Why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Needs a Veteran’s Committee

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The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has been around for almost 40 years now. It was established in 1983 by 2020 Rock Hall inductee Ahmet Ertegun and the first class was inducted in 1986. There was not an actual physical Rock Hall until it was built and opened in Cleveland back in 1995. It has served to be the pantheon of rock history, honoring the artists that have contributed to rock (and other) forms of music – truly the crème de la crème of music history.

There are something along the lines of 235 artists, groups and assorted industry insiders that have been inducted by the Rock Hall over the years, so you would justly be correct in that the truly immortal have been inducted into the hallowed shrine already. Still, there are those that have complained that “(insert your personal favorite artist here) hasn’t been inducted into the Rock Hall!” While there is some credence to some of these arguments, overall the Rock Hall, its Nominating Committee and the Voting Committee (a roughly 1000-strong contingent that is made up of the living members of the Rock Hall and select industry executives, music historians, DJs, music journalists and others) have gotten it right.

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One thing that could be done better – and would put an end to some of the complaints – is a way to handle those from the past that some think should be in. The Baseball Hall of Fame has (or used to have) a Veteran’s Committee – a group whose sole raison d’etre is to look at the distant past and see if there are any credible entries for the Hall that have been overlooked. The Rock Hall would be well served in looking at creating such an entity like this, but there would have to be some significant parameters set on what this Veteran’s Committee would look like and how they would come to their decisions.

With that said, here are the initial parameters that should be set.

1) The Veteran’s Committee will consist of a 100-member panel, of which 10 members will nominate 15 artists, groups, early influences, industry executives or “insiders” (DJs, normally, or producers/managers) for induction. This Veteran’s Committee would be much like the Voting Committee that chooses the inductees for the Rock Hall – a group of artists from more than 50 years ago (more on this in a minute), DJs, industry executives, music historians and the like.

The nominations will have had to have made their first actions in the industry – a record release, entry into the business, something like that – no more recently than 50 years prior to the current calendar year. For example, if the Veteran’s Committee were to come to life this year, eligible artists for the first ballot cannot have had their first impact after 1970 – anyone who had their first interactions in the business prior to 1970 would be eligible for consideration.

Under the current rules for consideration, a candidate must have made their first release more than 25 years ago. That gives current candidates a 25-year period for consideration by the Nomination Committee of the Rock Hall and, if they are nominated, by the Voting Committee. It doesn’t infringe on their work and can truly be said to be reexamining what the two Committees might have missed. Thus, the 50-year guideline is an important one.

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2) The Veteran’s Committee is allowed ONE (1) inductee per year. That inductee will have had to have earned 80% of the 100-member Committee’s votes (80). If no candidate gets 80% of the vote, then the Veteran’s Committee does not get an induction slot that year. If there are more than one candidate that gets the 80% voting margin, then the one who gets the most votes will be inducted – the runner up is going to have to wait until next year.

This is done to ensure that there is an overwhelming consensus of quality of the inductee. It would not be right for someone to simply get a majority of the vote from the 100-member Veteran’s Committee – that isn’t a hugely significant number (51). There has to be a slam dunk majority to signify that there is nearly a unanimous agreement to bypass both the Nomination Committee and the Voting Committee to induct someone they passed over.

3) If an artist, group, early influence or industry executive or “insider” is on the nominee list and receives under 10% of the vote from the Committee (10), that person is removed from consideration for the Rock Hall forever.

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This is arguably the biggest criteria and the one that would put an end to some discussions of “they should be in the Hall.” Once again using the Baseball Hall of Fame as an example, if you can’t get a certain percentage of the vote once you become eligible (in baseball it is five years after your retirement), then you are stricken from future ballots. The same criteria should be used by the Rock Hall…if you cannot get 10 people to vouch for you in a 100-member group, you are not a viable candidate and should be removed from overall consideration.

This part of the criteria will upset some who back fringe artists (not saying that Gordon Lightfoot, pictured above, is a fringe artist, in fact, he should already be in the Rock Hall…wait, that’s why this essay exists!) that they believe should be inducted. Those who are this vehement on a particular artist, group or other person are the true definition of “fan,” which is a shortened version of “fanatic,” or someone who has an unnatural support for a cause or person. “Fanatics” should not be allowed to overwhelm the vote of any organization that looks to honor those that were truly immortals.

