A Rock Hall Voter speaks out

In a recent column, Jon Bream, a music writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and a member of the Rock Hall voting committee, criticizes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction process as well as the current crop of inductees. Bream believes that the Rock Hall isn't selective enough and that the whole process could use more transparency.
In the past 15 years, the Rock Hall has enshrined 97 performers, while the Baseball Hall admitted only 22 players. A key reason is the way voting is conducted.

To make it to Cooperstown, N.Y., a baseball player must get at least 75 percent of the votes, cast by writers who have covered the sport for at least 10 years. To get into Cleveland's Rock Hall, an act needs only 50 percent of the votes.

More than 600 music industry experts (including me) receive ballots -- and don't ask me what the criteria is to be a voter. Moreover, vote totals are not announced, unlike the Baseball Hall, which discloses the results from its 575 or so ballots.

While baseball players can be weighed statistically, a potential Rock Hall of Famer is supposed to be measured by "the influence and significance of the artist's contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock 'n' roll." That's totally subjective, which explains why such lesser acts as the Dells and Percy Sledge are in, and John Mellencamp and Luther Vandross are not.

The rock nominees are chosen by a committee of music-business insiders that, in the past, has included legendary producer Phil Spector, Best Buy exec Gary Arnold and Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn. Their choices often reek of elitism. Stars who have never even made the ballot include Neil Diamond, Kiss, the Moody Blues, the Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oates, Journey, Steve Miller Band, Genesis, Linda Ronstadt, Rush, Yes, Heart, Peter Frampton, Jimmy Buffett and Alice Cooper. That sounds like a Classic Rock Hall of Fame right there.

The identity of the "600 music experts" is one of the many mysteries of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction process. Other than the previous inductees who get to vote, it is unknown who constitutes the balance of the committee. The voters are kept a secret, "even from one another, to prevent vote politicking."

Are there any other voters who want to step out of the shadows to either support or criticize the process? Contact us.

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