How the Music Industry Killed Rock and Roll

Sophie Davis

It was Little Richard who once said, “Blues had a baby and they named it Rock n’ Roll.” This statement is so indisputably accurate that even the white bands who sculpted the genre would not argue with it. But color aside, the humble attitude behind blues was always about the music of the man whose wife left him, and he’s broke, and the only thing he’s got left is a guitar and a tune. It’s little wonder the genre was so heartfelt, it was music played by and for the soul, dirty and uncut. There was no greed or self-interest involved.

In the early stages of rock n’ roll, the love for blues and the dream of taking it to unexplored territories was the excitement that sparked musical brilliance. Along with this came the transformation of that blues attitude, into a mind-set that saw a
whole new potential for rock n roll. It wasn’t just a genre, but a state of mind revolving around the two best things in the world: music and love. Traditionally, that was considered the attitude of rock n’ roll. No negative dominating influence, wars or poverty when everyone has such an understanding for life and accepting others. Then, somewhere along the road, someone saw all of the popular attention the music generated, and decided to spawn an industry. Soon enough, artists were being squeezed for money in every possible way, from major performance revenues to propaganda and merchandise advertising rock’s good name.

Maybe it happened in a moment, when drug filled dreamy heads were off in another land, or perhaps it was gradual. Regardless of how the music industry really came about, it snuck up on those who chose to turn a blind eye to it, and it is now one of the saddest excuses for music: money. Today, the biggest artists are those who can manage to choke out pop singles every week. Who would take the time with instruments and creating an album when you have an auto-tuned voice that produces countless amounts of dough in a week? Even the lyrics are the same, continuously bragging about money and flaunting its use. In such a material world, it’s no wonder that every musical experience seems to revolve around wealth.

A good example of this is the evolution of concerts. Concerts used to be inexpensive. A $5 ticket could get you the finest seat in the front row, right next to the stage. With such a low price, anyone could see bands play live, and get the most out of their experience. However, over the years, entertainment companies realized it was more profitable to sell the quality seats to the highest bidder instead of the luckiest one. Today, front row seats sell for at least $5,000, if not more. Once again, money is what matters, and even though it goes against the original culture of rock, those who can afford it get the best concert experience, while those who cannot afford the seat may be stuck in the nosebleed section, where tickets still sell for over $50.

Even with resistance from musicians, the industry has built music into a profitable spectacle, where the entertainment companies try to outdo each other in performance. The music business has slowly whittled away the foundations of rock ‘n’ roll, and the attitude behind it, until all that remains is an insatiable thirst for money. Due to this new fiscal attitude behind music, rock must either mutate itself and its attitude to fit the greedy guidelines of the music business, or it will get left behind and become history.  This is why so many artists faithful to their culture and sound have disappeared, and those who have attempted to keep up have been criticized by society for doing so. The legend of rock ‘n’ roll may live
forever, but the genre will never be the same.