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Rock Music

The Impossibility of Legacy in the 21st-Century Music Industry

Legacy

When history leaves no room for modernity; when nostalgia is a greater incentive to engage with ‘culture’ than contemporary innovation; when legacy pedestals went out of production in the 90s, what hope is left in the music industry?

The post-pandemic era of music is becoming increasingly alien to what we have known before. It is not technology adding tentacle-ESQUE appendages to the industry. For the past 50 years, the rapid rate of technological progress has been integral to the way music has embedded into our daily lives. Industry oligarchs relentlessly pushed for progression to increase profit margins with every artist gambled on. Now that digital streaming services have reached the pinnacle of music consumption convenience, there is little to anticipate. Sans Musk embedding Neuralink chips in our skulls, and we can stream music directly into our brains.

We can point the finger at the culture of streaming platforms until Rigor mortis sets in, ignoring the three fingers pointing back at ourselves with our strange transfixion on the past that dictates modern-day legacies do not last.

The unattainability of legacy especially rings true within the confines of indie, rock, and alternative music. The alluring sentimentality of nostalgia and reminiscence is the real reason why fame is fleeting; success is slender in supply and why music fans are now eulogising their only music icons on Facebook every five minutes.

Even if an independent artist hits number one in the official music charts in 2023, it means almost nothing in terms of standing in the industry. It is only a matter of time before they downrank under the perpetual dominance of Nirvana, Nickelback, and Pink Floyd.

To go full circle on how streaming has affected the music industry, the contemporary irrelevance of official music charts has even started to change how albums hit the market. Why bow to the pressure of raw sales when streaming is king? And in the words of Post Malone, why compromise the artistic and authentic integrity of a record to ensure an arbitrary number that is no longer of any consequence is reached?

The Fame-Talent Dichotomy

As someone who has spent the past six years in the music industry listening to new artists, I find it impossible to subscribe to the theory that the fixtures in the rock n roll hall of fame are portraits that contemporary artists cannot hold a candle to.

The painful awareness of the off-kilter correspondence between fame and talent is something the average music consumer will never see. If they did, they would be infinitely more open to the suggestion that living and breathing artists who aren’t inches from being six feet under are as capable of ground-breaking music as the artists made divine in their blind eyes.

May be an image of 3 people, people standing, people playing musical instruments and indoor

The addiction to the bittersweetness of sonic nostalgia is undoubtedly a stark sign of where our collective psyche stands at this strangely sour point in history. Yet, if we continuously ignore the irony between the statements that “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” and the complete unwillingness to listen to what they ARE making, we are setting a generation of artists up to fail. Not that it is surprising people of a certain age are somewhat ambivalent about that. Given what they have done to the rest of society and the economy.

While there are sniffings of viral TikTok fame for some contemporary artists, one-hit-wonders can only get with their passive fans in their unsustainable careers. As a new generation comes of age, they are shown that history is required for legacy – unless you’re lucky enough to get the jump up from nepotism or selected as a media plant.

Music as a Mausoleum: A Tale of Two Cities

As a Manchester-based music journalist, I’m no stranger to music cultures led by ancient tastemakers and epitomised by records that have been collecting dust since the 80s. I’ve long since accepted that my words, no matter how sharp, will never be as cutting as the people twice my age who can say they were in all of the right places long before I was cerebral enough to string a sentence together. But this isn’t about me. It is about the absolute exception to George Santayana’s rule of; “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

Making my first trip to one of Liverpool’s most iconic music venues, The Cavern Club, showed me just how insidious the fetishization and fixation of legacy truly is. Tawdry statues of the Beatles scaled the walls with endless ephemera as a reminder that they were once here. Like graffiti on a dirty public toilet door, they were stamped in history. Tacky memorabillia enshrined behind glass tempted tanked-up tourists to grab a kitsch piece of history and ignore the glaring commodification of culture that reminds every artist that steps foot into that venue that their legacy will always be less-than.

The Beatles Image In A Wall In The Cavern Club, Liverpool, UK Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 81903358.

