It’s no doubt the charts are dominated by hip-hop club bangers or Ed Sheeran-esque ballads, so: how are guitar bands surviving, and (more importantly) where are they?
As the question stands: is guitar music dead? My answer is definitely not, but I do think it has lost is exposure to the mainstream.
In recent decades guitar bands, formerly the essence of British music, have been pushed aside on radio, television and in the mainstream sphere. Even if there is a great deal of promising guitar music/bands out there, it is largely pushed down the agenda by companies to the point where it barely gets deserved exposure. For young people, the methods of radio, streaming, and charts are the most accessible, and therefore will only listen to music via these mediums – so for individuals who want anything other than friendly pop must attempt to find/listen to it.
With the closure of NME’s print edition last week, it’s almost somewhat tempting to blame streaming and social media services as an affect to weekly (traditional rock/indie music) magazines. However, with the success of Kerrang! amongst others, it seems guitar music still stands amongst its influencers – perhaps it was simply NME’s failure to support the up and coming scene that was their biggest flaw.
The problem facing the music industry is well understood: sales of CDs are in a downwards spiral while streaming services, such as Spotify, are growing. However, vinyl records are opposingly experiencing rapid growth, mostly because of indie-rock fans and nostalgists.
In 2017, Liam Gallagher’s solo debut As You Were
was the fastest-selling vinyl record of the last 20 years. With 91% of this album’s sales being physical purchases and digital downloads, and streaming only accounting for the remaining 9%, this raises a counter debate. Even in the mainstream of the UK album charts, 2017 saw The XX, Elbow, Kasabian, Royal Blood, Arcade Fire, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, The Killers, Liam Gallagher, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds all gain a position at number one.
Mikey Jonns (Founder, This Feeling) states: “There are so many great new bands coming through supported by talented bloggers, photographers, and mad-for-it crowds. The scene is growing, fast.”
This Feeling as a company includes band management, a record label and a club night – endorsing the likes of Blossoms, The Amazons, and The Sherlocks. Achievement can also be seen in Catfish and the Bottlemen, a rock band formed in Llandudno, North Wales, who have reached arena level after being given an early platform by This Feeling. The past few years have seen the rise of there like-minded groups, fuelled on enthusiasm and passion to bring guitar music back to the people.
The live music industry is still bursting with guitar bands who are thriving in the scene, receiving phenomenal receptions night after night. Yes, we haven’t seen a proper movement like Britpop, for example, in several years, but for all its disappointments and questionable legacy, does this really matter? Classic guitar bands will always be listened to, and therefore the new classics – The Black Keys, Royal Blood, and Muse, to name a few – are at the forefront of the guitar music survival where audiences witness bands playing together in ways un-inimitable by other genres.
Ultimately, there are still heaps of motivated, talented guitar bands out there waiting to be uncovered. Just because you can’t necessarily see it (due to lack of exposure), or you can’t hear it (because you don’t attend it), doesn’t mean that guitar music isn’t happening – you are just choosing not to experience it.