Rock Hall Snubs: Introduction

This is the introduction article in a series making a case for artists who have, thus far, been neglected from inclusion in the Rock Hall.

Jump to:
Eligible in the 1970s
Eligible 1980 through 1985
Eligible 1986 through 1989
Eligible 1990 through 1994
Eligible 1995 through 1999
Eligible 2000 through 2004
Eligible 2005 through 2009
Eligible 2010 through 2014
Eligible 2015 through 2019
Eligible in 2020 and 2021
Snubs for the Ahmet Ertegun Award and Award for Musical Excellence
Future Eligibles from 2022 through 2031

I, like many of you probably are, am upset each year that a certain artist, or several artists, are left off the ballot for the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The Rock Hall is not a perfect institution. It has received much – and deserved – criticism through the years for excluding certain artists and/or genres, being biased toward others, being too hoity toity, not having clear enough guidelines for induction, inducting too many artists or not enough, and being too reliant at different times on both the subjective qualities that make an artist worthy and on objective statistics that help make an artist’s case.

This article series was a lot of work, so I want to explain how I put it together: For this series, each artist will be given odds of induction (Slim, Low, Medium, High, and Should Be In Already), with a brief paragraph that helps make their case based on criteria set by the Rock Hall. Being listed in this series means I believe the artist should at least be considered for the ballot (or, for some, I explain why they aren’t ever on the ballot despite potentially meeting the bar to get in). Artists that have medium odds or better likely should be inducted (though Rock Hall enshrinement is very subjective, generally speaking).

The Rock Hall interior. Photo by Adam Jones, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

I will be almost exclusively focusing on artists who would be inducted to the Hall as “Performers.” The Performers category is the main category for a person or people to be inducted into the Hall. It represents artists since rock’s inception, rather than early influencers (like jazz or ragtime artists), producers, journalists, and other contributors.

The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame’s first class was inducted in 1986. In the series that follows, I will separate artists into articles based on their years of eligibility. Within each article artists will be listed in alphabetical order, with solo artists listed based on last name (if they use one), under the year they became eligible. The first article will feature artists technically eligible in the 1970s before the Hall opened for induction. Article two will cover the artists eligible in the pre-induction years 1980 through 1985 while the third article will cover artists eligible for the classes of 1986 through 1989. After that, the articles will cover ranges of five years (ex.// 1990-1994), until the final two articles. The penultimate article will cover the classes from last year and this year.

I will also include one final article for a few individuals who should be inducted for the Hall’s Ahmet Ertegun Award and Award for Musical Excellence – given to “songwriters, producers, disc jockeys, record executives, journalists and other industry professionals who have had a major influence on Rock n’ Roll” or who have “dedicated their lives” to progressing music and who have “achieved a level of timeless distinction,” respectively, according to the Rock Hall.

How It Works – What It Takes to Be Eligible

This is for you – so you know what I’m talking about in the brief paragraphs about each artist!

Firstly, artists become eligible 25 years after their first commercial release. The key word there is “after.” What I mean is: an artist who released their first commercial music in 1995 is eligible not in 2020, but in 2021. This is because music can be released at any time throughout a given year. So the Hall would not want to induct an artist in November of 2020, for example, if their record had been released in December of 1995 (not a full 25 years from when it was released). This is alleviated by typically having the induction ceremony early in the year, after all artists who release music in a certain year would be eligible (so sometime between January and April of 2021 for those 1995 artists).

The only other criterion for induction “include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” As I said – very subjective.

Factors that voters might consider when evaluating “influence and significance” might include
a) influence (by clear mimicry, adaption, and/or use of style and sound; or by an artist or those close to them stating said artist’s influences),
b) career longevity and consistent output,
c) popularity (as measured by charting singles, record sales, awards, etc.),
d) critical praise and awards,
e) invention or ingenuity (of rock music styles [which I call musicality], instrumentation, performing, fashion, etc.), and
d) a voter’s own subjective aural attraction to an artist’s work.

With their 2021 nominations, the Rock Hall noted that “factors such as an artist’s musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique are taken into consideration.”

The Rock Hall exterior at night. Photo by Christina Spicuzza, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Rock Hall generally sends out between 500 and 800 ballots per year to its voters. The artists listed on the ballot may then be marked by the voter and returned. The artists receiving the most votes will be inducted, as long as they were marked off on at least 50% of the returned ballots. Between six and ten artists are usually selected for enshrinement each year.

Voters for the Rock Hall include music journalists, music academics, music producers, and other music industry professionals. Rock music fans also get to vote; their final results count as one ballot – wherein any artist receiving 50% or more of voting fans’ entries counts as marking off the artist on a single ballot. How do artists get on the ballot in the first place, you ask? Through a nominating committee – read about that process and more in this great article on the Rock Hall.

The artists eligible for the Hall can come from a combination of a variety of closely-related genres, including Rock ‘n Roll, R&B, Blues, Soul, Jazz, Folk, Hip-Hop, Christian-Contemporary, and Rap. Rock ‘n Roll music also encompasses many sub-genres, including – but not limited to – Alternative, Alt Pop, Grunge, Heavy Metal, Industrial Rock, Metal, New Wave, Nu-Metal, Pop, Pop Rock, Post-Grunge, Punk Pop, and Rock.

Crunching Numbers

Please read this – I worked hard on this math!

Overall, the series will discuss/make a case for over 200 artists that could and/or should be in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the “Performers” category. Two-hundred might seem like a lot (believe me, I know – I had to listen to music and do research for every single artist!); however, the percentage of athletes who make the halls of fame in the major sports leagues varies from about 1.5% to 4%.

Guitar sculptures outside the Rock Hall. Image by Andrew Hitchcock, courtesy of Flickr.

If we took the 233 artists already inducted into the “Performers” category and added 217 of the artists in my series, that would make an even 450. Let’s then say that 2% is a reasonable percentage of artists to be in the Rock Hall. That would mean there would have to have been 22,500 artists in all of the genres and sub-genres mentioned above who released original music from approximately 1950 to the present. Others might disagree, but that number seems plenty reasonable for the number of rock or rock-adjacent artists who have existed and still exist across the globe.

Even if it seems like too many, that was only calculated at 2%. If 450 artists were 5% of all rock and rock-adjacent artists to have existed, then that number drops to only 9,000 artists. Four percent would be 11,250 artists. To ever have existed!

Those numbers are significantly lower, and perhaps more conceivable – and within an acceptable range of what percentage of artists could make the Hall. Plus, I’m probably missing some deserving artists! There are also probably few I could have left off, but at the time I thought they were worth at least mentioning.

While some might like to argue the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame is already too far along to fix its snubs or mistakes, here’s to hoping that with this series, more light can be shed on these artists and that these artists receive due consideration and respect for their music. For even more on this subject, check out futurerocklegends.com and the Rock Hall website.

See the next article in the series here. Comment with your opinions on who should get in and who shouldn’t from each range of years!

4 thoughts on “Rock Hall Snubs: Introduction

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