Chapter 15: Rock Traditions and the Business of Change



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The 2000s

      1. The new millennium began with concern that the world’s computer networks would fail; later in the year 2000, paper ballots caused problems in the U.S. presidential election.

      2. Cultural, religious, and economic differences between the United States and radical terrorist groups boiled over during the early 2000s; the terrorist network Al-Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, killing thousands and inciting military reactions from the United States.

      3. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States, causing devastating damage.

      4. Television was dominated by “reality” television; ambitious programming began to appear on cable networks.

      5. Video-based chatting over computer networks and social media emerged in the 2000s.

      6. Speculative housing sales and “subprime” lending caused a financial boom followed by major economic difficulties.

      7. Barack Obama became the first African American president in 2008; he faced difficult circumstances, including the financial crisis and two wars, and he has also shown a love for American music.


Chapter 15: Rock Traditions and the Business of Change

  1. Introduction

    1. This chapter will focus on examples of recent rock and how they extended, repeated, or reacted against earlier styles; the entire music industry changed in the 2000s due to digital media, and it became clear that rock music had become an integral part of American culture.

  2. Technology and Rock

    1. Changing Systems of Production and Consumption

      1. Digital recording technology made it possible to record music inexpensively; online sales of CDs were one of the first methods of Internet distribution.

      2. Listeners began to share music in the form of electronic files, particularly the MP3; Napster and other peer-to-peer file sharing programs made access to music easier and decentralized the power of major labels.

      3. Trading music through Napster was a violation of copyright law, and musicians, songwriters, and record companies lost revenue; Napster was challenged in court and forced to shut down, but it had changed the music industry business model.

      4. A variety of portable music players were available in the late 1990s and early 2000s; Apple introduced iTunes and the iPod in 2001, and in 2003 opened the iTunes store, which allowed users to purchase and download music files legally.

      5. Streaming became a dominant form of music consumption beginning in 2007, and cloud-based models became popular in 2011; online services allowed independent musicians to reach listeners.

      6. There was also a return to analog-oriented creation and distribution as some artists offered 45-rpm singles and long-play records; other artists experimented with tape-based recording instead of using digital tools.

    2. Changing Conceptions of Media: Rock is Nowhere, but It’s Also Everywhere

      1. Listeners are turning to Internet and satellite radio over terrestrial radio as sources for rock music.

      2. Selling tickets to rock concerts is now a multibillion-dollar business, making rock shows less accessible to teenagers and average fans; rather than seeing bands live, fans often interact with artists through digital means.

      3. Large-scale music festivals became big business in the early 2000s; music festivals in the United States date to the 1950s and 60s, but were less popular in the 1970s.

      4. Several models of festivals emerged in the 1980s, including the industry showcase; the CMJ Music Marathon started in 1980 in New York, and South by Southwest in the mid 1980s in Austin, Texas.

      5. Traveling festivals were popular in the 1980s and 1990s, and included Monsters of Rock, Lollapalooza, the Vans Warped Tour, Lilith Fair, and HORDE.

      6. In the 2000s, Coachella and Bonnaroo were among the festivals that led the popularization of multiday events supporting large audiences.

      7. Big-box stores and Internet commerce sent independent record stores into steep decline; sales of physical media are also in decline.

      8. Traditional rock music sales are declining, but exposure to rock music is increasing through channels such as commercial advertising, ringtones, and video games.

  3. Mainstream Rock in the New Millennium

    1. From Sk8ers to Idols: Avril Lavigne, P!nk, and Kelly Clarkson

      1. Avril Lavigne was a teenager when her album Let’s Go became the first in a series of hits; she performed her own music and was notable for her fashion, which went against conventions of young women dressing sensually on stage.

      2. P!nk was in the tradition of pop divas and R&B girl groups, and she became popular in the context of beat-based music; later in the decade, she moved into more adventurous material.

      3. Kelly Clarkson won the first season of American Idol, and her first album contained the mainstream pop sound and covers typical of the show; in subsequent recordings, she moved toward a rock sound.

    2. Men at Work: Maroon 5, John Mayer, and Coldplay

      1. Several middle-of-the-road male artists became popular in the 2000s; Maroon 5 achieved national popularity in 2004 after several years of touring.

      2. John Mayer’s guitar style and the simpler texture in his recordings made his music sound old-fashioned.

      3. Coldplay came out of the Britpop tradition, moving from an experimental style like Radiohead’s to a more mainstream sound.

    3. Roots Run Deep: Folk Styles Return to the Mainstream

      1. The successful soundtrack to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2001) foreshadowed a renewed interest in acoustic music; Norah Jones was influenced by older production and songwriting techniques.

      2. Jack Johnson was an acoustic-oriented artist who had albums that sold in the millions, but little success on the singles market; acoustic-oriented musicians were more likely to find success in market segments such as “Adult Album Alternative” that filtered out beat-based music.

      3. There was a trend at the end of the 2000s that fused old-time, acoustic music with modern pop songwriting; Mumford and Sons, the Lumineers, Phillip Phillips, and the Avett Brothers all had success in this style, which contrasted with heavier varieties of rock and beat-based styles.

    4. Heavy Legacies: Evanescence, Linkin Park, Hoobastank, and Nickelback

      1. Evanescence blended diverse influences including heavy music, piano-based balladry, rap, and gothic metal.

      2. Linkin Park was a Nu Metal group that has maintained a steady career since 2000; Hoobastank worked in a similar mainstream style of rap metal.

