Steven Van Zandt thinks Classic Rock 'is doomed to die'

Steven Van Zandt thinks Classic Rock 'is doomed to die'

Steven Van Zandt's vision of the future of Classic Rock isn't too optimistic. Recently a guest on Bill Maher's Club Random podcast, the guitarist from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band reflected on how music consumption has changed.

“Right now, because the record industry is dead, there are no more records sold other than Taylor Swift and Beyonce,” Van Zandt said. According to the 73-year-old musician, however, films and TV shows have become the best way for recording artists to make money, although they present challenges because musicians have increased licensing costs to survive.

“There's a lot of 25-year-old people with a list of songs with a number next to it,” the longtime Springsteen associate observed: “So if you want to make a movie or a TV show, you ask for the song, they look at the number and they make you pay that amount, which is always high because there is no other income.”

Steven Van Zandt then underlined that Classic Rock, offering material that is distinctive and recognizable to a wide range of listeners, is often the most licensed musical genre. For this reason, according to Van Zandt, he believes that directors and film producers in the future will choose Classic Rock less and less in the face of skyrocketing licensing costs, thus removing an important means that allows songs to be discovered by new listeners.

“This is a real problem. And I think that in 10 years, in 20 years, it will be a problem because all this music is destined to die if it is not promoted and listened to”, insisted Van Zandt: “We will end up wondering , Motown what? Rolling Stones who?”.

The musician then suggested a change to the law on music licensing, as a compromise to satisfy directors and musicians. He then noted how different the modern landscape is compared to the early careers of the E Street Band and Bruce Springsteen.

“When we started, music in films was free. It was free,” he explained: “Martin Scorsese didn't even ask permission to include 'Be My Baby' (by the Ronettes) in the movie 'Mean Streets' because it was free. And people thought of it as a way to promote the records. Nobody promotes records anymore.”

Van Zandt then cited the recent and popular “Stranger Things” series as an example of how series, TV and cinema can bring classic songs to the attention of new listeners, and how vital it is to the continued survival of classic rock. “When our generation passes away, who will know these things?” he said.