The History of Rock and Roll


I promised to explain why Rock music is dying.  Well it turns out there is a ton to explain.  I’m going to have to turn it into several posts.  The first thing we’re going to have to do is see what happened before we  got into this mess.  We’re going to look at the history of music over the last several decades.  And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here it is:

Music sales graph

“What?  A graph?” thinks one reader.  “You didn’t tell me there would be math!”  Yet the graph captures the history of the Rock and Roll era (including its two children: Pop and Rock).  The graph uses data from 1957 all the way to 2012.  (I also made some adjustments to account for inflation and population growth.)

The graph tells the entire history of Rock and Roll because sales grew whenever the music made a big cultural impact.  When sales were mostly level it meant that fans were content.  And when sales fell it reflected discontent from some segment of the population.

The graph captures the growth at the tail end of the 50’s.  I already mentioned in a previous post about the huge excitement over Rock and Roll in the 50’s.  I also mentioned the enthusiasm died during the early 60’s and this is reflected in the graph.  In the mid to late 60’s the British Invasion hit, and music sales skyrocketed.  By the time the 70’s hit the enthusiasm of the 60’s had died.  The Beatles broke up.  Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all had died.  There was still solid music being made in the 70’s, but the Rock movement had lost much of its momentum.

Then we see a huge sales spike during two years in the late 70’s.  This is because Disco really took off in popularity.  In fact the music industry pushed Disco a little too much.  There was a huge, vocal backlash from Rock fans, and then Disco just fell off the charts.  Several record companies went out of business.  (Also there was an oil shortage that drove up the costs to make vinyl records.  That didn’t help.)  This explains the sales plummet transitioning from the 70’s to 80’s.  Music sales would remain in a major slump for much of the 80’s.  Music companies wanted to play it safe, because they were burned too badly by the Disco backlash.

Now look at the 90’s.  Music sales were at their peak!  What happened here?  Two things.  First there was an injection of new music.  Rap started taking off in the late 80’s, and Alternative Rock broke big in the early 90’s.  People were becoming passionate about music again!  The other thing that happened was the era of the CD.  CD singles were not priced attractively, so sometimes people would buy the whole album even though they just wanted one song.  (This would eventually backfire on the music industry, but I’ll elaborate on that in a future post.)

And then we get to the 21st century.  Music sales have plummeted.  They’ve basically fallen back to the level that we first started at in the 1950’s.  It’s almost as if someone hit a giant reset button for the music industry.  (Actually this is what has happened.  A new paradigm is forming, but I’ll have to elaborate on that in a future post too.)  And while the music industry as a whole has been hit hard, Rock music has been hit the hardest.

A new paradigm is forming in the music industry, and I don’t know if Rock will be in it.  That is why I want to start a Music Chronology for Rock music.  If Rock is ending, then it needs to be recorded in all of its glory.  However there is also a strong possibility that Rock will not only survive in the future, but a new golden age of Rock will come and save the whole music industry.  If that is the case, then we might as well listen to some good music from the past until that day comes.  Either way the Rock Chronology must be made!

Now that we’ve looked at the data, let’s start looking at the history of Rock one song at a time.

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One Response to The History of Rock and Roll

  1. Pingback: Where Is The Passion For Music? | Thoughtful Mirth

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