Is 2021 the year rock music comes back strong?

When Donald Trump was elected, I boldly predicted that angry, loud, guitar rock would make a comeback as a new generation would get more aggressive with the music they made and consumed. After all, history showed that whenever a Republican was in the White House, music turned tougher and more intense in reaction to conservative policies. Trump was shaping up to be the most polarizing conservative president since Reagan, so of COURSE rock was going to be on the ascendent.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

Guitar sales dropped and while certain scenes contained with their guitar love, there was precious little new guitar rock penetrating the mainstream. Outside of a few acts (Greta Van Fleet comes to mind), alt-rock stayed in the middle of the road. American indie rock (as evidenced by the same-same sound of 90% of the new music on Sirius XMU) was mopey mid-tempo bedroom music.

The came COVID. With people in lockdown, guitar sales soared in 2020. What does this bode for the future? Radio consultant Fred Jacobs writes this:

“For those who have written rock off as “dead,” or declared Alternative to have given up the ghost, the resurgence of guitar sales, lessons, and the infusion of younger buyers and players could initiate that sea change so many hoped for these past couple of decades.

“A true resurrection of rock n’ roll in a world of Hip-Hop and K-Pop seemed impossible at this time last year.

“But that was then. And this is now.

[…]

 “If a young, hungry segment of our market is skilled, motivated, and wants to change the world, picking up a guitar could be a great place to start.

“And maybe, just maybe, in the radio industry, this phenomenon might also generate a revolution in the way the medium is sold and marketed, finally acknowledging the power and promise of Gen Z.

“If you ask Fender, Gibson, Guitar Center, and Sweetwater, their CEOs will tell you those teen dollars spend just fine, thank you.

“While an injection of new revenue from an emerging demographic would be nice, right about now, we’d take their creative energy and passion – something that’s been missing for too long now.”

Read the full post here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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