While there should always be room to rhapsodize artists that were integral to the inspiration of many, became the soundtrack to many lives and earned themselves a place in history, there should still be enough room for fresh talent to breathe.

Yet, there is little oxygen left for new and emerging artists to share. Creative sparks diminish as soon as they are lit in our suffocating atmosphere where cover bands get all the cash and artists with any modicum of distinction about them are chastised for sticking out from the mould.

Mindless connections with music and music culture are infinitely more dangerous than the perils of Spotify and Ek’s ilk. You can’t keep your head in the sentimental sand for decades, pop back up for daylight and bemoan the changing technological tides that have removed gatekeepers for many, and provided the platforms for even more.

Article by Amelia Vandergast

Did the Music Industry Kill Off Rock Music?

Rock Music

After the grunge era in the early 90s, rock music started to slip out of the mainstream, making room for hip hop to become the most popular music genre. That didn’t happen overnight. It took hip hop until 2017 to finally overtake rock as the most tuned-into music genre.

But the music industry isn’t solely to blame. The oligarchs in the music industry only sell what is in demand, and in the 21st century, the zeitgeist’s preferences changed from craving angsty riotous rock to preferring hip hop, alt-pop and EDM.

The Slow Decline of Rock Music in the Mainstream

Since rock music first burst into popular culture, it has never been as insignificant in the mainstream as it is today. That isn’t to say that there aren’t die-hard rock fans still out there and there are no talented rock bands contributing to the music industry. It just means that rock music is more of a sub-culture after the last hurrah of the 00s rock acts, who, despite their ingenuity and catchy hits, were the last icons of a dwindling culture that is becoming cannibalised by nostalgia for the glory days.

For a stark sign of the rock-averse times, you only need to look at the top ten most streamed artists on Spotify. At the time of writing, that included Drake, the Latin artist Bad Bunny, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Arianna Grande, Eminem, Post Malone and the K-Pop act BTS. The top 50 most streamed Spotify artists do include a few rock acts bringing up the rear, including Queen, Linkin Park, and Imagine Dragons. Proving that if there is an appetite for rock music, rock fans don’t usually sate it with new blood.

Even in rock and metal festivals, it is impossible for new acts to grab headline spots. For the 20th Anniversary installation of Download Festival, the three headliners include Slipknot, Metallica, and Bring Me The Horizon – all names which have graced the bill multiple times before. The top half of the line-up posters have scarcely changed since the festival started in 2003. But year after year, hundreds of thousands of rock fans have rocked up to Donnington Park to stand in front of the familiar names, making no bones about the lack of new acts on the big stages.

New independent rock artists scarcely stand a chance with the declining number of rock and metal fans that are so preoccupied with the past that they are blinded to the new talent that surrounds them. On that basis, it is ludicrous that rock fans are putting the music industry in the firing line during inquests into who is to blame for killing rock music. The blood is on the hands of the people who refuse to listen to bands who weren’t around when they left high school!

Download Festival | Stages - Download Festival

When all of your favourite rock artists prove they aren’t immortal and die of old age (shocker), that is a clear sign that you are a part of the decline of rock music. The genre is unsustainable if it is nothing but an ageing population with no room for new bands to make their mark!

Rock Music as the Sound of the Underground

The commercial appeal of rock, metal and punk may have waned in the past few decades, but a fall from the mainstream does not mean that the alternative genres have died. Back in the underground, rock artists know that while they will never be as big as the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Who, Queen, U2, Aerosmith and AC/DC, more relative success is still in reach in thriving scenes. Furthermore, rock acts are not attempting to appease the masses anymore. They have infinitely more scope to be experimental and create music that they want to make instead of making music that they think swathes of hard-to-please people would want to hear.

Ipecac Recordings Making People Sick For 20 Years.

