New Rock Hall Boss Says It Was Never About Just Rock ‘n’ Roll
Incoming Rock and Roll Hall of Fame chairman John Sykes said he always thought the establishment was about more than just rock ’n’ roll, and stated his care for its continued diversification into other genres.
The iHeartMedia senior executive will take over from founder Jann Wenner on Jan. 1, with the stated intention of overseeing a continued evolution around the idea of sharing a “spirit that connects with young people.”
“We’re in the music business, and music leads change in our culture,” Sykes told Rolling Stone in a new interview. “Nothing stays the same in music. Therefore, really, the institution that honors it has to evolve with all the music. Just like hip-hop is very much a part of the Hall of Fame now, everything we do — the board members we have, the events we build on — has to reflect a changing culture without ever disregarding or turning our backs on the ideals and fundamentals of the Rock Hall.”
Asked how he felt about the organization’s name being linked to a genre that “isn’t nearly as present in pop culture,” he replied, “I’ve always thought that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame … is no longer about a single genre of music. It’s about a spirit that connects with young people. … I think that’s what it’s all about: the sound of young America. It will continue to evolve. Because if it doesn’t, it will become irrelevant.”
He added that even Wenner "has said that it’s time to evolve. His work has been to make 1.0, and it’s time to take the Hall to 2.0. That means a more diverse board, that means more women, people of color, people who reflect the kind of music that’s now being inducted. We have to look and feel like the artists that come into our Hall.”
Sykes said Wenner’s greatest achievement had been to have built “a group of inductees that have made it credible enough that all artists want to be part of it." “They understand we really take the process very seriously and look at the artists that have truly impacted culture," he noted. "We want to be involved in the broader conversation, yes — but only as it relates to what music truly shapes the lives of young people. Anything beyond that, we’re not interested, because there’s probably someone else who can do that.”
The new chairman said his immediate aim was to “build out the board of the foundation — board members that really reflect diversity in music right now,” with the intention of creating “a Hall of Fame that really is a mirror to the incredible change in music that’s coming out now.”