Music Marketing

Why Rap Rules And Rock Is In A Rutt

image from

With 2011 sales polls being compiled and analyzed, the results are that Rock music is fast losing favor with the record buying public and Rap music is continuing its reign as the popular music format.

If you have ever walked along Venice Beach in California, an aspiring Rapper would have undoubtedly approached you. Armed with a CD player in one hand and a pair of headphones in the other, his first aim is to get you to listen to his music, right there on the beachfront; his second is to secure a sale. This microcosmic corner of the music industry is why currently Rap music succeeds and Rock music falters.


If you want to succeed in music today you have to hustle. Not social media hustle, meaning randomly friend requesting and spamming your way through facebook and twitter. This is an unchallenging and ineffective roadmap for acquiring new fans. It quite simply reeks of desperation, or far worse, entitlement. Succeeding in music is about hustling because if you don’t, you wont survive.

Rock music has quite simply lost its balls, not sonically, but emotionally. It has become about rich kids playing at being fucked up, because they having nothing better to do than bash out mimicked guitar riffs on the brand new, latest edition, Les Paul, that Mommy and Daddy bought them at Guitar Center.

Working hard to achieve success, because Rock and Roll is the only thing that will save you from oblivion, has slowly been replaced with buying the right clothes, the right songs, and the right hairstyle. 

And those in the record selling business encourage this because they see Rap artists partaking in the same activity and equate this to a strategy for success. However they don’t understand that for a Rap artist who has hustled their way to the top, buying the best beats and showing their worth on their wrist, is a Rock and Roll, “fuck you” to the environment that kept them down. It remains strangely real and oddly in keeping with their rise to the forefront.

When Rock artists buy songs and overtly commercialize themselves, wearing carefully stylized threads, or use money and excess as a disproportionate means to exposure, it just doesn’t hold that same credibility. The audience is responding by not buying it.


Rock music has moved from the streets to the suburbs, it has lost its edge. The pursuit of fame used to be about the have-nots risking everything to achieve the goal. Now it is about entitled kids believing they embody Rock and Roll because their parent’s credit card enables their coke habit. True emotion has been lost en route through whiney Emo, shallow Hipster quirks and self-centered acoustic drones.

The cost of being a Rock Musician is high, it is a risk it all business. It can either be achieved by living in the gutter to make ends meet, or have someone finance it for you – invariably this is done in an attempt to vicariously recapture the investors never fully realized youth. Sadly it seems the latter has become the norm. Rock has become music’s spoiled child, and cry as it might, people have their own real problems to deal with and are gravitating towards what makes sense to them in the here and now.


Mimicry, expense accounts, entitlement, and faux fame platforms like social media and reality TV have created a generation out of touch with Rock and Roll. Though wounded as it may be, Rock certainly isn’t dead. Somewhere there is a kid with in a desperate situation with a guitar in his or her hand, coupled with the hustle and creativity to battle their way out. But this time they will have an old Mac with iMovie, Garageband and a new set of tools with which to create.

The recession and all the pitfalls it throws in front of the next generation of artists should be a breeding ground for the expression of reality – in the Robert Johnson devil dealing sense of course, not the feigned existence of the Kardashians. However, as Tyler The Creator has demonstrated, the word on the street may sound like a different language to the old school, but that is what will give it back its edge. And like Lil Wayne and TI, these new Rock stars might find their way into jail now and then, but wasn’t that what made the Beatles and the Stones so vital?

Robin Davey is an Independent Musician, Writer and Award Winning Film Maker. Follow him on Twitter @mr_robin_davey

Share on:


  1. Interesting article. Where can we go to find actual number comparisons? Hip-Hop album sales in 2011 vs. Rock album sales in 2011, for example?

  2. I agree that Rap outsells Rock, but the rest is BALONEY!!! There are quite a few factors that are involved.
    1.Audience – America now has a more diverse populace than ever before. In the past 20 to 30 years there has been an influx of people coming from other parts of the world who prefer to listen to dance/rhythmic music based on beats. The tastes of the many are now showing through.
    2.Affordability – This isn’t meant to be a knock, but the reality of the situation is that a lot of the audience I spoke of from above have little or no money. Not all, but a lot. That means that they don’t have computers or internet to download music for free from. Who does? The white, rich kids you mentioned in your article who like rock and can afford iPhones. So basically, rock’s core audience are the ones downloading for free the most.
    3.Major Labels – It’s way more affordable for labels to invest and produce rap and dance music. Normally they only have to sign a contract with one person rather than a full band. Then, they can hire the same few people to produce all the lyrics and music they want, keeping things cheap and simple as possible.
    4.Repeat Business – Could it also be that hardly any new rock music gets on the radio or otherwise? This past Christmas I listened to a lot of radio (which I never do anymore) and all the rock stations were jam packed with acts 5 or more years older. Not so with the dance and rap stations. The majors have a plethora of older music that they know people already like and that is popular that they can keep getting returns on without having to do hardly any work or invest any money into. So while dance and rap may be popular now (as well as rock) they just don’t have as much of it as the 30 or so odd years they have of the rock acts to keep reselling to listeners.
    Free album download at

