The Death Of Pop Music (For Dummies)
Yes, folks, it is official, music doesn’t matter. You know how there was nothing cooler than a rock star once upon a time? Well that my dear friends is no longer true. Music does not matter, pop music doesn’t matter, nobody cares, it is beyond ephemeral and into the realm of nonexistence.
So what happened?
I am gonna dumb the entire thing down but first here are two axioms to guide you: first; the only causes worth fighting for are the lost causes and next, when nearly everybody leaves an art form because it stopped being profitable, the art form improves.
So here we go.
1. The distribution of sheet music brought music into the household, it exploded with the printing presses in the late 19th Century.
2. But was superceded by recorded music in the mid 20th century.
3. The end of the second world war saw a boom in marriages and children leading to a generation gap.
4. And popular music evolved through the electric guitar and the merging of black r&b and white country.
5. Meanwhile the 30 minute recorded album became the main instrument of music distribution.
6. Finally, anti-inscription forces among the young refusing to fight in Vietnam took popular music as their soundtrack.
7. This lead to 20 years of unbridled expansion and artistic achievement in pop music.
8. Until the advent of cheap filming capabilities on video film and the nascent cable network businesses need for fresh product met head on and music videos were birthed in the 1980s.
9. The result was music being created for the new medium and the slackening of musics stranglehold on youth culture in the 1980s.
10. This was followed by video games usurping music as the choice of the young in the 1990s
11. Finally, baby boomers stopped listening to new music.
12. In the 21st century file sharing ripped the bottom out of the business.
And that is where we stand. Music isn’t central to young peoples lives any more and older people won’t listen to new music. There is little money ($6000 per one million streams) in pop music and this means younger musicians can’t make money and older musicians have seen the value of their back catalog decimated.
So that’s the bad news and it is really bad.
Now here is the good news. The consumer has access to huge amounts of music and can listen to anything from any era. Also, just because there isn’t the money in the business that there used to be doesn’t mean there aren’t more and better musicians around worth listening to. 2013 is as good a year as 1973 or 1993 for music. There is so much great stuff it is an honor to write about it.
Plus, I like being an outsider again. I like it that people don’t understand how you can be completely obsessed with pop music, it gives it more cachet. It makes it cooler and private. Despite music’s ubiquity you can only join by caring