Rock music fails to make the Hot 100, but Americana has a breakthrough week

The great musical tent that is American had his best selling week ever, even that rock music failed to find even one location on Billboard’s mainstream Hot 100 wireless card. Exemption: rock with a strong dose of GED.


Through Glenn Peoples of pandora

Rock is not dead. I’ll fix this right away. Rock bands represent some of the biggest names in music and the biggest tours and festivals. But again, the commonly heard statement “rock is dead” is appropriate in some parts of the business. (I’ll give rock the simple definition of guitar-based music played on drums. That’ll leave out the pop/EDM that’s so popular right now.)

image from

First of all, rock albums are selling as well as you would expect. Green Day’s new album, Radio Revolution, reached No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart with 90,000 album sales and 6,000 other equivalent units in track sales and streams. It’s a good first week for a rock band in 2016. Hard rock band Alter Bridge debuted at #8 with 28,000 units. The album chart has many other rock artists. At Meshuggah’s The violent sleep of reason debuted at No. 17. Red Hot Chili Pepper’s The Getaway is at No. 20 with 5 weeks on the chart. All 13 voices of Sum 31 debuted at #22. Aside from a handful of other debuts, Skillet’s “Unleashed” sits at #124 after 10 weeks.

But rock is struggling to get mainstream airplay. Green Day’s “Bang Bang” is number 3 on this week’s Alternative Songs chart, but failed to crack Billboard’s all-genre and mainstream chart, the Hot 100. In fact, the Hot 100 is virtually devoid of rock. . A few nominally rock bands – Coldplay, X Ambassadors and Fitz and the Tantrums – were listed, but with pop/EDM songs. The first guitar-based song on the Hot 100 is actually “Setting the World on Fire,” by country artist Kenny Chesney, at No. 36 (one of many country songs on the Hot 100).

“embrace EDM or give up hope

to go on mainstream radio”

Some rock artists seem to have gotten the message: Embrace EDM or give up hope of making it to mainstream radio.

It’s not just a lack of radio play that’s keeping the Hot 100 rocking. The chart counts track sales and streams in addition to radio airplay. People clearly don’t listen to single-serve rock bands to the extent of pop, EDM, R&B, and hip hop. Rock is very much an album-based genre in what is currently a singles-based recorded music market. This may change in the future. I had recent conversations with two experts in the field who say rock music could make a comeback (on radio, on streaming services) because popular music is cyclical.

Now you could say that rock music doesn’t need radio. Fans can find music elsewhere and they are relatively likely to buy music. Additionally, hard rock and metal festivals are doing well (read this excellent article by Billboard’s Ray Waddell on the rise of metal festivals). So just looking at radio and the Hot 100 doesn’t paint the full picture.

american logoAmericana has the best sales week ever

On a different note, Americana, a large umbrella of a kind, probably had its best selling week two weeks ago. Not on that, but Americana had such a good week that their top 10 albums outsold their top 10 pop, hip hop/R&B albums. and dominant country. It helped that four top 10 Americana/Folk albums included new albums from Bon Iver (a No. 2 debut), Bob Weir, Van Morrison, and Drive-By Truckers. Nonetheless, Americana albums, as defined by Billboard, beat out the traditional country genre that almost always eclipses Nashville’s grittier, less polished roots music.