In 1986, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was established in Cleveland, Ohio. This Hall is dedicated to honoring the history and people who have contributed massively to rock music.
Every year around 9 to 12 artists are nominated by a committee of people. Ballots are sent to 600 “rock experts” who cast their vote on who should be inducted. Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record.
Performers that receive the highest number of votes or more than 50 percent of the votes are inducted. Every year the induction ceremony takes place in the spring at the Hall of Fame and locations in New York City.
Quite frankly though, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sucks. The idea of honoring musicians that kiss the committee’s ass and having a glad handing ceremony for everyone to see goes against everything rock and roll music stands for.
There’s also the fact that huge pioneers of the industry were either inducted way too late or haven’t been inducted yet as of this writing.
When people or groups like Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, Madonna, ABBA, Green Day, Janet Jackson and Radiohead are put in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Los Lobos, Jethro Tull, Ronnie James Dio, Kansas, Pat Benatar or Motorhead, just to name a few, there’s a massive problem.
Most of the above artists I love or can appreciate what they bring to the table, but they aren’t rock and roll artists. Tupac should be one of the first people inducted into a rap hall of fame, but he doesn’t fit in with the likes of Elvis, Chuck Berry, The Beatles or Aerosmith.
So what is the criteria for something falling under the rock and roll umbrella? Is it the guitars? The attitude? Long hair and leather jackets? It’s hard to say. And in the hall of fame’s case, at what point does a band fall into a non-rock genre?
Are metal artists not deserving of the honor, even though that style was built off of the rock and roll of the 50s and 60s? That eliminates Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.
What about pop? Technically, can’t The Beatles be considered pop music? Do we draw the line at Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston (who for some reason I’ve seen a lot of articles that say they should be inducted)? What about Michael Jackson? He used elements of rock in his music, but they didn’t call him “The King of Rock.”
Rap is a different genre entirely, but there seems to be a case made by committee members, since in recent years Tupac, Public Enemy and N.W.A. have been inducted.
So while the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame annoys me, I also understand the difficulty of deciding the criteria for who gets in. The hall states that album and singles sales are part of the criteria, but so is overall impact on the genre and future artists.
Should a lesser known band that did something first but sold few albums get in? Should an album selling juggernaut like Metallica get in before some of the very bands that inspired them?
There’s also the tourism factor. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a business, a tourist attraction that millions of people make the trek to see. They also broadcast the induction ceremony every year that millions of people watch.
While concrete numbers aren’t readily available, the hall provides a big economic boom for Cleveland. The 2009 induction week activities had an economic impact of over $13 million, and an additional $20 million in media exposure for the city.
For better or for worse, some of the decisions made will be made with the business aspect of the hall in mind. This may be why groups like Green Day, Metallica, Radiohead and Guns N’ Roses got inducted within the first two years of their eligibility.
Let’s talk about the selection committee real quick. The committee is led by Jann Wenner (co-founder and editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone magazine), former foundation director Suzan Evans and writer Dave Marsh.
They have faced criticism for the selection reflecting their personal tastes rather than the views of the rock world as a whole.
Wenner especially has been blamed by several artists, including Peter Tork, bassist of The Monkees, for personally blocking their induction or even a nomination.
Another point of controversy is speculation by former committee members on how the nominations board make their decisions on who to honor based on what would sell the most tickets to the dinner.
“With fame and money at stake, it’s no surprise that a lot of backstage lobbying goes on. Why any particular act is chosen in any particular year is a mystery to performers as well as outsiders – and committee members say they want to keep it that way.”
So what’s the solution?
Do we create a hall of fame for every genre and be incredibly strict with the criteria? There’s already a Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville and a Funk Music Hall of Fame in Dayton.
All we need is a Rap Hall of Fame, possibly a Metal Hall of Fame if you wanna be picky, a Pop Music Hall of Fame and an Alternative Music Hall of Fame. You can also have crossovers for bands that have made a significant impact in multiple genres, like Prince or The Beatles.
However, it would be a logistical nightmare and could fall into the same traps of bias and decisions made based on monetary gain that plague the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I guess in conclusion, it doesn’t really matter. At this point, the hall in Cleveland should change its name to the Music Hall of Fame, but that won’t happen. The members of the many snubbed bands could possibly die before they’re inducted, if at all.
But that doesn’t change my enjoyment of the music, and it doesn’t make the snubbed bands any less great. I’m probably getting angrier about the whole thing than the artists I’m talking about.
Judas Priest is still one of the all-time great metal bands, and I’m sure Rob Halford couldn’t give a damn if he’s inducted or not, as long as the fans continue to buy records and sell out their live shows. And that matters much more than some awards banquet.