were many women who liked this music, too -- but it was the masculinity in the music that they were attracted to.

Since the height of the rock era, the culture has shifted decisively away from masculinity and headlong into femininity. The cover of RS that you feature here is just the cherry on top of the cake. Overall the "tolerance" for the expression of masculinity by *white* males has dropped to almost zero in the culture. Bands singing things like The Who and The Stones did in the 70s would be considered deeply offensive today, and to be honest many young men do not have the stones to produce music like that. Our culture has more tolerance for the hyper-masculine expression of rap, precisely because, as you point out, this is largely a black male phenomenon, and as despised as black men are, they are marginally less despised than white men are, and masculine expression by black men is much more culturally tolerated -- we expect white men to act like castratos in this culture.

To me it seems fairly obvious -- follow the money. The money is with women. And the culture hates white men. Classic rock is about as white male as you can get, hence it is only tolerated "off grid" on places like YouTube and on people's iPods, but not celebrated in the culture as a whole.

Have a listen sometime to an old Zep or Stones album and see just how politically incorrect they are, and how hostile the culture has become to white masculinity in the last few decades.

Novaseeker said...

One more follow-on comment.

If you listen to people like The Stones and Zeppelin and so on, you see that the very masculine voices there were largely not angry ones --> these were guys who were happy to be males, comfortable in expressing masculinity in a culture that did not denigrate them. You get more anger in Pete Townshend's lyrics, but that was more a result of his own persona than the specific era.

When you fast forward to the next phase in the 80s and 90s, you see the red alert signs flashing about what was happening in the culture as a whole vis-a-vis masculinity. The sharp rise of heavy metal bands in the 80s coincided with the true beginning of the Trotskyite suppression of masculinity in the culture as a whole. There was real anger in those heavy metal voices -- and a redoubling of effort to be kind of hypermasculine in a way that was sticking a middle finger up at what the dominant culture was saying white men should be like.

The next wave of that -- and perhaps the last one -- was the grunge wave, or "whiner bands" as was remarked above. Grunge bands were also sounding alarm bells about what was happening to masculinity in the culture, and the growing alienation of young white males from the broader culture. A song like, say Pearl Jam's "Once" is a great example of that vibe and message.

That continues among young white males, but in a kind of samizdat way. YouTube and the ability to purchase older, more masculine, music on the internet easily has allowed young men to nurture a taste for these earlier forms of rock music, because the current cultural offerings do not include much of anything in the way of white masculine fare.

Anonymous said...

Well, something has certainly changed in the last twenty years or so, with regard to youth culture. I am simply stunned that kids today really like Aerosmith or the Eagles or the Ramones, the music that was popular when I was young. My Lord, that was thirty years ago! I can't imagine me and my friends back in 1975 listening to Glenn Miller, but as Whiskey points out, chronologically it works out that way. I can't think of a time in the twentieth century when young people preferred the music of their elders to music of their own generation - it's simply unprecedented.

I'm not sure about the causes of this - whether its demographic, or more broadly cultural, or whether its a result of the fact that the Boomers just won't let go of any aspect of the culture, and have forced modern youth culture onto the internet, and possibly at least partially aborted it. But I do know that we are living through a transition moment in American culture.

Tschafer

A.J. Travis said...

Last week, I had to babysit my niece and nephew. They already own the video game 'Rock Band' and I decided to bring my AC/DC Rock Band upgrade with me.

My niece, who is 6 and was addicted to Miley Cyrus, and my nephew, 9, who didn't seem to like any current music, now know how to sing the chorus to every AC/DC hit song.

They LOVE the old stuff. Rock Band has plenty of current 'hit' songs, that the kids could care less about. but put 'Back in Black,' or 'Blitzkrieg Bop' or Blondie or The Police on, and they go crazy.

Anonymous said...

This dead of the rock is probably very much US phenomenom. At least here in North Europe rock and heavy metal especially is very popular music amongs teenagers and new band and records and coming all the time.

Anonymous said...

nowdays there's nothing of cultural value to aimless white boys.

they are neutered, but even their eunuch ears cannot tolerate a constant barrage of EMO, Plain White T's or *sniff* Breaking Benjamin.

Once, all demographics shared a common music and listened to The Four Tops, Linda Ronstadt, Elton John or Elvis.

Respectively: Blacks, women, gays and white males. Elton wasn't out of the closet then.

The fragmenting of the music sphere is reflective of the fragmenting of America

Anonymous said...

Firepower says:

nowdays there's nothing of cultural value to aimless white boys.

they are neutered, but even their eunuch ears cannot tolerate a constant barrage of EMO, Plain White T's or *sniff* Breaking Benjamin.

Once, all demographics shared a common music and listened to The Four Tops, Linda Ronstadt, Elton John or Elvis.

