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Is Old Music Killing New Music? – The Atlantic

Old songs now represent 70 percent of the U.S. music market. Even worse: The new-music market is actually shrinking.
About the author: Ted Gioia writes the music and popular-culture newsletter The Honest Broker on Substack. He is also the author of 11 books, including, most recently, Music: A Subversive History.
Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET on January 31, 2022.
Old songs now represent 70 percent of the U.S. music market, according to the latest numbers from MRC Data, a music-analytics firm. Those who make a living from new music—especially that endangered species known as the working musician—should look at these figures with fear and trembling. But the news gets worse: The new-music market is actually shrinking. All the growth in the market is coming from old songs.
The 200 most popular new tracks now regularly account for less than 5 percent of total streams. That rate was twice as high just three years ago. The mix of songs actually purchased by consumers is even more tilted toward older music. The current list of most-downloaded tracks on iTunes is filled with the names of bands from the previous century, such as Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Police.
I encountered this phenomenon myself recently at a retail store, where the youngster at the cash register was singing along with Sting on “Message in a Bottle” (a hit from 1979) as it blasted on the radio. A few days earlier, I had a similar experience at a local diner, where the entire staff was under 30 but every song was more than 40 years old. I asked my server: “Why are you playing this old music?” She looked at me in surprise before answering: “Oh, I like these songs.”
Never before in history have new tracks attained hit status while generating so little cultural impact. In fact, the audience seems to be embracing the hits of decades past instead. Success was always short-lived in the music business, but now even new songs that become bona fide hits can pass unnoticed by much of the population.
Only songs released in the past 18 months get classified as “new” in the MRC database, so people could conceivably be listening to a lot of two-year-old songs, rather than 60-year-old ones. But I doubt these old playlists consist of songs from the year before last. Even if they did, that fact would still represent a repudiation of the pop-culture industry, which is almost entirely focused on what’s happening right now.
Every week I hear from hundreds of publicists, record labels, band managers, and other professionals who want to hype the newest new thing. Their livelihoods depend on it. The entire business model of the music industry is built on promoting new songs. As a music writer, I’m expected to do the same, as are radio stations, retailers, DJs, nightclub owners, editors, playlist curators, and everyone else with skin in the game. Yet all the evidence indicates that few listeners are paying attention.
Consider the recent reaction when the Grammy Awards were postponed. Perhaps I should say the lack of reaction, because the cultural response was little more than a yawn. I follow thousands of music professionals on social media, and I didn’t encounter a single expression of annoyance or regret that the biggest annual event in new music had been put on hold. That’s ominous.
Can you imagine how angry fans would be if the Super Bowl or NBA Finals were delayed? People would riot in the streets. But the Grammy Awards go missing in action, and hardly anyone notices.
The declining TV audience for the Grammy show underscores this shift. In 2021, viewership for the ceremony collapsed 53 percent from the previous year—from 18.7 million to 8.8 million. It was the least-watched Grammy broadcast of all time. Even the core audience for new music couldn’t be bothered—about 98 percent of people ages 18 to 49 had something better to do than watch the biggest music celebration of the year.
A decade ago, 40 million people watched the Grammy Awards. That’s a meaningful audience, but now the devoted fans of this event are starting to resemble a tiny subculture. More people pay attention to streams of video games on Twitch (which now gets 30 million daily visitors) or the latest reality-TV show. In fact, musicians would probably do better getting placement in Fortnite than signing a record deal in 2022. At least they would have access to a growing demographic.
Some would like to believe that this trend is just a short-term blip, perhaps caused by the pandemic. When clubs open up again, and DJs start spinning new records at parties, the world will return to normal, or so we’re told. The hottest songs will again be the newest songs. I’m not so optimistic.
Read: Why aren’t there more women working in audio?
A series of unfortunate events are conspiring to marginalize new music. The pandemic is one of these ugly facts, but hardly the only contributor to the growing crisis.
Consider these other trends:
As record labels lose interest in new music, emerging performers desperately search for other ways to get exposure. They hope to place their self-produced tracks on a curated streaming playlist, or license their songs for use in advertising or the closing credits of a TV show. Those options might generate some royalty income, but they do little to build name recognition. You might hear a cool song on a TV commercial, but do you even know the name of the artist? You love your workout playlist at the health club, but how many song titles and band names do you remember? You stream a Spotify new-music playlist in the background while you work, but did you bother to learn who’s singing the songs?
Decades ago, the composer Erik Satie announced the arrival of “furniture music,” a kind of song that would blend seamlessly into the background of our lives. His vision seems closer to reality than ever.
Some people—especially Baby Boomers—tell me that this decline in the popularity of new music is simply the result of lousy new songs. Music used to be better, or so they say. The old songs had better melodies, more interesting harmonies, and demonstrated genuine musicianship, not just software loops, Auto-Tuned vocals, and regurgitated samples.
There will never be another Sondheim, they tell me. Or Joni Mitchell. Or Bob Dylan. Or Cole Porter. Or Brian Wilson. I almost expect these doomsayers to break out in a stirring rendition of “Old Time Rock and Roll,” much like Tom Cruise in his underpants.
Just take those old records off the shelf
I’ll sit and listen to ’em by myself …
I can understand the frustrations of music lovers who get no satisfaction from current mainstream songs, though they try and they try. I also lament the lack of imagination on many modern hits. But I disagree with my Boomer friends’ larger verdict. I listen to two to three hours of new music every day, and I know that plenty of exceptional young musicians are out there trying to make it. They exist. But the music industry has lost its ability to discover and nurture their talents.
