Is Old Music Killing New Music?

Why does it seem like the old is eating the new in pop culture? This year, the song of the summer is Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”—released in 1985. It was released by the world’s biggest summer TV show. Stranger things—a cult hit in the 1980s. In movies, the season’s biggest hit Top Gun: Maverick—a sequel to the 1986 film. The ’80s were four years ago!

The triumph of nostalgia and knowledge of culture goes deeper than one summer. This year’s top five movies are second Key upsecond Doctor Strangethe sixth Jurassic Parkthe 14th Batman-related film, and fifth despicable me. Amazing original movies, like Everything everywhereshows here and there, but as slam-dunk blockbusters go, the last ten years have received a new movie scandal.

There is a new musical scandal. Music consumption is increasing across album sales, music sales, and streaming. But the use of modern music has declined. The growth of music is in classical music, or classical music.

What is going on here? Today’s guest is Ted Gioia. We talk about his viral article “Is Old Music Killing New Music?”, the death of young stars in Hollywood, and the rise of risk-aversion in American culture and business. .

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email us at PlainEnglish@Spotify.com. You can find us on TikTok at www.tiktok.com/@plainenglish_.


Derek explained his argument that old music is killing new music, including how music listening and spending habits have changed over time.

Derek Thompson: So you wrote this viral article “Is Old Music Killing New Music?” I want to start there. What is your argument?

Ted Gioia: It’s very interesting to look at the numbers, because there is a clear trend going on there. I find it very disturbing because in the long run, more and more music consumption in the United States is turning to what they call “the catalog.” These are songs that are more than 18 months old, but the truth is, when you dig into it, it seems like in many ways these songs are more than 10, 20, 30 years old. And everything seems to be coming together here. Statistics show that more than 70 percent of the music streamed is old music. A few months ago it was like 65, 66 percent, and so it’s going up.

Adding to that, you know that the main area of ​​investment in music is publishing lists of old artists. And when I say old artists, I mean old artists, people who are older than me—now it’s too old when you get that. But when we’re talking about musicians in their 80s, 70s, whether it’s Bob Dylan or Paul Simon, people are stealing these lists. In fact, they invest more in the rights to old music than new music. It’s not truer than the history of music, unless you go back to the middle ages. Go back 1,000 years and you will probably see something similar. But now it’s just out of the charts, which is why people want to put on old songs.

And finally, I’ll just add, anecdotally, that everywhere I go I hear classical music. I walk into a store and the people working in the store are half my age, but they listen to the music I grew up with. I go into the restaurant, it’s the same thing. I asked this center, I said, “Why are you listening to old music like this?” And he looked at me in surprise, he said, “I like these songs.” I think it’s like the boss, I think there’s an octogenarian boss in the back office ordering this, but this is everywhere. And now when you see these old songs coming back on the charts, you can’t deny, the old songs are cutting the new songs.

Thompson: So listeners are turning to classical music and investment is turning to classical music, and I love both. Before we get into why this is, I want to tell you what it is now. Because I think fans have always underestimated the importance of classical music in the music industry. It’s true that catalogs make a lot of money for labels, and the same goes for other media along the way. On TV, it’s best to re-download. In the book business, backlists are even better: Like 9 trillion copies of The great gatsby a Catching the Rye are sold in high schools. According to the Bible, it belongs to Pete. So we have data on music from, like, the heyday of CDs or vinyl where we can point to that data and we can say, “Wow, that’s more a lot of new music, but now the old is eating the new”?

Gioia: The data is corrupted. I’ve been trying to find consistent information over the years, but I can’t find it. But when you look at the pieces of information, you realize that the music industry has clearly been built around new music for decades, and you can measure it in many ways. You can see what’s on display at a record store. You can listen to what they are playing on the radio. You can see what your friends are up to when you visit their homes and view their story collections. You can see concerts that sell out. All this information is out there. I wish I could add it to some kind of chart of directions, but it’s hard to do. And in fact, the music industry numbers are more difficult now than before, because there was a day when they measured sales, but now there are no sales. When they tell you that these are the best selling songs in the country, they’re not really talking about sales, they’re talking about people watching a video or something. Therefore, it is very difficult to identify.

But I think it’s impossible to see, especially when you see the studies every year that come from the same market research companies using the same method. So, for example, if there was 67 percent of the use of classical music last year, this year up to 72, 73 percent, you can not deny the numbers. But I’ll be honest, you try to measure them, it’s not good.

Another thing I want to measure is how much money young people spend on music. I looked for this information everywhere. But I know there’s a time, I mean, going back to my day, you spend a lot of your money, or your allowance – I think that’s the word you use, your allowance – you can you spend a third of your tuition. in music. Are you buying albums or not? And now, I know, talking to young people, I’m asking them, “Are you paying for a streaming subscription?” Usually, they just return the signature of their parents, and I want to be able to measure it. But I think if you get the actual numbers, you’ll see a drop in how much each person spends on music of different types of youth music.

This section has been lightly edited for clarity.

Host: Derek Thompson
Guest: Ted Gioia
Producer: Devon Manze

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