There are probably some other rules that could be put into place, but these would be the baseline that a Rock Hall Veteran’s Committee should be founded under. The above rules will maintain the integrity of the Rock Hall vote because the threshold of induction is high, would allow for consideration of artists from the past that some might believe have been overlooked and will eliminate those who aren’t able to garner support to warrant induction. If the Veteran’s Committee were something along these lines, I could support it. Anything less would be an insult to the Rock Hall and its inductees who actually earned the honor the first time around.

15 comments on “Why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Needs a Veteran’s Committee

  1. Casper says:

    Wow. Did you grab the 25/50 idea from me over at FutureRockLegends? It’s so simplistic and makes so much sense that I’m not surprised if you came to the same conclusion on your own.

    I disagree with you on the induction/balloting process though. My idea is that there would be a separate ceremony each year called something akin to “Industry Honors” where the Veteran’s Commitee Performers would be inducted alongside ALL of the annual inductees in the other categories (NP, EI and ME). Any Performers inducted via the VC would just be considered Performer inductees like all the rest.

    The other ceremony would still happen annually and be just 5-7 Performers being inducted (those that did their first record 25-49 years prior).

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    • Earl Burton says:

      No, I didn’t read anything on Future Rock Legends about this. It is a long-held idea of mine that I fleshed out into a little more totality than I originally gave thought to. And it is a basic idea – there has to be some distinction between those who are eligible and those who you could truly call “veterans.”

      I disagree with an entire separate ceremony for these reasons:

      1) This ISN’T the main Induction Ceremony. You do not distract from those who have received the induction honor of their peers by saying “that doesn’t matter…THIS one is the one to watch!” To use baseball once again, they do not have a “veteran’s class”…they induct one or two members (two tops) and they are added on to the induction class from that year. The way you are designating it is that those who earned their entry through the Voting Committee are somehow “second class” citizens.

      2) These performers, if they have 50 years in the business minimum, are more than likely going to be dead. There will be family that will (hopefully) accept the honor and a celebration of their induction (along with the normal class from that year). But to create an entire induction around those elected by the Veteran’s Committee is a slap in the face to those who earned their way in through the normal process.

      3) This is meant to give a final look at some artists or groups. If they cannot garner enough support, then it is time to quit considering them. I certainly hope that the Rock Hall isn’t still looking at artists from the 50s and 60s in 2035 when they are conducting the elections.

      You seem to give short shrift to those that actually EARNED the right to get in through not only the Nomination Committee but through the Voting Committee. A Veteran’s Committee is there to catch potential oversights by the Rock Hall voters – for the most part, they’ve done a pretty damn good job – not to replace the process that has worked since the inception of the Rock Hall.

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      • Casper says:

        I see another ceremony as necessary mostly due to the growing, massive backlog of candidates from the other categories and the fact that there’s no real room for them in the main show.

        A separate class wouldn’t make them “second class citizens”…they are inducted as regular Performers. And as you mentioned, such inductees would mostly be dead, in which case, why exactly do they need to be included in the main ceremony? They won’t feel slighted since they’re dead.

        Perhaps you would prefer the idea if the VC just inducted one or two names a year alongside the other category selections. That would keep it limited AND lead to more side category inductees which appears to be win-win in your book.

        I envision an Industry Honors ceremony to be very high profile. Top tier acts can perform live for the induction of their producers or to perform songs from songwriters that inspired them, etc. so U2 could show up to induct Brian Eno or whatever (not the best example since he could perform himself, but you get the idea).

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      • Earl Burton says:

        See, here’s where we have to part, Casper. A second ceremony is unnecessary. There is ONE Induction Ceremony, I don’t care how many “backlogged” artists there are. There’s a reason there’s a “backlog”…they aren’t considered good enough to get in. Once again, EVERYONE can’t get in the Hall of FAME.

        A second ceremony is unnecessary when the ONE artist or group chosen by the Veteran’s Committee can be included with the normal Induction Ceremony. The purpose of the Veteran’s Committee is not to ram through as many artists as possible – it is to take a second look and, if there are clear oversights, correct it. The Veteran’s Committee isn’t there to keep putting in artists from the 50s and 60s that had one Top Ten dance hit and kept performing it for 50 years.

