What Would It Take To Create Another Boom in the Hard Rock And Heavy Metal Scene Like The 1980s Were?

If you were around in the 1980s you remember what a tremendous boom there was in interest in hard rock and heavy metal music. There are documentary style short movies in YouTube with titles along the lines of: When Metal Ruled The World: The 1980s

MTV was a tremendous help to our industry at that time. David Coverdale stated that MTV saved him about 3 or 4 years of hard touring to reach the level of popularity in The USA that Whitesnake attained.

We no longer have a TV station that does for our music what MTV did for it on the 80s and that’s a shame because the results MTV had on the popularity of hard rock and heavy metal bands was phenomenal. It gave them a level of exposure nobody had ever had before. For the first time people could turn on the TV and not just hear but actually see these bands play their hit songs.

While we no longer have the equivalent of an MTV, and most of the major record labels that were around then went bankrupt in the early 2000s. The co-founder of The Tarns Siberian Orchestra, Paul O’Neill. said in an interview that roughly 95% of the major record labels went bankrupt in that general time period. He stated that the success of The Trans -Siberian Orchestra lay in the fact that they were either the last band or one of the last few bands to receive from record labels what they called “artist development.” Artist development included giving help to struggling bands that showed potential even if their first few albums did poorly in sales. he cited Pink Floyd as a prime example of a band that fit that category. Pink Floyd’s first six albums or so sold poorly but their record label believed in them and continued supporting them because they saw the potential the band had. The rest is history. They went on to become one of the most popular bands of all time. O’Neill stated that if they were making their debut today, they would never be given that big of an opportunity and that if their first couple of albums sold poorly, they’d be dropped from their record contract. O’Neill stated that today that can happen even after one album. Of a band’s debut album doesn’t sell well, they may be dropped that quickly.

Obviously bands have it tougher these days than back in the 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s. The decline of the rock music industry coincides very closely with the advent of the internet and illegal downloading.

The internet isn;t solely responsible for the decline of the rock music industry though, even though it’s obviously been a huge contributor to the decline. There was something else going in the 80s which hard rock and heavy metal bands were doing that led to a huge rise in the overall popularity if hard rock and heavy metal and it’s something unrelated to the internet; it’s something that could be repeated today.

Today at most, if not all had rock and heavy metal shows you’ll see a very disproportionate mix between male and female fans. Males outnumber females at many of these shows by a ratio of approximately 9 to 1. That’s extremely undesirable to club owners who want their clubs to be full!

If a band can find a way to attract a good number of women to their shows, that boosts overall attendance at the clubs. Not only that, but where the young women are, the young guys will want to be. So more women at shows attracts more young men at the shows and the cycle continues until you’ve got a packed house!

The more melodic, less heavy bands, which often were glam bands but not necessarily glam bands, received a tremendous amount of criticism from the heavier bands. It seemed the more abrasive a band’s sound was, the more they would tend to criticize the more melodic metal bands like Skid Row and Dokken, even though these bands had some fairly heavy songs of their own. Compared to the thrash bands though, which had a more extreme sound than had ever been heard before, these more melodic bands weren’t even heavy metal at all. To illustrate just how much the idea of what was considered heavy metal changed after the advent of thrash, you have to look at the heavy metal bands of the 1970s. The most successful of the true heavy metal bands of the mid 70s were Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. Actually Priest didn’t really start to break through until their Hell Bent For Leather and Unleashed in The East albums which were released at the tail end of the 70s. Then Priest actually achieved mainstream success with their 1980 album British Steel.

In the 1970s, Sabbath and Priest were considered to be among the heaviest bands around. They continued to be considered such until thrash bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer made their debuts in the early 80s. As a general rule of thumb, the heavier and more thrash oriented a band’s sound was, the less women you could expect to see at their shows. As far as I know, bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, and Dio were the last of the true heavy metal bands to have a decent sized female attendance at their concerts. The Scorpions who were somewhat less heavy attracted even more women to their shows, and of course bands like Motley Crue, Ratt, Cinderella and Whitesnake drew pretty close to a 50/50 split between men and women at their shows.

For all the complaining the heavier bands did about the glam and melodic metal bands, those bands were largely responsible for the heavy metal boom of the 1980s. A girl might have first gotten into heavy metal by listening to Motley Crue and Skid Row, but then as she matured and her tastes broadened, she might well have started getting into heavier music like Ozzy, Priest, Maiden, and Queensryche. One thing that all those bands had in common, even the glam bands, was they had that loud, distorted heavy metal guitar tone. It’s possibly the one biggest thing which separated the heavy metal bands from the mainstream rock bands.

The lyrical content was another big difference. Whether a band was hard rock, like Van Halen, or more heavy metal like Motley Crue or KISS, if they sang about having a good time and enjoying life, like those bands did, it tended to appeal to both men and women. The bands that had a more pessimistic outlook towards life tended to have an even heavier or even thrash approach to their music, and attendance at those bands’ shows was predominantly made up of men.

