Rock is dying: An interview with The Punk Rock MBA

10 mins read

Rock is dying. It’s not the most popular opinion around, but it’s one that Finn McKenty feels very strongly about.

Also known as The Punk Rock MBA, with around 150,000 subscribers on YouTube, McKenty makes videos about anything and everything punk rock. From the death of screamo to the rise of emo rap, he’s spoken about it all.

In an interview with Brig, he expanded on some of the problems that plague the modern rock scene.

“I think the rock scene is facing a few issues that hold it back from having the kind of mainstream success that it used to,’ he said. ‘One of them being that I think the fans are stuck in the past and fixated on old artists to the exclusion of new ones.

“It seems like, for whatever reason, the fans have decided that they will only reward old bands with their attention and money. And by old, I mean bands that are over ten to fifteen years old.”

There is weight behind this – take the Download 2020 lineup, for example. The headliners are KISS, formed in 1973, Iron Maiden, formed in 1975, and System of a Down, formed in 1994.

In fact, of the twelve bands announced for Download so far, only four were formed after 2000, and none formed after 2010.

Credit: downloadfestival.co.uk

“As far as the headliners,” McKenty said, “all the promoters are doing is giving the people what they want. You hear people say “the promoters won’t take chances on new bands”. You’re right, and the reason why is because they’re here to give the people what they want. And what the people have chosen, what the people have said that they want, is KISS and Iron Maiden at the top of Download.”

When asked why the fans seem so reluctant to accept newer bands, he said, “I think rock artists just lost touch with contemporary youth culture and don’t really seem interested in changing that.”

“I think somewhere along the way, rock lost its place as the place where people who were interested in upsetting the status quo went. Now, if you are a rebellious young person that wants to give the middle finger to the world, you’re more likely to be a rapper.”

When the biggest stars of the 2010s are rappers, it’s difficult to argue with this. Post Malone sells out arenas on a regular basis, Travis Scott is the subject of arguably the biggest Netflix documentary of the year, and Cardi B has just starred in a major blockbuster film.

When asked if there are any bands McKenty thinks could break into the mainstream, he seemed doubtful.

“The thing that, to me, is interesting is all the alternative rappers that get called rappers [aren’t] really a part of hip-hop culture at all. Rap fans don’t listen to them, they don’t participate in hip-hop culture, they participate more in rock and metal culture.

“The way I look at it is, it’s less of a sound than it is a culture. So there aren’t really any bands that give me a lot of hope. But there are a lot of these alternative rappers that represent rock culture and I think one of them will break through.

“Lil Peep would have. He was very close to it before he unfortunately died. And Lil Xan, he’s pretty close to it. I think he’s probably peaked, but it’s going to be someone like that will come along and will do it.”

Credit: Rolling Stone

The second problem he highlighted was an issue with the bands themselves.

“As far as the bands go, they have this weird thing where they complain about the lack of attention they get from the mainstream media, yet at the same time, they reject all the things that would make the mainstream media cover them.

“They don’t want to participate in mainstream culture, yet they somehow expect mainstream culture to care about them and that just doesn’t really make a lot of sense.”

When asked what advice McKenty would give to bands themselves, his answer was simple.

“Get over yourself,” he said. “Stop expecting the world to come to you. You have to give the people what they want. It’s not about you, it’s the entertainment business.”

It became clear that this was a topic he felt strongly about, as he continued enthusiastically.

“I think a lot of these rock bands are just stubborn, have their head up their ass, and they keep doing the same thing that the market has said it doesn’t want. Instead of adapting or changing based on that, they complain and get angry.

“I think it’s just a shitty, negative attitude. They just need to understand it’s not about them.”

The last issue he highlighted fell somewhere in between the responsibility of the fans and the bands. It was something he called ‘crab mentality’.

“So the crab mentality,” he explained, “is the idea that if there’s a bunch of crabs in a bucket and one of them tries to crawl out, rather than let that crab escape the bucket, the other crabs will try to pull it back down, because crabs are stupid little sea insects.

“You see that kind of hold true in the rock world as well, any time somebody stands out and does something different and gets a little bit of success, people want to pull them back down.

“Bring Me The Horizon is probably the best example of that in the past ten years. That band has always stood out and a big segment of the rock world has always hated them for it.”

Bring Me The Horizon have certainly been the centre of a lot of controversy in the rock community. They released their debut album Count Your Blessings in 2006, but polarised listeners due to their unique sound.

They reached international fame in 2013 after the release of their album Sempiternal, and since then, they have had hit after hit.

However, they consistently receive criticism from rock fans, as their most recent albums have found commercial success, partly due to their incorporation of electronic elements.

McKenty also mentioned Ghost as a band that suffers as a result of the ‘crab mentality’.

“I don’t really know why people hate them,” he said. “With Ghost, they’re doing something that’s getting success and some people, their first instinct when they see it is the Japanese saying ‘the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.’ I think that’s all it is.”

All in all, McKenty has painted a pretty bleak picture of the rock scene, but not an untrue one. The rock scene is in trouble, and in McKenty’s eyes, it’s the fault of the bands and the fans.

“If you don’t like it, you have the choice to change it,” he said. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy a ticket. If you don’t like it, don’t read the headline about Corey Taylor’s fucking sneeze.”

“In a perfect world, the music industry would want an unlimited number of popular new artists to be coming up. Because that means that they can make money off this music in the future. If they’re not worried about the fact that bands like KISS and Iron Maiden are still the biggest draws, they should be.

“I don’t think people in the music industry are very smart or good at business, so they may not be worried about it. But they should be.”

Featured Image Credit: billboard.com / Eric Krebs

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Music Editor of Brig Newspaper

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