Do old concerts kill new music?

Why does it seem like the old is eating the new in pop culture? This summer’s song is arguably Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” which was released in 1985. It was launched by the summer’s most-watched global TV show, Stranger Things– A tribute to the 1980s.In movies, the biggest hits of the season are Top Gun: Maverick– A sequel to the 1986 film. The eighties were four decades ago!

The triumph of nostalgia and cultural familiarity goes deeper than a summer.The five biggest movies of the year are second Top Gunsecond Doctor Strangesixth Jurassic Parkthe 14th Batman-related movie, the 5th despicable Me. Stunning original films such as everything everywherepops up everywhere, but as far as dunk blockbusters go, the past decade has suffered from the curse of new movies.

There’s also a new musical curse. Total music consumption for album sales, track purchases and streaming is on the rise. But consumption of new music has dropped. The entire growth of music has occurred in so-called catalogue music or oldies.

What’s going on here? Today’s guest is Ted Joya. We talk about his viral article “Do Old Concerts Kill New Music?”, the dearth of young Hollywood stars, and the rise of risk aversion in American culture and business.

If you have any questions, observations or thoughts about future episodes, please email PlainEnglish@Spotify.com. You can find us on TikTok at www.tiktok.com/@plainenglish_.


Derek explains his thesis that old music is killing new music, including how music listening and consumption habits have changed over time.

Derek Thompson: So you wrote this viral article “Do old concerts kill new music?” and I wanted to start there. What is your argument?

Tedgioa: It’s very interesting when you look at the numbers because there are clear trends there. I find this to be a very disturbing trend as more and more music consumption in the US is tilting towards what they call “catalogs” over time. These are songs that are over 18 months old, but in fact, when you dig into it, in many ways it seems like these songs are over 10, 20, 30 years old. Everything seems to be converging here. Data now shows that more than 70% of streaming songs are old songs. Just a few months ago, it was only 65% ​​and 66%, so it’s still slowly rising.

Beyond that, the biggest area of ​​investment you’ll find in music is publishing catalogs of older artists. When I say older artists, I mean older artists, people older than me — when you get that, that’s pretty old. But we’re talking about musicians in the ’80s, ’70s, you have Bob Dylan or Paul Simon, and people are snapping up those catalogs. In fact, they invest much more in old music rights than new music. This has never happened in the history of song unless you go back to the Middle Ages. Go back 1,000 years and you might find something similar. But now that it’s just coming out, people want to invest in old songs.

Finally, I’ll add that it’s interesting that wherever I go, I hear old music. I walked into a store and the staff were half my size, but they were listening to songs I grew up with. I go to a restaurant, same thing. I asked the server and I said, “Why are you listening to these old songs?” She looked at me in surprise and she said, “I love these songs.” I thought it was like the boss, I thought there was a guy in the back room Eighty-something bosses are ordering this, but it’s everywhere. Now that you’re seeing these old hits back on the charts lately, you can’t deny that old hits are squeezing new ones.

Thompson: So listeners tend to tend to old music, and investments tend to tend to old music, and I’m equally interested in both phenomena. Before we get into why this is happening, I want you to tell me how unique this moment is. Because I think regular fans always underestimate how important old music is to the music industry. Catalogs are very lucrative for record companies, that has always been true, and by the way, other media too. On TV, reruns are lucrative.In the book industry, fallback catalogs are really lucrative: like 9 trillion copies the great gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye Already sold in high school. Like the Bible, for Pete’s sake. So, do we have music data from the heyday of CD or vinyl that we can point to and we can say, “Wow, new music used to be really important, but now the old is eating the new”?

Gioia: The data is ambiguous. I’ve been trying to drill down to get consistent information for decades, but I haven’t been able to find it. But when you find this information, you see that the music industry has been built around new songs for decades, and you can measure it in a number of ways. You can see what’s on display in the record store. You can listen to what they play on the radio. When you go to their house to check out their record collection, you can see what their friends have. You can see whose concerts are sold out. All this information is there. I wish I could synthesize it into a chart of some kind of leading indicator, but it’s hard to do. In fact, numbers in the music industry are harder to understand than ever because there was a day when they measured sales, but now there are no sales. When they tell you these are the best-selling songs in the country, they’re not really talking about sales, they’re talking about people watching videos or whatever. As a result, data is increasingly difficult to track.

But I think it’s unavoidable, especially when you see research now coming from the same market research group using the same methodology year after year. So, for example, if old music was 67% of consumption last year, and this year it’s 72%, 73%, then you can’t deny those numbers. But honestly, you try to measure them, and they’re not good.

Another thing I want to be able to measure is how much money teens spend on music. I searched everywhere for this data. But I know there was a time, I mean, back in my days, you spent quite a bit of your budget, or your pocket money – I guess that’s the word you use, your pocket money – you Might be spending a third of your pocket money on music. You are buying an album or anything. Now I find that when I talk to teens, I ask them, “Are you paying for a streaming subscription?” Usually they just piggyback on the parent’s subscription, and I’d love to be able to measure that. But I think if you look at the actual numbers, you’ll see that per capita spending by young people on all kinds of music has collapsed.

This excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity.

Moderator: Derek Thompson
Guest: Ted Joya
Producer: Devon Manzer

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