It’s only been a few days since Def Leppard’s entire catalog was released for streaming on Friday, January 19. Their music was released on Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, and an additional seven digital platforms. For the past ten years, they toured non-stop and sales of their records had been steady. The bandmates wanted to wait to see if digital streaming would pan out and stick around. They made the jump after they finished touring in 2017. They had time to think about it, did their research, and decided the time was right. They’d waited a long time because they wanted to release their whole catalog at one time. According to Joe Elliott, though they no longer have hits, they sell out stadiums regularly on tour. He said they may not bomb charts anymore, but they are part of the elitist, fantastic groups who regularly don’t bomb charts anymore either; including the Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, and Paul McCartney.
Waiting seemed to be the right move. Audio streams for its songs peaked at 596,000, and their videos hit 482,000 clicks. Def Leppard’s music streams numbered 1.1 million with on-demand services. The top five songs streamed were:
– Pour Some Sugar on Me at 41,000 plus streams of the original recording, and even more of other live versions
– Photograph at 41,000
– Love Bites at 33,000
– Rock of Ages at 29,000
– Animal at 28,000
All told, the Friday release was another making-history day for Def Leppard. But for die-hard rock fans, a looming sense of sadness, or perhaps poignancy, has overshadowed the collective consciousness. Oh, don’t get it wrong… the summer tour Def Leppard and Journey have scheduled together will be massive. They’ll headline evenly throughout the tour. The itinerary includes 58 cities across North America. They’ll start in Harford, Connecticut at the XL Center on May 21 and close in Los Angeles at the Forum on October 6.
Why the tinges of sadness? The massive joint tour is a reminder about the things of rock and roll which made it great for generations. There’s nothing like being at a live concert. Rock is an experience – if nothing else. It demands interaction. It requires energy from performers, and responsive energy from crowds. It’s a kind of communion with the musicians. Sound waves from real live instruments assault and flow through live bodies in a very different way than digital sound does. While it is amazing to know that new generations will now have easy access to the definitive music of Def Leppard, it’s quite clear that things are changing in the rock world. Changing so much, in fact, that many younger music fans clearly believe that rock is dead.
To sort out the obvious disparity between attitudes about rock, and observe clearer perspectives, it only takes an online search to find them. Bassist Gene Simmons of Kiss declared in an Esquire interview that file sharing murdered rock. Other voices have stated that music today is the result of technology. Music is image and marketing; produced and then marketed. Music today is standardized and packaged, and pop and hip-hop have taken over. Some have described classic rock bands as virtuosic, and argued that musical artistry, let alone virtuosity, is not popular- repetition and familiarity of lyrics and rhythms are.
With only a few rock bands still touring, and the instant gratification of digital access ever-present, a new reality for music listening is here. It’s fabulous that streaming provides access to those who cannot attend concerts. It’s wonderful that rock greats have given the world new access to enjoy their music. As rock band members age and pass away, we appreciate every opportunity to hear and see them. These moments are gifts. It’s just that the very access which has made these new opportunities available competes with the live music events which allow rock to be itself…alive and in the moment… in whatever venue that might be. Still, streaming is keeping the genre alive for new generations. Rock has died, and rock has been resurrected.
A huge “Well Done!” still goes out for Def Leppard’s recent success. That goes for more than 50 years of nothing else like it rock and roll performances, too. Without doubt, Def Leppard has never been mediocre. Rather, they are artists with the ability to create and perform interesting music filled with incredible virtuosity and lasting energy… the kind which sustains our attention and demands that we immerse ourselves in it.