It was close to a year ago when I started research that would begin to answer the question, “so, who exactly is the audience for black rock?”  Of course, the unspoken part of that question was the assumption that this was and continues to be, something fringe.  But we know that’s hardly the case.  In fact, the audience for black rock and black alternative music is growing, and that growth is powered by an ongoing cultural shift.

I won’t bore you with the demographic recap of those who took the survey (50/50 male/female split; 76% African American), as you can read it in the executive summary below.  What’s most interesting to me is the psychographic—or attitudinal stuff—that the research uncovered.  After all, attitudes drive actions.

These attitudes are important to note for another reason: It speaks to the need/opportunity for broader institutional and, yes, corporate, support for black rock and black alternative music.  There’s still the belief out there that

  1. Black folks are monolithic and;
  2. We can all be reached by using hip hop.

The first supposition has never been true.  As for the second, hip hop, particularly in its commercial form, is easily a shadow of what it could have been.  Moreover, by virtue of its inclination for entertainment over substance, it has abdicated any right to say that it’s representative of black folks.

Anyway, here are 6  key attitudes–culled from 316 fully completed surveys–that put you in the headspace of those who are into black rock and black alt music & culture:

  • Highly individual. 63% indicate that expressing your individuality takes precedence over allegiance to group identity.
  • No need for commercial radio. 78% say the time you spend listening to commercial radio has decreased over the past two years.
  • You seek artists who break the mold. Nearly 90% of you say that you at least often seek out black artists who defy convention.  Over half of you do on a consistent basis.

  • Music buying.  Contrary to conventional wisdom that people are mostly buying singles, over 60% tend to purchase whole albums. Nearly 40% of you spend between $11-$30 each month on music.
  • Feelings about hip hop. Nearly 74% of the overall respondents and 77% who identified yourselves as African American say that your feelings about hip hop have become indifferent or more negative.

  • What you’re listening to. The chart below speaks for itself, but here are the key points: 73% say that the amount of hip hop you’re listening to has decreased over the past two years. 52% say the same about R&B. There’s an increase in black rock and world music (70% and 46%, respectively).


Finally, some context before you jump into the executive summary: I wrote it with an audience of marketing professionals in mind, especially those who are already using music to build their brands.  I’m currently developing a few initiatives for 2011, and those need corporate support.  The bottom line: Supporting the further growth of this community makes good business sense for any number of companies.

You can view, print or download the entire executive summary here:

Black Rock Music and the Evolving Urban Mindset

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  • excellent analysis! hopefully more people will realize that everyone is not the same with regards to music taste.

    • Absolutely, Renee. We’ve never been a monolith. It’s just time we made the case (forcefully) that the marketplace is more than ready for this kind of black expression. Hopefully, this puts us all a step closer to that.

  • This is great Rob. I’d really like to speak to you offline about this.

    • Would love to! When’s good for you? Email me with some days/times that work for you.

  • lauren

    Then maybe YOU ALL ought to stop whining about hip-hop and using it as some kind of end all be all barometer and representative for ALL black people! Please it was you all that made it more than it should have been you don’t hear poor white Southeners bitching INCESSANTLY about country music. It’s just music people get the f**k over it already! It’s not rappers or their music JOB to cure cancer,get more black people to vote,stop the violence,save children in Darfur,save the elderly,fix the economy,etc.. It was you all that put those b.s. lables on the music and tried to use it as some sort of ‘savior’ of black people because you were too busy looking for scapegoats instead of solutions.

    • That’s kind of the point here, Lauren, that hip hop is NOT a barometer of blackness or black people. You might check out Tricia Rose’s “The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop” for a discussion of how hip hop has become an easy shorthand for all that is cool and happening as relates to black life.

      You may want to read the document again.

      • Anonymous

        I did read it in fact I read it twice but it STILL sounding like you were the one monolithing.

        • You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. Thanks for stopping by.