  3. I’ll be honest.
    I don’t know what Rock or Rap are anymore, haven’t really in a while, though I’m not sure if that matters for many consumers now. Looking over at the Guardian article, I find it an interesting melange of data from the indie and pop world, and an interesting point of view regarding the state of things, but no one’s positing any real solutions… I think perhaps because we’re in the midst of a huge shift in the way humans consciously consume music, and everything really. It’s only a specific objectivity that deems what we’re seeing good or bad.
    Much of the Rock v Rap argument to me is a semantic one in a sense, really because Rap, which I would call Hip Hop, has been pop music since the early to mid 90’s. Rock, post what would be deemed “alternative” in the 90’s on the whole gets split more or less into 3 piles, corporate fed terrestrial playlist ready hits, DIY or small to mid label promoted indie rock, and then the newly coined “Mindie” which could be considered major backed artist with indie aesthetics and sensibility.
    Of course these are not hard and fast rules, and there are obviously exceptions to the rules, but my point here being that Rock has more or less been taken out of the pop equation. Has it been watered down by all these things and people you speak of? Sure, so has most commercial music save a few.
    The problem is, people don’t care (those making it and listening to it). They like what they like, and do what they like. They don’t have to buy a record, or invest in an artist or vision to enjoy something, it’s scattered and many might say devoid a certain integrity that was involved in the past.
    That’s where we are, a state of entropy. Though these are usually followed by a backlash, and hopefully a renaissance.
    This has happened before, in New York where I am. The late 70’s into the 80’s Disco ruled here. People said the same thing about rock dying and music changing overall. New wave was happening at the same time, people just picked up instruments and made stuff, for better or for worse. Some people liked it. At the exact same time in different areas of the city Hip Hop was being born, and punk was proliferating.
    In the end disco left the least permanent mark.
    I have a feeling we’re in a similar correction.

  4. Chancius before your call baloney you may wan to research your answers instead of using opinion as fact.
    1. Everyone listens to Rap it has reached a cross over status hence its popularity. This is not a class or race issue.
    2. I am talking about the short comings of rich white kids MAKING the music, not buying the music.
    3. It is actually the reverse – it is way more expensive for Majors to make Rap/Chart music because of the cost of writers and producers. (Up to 1 million per track)
    4. I am talking about new Rock music, everyone knows the back catalog still does repeat business. The issue here is why is the new stuff faltering.

  5. Hold on, now. The real issue is whether or not the extra T in Rutt is a subliminal attack on Ratt!
    You better check yoself,
    Before you wrickety-wreck yoself!
    Ratt Pack Forever!!!

  6. You have to be joking about “Rock moving to the suburbs” as a reason it’s better than RAP! RAP moved to the burbs 20 years ago.
    Rock was never commercially acceptable. If you look at the Billboard charts it’s been filled with crappy pop music since the early 80’s.
    With that said…RAP is just a watered down version of what real musicians like James Brown, Ray Charles, Isaac Hayes, Al Green and many more worked so hard to create.
    Popular music has sucked for 3 generations, RAP is just the latest crap executives are pushing down our throats. The reason RAP has lasting this long is because 99% of the RAP artest are sell outs. They will all pimp out their soul as long as they are “Paid”
    The last time RAP innovated anything was back in the NWA and Public Enemy days. Now we’re stuck with a bunch of copy cats who’s only talent is holding a wireless MIC upside down with one hand, while grabbing their cock with the other.
    As for scaring the parents? You have a point there. After “Fuck the Police” 666 “The number of the Beast” seemed like a cheesy horror movie.
    Here’s a cover of a Snoop Dogg song with real musicians playing on it:
    If you really care about RAP, do something different with it. The reason Nirvana broke so big is because they put an end to the hair metal bands, and we’re still thanking them for that.
    In the words of Steve Jobs….Think Different.

  7. Personal opinions of Rap do not diminish its popularity. A large majority of its stars are certainly not from the suburbs, but increasingly its listenership is.
    However, go to an Indian reservation where the conditions of living are the worst in the country and the culture is embracing Rap because it speaks to them and they can relate to it. Everyone has problems they are overcoming in life and their choice in music reflects that. If Rock isn’t speaking to people, they are not going to being buying it.
    So whatever your race or class, it is clear Rap is connecting on a much larger scale than Rock.

