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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Do We Really Need A Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?

With all the hype around the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th anniversary, it just makes me wonder - why do we need a rock and roll hall of fame anyway? What's the point? Does it raise money for charity (no)? Does it help starving musicians (no)? Does it help legendary musicians down on their luck after being screwed out of all their royalties by once thieving record labels and publishers (no)?

So what's the point? It's not like any sport hall of fame where there are statistics over a career to evaluate. What statistics does a music artist have? Record sales? Concert attendance? Why should any of that matter anyway? Isn't it more important how an artist influenced others that followed? Isn't it more important that his or her fans loved the music, regardless of number of sales? Isn't it more important that an artist has artistic integrity rather than do anything to sell tickets and records?

So I say again, "Why is there a rock and roll hall of fame?" It seems that there are some things in life that just don't need a "hall" and music is one of them. The private performance at the induction ceremony every year is pretty good and I try to catch it every year, but we could see the same at a private charity event. A music museum makes sense (it's been a big hit for the Hard Rock Hotel) and is kind of fun, but a hall of fame? Give me a break.

So who's behind it? Not surprisingly, the rock hall is part of the music establishment, the brainchild of Rolling Stone magazine impresario Jann Wenner and funded by the major record labels. As a result, a constant criticism has been that the nominees are selected not by musicians but by a few insiders who care more about the income generated instead of the integrity of the selection. In fact, low selling but influential artists are constantly passed over in favor of bigger artists who are better able to sell tickets to the induction ceremony. As an example, going way back to an article for Fox News in April of 2001, Roger Friedman wrote:
We received this letter from a former (Hall of Fame) board member. Here it is:
"Thank you for your insightful article on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I am a veteran music journalist who spent two years on the Hall's nominating committee and saw from the inside some of the politics at work.
"I saw how artists were sometimes chosen for nomination because of their affiliations with the directors of the Hall and others were shot down without so much as a moment of consideration simply because some people in that room didn't like them personally or because an artist had bad blood with someone calling the shots.
"At one point (former foundation director) Suzan Evans lamented the choices being made because there weren't enough big names that would sell tickets to the dinner. That was quickly remedied by dropping one of the doo-wop groups being considered in favor of a 'name' artist.
"During my second year on the committee, I received a petition signed by 5000 fans of the Moody Blues requesting that the group be considered for nomination. Personally I am not much of a fan, and neither, apparently, was anyone else on the committee (at least no one who would admit it). Still, I felt they were a legitimate contender for the nomination and that it was my duty to present the petition since so many people had taken a lot of time to put it together. I plunked it down on the conference table to a great roar of laughter from the assembled bigshots.
"Jon Landau, Springsteen's manager, asked me if I personally was a fan of theirs. 'Not really,' I said. 'End of discussion,' he said.
"On the other hand, I saw how Atlantic Records artists were routinely placed into nomination with no discussion at all, due to the large concentration of Atlantic executives on the committee. I saw how so-called critical favorites were placed into nomination while artists that were massively popular in their time were brushed off. I saw how certain pioneering artists of the 50s and early 60s were shunned because there needed to be more name power on the list, resulting in 70s superstars getting in before the people who made it possible for them. Some of those pioneers still aren't in today but Queen is.
"I was finally kicked off the committee after writing a guest editorial for Billboard in which I criticized the Hall for its insider ways.
"Almost ten years later nothing has changed."
And that was in 2001! So one more time - Why do we need a rock and roll hall of fame? Simple answer - we don't. It's a fake honor filled with the worst kind of puffery. And The Moody Blues are still not in (I'm not a fan either, but what criteria keeps them out? - Right, just the opinion of the H of F directors).

Rock and Roll is about the feeling you get when you listen to the music. It's the hair standing up on the back or your neck with excitement. It's the urge to listen to the song again, over and over. It's about 20,000 people singing along, and 2 people being knocked out by an artist for the first time. It is not about awards (that includes you, Grammys).


Larry Jones said...

Bob, this is the best and most passionate post you've written on this blog, and you are so right! I've never paid any attention to the so-called hall of fame, and your post gives form to the feeling I've always had about its irrelevance. Who needs it? We already have a glitzy forum for celebrating the dubious achievements of big-selling stars while often ignoring true artists. It's called The Grammies.

Thanks for your insight on this, but it don't be surprised if you don't get invited to the next induction ceremony.

Michael MacDonald said...

Wow Bobby, this explains everything, well at least the hall anyway. I have heard some of the artists and think... really? I think I must have missed something; I guess I did. Thanks for your insight. I have enjoyed reading your blog this morning.
Michael MacDonald


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