In January’s Atlantic, music critic Ted Gioia assesses the alarming reality of the U.S. music market in the wake of a recent analysis performed by MRC Data, a music analytics firm. Essentially, old music composes 70% of the American market, and if that isn’t dismaying enough, the market for new music is growing increasingly smaller.

“All the growth in the market is coming from old songs,” Gioia writes.

My editor had shared the piece with me and asked if I had any HSOs (Hot Sports Opinions) about it. I don’t. Well, not really. There will never be a time in the perpetuation of human history when “Love the One You’re With” and “Raspberry Beret” are not playing, and I suspect that even after we have succeeded in roasting ourselves off the face of the Earth, somewhere, somehow — perhaps sitting in a tin can high above the world — “All I Want for Christmas Is You” will bounce out of a speaker for six weeks every 12 months until the end of goddamn time.


Why? Because the modern music industry was built by and for the boomer generation, and, like crippling debt, adult diapers, and endless wars, the industry’s structures were designed to make money and continue on as close to forever as possible. When humans finally, literally have to answer the question, “Who runs Bartertown?,” I hope that our unfortunate descendants will have the good sense to put on “We Don’t Need Another Hero.”

Gioia looks at other metrics about new music, including the declining viewership of the Grammys, an annual tradition that holds very little interest for me. And the more I read, the more I realized that on a macro scale — in a universe where “Bohemian Rhapsody” will never not fill a person’s ears — fretting about the dominance of old music is pointless because I think about who makes music on a micro, local level far more than I wonder what Boz Skaggs is up to, and when I get on those trains of thought, I wonder what drives local musicians to go to the trouble of making music in the first place, without any regard to whether or not someone will give them money in exchange for their effort. And I think the answers vary, but the one I like best is basically “What else am I going to do with this feeling and this skillset?”

So, who cares if the market for new music is shrinking. It’s not like it was ever that broad in the first place. And anyway, one day, the Rolling Stones will all be dead, and maybe a new band that sounds like them can slide into their spot. In the meantime, people will still learn how to play “Satisfaction” and be content with just that. — Steve Steward


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