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Maybe younger people just don't get the same sense of participatory identity from collective acts of passive consumption that older people did, because their media technology has become so interactive that it psychologically rewards them more for being less passive. The horror... the horror...

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The larger shift is from TV to video games. Even TV is comparatively much more interactive than it used to be. But plenty of people my age (53) quickly discovered that we felt pointlessly teased surfing 1000 channels of crap only to possibly end up watching the same Columbo episodes we had seen a decade or two earlier when it was almost all that was on. People who grew up with better options to play games are not necessarily less passive by every measure, but they have a different relationship with passivity. Political protest even for people born after about 1965 doesn't mean smoking pot while we watch a protest on TV. We understand that's not how things work. GenX has been estimated as 5 times as likely as Boomers to participate in political protest. But you'd never know that watching a bunch of Nam documentaries on various satellite TV channels. It seems like the activity of the young (and I do mean people younger than me) is resented and ignored by the elderly (and I do mean people oldert than me) not merely as a supposed waste of focus, but also because the elderly think that their own passivity is somehow more socially relevant than someone else's activity. Fuck that.

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I don't have that yet. I do have a Youtube channel since about a year ago, but it's mostly math lessons. I haven't really identified what, if anything, readers would want to see in my substack. Do you have one?

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hmm, downloaded perhaps encompasses streaming in this context. Which is even worse in the long run, as it suggests no long lasting attachment to the music.

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I will say this, one of my son's best friends has taken up guitar and is all classic rock and newer stuff like Metallica. "Talismanic" Yep! And for good reason. I remember waiting impatiently for the Wall to come out and just pouring over the artwork, the producer (Ezrin) and all the rest while listening to it completely back to back to back... I have bought my older son CDs and he still relies on streaming.

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[ There is a lot of great music being created now that is not getting the attention that it merits.] It doesn't necessarily merit more attention. It necessarily merits more acknowledgment by supposed cultural analysts. High quality is one of the reasons why the Long Tail keeps getting longer. That that also means mainstream content becomes more formulaic is comparatively small down side for a lot of consumers, and people professionally griping about it seem to be missing at least half the total picture. It makes me want to give them Thorazine and sit them on the porch to shout at neighborhood kids to get off the lawn.

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[I'm not sure I totally follow your point.] My point is that people are trying to use the same metrics they were using 30 years ago to try to gauge cultural relevance of new music. That can't work like it used to because 20% of published music no longer accounts for 80% of music sales. Older people dismissing as "obscure" stuff that doesn't chart, despite that some of it is nonetheless profitable due to high quality creative risk-taking, have missed the point that whatever charts at this point is also mostly obscure in real terms when measured against stuff that charted before the long tail. Putting the same string of 10 or 40 or 100 rank numerals in front of a list of song titles as was put in front of some other list a year ago does not mean that the similarly ranked songs are just as relevant as the previous songs. If they're comparatively more insipid, that just indicates the increased desperation of music executives to play things as safely as they can in order to try to compete with an ever-expanding long tail. Moreover, mainstream music itself, in math terms, is also increasingly obscure; it's just the least obscure thing among other obscure things. Marketers can easily be tempted to cling to long past hits because the comparatively greater relevance of those hits in context can easily tempt one to choose to believe that the structure of that context doesn't greatly explain the comparative relevance. But it DOES. Consumers appeared to be more fanatic about what they chose to consume when there was a lot less to choose from. This shouldn't really be all that mysterious. But it seems like a lot of older people are treating it as if that were not the obvious explanation. Wishful thinking, Boomers. Your preferred music sounded comparatively spectacular largely because there wasn't all that much else to compare it to. Then you got anchored, and you're still anchored.

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[Part of this is just about neuroplasticity.] I'm 53. Try hearing a a Darth Vegas album one time. Then listen to Sevish for a couple of hours and come back to Darth Vegas. You'll find yourself thinking "why did I think this sounded weird before?". I dare you.

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Jan 19, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

The internet was to bring us "the long tail." Now the tail is consuming the body?

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Whether Ouroboros or some other demon, we may need a very angry Buddha to set it right

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Ouroboros - Cleveland 1980s "rock n soul" band. I wouldn't bet on them setting things right. The people who came to our bar wouldn't even dance to them and Ohio bands used to say that our crowd would dance to anything.

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The trend that produces the long tail in the first place, ceteris paribus, should be expected to cause the long tail to expand toward some limit. But what's the limit?