There is plenty of room in music for bands of different outlooks towards life to all co-exist. Yet for some reason, it seemed that in the 90s it was practically forbidden for the heavy bands to take a positive outlook in their lyrics of enjoying life to the utmost. The grunge fad was a perfect example of a style of music that tended to have a very pessimistic outlook in their lyrics. Some of those bands still attracted a good number of female fans because they had catchy songs. Still, the unwritten rule that a heavy band cannot take a positive outlook towards life in its lyrics and sing about having fun was, in my opinion, the first big step away from the ethic of the 1980s which was the time when heavy music enjoyed its greatest success. In fact it was during the 1990s that rock nightclub attendance start becoming so poor that many of the most famous rock clubs in the country went out of business. The 90s grunge bands simply could not match the number of people that the 80s bands had drawn to the clubs in the previous decade. I worked at a club in the 90s where on pretty much any given night, you could walk right up to the bar and order a drink. I was told by the bouncers who had worked there in the 80s that you used to have to sometimes wait as long as 15 minutes at the bar to get a drink. Business was that good in the 80s; the place was packed!

These are things bands and nightclubs today can learn from. You don’t necessarily have to learn from making your own mistakes. If you’re smart, you’ll learn from the mistakes of others!


Probably the same kind of thing that would require jazz to resurrect. :smile: New technologies both in audio (microphones, amplifiers, computers, software, etc.) and for the general public (radio, TV, internet…) brought out new genres that exploited these technologies. Guitar centric music had its turn three or four decades ago. In a sense, new genres in guitar centred music started to exist or develop again thanks to advancements in audio tech like djent and affiliated genres (post-rock, modern progressive metal, math rock…).

I’m fine with accepting that guitar simply isn’t the easiest nor the most popular instrument anymore. Guitar won’t go away (or so I hope!), but to the general public I accept that the “new” guitar is the computer and that music has moved in that direction, that music is consumed differently today than decades ago as well. Even if I prefer buying physical disks to “own” the item, I’m also perfectly aware that I essentially don’t make much use of the CD after extracting the music in .flac…

In a way, I agree with something Gene Simmons said: rock died when people stopped buying it or spending money on it. The record industry failed to evolve and died as a result: records don’t sell as much because people moved on to new means of consumption. I can’t find the exact interview though.

Guitar never was the easiest! When you started out, didn’t it feel kind of awkward, maybe even “unnatural” to contort your fingers into the various chord shapes? Also, didn’t your fingertips feel sore, maybe even blistered from pressing down those steel strings against the frets? In comparison, when I started learning to play the piano (years before I ever even picked up a guitar), it never felt unnatural or awkward and it certainly didn’t feel painful.

I might have stuck with the piano and never discovered the joy of guitar playing if I had had teachers who taught me music that I liked! They were teaching me classical music, which I realize is the standard way to seriously teach piano to a child, but I had little to no interest in classical music. So my heart was never in my piano playing. Also, the teachers ( I had one when I was very young and another when I was 12) never once encouraged me to write any music of my own. With rock guitar you are encouraged to write simple songs and riffs almost from the day you begin lessons. The piano teachers never even mentioned at least improvising! You could say they did a pretty good job of stifling my creativity by leading me to believe that composing music was only for musical geniuses like J.S Bach.

You’re right that guitar may dwindle in popularity (and we’re already seeing that), but guitar will NEVER disappear and I’ll tell you why. Despite what the guitar “purists” would have you believe, and I’m as guilty of being a purist as anybody, when you get right down to it, rock 'n roll is music that comes from our loins! Rock and Blues guitar is inherently sexual in nature and most of the hit songs in rock music are about love and sex. The Fender Strat is even shaped kind of like a woman with the curves where they are and the skinny part in the middle - like the waist of a pretty woman. There is not and never will be anything sexy about “playing a computer” onstage in front of teenagers and young adults who are in the sexual rimes of their lives and are perpetually on the lookout for a potential girlfriend or boyfriend if they don’t already have one. Can you imagine how much less effective it would have been if instead of setting his guitar on fire, Jimi Hendrix had set a computer on fire?

Call me old school but my favorite way of consuming music is through my ears, LOL

Gene has done a ton of interviews in his lifetime so it’s no wonder you can’t find a particular one! Gene’s a brilliant businessman and as usual, he’s right about the fans killing rock 'n roll. They were supposed to be the most loyal music fans in the world and a lot of us were and still are! Enough of us weren’t though, and so the fans killed our favorite industry! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You cannot name one industry in the entire world that could survive of its customers almost all started illegally downloading the product or simply stealing the product that the industry sold for its lifeblood while the police and the government didn’t lift a finger to catch and prosecute the thieves! No matter how vital an industry you choose as an example, it would quickly crumble if that happened to it!

