2015 is coming faster than expected, and with that comes the announcement of potential inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The nominees this year include artists like The Smiths, Lou Reed, Kraftwerk, and Sting. Probably the most popular nominees, however, include Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, and Joan Jett. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has come under quite a bit of criticism over the years for a myriad of different reasons, and this years nominees fall right in line with the criticism. Mostly that the nominations have become more about what’s popular and commercial, than about the music itself. Fox News received a letter from a former board member that read
"Thank you for your insightful article on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I am a veteran music journalist who spent two years on the Hall's nominating committee and saw from the inside some of the politics at work."
"I saw how artists were sometimes chosen for nomination because of their affiliations with the directors of the Hall and others were shot down without so much as a moment of consideration simply because some people in that room didn't like them personally or because an artist had bad blood with someone calling the shots."
"At one point Suzan Evans lamented the choices being made because there weren't enough big names that would sell tickets to the dinner. That was quickly remedied by dropping one of the doo-wop groups being considered in favor of a 'name' artist.”
"On the other hand, I saw how Atlantic Records artists were routinely placed into nomination with no discussion at all, due to the large concentration of Atlantic executives on the committee. I saw how so-called critical favorites were placed into nomination while artists that were massively popular in their time were brushed off. I saw how certain pioneering artists of the 50s and early 60s were shunned because there needed to be more name power on the list, resulting in 70s superstars getting in before the people who made it possible for them. Some of those pioneers still aren't in today — but Queen is.”
It’s not surprising that an organization like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have clear and present bias when it comes to nominees, but it was supposed to be different! Rock and Roll isn’t about who you know, and about what’s popular, it’s about the music. The organization has even accused of rigging votes. Back in 2007, another Fox article reported from one of their sources:
"Jann went back to a previous ballot instead of taking the final vote as the last word,"
"He used a technicality about the day votes were due in. In reality, The Dave Clark Five got six more votes than Grandmaster Flash. But he felt we couldn't go another year without a rap act."
Based on the wording these sources are choosing alone, it’s clear that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has become about commercialism. That it’s either about what’s popular at the time, or about who people on the board have worked with in the past.
Artists themselves have even stepped forward to criticize the organization, most notably, The Sex Pistols, who wrote a very passionate letter.
They’re saying the same thing as inside sources here. That there shouldn’t be anonymous judges, who are also in the industry.
It’s not just about artists who get in just because their popular, it’s also about artists who deserve to be in who have been denied for too long. Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, who has been denied the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for almost two decades now, spoke out to Chile’s Radio Futuro, saying
"Whatever I say about that is gonna sound wrong. But who the hell wants to be in an institution? The Hall Of Fame thing, it's an American thing. We don't have that in England or Germany or Australia or Russia or anywhere in the world apart from America. And it's an institution. What's that got to do with rock and roll? Also, it's run by these old guys who thought that The Monkees were America's answer to The Beatles. And they called Deep Purple [Laughs]… I don't think they quite understand what we are… They called us one-hit wonders. So I don't know what they were talking about… whether it was 'Hush' or 'Black Night' or 'Strange Kind Of Woman', 'Smoke On The Water', 'Child In Time', 'Knocking At Your Back Door' or one of those one-hit wonders that we were… 'Highway Star'… I just don't know. And I guess the fans don't really understand it except in America. It's no big deal."
But it’s not just about them calling them one-hit-wonders or anything, it’s that fans believe they deserve to get in. Even Metallica’s Lars Ulrich told Rolling Stone about the recent events, saying
“I'm not gonna get into the politics or all that stuff, but I got two words to say: 'Deep Purple,'"
"That's all I have to say: Deep Purple. Seriously, people, 'Deep Purple,' two simple words in the English language. But definitely, Nirvana is a no-brainer for the first year and I'm glad that Kiss is getting the long-overdue recognition that they deserved for everything that they pioneered, and then I got two words, 'Deep Purple!' Did I say that already?"
Not only that, but at Metallica’s induction in 2009, James Hetfield gave a list of bands that should be inducted into the hall:
"We're somewhat of a heavy band and we have a small list that we'd like to also put some nods out and maybe plant a little seed, it's a band called Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Ted Nugent, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motörhead... who we would love to invite through the door now."
So it’s very obvious that there has been, and still is, a huge bias towards certain artists when it comes to nomination. At best, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a cool concept, it’d just be nice if they could get their shit together.