      3. Nickelback focused on heavier forms of rock; later in the decade, the band began to explore country influences.

      4. In 2004, a fan noticed strong similarities between two Nickelback songs, causing the band to face accusations that they recycle music; members of the band argued that they have a “distinct style” that caused the similarities.

      5. Hard rock groups achieved more success with album sales and market categories such as “Modern Rock,” “Mainstream Rock,” and “Active Rock” than with singles or the Hot 100; Godsmack, Disturbed, Three Days Grace, and Alice in Chains were popular among fans of hard rock.

      6. Two groups associated with Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age, had both a heavier style and mainstream success.

  4. Country and Beat-Based Styles

    1. Country Rocks: Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood

      1. In the early 2000s, many country artists incorporated rock styles into their music; country music continued some traditions that had fallen out of favor in rock, such as extended guitar solos.

      2. Keith Urban was a flashy guitarist who performed in a high-energy rock style; his records did well on the country market and extended into the Top 40.

      3. American Idol produced several country singers, the most important of which was Carrie Underwood; Underwood had consistent crossover success with records such as “Before He Cheats.”

      4. Taylor Swift took the industry by storm as a teenager; Swift had crossover hits and a style that bridged contemporary country and mainstream rock.

    2. Beat-Based Rockers: Kanye West, The Roots, Cee-Lo Green, and OutKast

      1. Beat-based music continued to be the most popular music in the world in the 2000s; Beyoncé Knowles and Lil Wayne are beat-based performers who have had success on both the pop and R&B charts.

      2. In terms of both his music and his image, Kanye West represented a strain of hip-hop that appealed to rock listeners.

      3. The Roots became the most popular hip-hop group to use traditional rock instrumentation; they achieved crossover success with albums released in the 1990s and 2000s and gained further exposure as the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

      4. Southern rap artists, particularly in Atlanta, produced hybrids of rock and hip-hop in the 2000s; Cee-Lo Green achieved popularity in the 2000s as a solo performer and member of Gnarls Barkley and was known for expressive vocals.

      5. OutKast was an Atlanta-based hip-hop group that had crossover appeal; the group drew on a wide range of source material.

  5. Indie Rock Sells

    1. Indie Roots: Wilco, Vampire Weekend, and Bright Eyes

      1. Indie rock began achieving record sales that placed its acts at the top of the charts.

      2. Jeff Tweedy’s group Wilco was celebrated by the indie community for its successful negotiations with Warner Brothers as well as its innovative music.

      3. Vampire Weekend became an indie staple and then a mainstream success, due in part to dance rhythms and witty lyrics; Connor Oberst and his group Bright Eyes had several indie releases before gaining mainstream attention.

    2. Merge in the New Century: Arcade Fire and Spoon

      1. The success of Arcade Fire required Merge Records to change its business model to keep up with demand; Spoon released five increasingly commercial successful albums on Merge in the 2000s.

    3. Michigan Calling: The White Stripes and Sufjan Stevens

      1. The indie community helped to popularize bands from local scenes, including several important rock groups from Michigan; the White Stripes were an innovative garage rock band out of Detroit, and Jack White promoted indie releases both as a producer and with his label Third Man Records.

      2. Sufjan Stevens combined elements of the singer-songwriter movement, thematic releases, and a surreal performance style; he often tackled large-scale projects or themes.

    4. Emo Rising: Dashboard Confessional and Jimmy Eat World

      1. The “emo” community was a largely independent network of bands that shared an audience younger than that typical of other indie rock.

      2. Emo music drew on 1970s and ’80s American hardcore; emo groups emerged from regional scenes in a number of cities.

      3. Independent labels including Vagrant and Drive-Thru brought emo into the mainstream; Jimmy Eat World was the most popular band of the emo movement, reaching a national audience in the 2000s.

    5. Indie Still Sells

      1. Many artists associated with indie labels became mainstream in the 2000s, and indie musicians were among the most popular in rock into the 2010s; National High, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, and the Black Keys are all examples.

      2. Alabama Shakes were another indie band to cross into the mainstream in the 2010s; tracks such as “Hold On” draw on the Muscle Shoals style, the vocals of singers such as Janis Joplin, southern gospel, blues-oriented guitar, and electronic noise.

  6. Rock as Discourse

    1. School of Rock

      1. The elements of rock music that caused criticism in the 1950s became some of its most celebrated qualities over time.

      2. Rock’s acceptance has been accompanied by institutional recognition; academic study of rock music has increased.

    2. Rock as Culture

      1. Museums have shown exhibits related to rock; museums dedicated to popular music, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland and the Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle, opened in the late twentieth century.

      2. Rock musicians have also received honors from cultural institutions, including the Kennedy Center Honors and the Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress.

      3. Broadway musicals based on rock themes have been dominant in the 2000s.

    3. The Canonization of Rock

      1. Beginning in the late 1960s, more publications put out serious commentary and criticism about rock music; in the last several decades, mainstream American publications such as the New York Times and the New Yorker have devoted space to rock and popular music.

      2. Cultural critics and institutions have participated in the formation of a “rock canon,” or a loose collection of the most important works in rock; the process of canon formation is exclusionary, and the term “rockism” is used to describe the viewpoint that positions rock as the central form of pop music since 1954.

      3. Rock is difficult to define because it is in a constant state of change and is intertwined with social, political, and cultural issues.



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