Since technology is advancing faster than it ever has before in the history of mankind, I suppose it’s possible that some very intelligent record company executives might devise a format on which they could sell albums which would be impossible to illegally download. At least we can hope!

I’d expand on this: that for the most part, any music that is popular with the dads and granddads of the present-day is, by definition, the opposite of cool.

Look for a university with a reputation as a “party school”, and find out what male musicians the female students crush on. Whatever those guys are doing shapes the current definition of “cool”. Ed Sheeran, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Sam Smith, Shawn Mendes. If one of those guys decided to release a hard rock album, maybe hard rock would briefly be cool again. Outside of some young performer with “cool cred” re-introducing hard rock to the young audience, you just have to wait until there’s a generation of parents and grandparents who have no interest in hard rock; then maybe more young people will consider it safe to rediscover on their own terms rather than rejecting it as “old people music”.

And maybe “The Charleston” and “The Twist” will return to dance floors.

To pick up compared to other instruments? It’s way easier. And I insist on “picking up”, not “playing descending sixes arpeggios at 200BMP 16th notes”. You can play almost whenever you want, whenever you want (much unlike the second most popular instrument: the piano), it’s very inexpensive compared to other decent instruments especially in the orchestra, you don’t need to know how to read sheet music, you don’t need how to find a note properly because there are frets. So yes, it’s way easier and cheaper. When it became too hard in the 80’s, the 90’s went back to much less virtuosic songwriting; at least on the main stage of music. Now computers, tablets and phones are the easiest instrument. Technology marches on.

The joke went completely over my head. I mean that the new generation don’t buy records. They don’t even necessarily pirate them. The consumption of music moved on to streaming: YouTube, Spotify, that’s where it happens legally. Ola Englund of Feared (and his YT channel) said that there’s so much music available nowadays that releasing a record is a very, very risky move because you get drowned very quickly by other releases unless you’re a very big act. Misha Mansoor of Periphery claims that Periphery doesn’t make money through music itself: endorsements deals, signature deals and gear makes him money.

So basically, creating a media that would prevent piracy is a waste of time and money. Technology and people have moved on from physical copies: it’s not as if all what’s online is necessarily ripped from a record. Also, look at BluRay’s dismal adoption rate on PC: too many constraints. What did people do? Moved on to streaming and buying digital copies (or pirating them). I am a PC user first and foremost, and I can tell you a BR drive won’t get into my PC anytime soon, nevermind plugged on my TV.

People want what’s convenient to them. Decades prior it was the CD, nowadays it’s streaming. Stacking more and more protection on a depreciated format like physical disks will only make them more defiant.
EDIT: Add to that crowdfunding: people like to be able to pay (or give) what they want, when they want to who they want without any middle-man/company like a record company. That’s currently where technology is. Who knows what the future holds.

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It’s really not nearly that far fetched an idea. Established bands like Metallica and Maiden still make a killing. The demand for that style of music is there. As long as there is teen rebellion, there will be heavy metal. The reason that only established artists do well now because there is no rock music industry anymore save for a mere shadow of what it once was before the advent of the internet. All that remains now are “the corpses of rebels, ashes of dreams and bloodstained streets.” Still, all is not lost. There is hope. “It has been written that those who have the youth have the future so come now children be strong and Shout At The Devil”!

I knew you meant that. I just couldn’t resist making the joke :wink:

Probably for guitarists to stop looking back at the 80s or whenever and look forwards.


Jesus, man. The burn unit was already stretched to capacity, what’d you have to go and nuke the thread from orbit for? :wink:

oh man, I didn’t even get in far enough to the original post to see the ridiculous stuff about “women”

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A time machine? …


Actually, in the U.K. at least, there is a jazz resurrection going on. I was just reading about how the under 30s are listening to more and more digital jazz radio stations in the U.K. Most up and coming British jazz artists are in the 20 - 30 age group also.

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Jazz is a weird thing: a huge part of the genre is to cover, re-arrange, reinterpret popular songs A.K.A. “the standards”. What I’ve learnt is that the term “standard” means “today’s standards”, the things that are popular and cool right now, not one or two or more decades ago. I think it’s possible for the genre to be relevant again if the practice becomes popular again.

It’s not a very original comment, it’s something I’ve thought about in the past and forgotten about it until Adam Neely brought the subject back up recently, talking about a jazz/djent cover he did.

It’s not a race. There’s still time to finish reading it.

I don’t happen to believe including a demographic which makes up 50% of the population to be a ridiculous idea but you’re entitled to your opinion. I see you’re not alone because there are bands these days that seem to be doing everything they can to make themselves repulsive to women and it’s working for them. They have an all male audience and apparently that makes them happy but it sounds miserable to me. Spending a Saturday night in some dive with a couple hundred sweaty, drunk guys may be your idea of paradise but it wouldn’t work for me.

