Weekly survey: Is rock going to have a good year in 2023?

For years, rock and pop marched in lockstep in a cycle that ran 12-13 years. When rock was on the ascendent, pop was dropping in popularity. After peaking about six years into the cycle, rock’s popularity would begin to decline while pop gathered steam. The reasons are complicated: demographics, social issues, technology, economics, and politics.

The rock/pop cycle was very predictable from 1951 through to the early 2000s. But then technology intervened. The old cultural gatekeepers–radio, video channels, music magazines, record labels, and record stores–have lost their dominance. Thanks to the internet, we’re all our own music directors. We can listen to whatever music we want when we want, wherever we are on whatever device we happen to have.

This means a lack of mass consensus on what music is good. Since about 2010, it appears that the 12-13 year cycle has broken down. Add in the meteoric rise in the popularity of hip-hop, it’s pretty much impossible to use the old cycle to predict where we’re going.

Meanwhile, there have been endless bleats–most from the United States–that insist rock is dead. Really?

If you look around, there are indications that rock–good ol’ guitar-based rock–is making some gains with the general public. Active rock, a radio format that involves playing the harder side of alternative along with a selection of other guitar rock–is enjoying its best run in a while. And if you sort through radio ratings across North America, there are more than a few rock stations (classic, active, and alt) sitting in the top five of their respective markets.

So here’s the question: What are rock’s prospects for 2023?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

Alan Cross has 38293 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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