Music-industry bigwigs have plenty of excuses for their inability to discover and adequately promote great new artists. The fear of copyright lawsuits has made many in the industry deathly afraid of listening to unsolicited demo recordings. If you hear a demo today, you might get sued for stealing its melody—or maybe just its rhythmic groove—five years from now. Try mailing a demo to a label or producer, and watch it return unopened.
The people whose livelihood depends on discovering new musical talent face legal risks if they take their job seriously. That’s only one of the deleterious results of the music industry’s overreliance on lawyers and litigation, a hard-ass approach they once hoped would cure all their problems, but now does more harm than good. Everybody suffers in this litigious environment except for the partners at the entertainment-law firms, who enjoy the abundant fruits of all these lawsuits and legal threats.
The problem goes deeper than just copyright concerns. The people running the music industry have lost confidence in new music. They won’t admit it publicly—that would be like the priests of Jupiter and Apollo in ancient Rome admitting that their gods are dead. Even if they know it’s true, their job titles won’t allow such a humble and abject confession. Yet that is exactly what’s happening. The moguls have lost their faith in the redemptive and life-changing power of new music. How sad is that? Of course, the decision makers need to pretend that they still believe in the future of their business, and want to discover the next revolutionary talent. But that’s not what they really think. Their actions speak much louder than their empty words.
In fact, nothing is less interesting to music executives than a completely radical new kind of music. Who can blame them for feeling this way? The radio stations will play only songs that fit the dominant formulas, which haven’t changed much in decades. The algorithms curating so much of our new music are even worse. Music algorithms are designed to be feedback loops, ensuring that the promoted new songs are virtually identical to your favorite old songs. Anything that genuinely breaks the mold is excluded from consideration almost as a rule. That’s actually how the current system has been designed to work.
Even the music genres famous for shaking up the world—rock or jazz or hip-hop—face this same deadening industry mindset. I love jazz, but many of the radio stations focused on that genre play songs that sound almost the same as what they featured 10 or 20 years ago. In many instances, they actually are the same songs.
Read: BTS’s ‘Dynamite’ could upend the music industry
This state of affairs is not inevitable. A lot of musicians around the world—especially in Los Angeles and London—are conducting a bold dialogue between jazz and other contemporary styles. They are even bringing jazz back as dance music. But the songs they release sound dangerously different from older jazz, and are thus excluded from many radio stations for that same reason. The very boldness with which they embrace the future becomes the reason they get rejected by the gatekeepers.
A country record needs to sound a certain way to get played on most country radio stations or playlists, and the sound those DJs and algorithms are looking for dates back to the prior century. And don’t even get me started on the classical-music industry, which works hard to avoid showcasing the creativity of the current generation. We are living in an amazing era of classical composition, with one tiny problem: The institutions controlling the genre don’t want you to hear it.
The problem isn’t a lack of good new music. It’s an institutional failure to discover and nurture it.
I learned the danger of excessive caution long ago, when I consulted for huge Fortune 500 companies. The single biggest problem I encountered—shared by virtually every large company I analyzed—was investing too much of their time and money into defending old ways of doing business, rather than building new ones. We even had a proprietary tool for quantifying this misallocation of resources that spelled out the mistakes in precise dollars and cents.
Senior management hated hearing this, and always insisted that defending the old business units was their safest bet. After I encountered this embedded mindset again and again and saw its consequences, I reached the painful conclusion that the safest path is usually the most dangerous. If you pursue a strategy—whether in business or your personal life—that avoids all risk, you might flourish in the short run, but you flounder over the long term. That’s what is now happening in the music business.
Even so, I refuse to accept that we are in some grim endgame, witnessing the death throes of new music. And I say that because I know how much people crave something that sounds fresh and exciting and different. If they don’t find it from a major record label or algorithm-driven playlist, they will find it somewhere else. Songs can go viral nowadays without the entertainment industry even noticing until it has already happened. That will be how this story ends: not with the marginalization of new music, but with something radical emerging from an unexpected place.
The apparent dead ends of the past were circumvented the same way. Music-company execs in 1955 had no idea that rock and roll would soon sweep away everything in its path. When Elvis took over the culture—coming from the poorest state in America, lowly Mississippi—they were more shocked than anybody. It happened again the following decade, with the arrival of the British Invasion from lowly Liverpool (again, a working-class place, unnoticed by the entertainment industry). And it happened again when hip-hop, a true grassroots movement that didn’t give a damn how the close-minded CEOs of Sony or Universal viewed the marketplace, emerged from the Bronx and South Central and other impoverished neighborhoods.
If we had the time, I would tell you more about how the same thing has always happened. The troubadours of the 11th century, Sappho, the lyric singers of ancient Greece, and the artisan performers of the Middle Kingdom in ancient Egypt transformed their own cultures in a similar way. Musical revolutions come from the bottom up, not the top down. The CEOs are the last to know. That’s what gives me solace. New music always arises in the least expected place, and when the power brokers aren’t even paying attention. It will happen again. It certainly needs to. The decision makers controlling our music institutions have lost the thread. We’re lucky that the music is too powerful for them to kill.
Due to an editing error, this article originally stated that Erik Satie had «warned» of the arrival of «furniture music.» Satie didn’t oppose the idea of furniture music; he was simply announcing its arrival.
This story was adapted from a post on Ted Gioia’s Substack, The Honest Broker. ​​When you buy a book using a link on this page, we receive a commission. Thank you for supporting The Atlantic.

