This story has been buzzing for months, but I point you to a recent article on the decline of new music in the US:

“It’s Official: New Music Is Shrinking in Popularity in the US”.

Not as good as the new music?

I would argue that case, but that’s not what’s happening here. We’ve reached the tipping point, you can’t reach people anymore!

The music business is the canary in the coal mine. This is where the disruption first occurs. What happens in the music business eventually spills over into other industries. So what’s happening here is a glut of products and the means of promoting those products have become less efficient and varied.

Let me make it simple. Everyone knew your name and music if you were on AM radio.

Then FM divided attention, but it was active listeners/buyers/concert attendees all listened to FM, so business grew with disposable income.

Then came MTV. MTV has a global mix of stars. Very few works are commissioned, but those that do can play to audiences anywhere in the world. Even a hit wonder is embedded in everyone’s brain. Can you say “take me”?

But then came the internet.

At first it was about digging up the past. Both official and unofficial products. And while the elders were complaining about their money being stolen, the younger generation embraced new tools of creation and distribution, previously unknown, and soon seemingly everyone was making music.

And making music was easier than ever. Your computer can be your studio. You can buy beats, and anyone can rap. Once upon a time, you had to know how to play and write. Or someone with connections thought they could mold you into a star. Studio time was expensive. Most people couldn’t play.

And first all these people who were previously excluded were posted on YouTube, and then Soundcloud, and finally Spotify and its ilk.

As for terrestrial radio? It seems that the younger generation, who have actively moved the needle of popular music, have given it up.

So where can you hear the latest hits? What will motivate you to rally around the priorities of the labels, to push their products?

But if you really want to be shocked, read this article:

“Still no one comes close to the stardom of Bad Bunny”

Here’s the meat of the story:

Bad Bunny songs have appeared in the Spotify Top 100 in the last 2 months, more than songs by Harry Styles, Olivia Rodrigo, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Three of those four acts have also released new albums. Post Malone, one of the most popular performers of the past few years, didn’t even make the top 10.

Now let’s take it a step further. Bad Bunny has defeated every single record label in the industry. The only label that even comes close is Columbia, which has charted songs from more than a dozen artists, including Harry Styles, Lil Nas X, Adele and The Kid LaRoe. Bad Bunny songs were featured more than twice as often as Atlantic acts, home to Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Cardi B, Lizzo and Jack Harlow.”

That’s right, one single artist has taken over the entire output of every major label.

Talk about a blockbuster business.

The essence of Bad Bunny is that he’s global, his music translates everywhere, whereas most of what’s in the Spotify Top 50 isn’t at least an American act. In other words, new music churns out an ever-smaller circle, appealing to fewer and fewer consumers.

Now the end result here will be more bad looking Bunnys with more labels. But what we’ve learned is that some of these ubiquitous tasks are shared only by the mind. And those we think of as ubiquitous are often not. Like Post Malone, his new album is a disappointment. And Beyonce’s new single has underperformed so far.

I mean who can get more ink, more publicity than Beyonce?

But ink has no meaning anymore. Endless reviews, straight media stories. It all comes down to the public, which is even less manipulable in the modern world.

You used to pay the programmer to put your records on the station, whether with cash or CD players or TVs or other physical products. There was a direct connection from your label to the consumer’s ears. That connection is broken. The number one place to expose new music is TikTok, and the labels are all aligned with the Chinese social media company, but you can lead a horse to water, but that doesn’t mean he’ll drink.

In other words, TikTok pushes music to its influencers, but they don’t have to consume it. And even if they do, that doesn’t mean it will go viral, as others make videos to the same music. The label has lost control!

But what about the Spotify Top 50!

Check it out. It has a very narrow scope.

Then check out the genre playlist.

Yesterday I wanted to catch country music. I went to Spotify and they have seventy-eight official country playlists! The one I found most delicious, Heart of Texas… Most of these records don’t even show up on Hot Country playlists, never mind the Spotify Top 50.

And there’s a plethora of playlists for every genre.

We’ve been told by the powers that be, their hype machine major labels and publications who feed and regurgitate their pabulum, that we live in a hip-hop/pop world. But this is clearly untrue. Yes, this genre has a large reach, arguably the most. Then again, the biggest album of the past eighteen months is Morgan Wallen’s, who sings songs, with verses and choruses you can sing along to, the kind rarely represented on the Spotify Top 50.