A time machine. That’s your best idea for creating a major boom in the hard rock/metal industry. Wonderful.

You do know there are bands in that genre have played football stadiums within the last year or two, right? Metallica and Guns "n Roses weren’t even drawing crowds that big in the 1980s. Iron Maiden is still making a killing on their tours. The demand for the music is there. The audience certainly didn’t show up because it was an inexpensive night out. Ticket prices have become astronomical but the bands can get away with that when the demand exceeds supply by such a ridiculous margin. The established artists have it made because they have practically no competition. That’s because we aren’t making new rock stars, haven’t been for quite some time. The artist development aspect of the industry which all the bands I mentioned above benefited from greatly and which is necessary to make it possible for new bands to reach their status is no longer there.

I think you’re missing a major point about bands that have been around as long as G’n R or Metallica, Maiden etc - the people who go to their shows these days are, I would bet - largely people who were fans of them ‘back in the day’ going for a slice of nostalgia. And people of that age can afford high ticket prices.
Of course the bands will have picked up some younger fans along the way as parents or older siblings pass the music down but I’d bet the average age of someone at a Metallica concert is at least 15-20 years older than it was back in the 80s.

So I think you’re reaching when you say there’s a huge market out there for new acts playing similar styles to the likes of Maiden, Metallica etc.

if you think the way you’re presenting matters is inclusive to that demographic I think you’re very mistaken


When I stated that the demand is there for bands like Metallica, Guns 'n Roses, and Iron Maiden I didn’t go into the reasons why the demand is there. It would have made an already long post even longer. One poster even commented he hadn’t yet finished reading it. But if you’d like to discuss the reasons for the demand, that’s fine with me. I find this stuff fascinating. BTW, I didn’t claim there to be a “huge” market for this music, but it is a considerable market - it’s big enough in my estimation that that we would be seeing new bands making it to headlining arenas if the conditions in the music business were better than they are now. Rock has always been a cyclical business but this down cycle we’re in is so enormous and has lasted so long that there is absolutely nothing natural about it. A form of music as vital and enduring as rock music should not be in the condition which it is in now.

You’re right in that nostalgia is a large driving force contributing to the demand for these bands. Of course it’s not the only reason for the demand but it is a considerable factor in the demand for these bands. Right now even though the rock music industry is in the worst condition it’s ever been in since the invention of rock 'n roll, there are still a good number of established bands and solo artists still touring. If people are willing to cough up the price of a ticket, they still have a decent number of rock bands from which to choose to go see perform.

We’re nearing a crisis though ( depending of course on how big a part of your life live rock music is). One of the reasons a band like ZZ Top can command somewhere around $100 a ticket to their shows (and that’s far from the highest priced ticket these days) is that the audience realizes they’re paying for the privilege of seeing what is, for all practical purposes, an endangered species - a legendary rock band! Every year legendary rock stars are dying and they’re not being replaced. The time is coming when there will be very few classic rock and metal bands left to choose from for the consumer who wants to go to one of those concerts. Rock stars and legends are retiring and even dying and they’re not being replaced.

For the younger fans for whom these bands aren’t a nostalgia trip but more precisely a newly acquired interest they discovered through family members or just found out about on their own, when they get to be middle aged rock fans looking for a concert that will provide them with a nostalgia trip, they may find that no such thing exists for them and I find that sad.

If you think rock music has a history of treating young women like ladies, I think you’re very mistaken. Here are a few lyrics from one of the three bands I specifically mentioned. Can you guess which one these lyrics belong to?

If I say I don’t need anyone
I can say these things to you
'Cause I can turn on anyone
Just like I’ve turned on you
I’ve got a tongue like a razor
A sweet switchblade knife
And I can do you favors
But then you’ll do whatever I like

I’m not going to try to defend the way rock musicians have treated girls over the years but considering the tremendous numbers of girls who worshipped bands like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Aerosmith, etc there’s no denying that whatever those bands did worked!

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Since I don’t really care whether people have “legendary” rock bands to get their nostalgia rocks off in the future (don’t worry, people my age will have Lady Gaga and maybe Nile reunion tours – saying “Necrophagist” would be pushing it), let’s dig this particular hole deeper.

How exactly do rock bands these days make themselves repulsive to women? Being too heavy? So what you’re complaining about is that bands these days are too heavy. Fine. Go start your own. Besides, you’re just wrong: there’s a lot of rock music these days that isn’t that heavy. It’s just not on your radar, because it doesn’t sound exactly like the 80s.

…But you are? Because according to you that’s how they packed stadiums.

I’d propose that these attitudes are exactly why the 80s isn’t coming back, at least not in rock.

I’d go see a Lady Gaga and Nile tour in a heartbeat.

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