"That rock and roll ay?": Is it still electric?

Elena Corcobado takes a look at guitar music and asks if its still relevant

Elena Corcobado
24th February 2020
The mainstream market in music has always been subject to different trends that have developed throughout the decades.

One of the most commercially successful genres in the world is guitar music, especially with rock music’s pinnacle during the 70s. I love guitar music and I think it has had a colossal impact in music history and culture across the decades. But the question is, is it still appealing to the mainstream market, is it still commercial like it used to be?

The panorama in music has made a shift in the 21st Century, especially in the last years. Rock stars are not as idolized as they used to be anymore, and the excitement and adoration of guitar virtuosos has left the popular sphere to become a part of more niche music cultures. Guitar music is traditionally associated with white male bands, and nowadays, the new digital technologies have provided a platform for new genres to access more mainstream markets. In this way, the music industry has become more diverse and inclusive, and these traditional white male bands have shifted towards a more niche panorama of either older listeners, passionate fans, or music lovers.

Nowadays, listening habits have also changed, shifting towards a single-orientated culture. It is most common for mainstream artists to produce and release music in singles. Guitar and rock music from older generations was created in full-length albums, and it is a trend still maintained by guitar bands such as Foals, The 1975 and The Arctic Monkeys. Since the audience tendency in listening has shifted towards a playlist and single-oriented culture, guitar music’s popularity has relocated towards a more specific audience.

However, the fact that guitar music has left the mainstream it does not mean that it is dying or in decline. There is amazing guitar music being made and, as I have mentioned, there are many bands and artists that keep it alive. Bands such as Arctic Monkeys, Foals, The 1975, Catfish and The Bottlemen and many more are making guitar music that appeals to big crowds and wide audiences. Guitar and rock music is still out there as it has always been, but nowadays it is required for the listener to actively search for it. This is due to this music appealing to more niche audiences that are passionate about specific genres and that are music fans; people who usually make their way out of the mainstream music offer.

We can’t forget that, also, there are many ways of making guitar music. Artists like Tame Impala, Rex Orange County and Tom Misch all use guitar in different ways from what traditional rock would produce. Guitar is a very versatile instrument that can produce more rocky, jazzy, bluesy, psychedelic, poppy and many more sounds. Regardless of what is in the Spotify Top UK playlist, we will keep on listening to guitar music because we love it.

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