Respectively: Blacks, women, gays and white males. Elton wasn't out of the closet then.

The fragmenting of the music sphere is reflective of the fragmenting of America

Whiskey said...

Novaseeker, I think you nailed it. The older generation was masculine, unapologetic, and made lots of money off it.

It's telling that todays generation of young guys cannot even conceive of being on stage acting masculine.

Anonymous said...

Whiskey, how about german band Rammstein which is quite popular also in US I think? Isn't that masculine? Even more than Led Zeppelin?

One important thing in rock has been however rebellion against older generations. Nowdays rock doesn't have anymore this aspect because it has become mainstream. Maybe this is also part of the decline.

TGGP said...

I'm willing to be the odd man out and say that grunge was way better than the hair bands that preceded it (hell, the 80s was ground zero for suck, with MTV, new wave and rap starting up) and the rap that succeeded it. Depressing music is nothing new, even Black Sabbath certainly didn't invent the blues or country. Also, while I think classic rock was great I can't buy into the claim that it was so masculine. The singers were frequently long-haired skinny dudes who had a somewhat feminine aspect to them. They didn't generally sing in very deep pitches either. David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Rob Halford were all if not gay at least bi (Mick Jagger also supposedly slept with Bowie). Little Richie and Lou Reed have both admitted to being gay at some point.

My take is that musical genres go through fads, even large amorphous ones like "rock". I'm sure people decades ago would have griped about the decline of big-band or danceable jazz (whereas I think bop is an improvement), and something similar is happening with rock. To continue my gripes against MTV, I think that medium has displaced music more generally. A long time ago all people had was radio. Opera & vaudeville are not mass entertainment, though they might have been at one time. Steve Sailer thinks that video games have sucked up a lot of young talent and I think he might be right.

feeblemind said...

I have been amazed that for at least the last 15 years, kids have preferred 'Classic Rock'. As that seems to be the case, one still wonders why the next Led Zep, Who or Fleetwood Mac has not emerged? Perhaps it is cultural? PC is absolutely smothering us culturally. We are being told what to think, how to behave and what to eat and we are shouted down and ostracized for opposing it. Such an enviroment is not conducive to creativity.

Anonymous said...

feeblemind, I think this has lot to do with the fact that also old music is much better available for youth of today than before. Thanks to youtube and mp3s. No need to stick with what record companies are pushing.

And it not so new phenomenom in the end. When I was about 20 in mid 90's, we bought lot of old records from second hand shops with my friends. Listened lot of 70's rock like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. However not Beatles. :)

Anonymous said...

This girl gets it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aW178uX1cn8

Anonymous said...

TGGP,
Certainly there were some effeminate rockers back in the '70's and 80's, but there were also hyper-masculine acts like BTO, Rare Earth and James Brown, and the whole atmosphere was just more masculine. I mean, can you imagine someone recording a song like "I'm a Man" or "Under My Thumb" today? Even the style of gayness was different, more masculine, back then: I mean, compare Bowie or Jagger or Little Richard to our male Brittney on the cover of Rolling Stone...

But of course, if you prefer Grunge to hair bands, and Bop to regular Jazz, we have little to discuss...:)

Tschafer

TGGP said...

Good points, Tschafer, except I don't remember who Rare Earth was.

Whiskey said...

My question is, "why" did young talent go to video games, instead of music?

What, young guys don't like standing up on stage and having girls go gaga over them? They'd rather sit in a cube farm, creating render instructions, and go home to terabytes of pr0n?

When did that happen? Particularly since the barriers to entry to playing in a rock band is finding a buddy with a rehearsal space, and some middling musical talent, lots of attitude. You don't need to spend years studying graphic design, programming, and the rest. [Game design is extremely technical and demanding.]

It's so easy, cheap, and the payoff is so big (even for those who don't make it big, being a local dude on stage is immediate girlfriend bait) ... it's astonishing it all went away starting in the late 1980's.

Instead we have American Idol. With as a reader pointed out elsewhere, Cougars going nuts over Adam Lambert.

Perhaps that is part of it, hard to act youthful rebellion when 40 plus women celebrate acting like 14 year olds.

