Perhaps Rock ‘n’ Roll Needs a New Name
Evolution is a process of growth that occurs naturally and often without warning. In the music industry, however, evolution does not exist. The music that we believe is new, is often borrowed from the artists of the past. They way our music industry is run shows American capitalism at is best or in this case, at it’s worse. A small group of corporations and the people who run them dictate what music is sold, and how it is packaged for the world. There are precisely four companies who control the entire industry.
EMI Music, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Group Music and Warner Music Group run the show. Within this list of four, partnerships exist which alters the idea that a few companies run the show, because, in fact, a few people run the show. Though this affects the industry as a whole, Rock music specifically has seen some tough days.
It’s not a simple matter of who does it better, Rock music is the most misclassified genre in existence. So how can a Rock artist prevail in a system designed to sell records at any cost, even if it misrepresents an art form and leaves talented people out? The answer to this question is simple, they can’t! The follow up question is, why is this happening?
There is a marketing mindset at work when artists’ work is not classified under the proper genre. There is much attention paid to who their fan base is and what genre will make a particular album sell better. Let’s look back to 2011. That year Red Hot Chili Peppers release I‘m With You,which was classified as Alternative and Mat Kearney released Young Love, a very Pop album, which was classified as Rock. People assume that is based on certain sounds in the album that borrow from other genres, but all music borrows from other music. Here’s the real explanation.
Red Hot Chili Peppers are under the Warner Bros. Entertainment and Mat Kearney is signed to Universal Republic Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group. What these big names companies don’t want is competition, and to get rid of it, they simply release music under different genres so that consumers will be fooled and buy both. These two artists are only one example of an issue that happens frequently.
In February 2012, The Fray released their third album Scars & Stories under Epic Records, which is owned by Sony Music Entertainment. The album was classified as pop, despite the fact that both previous albums were rock, and the band’s sound was not altered. That same year Columbia Records released John Mayer’s Born and Raised as rock which is another misclassification as this album is more like Pop with some traces of Blues and Country. Sony Music Entertainment owns Columbia Records as well.
The market trades artists to different genres as a way to give each artist sometime in the spotlight. As far as marketing goes, it’s a clever way of selling albums but it’s detrimental to the world’s perception for how each genre should sound. As a result of this blurred perception, people have grown to accept artists like Mat Kearney who sing pop music with hip-hop undertones and John Mayer who is basically one of the world’s best folk singers as rock artists. Perhaps the genre should be called something different.
Deciding to rock but not roll didn’t work. The modern term “Rock,” means nothing because of overt misclassification. Perhaps if the industry were to take all of the Rock artists and put them into one category that doesn’t yet exist, albums would sell without turning music artists into the stock market. Then, the next time someone goes to their buying or streaming platforms, they won’t get a rapper when they ask for Rock.