How To Best Insult A Rock Band?
In the wake of the Goo Goo Dolls enduring the devastating slight of being referred to as a “classic rock band,” Fred Jacobs explores how different bands and artists handle the aging process, and how their music is often revivified by the next generation of artists.
Guest post by Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media Strategies
It hasn’t been easy for musicians this year. Unless you’re Taylor Swift or the Foo Fighters, you do some writing, hang out on social media, and wait for the pandemic to blow over.
But if you or your band is lower on the food chain, 2020 has been the worst of times. No touring, lower merch sales, and internal pressures and worries that only come with a true existential crisis.
But even with all those indignities, you still have your catalogue of music and your loyal fans. That is, until they turn on you. Apparently, a problem that most bands don’t anticipate is that by sticking around for a long time, they’re going to end up growing…
Of course, some rockers now of a certain age, anticipated this.
“What a drag it is getting old” – Rolling Stones/”Mother’s Little Helper”
“Hope I die before I grow old.” – The Who/”My Generation”
Of course, both songs were recorded in the 1960’s when both bands were young and hungry rockers just out of knickers. Today, despite being septuagenarians – i.e., rockers in their seventies – the Who and the Stones are still very much functional, if not practical. Sure they’re old, but they wear it well.
It turns out, the inevitable process can actually be more awkward when you’re a ’90s band – like the Goo Goo Dolls, for example.
Last week, they had a “Reality bites” moment when they were insulted in the most profound way by NBC host Craig Melvin on the Today Show.
He called them “a classic rock group.”
And apparently, it wasn’t the first time the Buffalo-based band has been labeled this way. A few years ago during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the same slur was hurled at the Goo Goo Dolls.
Actually, it’s the band’s fans who appear to be most offended. After Melvin’s put-down aired on network television, Twitter blew up with a slew of denials, something like we hear from respondents in focus groups all the time. They have a hard time coming to grips with the notion the music they grew up with is now 30 years old.
Of course, in any conversation about music, facts matter. And in the case of the Goo Goo Dolls, the band was formed way back in the ’80s. And key members John Rzeznik and Rob Takac are both in their mid-fifties, in danger of even falling off Nielsen’s demographic cliff.
The band hasn’t released a statement refuting the Today’s Show‘s claim. And even Rzeznik once admitted that “If I had five more minutes, I definitely would have picked a better name.” Their first album to achieve mainstream success was the brilliantly titled A Boy Named Goo.
It should also be noted the band just released a holiday album, It’s Christmas All Over. There’s nothing more Classic Rock than that.
While the Goo Goo Dolls are grappling with how to spin this apparent slight and coddle their angst-ridden fan base, several even more contemporary artists are going in the opposite direction. They’re embracing the popularity of Classic Rock as both a fan and brand-building tool.
While researching our John Lennon blog post earlier this week, I ran across the MonaLisa Twins – Mona and Lisa Wager who originally hail from Austria. These twentysomething girls are great musicians and even better vocalists.
What tool are they using to expose their new music to the masses? Classic Rock.
Their “newest” album? Live At The Cavern Club in Liverpool, a collection of covers (mostly Beatles) and new stuff. By channeling their inner Fab Four, they’ve produced a series of wonderful Beatles covers over the last few years like this one:
Then there’s one of the best new music breakout artists of the past couple years – Detroit born Lizzo. Her music unapologetically mashes together different genres – including Classic Rock. Here’s a recent TV spot for Facebook Messenger Rooms, covering the Beatles’ “All Together Now,” which originally appeared on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.
Not to be outdone, Billie Eilish – clearly this year’s sensation – recently released her version of the Beatles’ “Something,” a haunting rendition of one of George Harrison’s best tunes. Even core Classic Rockers will appreciate her interpretation of this standard. It was originally recorded for SiriusXM.
And in case you’re keeping score at home, Billie Eilish is just 18 years-old.
The strategic use of Classic Rock covers by these immensely talented young female artists underscore the truth that a successful formula for mainstream success is mixing genres and eras (it works in radio programming, too). It’s a smart way to bring older fans into the tent, as well as exposing current fans to great music they’ve never heard before.
Maybe the next project for the Goo Goo Dolls should be an album of Beatles covers.
They could name it “Goo Goo G’joob.”
Fred Jacobs: President & Founder at Jacobs Media.
Fred Jacobs founded Jacobs Media in 1983, and quickly became known for the creation of the Classic Rock radio format.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched – a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,300 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created – a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the “connected car” and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media’s commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.