Every year, it becomes seemingly harder for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (RRHOF) to induct quality candidates. Among the criteria for entry is critical acclaim. Granted, most commercial acts tend to favor popular trend over personal integrity, but still there are many bands and artists out there worthy of being enshrined in the Cleveland venue.
As a Senior Account Executive at Regan Communications, I’d like to examine this from the PR mindset of the committee responsible for inducting candidates. How does that committee justify their selections in a mass media world? And how do their selections protect the image of the RRHOF? Simply put, here’s my take on the public relations rationale behind the induction of 2015’s diverse musical batch:
Paul Butterfield Blues Band – The RRHOF enjoys inducting “unsung” heroes of rock and the genres associated with it. Few acts were able to take the rootsy sounds of the Chicago blues and spin them into commercial success. Given that the band’s late guitarist and eponymous frontman, Mike Bloomfield had passed on, perhaps the institution feels it would be good PR on their end to pay proper tribute.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – The RRHOF is also a fan of inducting innovators, musicians who deviated from label norms. Punkish rocker Joan Jett is finally getting her due after having shown up to prior RRHOF ceremonies as the performer for other inductees (Dave Clark Five/Nirvana). From a PR perspective, it’s been a long time since Jett and her male-counterpart Blackhearts played/toured together. The stage could be set for a fantastic live reunion to take place.
Green Day – One of the few acts to get in on the first try, Green Day has defied both naysayers and genres for years. The RRHOF has already inducted cool punk bands like the Sex Pistols, Ramones, and Clash. However, Green Day is punk’s version of U2 in terms of sales. Given that a noticeable component of eligibility is sales, Green Day’s induction is a no brainer. Furthermore, in a PR context, any band that can maintain its core lineup for nearly 25 years always ensures a great musical legacy.
Lou Reed – Lou Reed has been hailed as a music icon since he hit the scene with the Velvet Underground in the late-1960s. Given his untimely death in 2013, the RRHOF wants to ensure a fair amount of tribute publicity surrounding Reed’s talents and critical acclaim.
Ringo Starr – Starr’s bandmate pals, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison have already each been inducted as solo artists. Ringo has a respectable yet somewhat commercially lacking solo output. However, the RRHOF knows it’s unfair to leave him in the lurch. Thus, great
PR can be generated around Starr’s reception of a special award for “Musical Excellence.” Since this does not happen often, it’s sure to be noticed by the public.
Stevie Ray Vaughan – This virtuoso sold millions of records and inspired everyone from David Bowie to John Mayer. Stevie Ray, like Paul Butterfield, also made the blues come alive whenever he plugged in. Even though SRV died in a plane crash more than 20 years ago, the RRHOF can spur great PR attention with this induction through an all-star guitar player tribute that tackles some of SRV’s best-known songs.
Bill Withers – From a PR point of view, this induction is fantastic. Withers “retired” from the limelight back in 1985, but the PR surrounding this honor could inspire him to once again pick up his guitar and get back on stage to perform. The RRHOF committee must know that if it can convince Withers to perform live again, the demand for a subsequent tour would be inevitable. They also have a strong PR precedent – just look at 2014 RRHOF inductee Cat Stevens’ journey from the induction stage to a full tour last year.
-Ira Kantor, Team Paula