Why is new rock having so much trouble getting traction? Clearly, the record labels have had trouble telling the stories about new bands. What do I mean by that? Too often, they're simply focused on the music, not the back story about the band. Who are these guys? And why should we care about them?
Think about some of the newer bands from the past few years, and you cannot pick out a face, much less a name. Who IS Godsmack, Staind, Puddle of Mudd, Default, and so many others? Listeners know the song, but there's no story behind each band. As a result, it's harder to generate much audience interest in future projects because the music is being marketed as one single after another. Who cares about the next CD from Trapt if you don't really have any investment in the band?
We're a celebrity-driven society. We have an insatiable urge to plug into the lifestyles of famous people. We need stories. That's how the networks were able to generate interest in unknown Olympic athletes with all those “Up Close & Personal” features. We became close to these performers because we learned who they were, how hard it was for them to get to the Games, and the drama in their lives.
VH-1 successfully used this technique with their “Behind the Music Series.” They realized there's a story behind every band, even some that people don't care about. Though many of these stories seem to be the same (humble beginning/rise to stardom/substance abuse & excess/break-up & ruin/getting it together/happily ever after), they're compelling to watch. We get sucked up in these stories, even if we don't love the band. We learn things we didn't know. It piques our interest in them, and even their music the next time we hear it.
The labels need to market new artists this way, and radio needs to tell their stories. Otherwise, music just becomes disposable. This is yet another reason why Classic Rock endures, while new music struggles. Eric Clapton, we know and care about. Who's Paul Phillips?*
* Puddle of Mudd guitarist
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