A new Billboard piece offers some behind-the-scenes insight into the creaky, Jann Wenner-centric method behind the selection of potential inductees to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. With inductions coming next week, just who gets into the Rock Hall and why is a hot topic, especially when acts like The Smiths and The Cure have languished unrecognized for years as Green Day gets in on its first ballot.Rob Tenenbaum’s story, “’Too Old, Too Male, Too White’: Jann Wenner Defends Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Process” is meant to shed a favorable light on the process, noting the 41 members that make up the committee recently asked Tom Morello and Questlove to join their cabal, but if anything it makes the process seem even more antiquated and problematic.
As Tenenbaum puts it, the Hall, now in its 30th year of inductions, is facing down the ‘90s, “an era when traditional rock all but disappeared, and music splintered into subgenres.” That means heated debates in the nominations room about whether acts like Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey get nods, and means popular artists could routinely beat out critically acclaimed ones. Acts like LL Cool J, for instance, might get the most votes in the nominating committee meeting—which he has at least three times—the 810 general voters who actually pick the inductees have passed him over each time, something that Wenner says is due to the nominating committee being “more educated, elite and sophisticated,” while the broader voters are, like Wenner, “not deeply committed to knowing everything that’s going on.” Beyond that, the committee isn’t really willing to go to the mat for anything slightly on the fringe, like the Cure or Depeche Mode. As an anonymous committee member told Billboard, those acts are viewed as “weird outcasts from England who wear mascara, rather than post-punk and electronic pioneers who still headline festivals and sell out arenas.”
The piece also talks about how the hall and the induction ceremony, which airs on HBO, benefit from popular acts. For instance, HBO’s 2014 ceremony featuring Kiss, Hall & Oates and Nirvana drew almost a million viewers, whereas previous ceremonies on Fuse that honored acts like The Platters didn’t even meet Nielsen’s minimum reporting threshold.