In 2022, the alternative music scenes are more diverse and daring than they ever have been. Just take a look at the bands signed to Mike Patton’s label, Ipecac Records. Even some of the biggest acts are taking risks by releasing the records they want to make. Take Slipknot’s new album, The End, So Far, for the perfect example. The band veered away from the heavier sounds of their first few albums and dared to be melodic. The album received ample critical acclaim and hit the number 2 spot on the US Billboard album charts. That didn’t stop bitter and pedantic fans dubbing it as “SlipColdknotPlay”, lamenting the “boring vocal melodies”, and assuredly proclaiming that “there’s nothing of interest here”. Seemingly, they wanted a replica of Vol.3 and didn’t have all too much consideration about what Slipknot wanted to do and say with the release. It’s hardly a surprise that the band has said it may be the last album!

Slipknot's search for something beautiful is always heavy | The FADER

If we want rock music to survive through the 21st century, then rock fans need to play their part. If you have ever been to a gig, you have probably heard the words, “thank you, we couldn’t have done this without you”, though it may seem cliché it is true. So, it’s time for rock fans to reevaluate the role they play within the music industry and support independent and up-and-coming artists.

Even if you can’t stump up the cash for gig tickets, merch and physical releases, it costs nothing to discover new rock bands via blogs and magazines. Follow them on social media, share their music, playlist their music, pre-save their new releases on Spotify, and watch their live streams to make a career in the industry viable.

A&R Factory constantly covers hot new rock bands that need and deserve your support. To name a few, they include the agitators of art-rock, Gated Estates. The Cardiff-hailing psych-rock band Columbia. The hard-rock Swedish newcomers Ember Street. And the synth-driven indie-rock outfit, The Spheres. 

To have your music featured on our award-winning blog, submit your demo for a review. Alternatively, use our interview submission service to introduce yourselves to our rock-inclined readers.

Article by Amelia Vandergast

How Can You Define Rock Music?

When it comes to worldwide cultural phenomena, they don’t get much bigger than rock music. Since the 50s, rock has been raucously reforming, creating icons and increasingly niche sub-genres as it goes.

Answering the question of ‘what is rock music? can’t be done with adjectives alone. Because yes, rock music is loud, driving, high-octane and intense. Rock is also the soundtrack to rebellion. It is every transition that took us from Hendrix to My Chemical Romance. It is the instruments that came to define the genre.

What is rock music?

Before there was rock, there was rock n roll, the popularity of which took the US by storm in the late 40s and early 50s. By the 60s, rock spawned into a myriad of different styles and made it across the pond to the UK.

Rock n roll started as a mix of country, blues and RnB, whereas rock was a different blend of roots, such as folk, electric blues, jazz and classical. Right from the outset, the defining rock instrument was the electric guitar. Gibson Les Pauls, Fender Stratocasters, Gibson SGs, and the gorgeously brash Silvertone guitars all became as much of a part of rock history as the awe-inspiringly deft hands that played them.

Generally, rock music sticks to a 4/4 time signature with the usual ABABCB structures that allow the choruses to follow the verse. We probably don’t need to mention that rock musicians have become more diverse as they have moved away from the classic rock form. You have heard of Dream Theatre and King Crimson, right? This diversity is also lyrically reflected; as artists moved away from the classic rock styles, they started penning lyrics more attuned to their psych-rock, jazz-rock and folk-rock tonal palettes.

After the hippie scenes washed the rock genre in kaleidoscopic colour, prog rock, glam rock, and heavy metal entered the scene, which made the most out of the sonic power of rock. Punk and rock may be separate genres, but without rock, punk rock would never have happened. Punk also spawned sonic monsters, namely post-punk, which gave way to the alt-rock uprising in the 90s. Grunge, indie rock and Britpop were 3 of the rock sub-genres that pushed rock into mainstream view. Kurt Cobain’s suicide may not be the sole reason for the decline of rock music and alt-rock, but it happened as rock took a nosedive, despite the best efforts of pop-punk bands, nu-metal and electronic rock outfits.

In 2017 hip hop overtook rock and became the most popular genre, but don’t believe the lack of hype. Rock music still has its place in 2022. 80,000 rock fans still descend onto the Donnington ground every year to witness rock legends and luminaries, and plenty of rock artists are still reaching the Billboard charts with their overdriven sound. Greta Van Fleet, Foo Fighters, Royal Blood, Wolf Alice and Black Midi all delivered award-winning albums in 2021. Before declaring that rock isn’t what it used to be, check out some Rock music blogs UK. You will see that plenty of immensely talented artists are keeping the rock n roll bloodlines pumping.