Chuck said...

nova:

while Led Zeppelin's lyrics ooze of masculine sexuality, Robert Plant was one of the pioneers of feminized rock. He wore tight pants, teased his hair, and had a ultra-high voice. He paved the way for David Bowie and the New York Dolls who helped spur on many of the "hair bands" of the 1980s.

we're also forgetting that rock and roll was doomed from the start by you guys' definition. elvis took rock and roll to a whole new stratosphere because of his swiveling hips and sex appeal. of course his target audience was females and males followed suit. while i completely agree that females dictate pop culture, i disagree that this is any new phenomenon. the rock and roll of the 1950s-1970s was merely a manifestation of female consumer power, just as music is today.

whiskey:

i think you overgeneralize. first of all, music has fractured into many different genres since the glory days of rock and roll.

country has developed a more national presence. in southern towns there are many genres of country and western that have some similarities to rock and roll and folk.

not only are there many more genres, there are many more bands. much like cable TV compared to that of the 1970s and 1980s, there will naturally be less concentration and popularity for any one band or TV show.

also, rock and roll was merely a genre that cemented itself as a major force in the shaping of our culture. to say that rock and roll is dead is incorrect; it has merely morphed into many different forms. rock and roll itself was avante garde at one point; by it's own nature it could not stay static. it had to evolve, and it has.

Anonymous said...

Whiskey, I'll proffer an idea.

To be honest, I don't think that a lot of potential musical talent is being sucked into video games. Aside from the vague notions of creativity and imagination, the two fields have little in common. And only a small proportion of the jobs in the video game industry really require a substantial degree of creativity and imagination.

Before I go into reasons why there might be less musical activity, let me state that I'm not sure this is the case. In any urban area, you can't walk a block without tripping over some hopeless local band. Even in rural areas, there are ample homegrown musical acts.

In this case, the better question might be "Why does all the popular music seem to come from a handful of 'producers', or fit a bland 'catchy' generic pop-rock formula?" I think it's because our musical culture has been catastrophically dumbed down by the idolization of black people.

Blacks have become the ultimate arbiters of culture, especially in music. If blacks don't like a piece of music, you'd better keep it in your iPod.

The unifying trait in black music, especially today but also in years past, is a clear, unmistakable, constant beat. While whites showed (on American Bandstand and elsewhere) a general ability to dance to more complex rhythms - without the crutch of an obvious timekeeping beat - blacks have always required a constant drum or bass beat in their music. This is inherently very limiting to musical forms.

I'm sure this conflicts with a lot of peoples' notions, given that the media is constantly pushing the idea of black dancing superiority. The implication is that blacks engage in complex dance routines and spontaneously "bust moves" that make "white dancing" look like an epileptic convulsion. I can tell you from my experience at a few dozen nearly 100% black parties that the blacks I've seen, without exception, do nothing more sophisticated than "butt dancing" which is essentially doggy style dry humping. Popular music today, therefore, is essentially a soundtrack for sex.

Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of musical acts that white people like. In fact, liking "obscure" musical acts is a key element of SWPL culture. But these "white people" acts are strictly hush-hush, to keep their illusory "underground" status, and thoroughly rationed to ensure that there is always a "hot new thing" to "discover". You will never hear them in a club, or on the radio, or see them on MTV. MTV is strictly "sucker free" these days.

Before I conclude, let me posit a few reasons why there might really be less musical activity today among young people.

First off, increased population density makes it more difficult for youngsters to learn an instrument. How many apartments and condos have a piano? How many apartment and condo residents will tolerate a beginning guitar, saxophone, or drum player?

Second, to what degree are our youths in general being directed towards music as a hobby? Many if not most parents in Western societies view instruments as an inferior youth pastime (compared to, say, volunteering or sports or student government) in the credentialist "knowledge worker" economy. How many high-IQ children are even given the opportunity to try their hand at music?

All of these factors add up to what we see today. Our popular music is dominated by Japan-esque "idol singers" - American Idol types and black rappers, whose only musical talent is vocal - backed up by techno-synth music or mercenary backup bands. The cream of the crop among homegrown musical acts are suppressed by both black disapproval and the need for "underground" status. The result is a very clearly drawn distinction: popular black-approved "danceable" music, and "undergound" SWPL "listening music". Rock is certainly dead in the former, but not in the latter.

Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

Anonymous said:

[i]Second, to what degree are our youths in general being directed towards music as a hobby? Many if not most parents in Western societies view instruments as an inferior youth pastime (compared to, say, volunteering or sports or student government) in the credentialist "knowledge worker" economy. How many high-IQ children are even given the opportunity to try their hand at music?[/i]

I came of age during the 80's and frankly had music shoved down my throat in school. We were all given special music orientated hearing tests. Turns out I tested very high in the ability to distinguish tones. My parents were given a big presentation as to how I could be great in music.

So started years of hell of being forced to play instruments that I got more joy of dis and re-assembling than actually playing (sort of a hint where my interests lied that Mom & Dad pretty much of ignored).

I was not the only one.. music and art was pushed heavily, especially in middle school (and was dominated by the girls (by high school the men had largely moved on to sports). Hands on classes such as metal or wood work were relegated to warehousing of boys who were drug addled or idiots.

Anonymous said...

firepower says

this blog uses too many captchas, restrictions and barricades, while more inflammatory blogs have none.

