The importance of (and reliance on) classic rock

Recent sales data has shown that classic rock is still the most division of the genre

John Swanson | Photo Courtesy
The weight of physical copies of albums vs. streaming makes a large difference.

While much of today’s youth believe that rock music is a thing of the past, recent chart data shows that is far from the case. MRC Data, the primary provider of modern music data consumption, has released its statistics of consumption in 2020. While some results are to be expected and follow recent trends from past years, others are completely unexpected.

In no surprise, Hip-Hop and R&B continue to dominate the charts in the first place, with nearly 30% of music consumption coming from the genre. To some astonishment, rock has taken second place over pop, which follows in third place. This may come as a shock, as there are few contemporary rock acts with the level of fame that those in hip-hop or pop have.

However, the measurements that are used to compare physical copies of albums (CD and Vinyl) are somewhat unfair against the measurement of streaming data. A song from an album must be streamed 1,500 times to count as 10 song sales, which is equal to one “sale” of an album.

Earlier in 2020, AC/DC outsold rappers Future and Lil Uzi Vert in first week sales due to this upset of comparing streaming to physical albums, as much of AC/DC’s fanbase were more likely to purchase physical copies of the new album.

While it is unfair to artists that market themselves towards younger listeners, this formula is used because of the efficiency to the consumer, as well as that a “stream” is only the first 30 seconds of the track.

While contemporary rock may not be outselling pop music, classic rock is still dominant decades later. The top five rock albums from 2020 included Queen, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Journey. What’s shocking, however, is that four of the five consists of “Greatest Hits” releases, with the exception being Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.”

Four decades separated from the release of most of these albums, their sustainability is rather impressive. However, much of this genre’s fanbase is likely to not be around as long as supporters of Hip-Hop, R&B and Pop music.

With acts such as Imagine Dragons or Panic! at The Disco finding the most success in the modern music era, others will have to follow suit to appeal to a younger audience. While there’s no immediate threat to the rock genre in the industry, up-and-coming acts must find a way to entice new listeners through streaming. If they don’t find success soon, rock music may become a thing of the past before we know it.

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