We’ve all listened to rock and metal artists of the 70s and the 80s and thought that music’s Rock and Roll era is dying.
Rock music is something truly magical. All the way from a scintillating intro of a rock ballad to a ground breaking death metal riff, rock music has it all. So it is only natural that every time that we listen to a classic rock song, it takes us on a ride.
When we look at the list of best selling artists of all time, Rock music’s legacy becomes evident. The list of top 25 best selling artists is mostly comprised of Rock artists. The top 25 best selling artists of all time have sold a humungous 2000 million records worldwide and rock artists are responsible for 1265 million of those record sales according to Business Insider.
The top 25 best selling artists of all time
A side by side comparison between Rock artists and artists of other genres
But in the modern era, pop music has taken over as the mainstream music genre. Radio stations are barely playing any Rock music anymore and all the music charts are being topped by pop music. In the vast land called the internet, we hardly come across any Rock music unless we specifically look for it. This has to mean that the consumption of rock music must’ve taken a nosedive in the past decade.
This is not exactly the case. Pop music has captured the majority of the audience on digital platforms such as YouTube, Spotify and iTunes which makes it seem like that it is way ahead of the Rock genre when it comes to the number of listeners. But when we take other factors such as concert tickets, records and merchandise sales into consideration, we can see that not only Rock music still has a huge audience, but it is marginally ahead in some ways.
Out of all the concert tours done during the last decade, The Rolling Stones’ “No Filter” tour has the highest average gross coming ahead of leading mainstream artists such as Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran. Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” tour, Guns N’ Roses’ “Not in this Lifetime” tour and several other rock concert tours are featured on this list.
If we go a bit further back and take a look at the previous decade (2000s) almost all the best selling concert tours are of Rock artists’. U2’s 360 world tour is leading the chart with an average gross of 6.7 million USD per show and other artists like AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, The Police and Metallica are not far behind them. This shows you that even today, people are paying the money to go and see their favorite Rock bands live.
The consumption of music has risen steadily over the past few years and all genres of music has contributed to this rise. But a very surprising fact is that vinyl record sales has been on a steady incline during the past decade whilst the overall amount of physical segment sales have dropped since the beginning of this millennial. Physical segment include things such as CDs & Cassettes.
The main contributor to the rise of Vinyl sales is classic rock music. The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac dominated the vinyl market in 2018 as they sold 648000 vinyl records worldwide.
Big time vinyl collector Aaron Authers from Nottingham, England says “I like the physicality of it. I like the artwork of it and the feel of it.” as he explained why he spends loads of money to buy vinyl records for his collection.
This shows that Rock fans are still ready to go the lengths to purchase Vinyl records whilst most fans of other genres would purchase the digital copies.
One big problem the artists in the music industry are dealing with is, illegal downloads and pirating. That makes it hard for the musicians to make as much money as they did in the past by selling music. Because of this the industry has changed drastically.
Therefore music merchandise sales has become huge in the business. But in the age of illegal downloads, it has become bigger than ever.
Legendary Rock singer Chris Cornell, who opened his own merch company that works with Fall Out Boy, Shania Twain and many other artists, says that “It’s bigger now, and more money is coming through. It’s amazing how far it’s come.” That is why merch sales are a big indicator of an artists popularity.
Metallica stands to make an average of 35 million USD on merchandise sales per year since 1991. That is more than the total of annual merch sales of 3 of the highest grossing pop artists in the world.
Rock albums seldom conquer the mainstream music charts as well. In 2019 Slipknot’s sixth studio album “We Are Not Your Kind” managed to top US Billboard 200, UK Albums and Australian ARIA charts.
Progressive Metal band Tool’s much awaited fifth studio album, Fear Inoculum, topped the US Billboard 200 chart by overtaking Taylor Swift’s Lover during the first week of Fear Inoculum’s release. Fear Inoculum managed to top many other charts worldwide including Australia’s ARIA chart and Canadian Billboard chart.
But there is still one argument to be made. Which is every rock artist that is featured on any of these lists, are from the 80s and 90s and some are even from the 60s. Does this mean that there are no new rock bands out there that can challenge the artists from rock music’s golden era? This can be a topic up for debate.
Greta Van Fleet, a band that carries the classic sound of Blues Rock, released their debut album in 2018 which sold 79,000 copies during it’s first week. Their debut album became number three on Billboard top 200 tracks falling behind Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper’s Soundtrack from “A Star is Born”.
Periphery is a new progressive metal band from the United States and their 2015 albums “Alpha” & “Omega” roughly sold 35,000 copies during their first weeks. English hard rock duo Royal Blood’s second studio album “How Did We Get So Dark?” debuted at number one on UK charts and sold over 40,000 copies during it’s first week.
This goes to show that there are many up and coming artists across all genres of rock music who are making an impact on the music scene. That impact may not be as big as the impact mainstream pop stars make, but it shows that rock music still has future and therefore, rock fans can keep their hopes alive for many more years of rock music.
Pop and Hip Hop genres has drastically risen in the music industry and taken away much of the spotlight that rock music had before the start of this millennial. But that doesn’t mean that rock music’s glory days are over yet.