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Eurovision 2023: The running order of the semifinals has been revealed!

Greece’s song for Eurovision 2023, by Victor Vernicos, was released a few days ago with the title “What They Say”!

The Eurovisionfun team once again watched and reacted to the official video clip of the country’s entry for the upcoming Eurovision contest! Enjoy Apostolos, Paschalis, Stella and Apostolis in a Reaction video with detailed commentary on Greece‘s participation, for 2023!.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to be the first to enjoy interviews, reaction videos and Live s.

The analyzes of the fans and not only for a few minutes have been on fire, since the theories based on the prehistory of the countries in the contest, are a first picture of how passable is the qualification to the final or not. In other words, it’s time to make our predictions about who will advance to the final and who are the favorites to say goodbye to Liverpool early…

Turin will host the 67th Eurovision Song Contest from May 9th to 13th at the Liverpool Arena. The motto of this year’s event, as chosen by the organizers is “The Sound of Beauty”.

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Beyonce UK Renaissance Tour 2023: Dates & How To Get Tickets

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It’s finally happening.

Calling all members of the Bey Hive! The time has finally come. Beyoncé has announced that she will be touring her latest album, ‘Renaissance’, released in July last year. Much to our delight, the superstar confirmed the live dates were happening at the Wearable Art Gala in California on October 22, when two tickets and a full backstage pass were put on auction.

Although the rumours of the 2023 tour have been confirmed, there still remains a lot of speculation around the dates of the UK leg, as well as whether Beyonce will be joining Elton John as a headliner at Glastonbury 2023. There is a lot of hype around Bey returning to British shores and a lot of fans will be trying to secure their seats to see her perform. We expect that when the tickets drop for ‘Renaissance’ in the UK they will sell out mega fast, so make sure to keep an eye out.

