The RRHOF Class of 2018, Part 2: Turnstiles and Target Demos

“Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Pumps Brakes on Progressiveness,” was the headline from Billboard.com. “A Dad Rock Spectacle for the Ages,” is how Cleveland.com put it. Both, of course, were referring to the Hall’s Class of 2018 (The Moody Blues, Dire Straits, The Cars, Bon Jovi, Nina Simone and Early Influence inductee Sister Rosetta Tharpe).

There’s been a lot of criticism of the Hall’s “Boomer bias” of the past couple of years, and it’s absolutely not without justification. To fulfill its mission, the Hall needs to broaden its range, and there’s evidence that it’s taking steps to force the older-white-male-dominated voting committee out of its comfort zone and at least catch up a little bit to the more progressive NomCom, including recruiting members as young as their 20s. And even if it adds to the overall complexity, it may very well take some procedural changes as well, something like the change suggested (by a Millennial) here.

But just to play devil’s advocate, the Hall may not actually be rushing to bring this about, at least on a scale that will satisfy everyone tired of classic rock’s dominance, and here’s why: The fact is, Boomers and early Gen X’ers aren’t dead. Yet.  While the oldest ones are out of that coveted 25-54 demographic, they have disposable income and are deeply invested in their music and the experience built around it.  Seven of the top 20 tours worldwide in 2017 according to Pollstar were classic rock acts – McCartney, the Stones, GnR, Roger Waters, Billy Joel, U2, and Tom Petty (nine if you count Depeche Mode and Metallica; Springsteen’s Broadway shows weren’t even counted). Yes, the ticket prices are higher, but again, old folks are shelling out. They pony up in droves for events like 80s in the Sand, and cruise ships full of inebriated Boomers are criss-crossing the world’s oceans as you read this, reliving the glory days on the Kiss cruise, the 80s cruise, the Moody Blues cruise, et al, et al.

Now, here I get into conjecture territory: without wanting to draw broad stereotypes, clearly, Millennials experience their music differently from previous generations; they tend to value ownership of music (and most things) far less and experience live music in a festival setting as opposed to single headliners far more. Big conjecture on my part, but I’m not sure that fandom of any particular artist or band plays the same role in self-definition that it did for their parents. Please note-this is a value-neutral statement. I’m not saying this is a bad thing; in a lot of respects it may be a healthier thing. Culture is more participatory for much of this generation than it was for us, and they don’t engage in the hero worship that we did, for lack of a better term.

And while a lot was made about Radiohead’s exclusion, the band doesn’t care, and I’m not sure how much their fan base does. I’ve said it before, but I was taken aback by their poor showing in the fan vote, dragging along in 11th place even before the announcement that they’d be in another hemisphere during the induction ceremony, finally finishing in 12th.

All this is relevant because the RRHOF has so strongly linked its nomination/induction process to cranking the turnstiles at its museum, possibly more than any other such institution, along with the HBO telecast of the induction, which has of course been cited as the primary source of corruption in the process. (While ESPN telecasts the MLB HOF ceremony, MLB is clearly in the driver’s seat). Whether or not it’s pernicious, once that’s the premise, it’s just business: which group would you cater to, as the Foundation, the Museum, HBO or an advertiser? And once you’ve made that decision, you’re hanging a building-sized banner off the side of a downtown Cleveland building emblazoned with an image of a (young) Jon Bon Jovi, right after he’s pulled off a massive end run (aka dick move) around you  by announcing his personal choice of inductor.

It’s been voiced that people should be patient with the Hall trying to balance all these demands, and I’ve thought that myself. But didn’t it wedge itself firmly between the (proverbial) rock and the hard place? I definitely wouldn’t want to go the three-name-only-per-class route, but the Country Music Hall of Fame has scrupulously kept its induction process separate from its Museum management for 54 years now, and while the actual HOF element has its inevitable detractors, it’s managed to maintain its cachet while going under the radar and coexist with a  successful Museum that’s actually one of the relatively few such institutions accredited within the industry. It can be done.

The CMHOF also maintains a pretty high degree of transparency about their rules and processes. The RRHOF has apparently stated that transparency is a goal, but I don’t think we’re going to see this for a while. Right now, the voting committee is driven by its biases. If the voters choose an all-white, all-male slate and the Hall needs to massage that for better optics, they’ve still got the wiggle room and the ends justify the unseen means. Of course, if a band like Radiohead gets snubbed as punishment for a lack of enthusiasm, or because the Hall wants time to try to sweet-talk them into playing along, or just snubbed period, that doesn’t have to be seen either. Right now, the NomCom by acting according to its mission is doing the work of progressiveness, while the powers that be are catering to the bulk of their official voters even as they quietly work to dilute their influence to achieve a greater goal. Until that’s worked out, “selection by one’s peers” is a good thing to promote and takes the heat off the problem.

(An aside: another thing that undermines the Hall’s credibility maybe as much as bias and lack of transparency is a lack of simple professionalism. When you have to add names to a band’s inducted personnel due to “inadvertent error” after the fact and don’t bother to contact those members yourself so they find out from their wives, and when you can’t contact the acts that aren’t inducted that year, but send them a form letter, it’s pretty cringeworthy. (Note to the NomCom: this book is excellent and has handy charts so you can see who was in a band at any point in time).

On the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast covering the class, Brian Hiatt and Andy Greene acknowledged that “there’s an image problem with (the RRHOF and) young people” and then asked hypothetically, “Does everything always have to be about young people?”

At least for right now, maybe not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “The RRHOF Class of 2018, Part 2: Turnstiles and Target Demos

  1. Michelle
    Good post MB. Many of the 70’s RRHOF voters are voting for their FAV bands and friends. That’s more votes for the next cycle of like artists. Most of these bands have 4 or 5 members. I think that’s what hurts the R&B acts for induction. Many from the Motown era have died in recent years. Some of these are singular talents as well. That’s only 1 vote compared to a Prog or Rock band with 4 or 5 members. We have had similar discussions on Future Rock Legends. Some of this squarely on the voters. Kraftwerk, The Zombies, Chaka Kahn, Link Wray, etc have been nominated multiple times. The Nom Com has placed them on the ballot. Others 90’s bands Green Day, Nirvana, plus 2PAC inducted on the 1st ballot. They cruised to induction. I have to admit some of the biggest snubs have been cleaned up recently. Chicago, KISS, Moody Blues, Rush, etc. No easy solution. KING

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes-voters can be as blinkered as the general public. The Hall’s trying to dilute that vote, but then at some point they’ll have to admit it’s not a “vote by one’s peers” anymore. I like Donnie’ s approach, but it’s possibly to complex to sell.

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  2. I love that every top touring artist is in the HOF except Depeche Mode. The bias vs synth bands is crushing, and will help eliminate the HOF as a viable entity very soon, as almost all music now is created electronically. The only band that could headline a place where the ceremony could take place (Madison Square Garden) on the bill is Bon Jovi…& Depeche Mode did it twice in 2017.

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      1. Yeah I know, hyperbole, but it’s funny that a lot of big time mainstream music now does it the Depeche way—-electronic in the studio, “real” instruments (mostly) live. And yeah, Kraftwerk in first, but it’d be a monstrosity if NIN get in before either of them (something I think Trent knows too).

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, familiar with it for sure, and it’s definitely relevant, although I still think the problem lies more with the official voters and the fact that it’s an arm of Wenner/Rolling Stone instead of a truly independent organization.

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  3. I’m going to ask you some questions:

    a) I know it’s really early but who do you see getting nominated and thus being the nominees for the 2019 class?

    b) after Rush, Kiss, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Chicago, Journey, and Bon Jovi who do you think will be the next fan vote winner for 2019?

    c) out of the nominees who didn’t get in this year who do you think have the best chances at induction next year?

    d) with Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller, Electric Light Orchestra, Journey, Yes, Bon Jovi, The Cars, Dire Straits, and The Moody Blues all going in the last 3 years which populist Classic Rock acts/bands do you think will be nominated next year?

    e) I know it’s really early but who do you see being next year’s induction class?

    f) which acts do you see being inducted in the next five years (2019 2020 2021 2022 and 2023)?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve probably only got a year or two of predictions left in me; once they get to exclusively 90s stuff I’m out. Next year, I see Judas Priest, the Eurythmics and Link Wray back on the ballot, and if Wray isn’t voted in outright they’ll put in as Musical Excellence. I think this is Warren Zevon’s year as well and Duran Duran might make their first appearance. The big classic rock fan vote name will probably be Def Leppard, who’ll duke it out with Priest to win the fan vote, although I think they’ll both go in. I’m not sure we’re even using the term “populist” correctly; to me neither the Cars nor Yes are “mass appeal to fans with lots of hits” like a Def Leppard or a Bon Jovi. Next year’s class? Zevon, Priest, Leppard, Eurythmics and possibly Janet.

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  4. Assuming five or six acts per class, and 5-6 more years, I would expect the 25-30 next acts inducted to be in some order:

    Nine Inch Nails
    Judas Priest
    The Doobie Brothers
    Eurythmics
    Radiohead
    LL Cool J
    Rage Against The Machine
    Beck
    Janet Jackson
    Jay-Z
    Eminem
    Foo Fighters
    The Smiths
    The Commodores
    Duran Duran
    Depeche Mode
    Carole King
    The Notorious B.I.G
    Willie Nelson
    The Zombies
    Smashing Pumpkins
    Whitney Houston
    The Cure
    Warren Zevon
    Sting
    The J. Geils Band
    Mary J. Blige
    Jethro Tull
    Todd Rundgren
    Def Leppard
    Boston
    Pat Benatar

    What do you think?

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