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  2. Philip says:

    In the end, I don’t see a Veterans’ Committee really doing much to clear the backlog so long as the Hall remains so dedicated to keeping to classes so small. When every year has so many artists that there is a justifiable case for induction, and the Hall insists on inducting only a small fraction of them, the backlog can do nothing but grow, and if a Veterans Committee can only have one inductee maximum, it will never do the job. The math just doesn’t justify.

    And permanent removal from consideration addresses the backlog in the same way that killing poor people reduces the poverty rate. Terrible idea in and of itself, and when you consider how politics and vested interests run rampant in the Hall, it’s even worse. And that’s not even addressing the Americentric bent and how that would doom worldwide important acts that didn’t captivate American audiences.

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    • Earl Burton says:

      Hello Philip!

      The induction classes are small for a reason. It is the Rock & Roll Hall of FAME, not the “Rock & Roll Hall of Pretty Good.” You have to induct some artists, but not all of them Wouldn’t you say there is a sizeable difference between The Beatles and The Cowsills? Most people would say that there is a HUGE difference and the right artist is in the Rock Hall.

      The Veteran’s Committee and the criteria stated would do two things – it would induct artists that are truly overlooked and it would serve to eliminate artists that shouldn’t be considered. The high threshold of induction would ensure that there is a near unanimity in the beliefs of the Veteran’s Committee. And if you can’t get enough support from 100 people to induct you, then you are obviously not Rock Hall material.

      There have been more than 230 artists, groups and other individuals that have been elected into the Rock Hall. Whether it is politics or whatever, these people have EARNED the honor. A final consideration from a Veteran’s Committee would be appropriate.

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      • Philip says:

        The classes are small for a reason, but not the one you give. They’re small because, as Dave Marsh said, the tail wags the dog. They are kept small to have a concise event for television. HBO is basically calling the shots in that regard. Before the inductions were televised the classes were bigger, for the most part. Second, the “pretty good” argument is one I’ve heard before, and it just doesn’t wash. The Hall has inducted artists that never achieved real fame, but were still considered worthy ,or were considered “one-hit wonders,” or those whose only merits were being popular and not envelope pushing, whether it’s Laura Nyro, the perennial punching bag Percy Sledge, or populist hit makers like Bon Jovi or Journey. It justly opens the door for the criticism, “If X was inducted, and Y is more worthy than Y, then Y should be inducted.” It’s a fairly subjective term, to boot. Also, the Cowsills are not a good example to use, as most wouldn’t even consider them “pretty good.” And there’s a huge difference between the Beatles and anyone else, but a Rock Hall consisting of just the Beatles would be a joke, too.

        Those 230 artists didn’t get in despite politics, they got in because politics shifted. The populist push of the past decade or so is great proof. KISS got in because the politics changed, same with Deep Purple, Chicago, etc. If there had a populist push years earlier, we could have gotten some terrific and consistent hit makers of the mid to late ’60s in as well. And the politics will shift as people join or leave the committees. A veteran’s committee would just be a more laser-like focus of the politics d’jour of the Hall at any given time and for deserving acts to be perma-banned for it is ludicrous.

        Just think of it this way. If Joy Division doesn’t get in within the next ten years, they’d fall under this rule as well. And if they only got 50% because the gatekeepers at the Hall STILL aren’t favorably disposed toward post-punk, that’s it for them. Joy Division could never be mentioned again. Does that really seem right to you? I don’t even like Joy Division, but that ain’t right. Or Kraftwerk, who just weren’t big enough in America.

        I’ve encountered no argument or goal for a Veterans’ Committee that simply having bigger classes wouldn’t solve much more simply. I’m not saying I want to see the Cowsills inducted, but I wouldn’t want a Hall Of Fame that doesn’t even allow us to ask the question.

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  3. Philip says:

    “If Y is more worthy than X”, but I’m sure you figured out it was a typo

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  4. Casper says:

    Agree that class size is just due to the HBO ceremony. Also, politics is HUGE as many names don’t even make the ballot and then, lo and behold, are inducted on their first try. The youngest men on the nominating committee are in like their early 50s (think some younger women are on it though). Kind of hard to judge the music of teenagers when you were 30-60 when it was being released.