  8. We agree – and we run a rock and roll radio station. Over at Rokkus Radio, we don’t play no moon faced, mama’s boys, emo rockers (emockers?). We play fast, loud, funny, fist raisin’, hell raisin’, lighter raisin’, Rock and Roll.
    As far as we’re concerned, there ain’t no other kind.
    Oh, and we’re the world’s first alternate reality radio station/social network/sock puppet theater.

  9. Skrillex scares more parents then both combined.
    And he’s up for 5 Grammys.
    And making a killing overall.

  10. Hey guys
    You now have kids who grew up on both Hip Hop and Rock some more or less of each but truly both.You got white kids who rap and are good at it.You now have black guys who are not gay that like tight jeans a bit of Punk Rock as well as Hip Hop and to keep it real with you guys..Some Rock bands are having a hard time with this…Hip Hop has always been to open to white people and anyone else who loves the music as for Rock for the most part it’s a white boys club..This must change or it will be Rock & Roll’s downfall…Hip Hop is not going anywhere it’s growing and going to save Rock & Roll by using it the way Rock back in the day used the Blues.Peace

  11. Uh……because quite possibly that kids these days are mostly brain dead????…..not generation Y or generation Z……but generation DUMB….!!!

  12. Robin you need to buy yourself a clue with some dbag rappers bling.
    This is the worst article I’ve read in awhile. I think your nose has a little
    Brown on it from snoops backside….

  13. I think Robin has a point but if maybe it needs to be spelled out a little more clearly to everyone. The majority of the population can relate to the lyrics of rap music while they cannot relate to the lyrics of white rich kids complaining about their hair. That being said rap music also has the ability to get a party started and get people to dance in clubs, you can’t really dance to rock music in the same way.

  14. Your article is spot on. Real rock can’t thrive with the lack of hunger and balls from the self entitlement generation. You can’t just buy vintage clothes and instruments from the (insert favorite 20th century era here) and become a rock star. Real rock stars have something in common: drive and passion.

  15. Another factor to add in – Rock, Emo, Alternative Rock, Art Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, – Death Metal and so on Traditional Metal, Classic Rock, Blues Rock…
    Rock music has become very segragated within itself. Broken down into almost a hundered different rock genre’s. Little clans spread throughout the land with close-minded fan base that only supports one particular style or genre or flavor of the day.
    And that is how it is on the streets from my point of view.
    Currently very little of any of it gets major label support. 95% of it is underground / Independent.
    Now – I do know that RAP has started breaking in to some different sub species as well – BUT, not nearly as broken up as ROCK over the past 60 years. 🙂 In time that will happen.

  16. This article would have a lot more credibility if it mentioned even one, but preferably a sample of, rock musicians with lackluster success because of their affluence, entitlement, coke habits, or any of the attributes Mr Davey affixes to an entire generation.

  17. Rappers and rock starts have that in common then. no pun intended.
    Personally, I’m listening to Jana Barros, she’s a rapper who got her start in musical theater. It takes all sorts. Clearly she’s got passion like noneother.

  18. I think the cause of this shift might be a bit of a projection on the author’s part. I sense some seriously bitterness coming from the author. Maybe that’s why Robin doesn’t like new rock, but I don’t think average listener gives a flying crap about whether a rock musician buys a song or a rapper does. The average fan doesn’t care about credibility or sincerity. They care about listening to what makes them feel cool. Why do you think a certain rock genre died over night in the 80’s and people moved to the next thing? You think it had anything to do with some sort of instant shift in the mentality and behavior of rock musicians? No, it was all about the fans being trendy, and let’s face it, most fans are trendy sheep who really don’t care about anything but listening to what’s hot.

  19. absolute truth. What did I listen to? anything against establishment, parental domination too, and once I learned what they hated, that’s what I embraced. Droopy, you nailed it.

  20. I think that rock music sales began declining shortly after the rise of CD. Rock sounded great on analog, but sadly, not so great on CD. CD’s limited high frequency response makes acoustic instruments sound fake, as harmonics are lost (even ones supposedly above the threshold of hearing). Rap (and pop for that matter) sound just fine on CD, as synthesizers don’t generate those same harmonics. Now that the latest generations prefer MP3 with far lower sample rates than even a CD, the future of rock sales vs pop and rap will likely decline further.

  21. I believe that you are misguided. I think the writer has a very good grasp of this topic. I am from Chicagoland, and have been all over the country and now am in Florida. This seems to be the case EVERYWHERE I go. I see kids with Les Pauls that are 5000 a piece and they trash them. I WORKED at Guitar Center and have sold the equipment to these kids, and I see the others in the circle flock to these kids because that’s just the thing to do. The whole damn system is flawed, but the one thing that is true because everyone knows it, is that Hip Hop artists ALWAYS have a huge following from their hustle. It’s not a color thing, Hip Hop artists want it more. No one just HANDS them money.

Comments are closed.