Def Leppard's Phil Collen on the next wave of rock headliners: "There's a problem, and I think it's the TikTok and YouTube crowd"

Phil Collen
(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation)

Who are the next wave of rock bands who will be headliners for years to come? Def Leppard's Phil Collen doesn't see many candidates, and the guitarist with the multi-platinum (two of their albums are Diamond-sellers) UK band thinks he knows why.

"I don't know, I'm still waiting actually," Collen told Listen Next! in the interview below when asked about who Leppard will pass the baton to. "You hear a lot of stuff out there but it's few and far between. There's a problem I think, and I think it's the TikTok and YouTube crowd."

I'm still waiting for someone like Prince, Zeppelin – something that has a bit more to it

Before we all rail against Collen and liken this to an old man yelling at a cloud, he elaborates on his accusation.

"When bands or artists would write before, it would be because they wanted to be an artist and they wanted to express themselves, write songs and share them. And go, 'Wow - check this out.' As opposed to, 'Wow – look at me, please love me.'

"I don't want to sound like an old dude but that's what I notice," added Collen. "And I'm still waiting for someone like Prince, Zeppelin – something that has a bit more to it. But there's very little stuff. Metallica [are] great when you see them, there's a bit difference. Guns N' Roses are awesome. I don't see that anymore. I don't see that star power. I don't see that kind of thing. So that's what I'm waiting for. There hasn't been any of that. 

Collen also listed Nirvana and Foo Fighters, The Sex Pistols as other benchmark bands. But all those bands started in a very different music industry. So is it fair to bemoan the growth in YouTube and TikTok musicians in an era where musicians don't get anywhere near the investment from record labels that they did when Def Leppard were coming up? 

Songs clearly still matter when it comes to taking the step to big venues as a rock artist; Sam Fender is a recent UK success story that proves that. But Collen is right that there aren't a huge selection of candidates on the heavier side to take over headlining events like the Download festival when the big beasts of rock retire to their country piles.   

We'd also suggest any band that doesn't promote themselves through YouTube and TikTok is unlikely to be discovered and build a substantial fanbase in 2022. Perhaps a balance is key. 


Phil Collen talks Def Leppard's Hysteria track-by-track

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.