Is Rock Music Dead? Legendary Producer Thinks So, Here’s Why

The stories of rock music being “dead” are almost as old as the genre itself. However, in the last couple of decades or so, we’ve witnessed even famous musicians address the matter. According to producer Tom Werman — the man behind some of the most successful rock albums released in the 1980s — the genre is done. In fact, as he told “Classic Album Review” in a recent interview, it’s been like that for him since the beginning of the 1990s. For someone as important for the genre as Werman, a question like “how healthy is rock and roll” was an expected one.

“Well, I think it’s over — for me,” the producer answered. On the other hand, he admits that his words shouldn’t be taken as some sort of a definitive statement since, technically, there are still great musicians out there. He added (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“You can’t take my pronouncements as gospel because I have not admittedly sought out new music. There are very few guitars left. There are no obvious shredders like Eddie Van Halen.”

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“I just think that it was a period,” Werman added. “It began in the mid-’50s and ended around 1990 for me, probably ended around 2000 for everybody else — when sound became equally important, or more important than content in music.”

One of the particular aspects that changed rock music, according to Tom, is how everyone started doing the same stuff over and over again. Sure, it’s not something we haven’t seen before, especially in the era when Tom worked on some of his best albums. But it can really affect the genre negatively. He added:

“And as I say in the book [autobiography ‘Turn It Up! My Time Making Hit Records in The Glory Days Of Rock Music’], there’s something about a song that has one snare hit become all the snare hits. They’re exactly the same. And so almost everything is sampled once and then duplicated where needed in every song.”


“And there’s just something about it that wears out pretty quickly. The records we made — warts and all — were human and somehow, they’ve lasted.”

When the interviewer reminded him of Kiss legend Gene Simmons and his (in)famous statement that “rock is dead” from almost a decade ago, Tom replied:

“As Paul Simon once said, ‘Every generation throws a hero up with pop charts.’ And I think that the equivalent — the modern, or the future equivalent — of The Beatles will happen at some point.”

“I don’t think it’ll resonate with me, or with us, or with anyone who lived through the ’70s and ’80s. But I think it will [happen], apparently. [Laughs]”

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There’s obviously a huge generational gap. And, obviously, young new listeners will almost exclusively seek something contemporary. Reflecting on his recent experience with some of today’s youth, Tom said:

“I ask a lot of kids what they listen to. I had a couple of young guys over here yesterday. And I asked them, ‘Do you listen to yesterday’s music or today?’ They said ‘Today’. And they said, ‘What acts did you produce?’ And I mentioned many of them, and they had heard of Twisted Sister. That was it. “

“That was basically the extent of their knowledge about classic rock,” Tom recalled. “Whereas my son is kind of an encyclopedia of music. He works for Warner Records in LA, in A&R. And he knows — as do many of his friends know — everything about music, from Elvis to now.”

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Gene Simmons’ statement came sometime in 2014. What got people going on about it was not just that one of the biggest rock musicians said that the genre is “dead,” but the fact that he also blamed the fans for it. As he offered back then:

“Rock is finally dead. I am so sad that the next 15-year-old kid in a garage someplace in Saint Paul that plugs into his Marshall and wants to turn it up to ten will not have anywhere near the same opportunity that I did.”

“He will most likely, no matter what he does, fail miserably. There is no industry for that anymore. And who is the culprit? There’s always the changing tide of interests – music taste changes with each generation. To blame that is silly. That was always the exciting part, after all: ‘What’s next?’ But there’s something else.”

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“The death of rock was not a natural death,” Simmons argued. “Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered. And the real culprit is that kid’s 15-year-old next-door neighbor, probably a friend of his. Maybe even one of the bandmates he’s jamming with.”

“The tragedy is that they seem to have no idea that they just killed their own opportunity — they killed the artists they would have loved. Some brilliance, somewhere, was going to be expressed, and now it won’t because it’s that much harder to earn a living playing and writing songs. No one will pay you to do it.”

“The masses do not recognize file-sharing and downloading as stealing because there’s a copy left behind for you – it’s not that copy that’s the problem, it’s the other one that someone received but didn’t pay for. The problem is that nobody will pay you for the 10,000 hours you put in to create what you created. I can only imagine the frustration of all that work and having no one value it enough to pay you for it.”

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“It’s very sad for new bands. My heart goes out to them. They just don’t have a chance. If you play guitar, it’s almost impossible. You’re better off not even learning how to play guitar or write songs, and just singing in the shower and auditioning for ‘The X Factor.’ And I’m not slamming ‘The X Factor,’ or pop singers. But where’s the next Bob Dylan? Where’s the next Beatles? Where are the songwriters? Where are the creators? Many of them now have to work behind the scenes, to prop up pop acts and write their stuff for them.”

Photo: Foxtrot7777 (The Watch band live on tour)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.