Why are there no rock bands

Rock bands in crisis? What future does rock music have?

Current figures speak for themselves: The share of rock music in the sales of albums and singles is falling steadily. What are the consequences for rock bands? And is it to be expected that the trend will be reversed?

In terms of album consumption, hip-hop has overtaken rock music - at least in the US.

According to the figures from the Buzz Angles end-of-year report 2018, hip-hop increased its share of total album consumption (physical media, downloads and streams) from 17.5 to 21.7%, while rock albums only reached 14% - after 22% in 2017! The picture for individual songs is similar. Hip-Hop achieved 24.7% (2017: 20.9%), rock only 12% (2017: 19.8%).

Rock bands from yesterday

This trend can also be seen in the list of bands that have sold the most records worldwide. The Beatles are of course right at the forefront with an estimated one billion records sold.

The bands with sales of more than 100 million records include Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, AC / DC, The Rolling Stones and many other famous rock bands.

On closer inspection, however, it becomes apparent that most of the bands began their careers in the 1960s or 1970s. Only one of the best-selling rock bands made its commercial breakthrough in the current millennium, and that is Linkin Park.

Did that mean the end of the classic rock band?

The new stars are not rock acts

There are some indications that the list is by no means missing acts that started their careers after 2000, such as Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Kayne West, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Katy Perry. However, none of these artists are rock musicians in the usual sense, but rather pop, R&B and hip-hop acts.

A similar picture emerges on the most successful tours. The list of the most successful tours of the current decade includes not only established rock musicians such as U2, Guns N ’Roses and AC / DC, but also current pop stars such as Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Beyoncé and One Direction. At most Coldplay could with a lot of good will be called a rock band.

Electric guitars on the decline

This development can also be observed elsewhere. Electric guitar sales in the United States have declined more than 20% over the past decade.

Interestingly, there is an opposite trend to be observed with acoustic guitars, perhaps an "Ed Sheeran effect"? In any case, the technical possibilities have changed enormously. You don't have to have an expensive studio to record good quality music. Electronic and virtual instruments also create completely new possibilities.

New ways of dissemination

In addition, aspiring musicians now have completely different ways of distributing their own music. The importance of record companies has fallen sharply; instead, Youtube, Soundcloud, Spotify and other streaming services have grown enormously in importance.

The YouTube star of the new generation is usually one person, not a multi-person rock band. Of course, this has a direct impact on young musicians who are at the beginning of their careers. Current role models can be found en masse on YouTube - but as a rule they are not bands.

Light in shadow

Nevertheless, it would be premature to write off rock bands in general. If you take a closer look at the situation, a differentiated picture emerges.

Anyone who understands by rock bands only bands in the style of rock music of the 1970s, often called classic rock, fails to recognize the increasing differentiation of the genre. In the field of hard music, metalcore bands achieve great success with a primarily young audience. Bands such as Rise Against, Bring Me The Horizon or Bullet For My Valentine play in large halls in front of several thousand spectators - and have music as their main occupation.

Classical rock music in the style of the 1970s, on the other hand, is currently taking place on a smaller scale. Good bands that embody this style - such as Airbourne or Rival Sons - appear in clubs of 1000, but are not mass phenomena like the great rock stars of earlier times. Even bands that openly follow the tradition of classic rock, such as Greta van Fleet, adapt their studio sound to modern listening habits.

But it has to sound modern

Acts who are not afraid of modern chart sounds and who reject attributes such as "honest and handmade" as far as possible achieve real mass success among rock bands. Imagine Dragons are a good example of this. However, this can hardly be reconciled with the ethos of many rock musicians, who are proud of the fact that their music is played "with the right instruments".

This results in a differentiated picture: Young musicians have opened up possibilities of expression beyond the "classic" rock sound. Although this still has a strong impact on the perception of many music fans, it is obviously not in great demand at the moment. The exciting question is: will this trend reverse at some point?


Rock music is unlikely to return to meaning. However, it is almost certain that announcements of her death are massively exaggerated. On the one hand, it continues to exist in a contemporary form - and not only in niches, but also on a large scale.

On the other hand, every trend is followed by a countermovement: It is quite possible that rock music will celebrate an unexpected comeback in a few years' time. But it won't sound like it did in the 1970s.

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