    Likewise, a super old voting body of inductees and writers calling the shots, many of whom have never bothered to press play on LPs from Motorhead or Soundgarden to name a few.

    Flooding the voter rolls with a bunch of writers under the age of 40 and putting them on the nominating committee would make a huge difference. The thing right now is akin to holding the Democratic Primaries with only Boomers voting – oh, look, a bunch of 70s acts got in!

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    • Earl Burton says:

      I don’t know what you’re hang-up is on age. Let’s look at this logically, shall we.

      The first rule of eligibility for induction into the Rock Hall is that your first recorded effort has to be at least 25 years old. Therefore, I don’t want someone 25 years old telling me what was Hall worthy when they DIDN’T EVEN LIVE THROUGH IT.

      So let’s look a bit deeper…when do you actually begin to form some plausibly acceptable ideas regarding what is good or even legendary? I’d say you’ve at least got to be 20…tack 25 years onto that. That means the youngest voters should be in their 40s. Guess what? John Legend (age 41) is on the Nominations committee! There’s also ?uestlove (bandleader for The Roots and a notable music historian), who is 49. Dave Grohl, drummer for Nirvana and probably will be inducted again with Foo Fighters, is 51.

      You know what? That’s about right for the age to be considering who should be elected into the Rock Hall. Anyone younger does not have the background nor the ability to recognize the quality of the music because they haven’t LIVED through it.

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      • Casper says:

        I’m 34 years old and became interested in the rock music happening around me in the early 90s around the time I was 8 years old. Meanwhile, like many other Hall watchers, have spent years listening to and analyzing the history of the genre. A 70 year old Hall inductee who effectively gave up on new music in the 1980s is really going to have an idea of how important Weezer happens to be? Take for example Eddie Van Halen saying that he bought the Peter Gabriel album Us in the 1980s and that was the last new record he bought and he doesn’t listen to new music.

        Or how about someone like Little Steven on the nominating committee who is derisive towards anything outside of the 50s/60s, publicly, and like a bunch of guitar band inductees has zero interest in hip hop.

        The point here is that it’s about your own willingness to seek out new musical avenues. It’s not about age.

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  5. Casper says:

    We already have evidence of a super slanted voting body. First it was one that would induct an endless string of questionable black acts because the inductee makeup was mostly black early on (since the pioneers were inducted at the beginning). Then as the white rock acts with a bunch of members kept getting inducted, it swung in that direction.

    Only now have enough anti-80s voters died off that acts like The Cure and Depeche Mode can finally get the votes. I mean, are we really to believe that Percy Sledge was way more important than they are?

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    • Earl Burton says:

      The Voting Committee is not “slanted.” It is predominantly the living members of the Rock Hall, with music executives, DJs, music historians, artists themselves and music journalists rounding out the approximately 1000 members. I don’t think that makes for a “slant” any particular direction. And Sledge got in before The Cure and Depeche Mode because…he was eligible earlier than those two groups were…

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      • Casper says:

        Of course it is slanted, currently towards white guitar based acts. What the hell do you think happens when 60+ living members of a classic rock act are inducted and the recent black acts mostly consist of deceased solo artists like Whitney, Nina and Biggie? It mathematically tilts the scales BIG TIME in one direction.

        I think the problem with your analysis is that you clearly have faith in institutions and aren’t willing to notice some of the obvious problems.

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      • Casper says:

        And, no, you are completely wrong about Sledge. The Cure were first eligible for the 2004 ceremony and Sledge was inducted in 2005. The Cure never even appeared on a ballot until 2012. Mode was eligible for 2007, never appearing on a ballot until the 2017 class.

        Do tell me in general how it is fair that an act doesn’t get in simply because they are not on the ballot? I don’t believe that a 30-40 person nominating committee is god-like. They failed to add The Doobies, T Rex and Nina Simone for decades and they all got in on the first try.

        If Smashing Pumpkins don’t have an advocate on that committee, they don’t make the ballot. If an act like David Bowie, Velvet Underground or Radiohead does not get in on the first ballot, what does that tell you about the slant of the voting rolls?

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