I'd never upset the status quo with heretical slurs against media demographic cohorts, Kantian philosophy, or even *gasp* neo-Jungian Psych. I'd never even want to upset faggot libertine bulldyke baby anal fuckers.

so, mout.

Anonymous said...

"I came of age during the 80's and frankly had music shoved down my throat in school."

I'm aware that many schools do this. However, this sort of musical education isn't conducive to producing musical artists. It just produces bored, annoyed kids like yourself.

Another example of our schools trying to teach everybody how to do everything, without teaching anybody how to do anything.

Cowboy said...

This is of course anecdotal, but I think the level of musicianship among young males is better than it was, and by a lot. I've heard young guys on a couple of occasions get up to play a set or two at weddings, as walk-ons from the pool of assembled guests, not as paid talent. I was astonished how well they played bass, drums, and guitar.

I'll even attribute some it to video games, namely, Guitar Hero. This has really been a godsend in my family (two boys), that has gotten them and their friends interested in guitar (and - yes! - exposed them to MY music in a much "cooler" way than I could have).

But the fact of the matter seems to be the salable musician of the day is indeed a beta male. Think John Mayer as emblematic as the dark, brooding, Byronic figure who gets tagged as the hot young hopeful. And he's a total wuss. I hear one more of his songs I'm gonna puke.

Where has Axel Rose gone singing, "Welcome to the jungle, baby, you're going to die!" or even Paul Stanley singing about Detroit, Rock City? We've gone through a shift of stylist presentation. You can see it right there in Guitar Hero.

First, there's Foghat, Kiss, The Who, The Stones, all straight up masculine fare. That's continued through the hair bands, a bit, with the likes of Guns 'n Roses. But then it dies off. What picks up are the likes of Metallica, Pearl Jam, Eric Johnson. These guys still have a powerful masculine sound, but their lyrics really do lack masculine confidence and swagger. Instead there's doubt, raised "social consciousness", touches of angst. Johnson foregoes lyrics altogether and retreats into an artistic aesthetic, the proverbial Axeman Artiste.

Of course these are generalizations. You can find touches of the angstful brooder in Elvis, even, and of That's Alright, Mama with Metallica. But there's a progression of degrees. We move inexhorably from powerful alpha male rock pioneers to brooding beta types who take on increasingly "artistic" styles.

I put powerful black and white photos of the young, sexy, dangerous Elvis up in the entertainment room. I hope that'll orient my kids and their friends who come over, to be better prepared when the girl in class says, "Oh, John Mayer is sooo DEEEP!"

TGGP said...

"Why does all the popular music seem to come from a handful of 'producers', or fit a bland 'catchy' generic pop-rock formula?"
Was that not the case during the 50's? Listen to Chaos by Arbogast & Ross to hear the same complaints back then. If anything there is more of a "long tail" now with lots of different musical tastes being served.

Regarding blacks, beats & bop, it was that stylistic change that changed jazz from "dance music" to "niche music that appeals to snobs" especially as it developed more avante-garde styles which were less accessible. Blacks did start that but I think it also made jazz less of a black thing.

Cowboy said...

hey I don't know who that girl was who was posted as an example of a female rocker.

Female rockers don't seem to do too well. Janis Joplin flamed out. Grace Slick was a front. So were the Wilson sisters. That's not to detract from their talent or the greatness of their recordings. I love all of these women.

Chrissie Hynde and Deborah Harry were more integral to the music. They couldn't sustain it. As couldn't Aretha, Whitney and a host of others.

Country music women fare a heck of lot better, tho. As a matter of fact the female act with the highest number of Grammys is a country star. She's also number three all time in Grammys by anyone or any group. U2 has the most. Number two is somebody I can't remember, and never heard of.

Here's number three. And very well deservedly so. The inestimable Alison Krauss:

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=alison+krauss&first=21&docid=688184689139&mid=15CCAEC0014C4C99E65C15CCAEC0014C4C99E65C&FORM=VIVR33

Whiskey said...

Anon -- I need the captchas to filter out the comment spam for junk advertising. Even with it I still get stuff like Ace's "Lace Wigs" comments.

Willard Libby said...

Number One: YouTube. ..
Kids can look up the Led Zep's, early Van Halen's.....


Very true. There's some incredible early Van Halen stuff up there that they didn't even bother to put on their albums 30 years ago.

Van Halen- Light In The Sky

Van Halen - Voodoo Queen '76 - '77 (Demo instrumental)

Van Halen Aint Talking bout Love 1977

The James Gang Walk Away 1971

Van Halen - Big Trouble

Van Halen Somebody Get me a Doctor Live 1977

Willard Libby said...

And of course Unchained from 1981