If you want to find out how to cuff your tickets to the ‘Renaissance’ tour then keep reading. Here is everything you need to know about Beyoncé’s 2023 UK shows.

The singer has been very secretive with any news of her tour and is yet to release any dates of pre-sale or general sale tickets. In true Bey fashion, she is keeping the Bey Hive very much on its toes.

No tickets have been released yet, so we don’t know exactly how much the ‘Renaissance’ tickets will cost. However, it is likely that the price will depend on where you sit.

For her ‘Formation’ tour shows in the UK, Beyonce’s tickets ranged from £77.50 to £385. It can only be assumed that tickets for this much-awaited tour won’t come cheap and may be much higher than that.

The ‘Break My Soul’ singer is yet to release any dates or venues for her ‘Renaissance’ tour and could announce them at any moment.

During her previous tours of the UK, Beyonce has made recurring visits to venues in London, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester. We can only hope that she will be making a return to these areas in her upcoming tour.

Now that the tour has been announced, there has been a lot of speculation around who Bey will be choosing to follow her around the world to open the show for her.

There have been rumours that Beyoncé has been considering British girl group Flo, who will receive the Rising Star Award at the 2023 Brit Awards. Other potential openers who will join Bey on stage are the Nigerian singer Tems, as well as English singer and rapper Bree Runway.
Beyonce’s last tour in the UK was back in 2018 with her husband Jay-Z for her show ‘On The Run II’. The couple performed a total of six acts that included a mix of both of the stars’ songs such as ‘Crazy in Love’, ‘99 Problems’ and ‘Run the World (Girls)’.

They started the tour in Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester and London before moving onto the rest of Europe and finishing the tour back in the USA.

Before that, Bey toured the UK in 2016 with The Formation World Tour in support of her album ‘Lemonade’.

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11 Best Music Festivals of 2022 – Esquire

You may have missed Coachella but there are plenty of open air raves left to be had this year.
Back in 2020, many didn’t believe that we’d be rubbing shoulders with fellow-music lovers and screaming lyrics to our favorite songs at music venues together. With .css-umdwtv{-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-decoration-thickness:.0625rem;text-decoration-color:#FF3A30;text-underline-offset:0.25rem;color:inherit;-webkit-transition:background 0.4s;transition:background 0.4s;background:linear-gradient(#ffffff, #ffffff 50%, #d5dbe3 50%, #d5dbe3);-webkit-background-size:100% 200%;background-size:100% 200%;}.css-umdwtv:hover{color:#000000;text-decoration-color:border-link-body-hover;-webkit-background-position:100% 100%;background-position:100% 100%;}Coachella back this year, one thing is clear for 2022: music festivals have been normalized again. Maybe you went and are desperate for more, wondering what to do with that leftover festival fever. Maybe you didn’t and the jealousy is too much to bear. Either way, don’t fret, Esquire complied a list of music festivals taking place the rest of the year.
Miami, FL – May 20-22
Minneapolis, MN – June 18-19
Afropunk is back again this year and is bringing with it the usual: groundbreaking arts, fashion and music from the Black community. Ari Lennox, Noname and Mereba are all set to perform at the festival, which will take place in Miami in May, and in Minneapolis over Juneteenth weekend, marking the first ever Afropunk event in the Midwest.
.css-1lxmaj6{background:#ffffff;background-color:#ffffff;-webkit-background-size:100% 200%;background-size:100% 200%;border:thin solid #FF3A30;border-radius:2rem;color:#000;display:inline-block;font-family:Lausanne,Arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.875rem;letter-spacing:0.04rem;line-height:1.3;padding:0.6rem 1.125rem 0.3125rem;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;text-decoration-color:#FF3A30;text-decoration-thickness:.0625rem;text-transform:uppercase;text-underline-offset:0.25rem;-webkit-transition:all 0.3s ease-in-out;transition:all 0.3s ease-in-out;white-space:pre-line;width:auto;}@media(max-width: 73.75rem){.css-1lxmaj6{margin:0rem;}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-1lxmaj6{margin:0rem;}}.css-1lxmaj6:focus-visible{outline-color:body-cta-btn-link-focus;}.css-1lxmaj6:hover{color:#000;text-decoration-color:border-link-body-hover;-webkit-background-position:100% 100%;background-position:100% 100%;background-color:#FF3A30;}Buy Tickets, Miami
Buy Tickets, Minneapolis

