Thursday, January 18, 2018

A dying art?

According to Nielsen's latest Year-End Report, in 2017 hip-hop trumped rock 'n' roll in terms of total consumption (album sales, streaming, etc) for the first time ever - though, to be honest, I'm a little surprised it hasn't happened sooner.

The results also seem to indicate a close connection between genre and modes of consumption, with nine of the ten most streamed artists coming from the hip-hop side of the tracks. Evidently, us rock/indie types can blather on about the vinyl boom all we like, but that very much pales into insignificance in the grand scheme of things. As Consequence Of Sound's Alex Young points out, the figures for rock look even worse if you take "legacy acts" like The Beatles and Metallica out of the equation.

Does all this really matter, though? For those of us who are generally disdainful of the mainstream and of the concept of measuring value purely in terms of profitability and popularity, and who enjoy championing the underdog, it's tempting to embrace the situation.

But if younger generations are indeed turning their backs on rock, then we have to accept that its long-term health looks less than assured. The last thing we need is reason for record companies of all sizes to become even more risk-averse and to focus their attention even more narrowly on acts that offer a near-guaranteed return on investment. That way, legions of Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and Kasabian clones lie.

In Episode 25 of Sounding Bored - recorded last night here in Cardiff and due to appear online in the next few days - the panel picked out some top tips for the year ahead. Great prospects, all of them - but none, I suspect, the saviours that the Nielsen report suggests rock needs.

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