But number one is Kate Bush’s track from “Stranger Things.”

Does this mean old music is better than new music?

I’d say older music is better, but this statistic doesn’t represent it. It shows the power of Netflix, the power of a hit show. And TV is still expensive to make, and despite all the press about the number of shows, it’s a small number compared to the record number of releases.

But Netflix, et al, have huge competition. Not so much from each other, but from TikTok and YouTube. Kids spend hours on these platforms, it’s the hub of culture without a breakout here and there. And there’s endless space on TikTok and YouTube, meaning any “hit” reaches a small percentage of the public.

Back to Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”…

According to the MBW article above, catalog grew 14% compared to a 1.4% decline in new music spending.

So there you have it, old music is much better, people want classic rock!

Well, they do, but that’s not what’s going on here.

The catalog appears to be older than eighteen months!

“In fact music released in 2019 took a 14% share of all ‘Catalogue’ streams in H1 2022; Music released in 2018 took 11% share.

And music released this year was more popular on US streaming services in the first half of 2022 than all music released in the 1990s combined.

The same goes for all music released in the 1980s and all music released in the 1970s.

So the decline in share of new music is not so much about the golden oldies but the difficulty of creating hits in a more dense marketplace. People go to what they know, what they want to hear. And he knows more old songs than new ones. Every year the consumption of new songs decreases. Because it’s hard to reach people and create ubiquitous hits.

Yes, the music business is back in the fifties, the pre-Beatle era. It’s a small business run by shysters, only in this case the labels are all public companies. No one is throwing the long ball, almost no innovation, they keep doing what they know, which means new music reaches fewer people and outsiders can dominate the marketplace, i.e. Bad Bunny.

And in fact, Bad Bunny is distributed by Orchard, now owned by Sony But what does it say when your indie arm outgrows your core business?

So what does this mean for music in general?

There isn’t. There is no top 50. This is an irrelevant metric. We no longer pool all music. Instead, there are different verticals. And it’s not about crossing over, almost impossible, the verticals are more narrow and defined, but about getting as big as possible in the world you live in, which means you’re probably going to be less big than the previous hit act.

Which doesn’t mean you’ll go broke without an audience. There are many more ways to monetize these days. And to know who your fans are and reach them. But global dominance? Mostly fairy tales.

And that goes worldwide… Bad Bunny is great, but the music you’re making, the kind that can be played everywhere, does anyone understand that can appreciate a beat? Probably not. But following the Bad Bunny paradigm expect less innovative Latin music from the main innovators. They see all that money and want something. And they suddenly realize it’s a global business, which is a good thing.

And we need bad rabbits, if nothing else, to bring us together, to make us feel part of our society. But making them is almost impossible, much harder than before. And, that means that niches, not represented in the Spotify Top 50, verticals are bigger than ever.

Analogy of politics. There are so many people that you can’t reach with the truth, they don’t want to hear the truth, and there are outlets that speak to every prediction, every conspiracy theory.

And that’s what these people want, to belong to a tribe, just like a music fan. And we always know that the largest tribes are the least durable. Because it’s the casual fans who are impressed when the dedicated hard core fans are needed to keep up.

So if radio means less, if Mediabase numbers don’t mean more, and Spotify isn’t even in the top 50, what counts?

Well, the concert grosses. And isn’t it interesting that these grosses rarely align with the Spotify Top 50. You can have a hit on that chart and still not be able to go on the road, there just aren’t enough people willing to pay to see you.

We live in an age of chaos. And in a chaotic age, most people look to the past, to what they are familiar with, to something they know, otherwise the landscape is too overwhelming.

We let everyone play on Spotify, et al, and that ultimately contributed to the decline of the new music business. There is too much for anyone to understand, so they go back to the old ones.

It’s only going to get worse. This is the new normal. Dwindling expectations.

If you are not a bad habit.

Even Bad Bunny didn’t know he was Bad Bunny. Global dominance always comes from left field, it’s unpredictable, you can’t clone it, you just have to wait for it.

Everything, well, you thought so much that you know, died. The majors are all strong, the radio is all strong, the charts are all strong…

And it gets harder to understand every day.


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