‘Beliefs’ from Men Without Qualities

With a thunderously vigorous Punk-Rock kind of opening, this is straight away a listen that needs to be respected. This is a band that have morphed their qualities together, and the many years of experience shows. With a different style that is like no other, they have built up a team that share their common view on life. Released off Record Label The Cortina Collective, Sweden’s Heavy-Rock outfit Men Without Qualities mesh their music to satisfying levels for our enthusiastic ears on their new single called ‘Beliefs‘.

”Men and women without qualities usually depend fully on the outer world to form their characters. Lack of any profound essence and ambiguity as a general attitude to life are their principal characteristics.” – Men Without Qualities

The sound is something mixed from the past and the future, the vocals are so real and digs deep into your core beliefs. The fascinating story delves into our inner psyche, and is a riveting listen that will have you staring at the sky and wondering how to improve yourself, and be better. The vocals are raw and the band take us on an exciting ride into the unknown. This makes your heart beat a bit faster, and is a bit scary at the same time.

Beliefs‘ from the intrinsically intriguing Men Without Qualities is a song that might take a few listens to truly appreciate. This is the whole point of the release I believe, the band are beyond any type of fad or popular style. They make music that is meaningful, and this is a quality that more young musicians need to add to their armor. Making your own lane and driving through it, is the way music evolves, and inspires others.

Hear this fascinating listen on their Spotify and find out more on Facebook.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Taking flight to rock our hearts: Canadian solo act Midnight Sparrows show electric energy on ‘Should We Wait? (Until the End of the World)’

The fearsome and heavy start wakes you up from your slumber as you are suddenly alert and ready. What are these thunderous sounds that have lifted me up? The electric guitar is exactly the tonic in the gin that you want right now as the powerful vocals stride in so confidently, as solo Vancouver artist Blair Bellerose’s Midnight Sparrows, fly right to the bottom of the story on ‘Should We Wait? (Until the End of the World).

Their energies transfix you as your sleepy feet are tapping like a knock at the door, your blood is flowing a bit quicker as this is quite the Alt-Rock journey that belies bewilderment. This creation is clearly at one with music fans like a true zen-master as he is humble, and puts each part of his heart into this new single.

This is about working if you are going to wait for what you want or to grab it and never let go. A real message in a world that is a bit scared and perhaps waiting for the smoke to clear, instead of getting going and doing what you need to do.

This is an exhilarating soundscape from Blair Bellerose’s creation Midnight Sparrows, as he steps up the plate and swings hard to get that home run. He’s wanted to be a solo artist for a while now after years in the shadow of a band, this is his time to shine now.

Turn this up on Soundcloud to hear what good music should sound like.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Formed during COVID-19: The Band Esther drop debut single ‘Run’ off ‘The Pandemic EP’

A flourishing start is portrayed with the tapping of the drum sticks that gets us in the right mood. We are then lifted into an Alt-Rock world that has carefully clear vocals which are so sweet on the ear. New 5-Piece Mississippi outfit The Band Esther show us their vulnerable side with ‘Run‘.

This is all about wishing that the special one that you care about would stop hiding away from you, when you really want things to work out and for you to be together. Sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants and you can’t forget it about it so quickly. The desire and love is there and that should be enough. In this unnecessarily complicated world however, sometimes that is just not enough.

With a spectacular sound that defies their young age as a band, this is a well-thought out single that is full of regret and wonder about what has quite happened. The melodies have you hooked instantly and you can’t help but sing along- always an action that knows you are listening to something really good.

The proudly Mississippi act The Band Esther are excellent on ‘Run‘ and for a debut release, this is an exciting step into becoming well-known around the world. They are a classy outfit, full of energy and precision.

Hear this debut track on Spotify and see more about the band on their Facebook music page.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Scottish singer Donny Ross improves even more on the sharp-edged ‘Stags’

Scottish singer Donny Ross improves even more on the sharp-edged ‘Stags‘ as he cuts through the noise of 2020 in impressive fashion.