Boston, MA
May 27-29

Boston Calling Music Festival is looking to make Memorial Day weekend one to remember. Nine Inch Nails, The Strokes and Metallica are all set to headline the three-day festival. The former are joined by impressive acts such as Haim, Weezer, Avril Lavigne, Black Pumas and more.
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New York, NY
June 10-12

Governors Ball, as always, will deliver another year incredible music, and some of the best NYC eats. This year festival-goers will be heading to Citi Field Lots, Queens to see the likes of Kid Cudi, Halsey and J-Cole, Roddy Ricch, Glass Animals, among others.
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Manchester, TN
June 16-19

Described as «the most positive place on this planet,» Bonnaroo is the place to be this summer. This year’s acts include Ludacris, 100 Gecs, and Marc Rebillet. There’s also a ton of electronic and pop punk acts set to perform at Bonnaroo. If you’ve never experienced Bonnaroo, it may be time for you to put on your camping shoes and head to Tennessee.
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Chicago, IL
July 15-16

If you’re wondering where all of the cool alternative artists will be this summer, you can find them at Pitchfork. For years, Pitchfork has been tagging themselves as «the most trusted voice in music.» Based on this year’s line-up, Pitchfork definitely has a taste for great music. Artists such as The National, Mitski and The Roots will be headlining the three-day weekend, where they’ll be followed by a slew of talented acts like Japanese Breakfast, Earl Sweatshirt, Tierra Whack, Amber Mark and more.
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Newport, RI
July 22-24

Being one of the first modern music festivals in the US with a 60-year-run, you can expect Newport Festival to be nothing short of extraordinary. For decades the festival has boasted renowned performances and an astounding cultural atmosphere. This year is no different, with artists all the way from Clairo to Beebadoobee, Buffalo Nichols, Maren Morris and more set to take the stage in Rhode Island.
Tickets are currently sold out, but there is an option to join the waitlist.
Join Waitlist
Chicago, IL
July 28-31

LollaPalooza, the Chicago-based festival, is back this year with Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, Green Day, Lil Baby, Kygo and many others. Alongside a myriad of colorful outfits, you can expect to find incredible restaurants in the Windy City.
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Las Vegas, NV
September 16-18

Life is Beautiful festival coming to the Las Vegas area this September. Alongside music, the festival also offers culinary, art, and learning experiences in Downtown Vegas. This seems like a wonderful bonus to an incredible lineup. Artists like Lorde, Arctic Monkeys, Gorillaz, Jack Harlow and more are set to perform.
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Los Angeles, CA
September 16-18

After being canceled for the past two years, due to COVID-19, Primavera Sound is ready to shake American audiences. Artists such as James Blake, Nine Inch Nails, Cigarettes After Sex, Lorde, King Krule and many others are booked for the festival’s 2022 debut.
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Franklin, TN
September 24-25

The multi-genre weekend festival is set to make its eight year return this September. Chris Stapleton and Brandi Carlisle, who both received Grammy nominations this year, are set to headline the festival. Another Grammy winner on the bill is Jon Batiste, who actually earned the highest number of nominations by the Recording Academy this year. The complete line-up also features a number of other impressive musicians like The Avett Brothers, Elle King, Lennon Stella, Lake Street Drive and more.
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Las Vegas, NV
October 22-29

Emo and Pop-Punk fans can rejoice because all of your favorite artists are set to take the stage in Las Vegas this Fall with the When We Were Young Festival. The new festival boast an impeccable set list, which is already sold out. Artists such as Bring Me To the Horizon, Pierce the Veil, Avril Lavigne, Sleeping With Sirens are set to perform. Paramore and My Chemical Romance will be the festival’s headliners.
Join Waitlist

Ammal Hassan is a writer and Esquire’s Snapchat Editor. She covers all things culture with a focus on music and pop culture. She is from Nairobi, Kenya and lives in New York City. 
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