When it became apparent to me in early 2000′s that the Internet, the ease of use and widespread nature of file sharing was going to completely change the nature of the music industry (perhaps apparent to everyone but the record labels) there was a part of me that believed that at this point, the music industry would have to fully change its principles to survive.

Suddenly the industry might make the shift towards long-term sustainability and better quality artists would rise up over those trying to cash in on a quick buck. My thinking was not because the record labels’ priority was to market better artists and bands, but because the time spent on the quick burn and churn of artists, whether in the mainstream, the major labels, or the steadily rising power and influence of indies, would no longer make sound financial sense. In other words, it’d be better to stick it out with an artist who could grow and sell albums to an ever increasing and loyal fan-base over time than sacrificing a large budget to keep re-creating one hit or one album wonders that would soon be forgotten.  A quick flame was no longer efficient; it was the steady, burning coal that would remain.

Possibly, there might be a return and triumph of the great artist who experiments, makes every song on the record count, and produces the highest quality piece of art they can. Something that would stand the test of time and not disappear into the latest fad. Cultivating artists of relevance and depth.

Rock n’ roll isn’t dead. People aren’t done buying great music. We’re just waiting patiently, hoping for that next great record.

Of the great artists of recent history who had long, sustaining, and artistically fulfilling careers, many of them sold amazing amounts of records and yet still top the charts.  Records from artists such as Led Zeppelin, The Who, Talking Heads, Pink Floyd, Queen, R.E.M., Nirvana and NIN continue to captivate their audience. Even a band like Fugazi, who sold records and built momentum with its own Dischord Records label and spunky DIY attitude, continue to expand on their fan base.

The idea at the time to me was that there would no longer be the monetary incentive for the quick hype and over promotion of a sleek, pre-packaged band, since the singles and albums would end up stolen, and since the group themselves would be forgotten within a year or two.  From a financial perspective, it would be smarter to cultivate the fan base of the artist who wrote from a place of authenticity, inspiration, and the drive to challenge themselves rather than continuing the exhaustive, wasteful hunt to for the next contrived, passing fad.

Unfortunately, nothing like that came to pass at all. The cost of recording has dropped significantly, and things still continue as they used to. The mindset of the music industry never really changed. Tighter budgets, tighter purse strings.  More ability for artists to market themselves, but too many are marketing.

Churn and burn is never going away. And frankly, there are some pop gems that will come out of this even if these aren’t bands with staying power.

However, the fact remains that there is still a huge market for rock and roll and a need for artists who can give an audience something pure, something unique, something authentic and inspiring.  Artists that consistently make great records from start to finish, or at least give it their best damn shot.

The best proof of this yet is Queens of the Stone Age. Like Clockwork entered the Billboard album charts at #1, selling 91,000 copies in it’s first week, almost double the sales of their previous record Era Vulgaris’ first week sales.

Was it marketing genius at their new label? Perhaps. What’s more likely is that many such as myself who heard the album in advance were blown away by it. At last, from start to finish, there was really a classic and great record produced by a current artist. QOTSA stuck to their guns and came up with a brilliant record. Talking to other music lovers and musicians, it was obvious this was a must buy.

And people did. The band is obviously re-vitalized after rougher years, and what can be gained from interviews, a difficult recording process (the title, …Like Clockwork, was tongue-in-cheek for how consistently everything went wrong that could during recording). But the proof is in the music…It’s in the blood, sweat, and beers.

The problem then isn’t that people don’t want to buy and that great art doesn’t sell, but that people are looking for that brilliant record and the music industry doesn’t promote them. Yet that great piece of art still compels people to support artists they love. Others such as myself want to. I hold it more important than anything, but it seems as if it’s been very, very difficult to find these days. Depth. Depth and authenticity. More than image, more than hype, more than a passing moment.

Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age went through some dark times, but coming out of that, it made for an amazing record, and it brought the band back to life commercially and artistically.

The sales are there. People like myself want to buy. We want to wear their shirts, buy CD’s, get excited about concert tickets for musicians who are fresh an putting out quality content. And then telling our friends about it. You want someone to experience that and to feel what that excitement is like.

Bands such as Wilco, QOTSA, Arcade Fire, NIN, Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters and his other musical acts continue to inspire and achieve greatness. They don’t hit the mark every time, but they never stop trying.

Look at the great bands of the past and the present . Filling out smaller venues. Keeping people excited and alive. It’s easy to go for the quick sell in the music business, but history has proven time and time again, the only thing that really lasts isn’t the quick cash, it’s the real thing.

Rock n’ roll isn’t dead. People aren’t done buying great music. We’re just waiting patiently, hoping for that next great record.


Jeff Tom

Jeff Tom

Owner and Editor-in-Chief at The Austin Current I'm a native Austinite. In 1998 I founded one of the first successful blogs on the Internet, and have been writing daily since. I'm a singer-songwriter with my own band, have started multiple successful businesses as an entrepreneur, and have been an avid participant of the music, comedy, technology, and film scene of Austin for over a dozen years.