Los Angeles based Donny is on a new path and you can hear the excitement in his voice. He has a vision for his sound and the results are rather tasty to the ear.

Raised in the Scottish Highlands, this is a young man that grew up with the legendary sounds of the local music that surrounded him. The traditional Scottish sounds are seeped deep into his soul and this is how he fell into loving music. With his father being a bagpiper, you can tell that this is a family passion and the way of life.

Stags‘ from Donny Ross shows us all that you don’t need to change everything about your style to be successful. Here is a traditional artist that fuses Rock and his own style of music to make an absolute belter of a track.

The riffs are so groovy you might need a lie down. His voice is brooding and mysterious, it feels like you can feel the smoke and sweat from the stage as Donny takes us on an enjoyable journey throughout, as we hear a melodic track that is full of class.

Click here for the music link.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Manchester Rock-Art act Sylvette drop the stunningly unique ‘Kelpius (NoShadow Remix)’ with Tom Chapman

With an innovative sound that breathes new life into your cold cup of tea, this is a kaleidoscopic mesh of styles that is quite frankly..absolute genius.

Sylvette are a UK based, Manchester Art-Rock band of supremely creative energies, all smoothly synced into one like music should be made. They are so galaxy-searchingly incredible to listen to. With an indie core that has an added element of exciting electronic waves that are wrapped around this new single so perfectly. With New Order & Bad Lieutenant bassist Tom Chapman featured here on the remix, this is an excellent track with tasty treats to fill up our hungry music senses, with an absolute feast to satisfy us.

This is the type of song that takes you into a new world and you have deja-vu somehow. The UK act are a morph of many different influences and you can’t stop listening. This is what music will sound like in 20 years as this is a band that is so far ahead of their time. ‘Kelpius (NoShadow Remix)‘ with Tom Chapman is an awe-inspiring effort that deserves a place with the best songs of 2020.

Find out more about Sylvette on their Facebook and hear this track on Spotify.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Rock band Cobrahawk return with the powerful ‘Heaven Help Me’

Cobrahawk return with the powerful ‘Heaven Help Me‘ and this is a terrific rock track with a edgy bounce to it. This is exactly the type of song to put on full volume and enjoy.

Cobrahawk is a professional rock & roll band known for their full-paced driving guitar riffs, super pounding drums, matched with raw, powerful vocal melodies. All started in 2013, with the band playing cover tunes under the name of Walking Talking Stephen Hawking. The name was changed to something more PR friendly, and the band began writing original music in 2014. From there, the rest if history really. After a name change, things have been going forward ever since.

You want to be a better person but sometimes have to do things that you don’t want to. Life is crazy right now in 2020 and you want it to all be okay.

With a name like Cobrahawk, you expect nothing less than a real rock tune on ‘Heaven Help Me‘. With such strong vocals, the lyrics are easy to hear and this makes the listening experience that much more enjoyable. This is a heavy track that will please a lot of old and now new fans too.

Click through to the Spotify link.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Farris comes in flaming hot with her ‘Rocket Blaster’

https://soundcloud.com/farrisband/rocket-blaster/s-F9DOpZfEL0Z

Farris comes in flaming hot with her ‘Rocket Blaster‘ and this is that old school style rock music that has been missing lately.

The Alt-Rock band from the Netherlands are fueled frenetically by excellent globe-trotting singer-songwriter Kathleen Farris and they are on top form here.

This is about putting those guns away and for peace to be the norm again. The world has gone to far from reality, with reality stars being in charge of some powerful countries.

The rock style here is quite marvelous, the constant brooding energy is evident, this is a song with so much meaning. The drums are on full show, the bass riffs are powerfully made and the electricity claws in like a hungry lion.

This is a call for peace by Farris on the new single ‘Rocket Blaster‘. The layers here are quite fantastic, there is so much to uncover on the new single and this is so memorable. With strong vocals and a band that works together, this is a track to turn it up loud.

Click here for the Soundcloud link.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen