Burn after Reading: Why rock needs streaming hits to thrive

Queens Of the Stone Age

Festival season may extend well into September these days but, for some of us, Reading (or Leeds, if you’re in the north) will always be the summer’s last hurrah; a chance to reflect on the preceding months and assess exactly where music is right now.

This year, the sun shone ferociously, shining a harsh light on one of those musical sea changes you only really see at Reading. Ironically, for what has always been the greatest rock festival on earth, the Reading zeitgeist shifted, perhaps decisively, away from the genre that’s long been its heartbeat.

Rock still represented the majority of acts on the bill. But, with a few notable exceptions, it was dance, grime, urban and rap acts that pulled the biggest crowds and attracted the biggest buzz, certainly amongst the younger end of the demographic (which appears to be basically everyone these days).

Rock remains king of the albums chart – Queens Of The Stone Age (pictured), who played one of the many secret shows at Reading & Leeds, made mincemeat of the opposition to debut at No.1 last week – and still soundtracks big movies and sells tickets like nobody’s business.

But you have to wonder if the genre’s inability (or perhaps unwillingness) to deliver hit singles is cutting it off from refreshing its fanbase.

Earlier in the year, Music Week exposed what you can either see as rock’s streaming problem or streaming’s rock problem.

But either way, when only Liam Gallagher seems to have the clout to deliver a Top 30 rock single and Reading, the genre’s once-impregnable citadel, shows signs of moving on, the warning signs are there. Rock will never die, but if it wants to truly live, some hits might help.

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