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What does this reference to "the long tail" mean? I'm unfamiliar with that expression.

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Jan 19, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

People will always want something new. Not necessarily new to the world; but new to their relative experience.

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I think that you are absolutely right, new to their relative experience. Could not have been better stated.

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No, Boomers want to be told that what is familiar to them can be made to sound new to younger people. Sadly, that's not totally impossible.

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Yes, and Spotify provides plenty of that sort of newness. I listen to tons of music that is new to me, but wasn't released in the last 18 months. In the old music business of physical product, lots of things went out of print and disappeared. So only hardcore collectors would find them. For everybody else, they were effectively invisible. This made it much easier to keep people focused on the new releases, because they weren't competing with as many back catalog items. Now, if I want to listen to 14 Lonnie Johnson albums, it's very easy to do. So that's what this late Boomer/Gen Jones dude does. I learn more about genres and artists I'm curious about. More often that not, that leads me back to older artists vs. new releases. I think that's true of a lot of people.

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Pay the artist directly if you enjoy their music. If you want to make minimum wage, you’d need to make $7.25 per hour at the federal level. So you’d have to make that times 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year. That comes out to $290 per week or $15,080 per year.

With a higher-than-average rate per stream, you’d need at least 2,792,593 streams per year. If your average is closer to $0.0032 per stream, you’d need 4,712,500 streams.

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Thank you for writing about this; I have been concerned about it. I have to think, though, that these are ALL foolish investments, because much of this music is very very old, almost as old as I am. In 20 years, a good part of it will be 80 years old.

That would be the equivalent of listening to music from 1895 when I started college in 1975.

This is just setting up yet another Beatlemania opportunity, where a young, hip group blows away the music industry. Great music is viral, and nothing can stop the spread of great music.

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But new music is mostly crap. Hate to sound like my old man but it's true.

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Agreed. All you have to know about the music industry today is that they picked Billy Eilish to be the Next Big Thing a year or two ago. She can barely sing at all. She incomprehensibly stage whispers most of her songs, and has to hide behind heavy autotuning the rest of the time. People like the old music because it's just demonstrably better in pretty much every regard.

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She can sing despite the auto-tune, which is used for effect. In her case the music is pretty good.

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She has an ok-ish voice, but the real star is the production and arrangement. Bury a friend is a real cinematic ear-turner.

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Lazy listening then.

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"Old music" = good and relevant music. They try to feed us with hip-hop and other crap when many people wants rock and other alternative things. We can see the kind of music radios and TV push and it´s only crap that sounds the same. "old music" is original, meaningful and way better than the crap being recorded from the last 15-20 years.

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New music is mostly not part of the mainstream commercial music system. What gets through has been filtered down to the least risky elements. Boomers need to be willing to shop to it, so it needs to sound "new" only in totally irrelevant ways. Meanwhile: THE LONG TAIL is taking more and more of the younger music market. That's not so bad for people who just want to make enough money to keep making music. It's horrible for people who need to be rock stars, or who want to invest in rock star fanaticism. That's why media people are eager to hear you join them in complaining.

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I agree, Mike - new music has no melody stream, and there is no "story" to the lyrics. Unless it is "chill" music, it is not something to which you can study, think, meditate or even carry on a conversation with another person.

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Ralph Murphy claims that melody draws people into the song and the lyric keeps them there. If this is true, then the lyric only gets its chance if melody does its job first. I have studied the problem of how melody engages attention for the last 30 years. I can tell you it doesn't work the way most people think it does. Today's pop songs are not necessarily worse melodically than many songs of the past, but they depend less on things like tonal dominant function to engage listener interest. A lot of what people say was better melody decades ago was simply that pop harmonies sounded more like 18th Century German church music. Maybe it's OK that the pop market has finally started to drift away from that aesthetic and the use of dominant function as a crutch in place of more direct engagement by rhythm and pitch contour; by entrainment and disentrainment. OTOH, the new crutches are also not all great. Melodies that are basically the supertonic pitch intermittent with some other junk seem to do with very mild dissonance what Liber Usualis does with modal dominant tones. On that basis, it's hard to criticize more than a little what's actually being done, considering larger historical context. I'm just sort of waiting for pop stars to realize that figures that look like escape tones have more attention maintenance value than figures that look like appogiaturae, ceteris paribus. I would tell them if they asked me. In terms of there being no story, stories have never really been all that necessary. Aristotle said that the poet's first obligation is to delight listeners with the sound of the words. Lyric prose is a thing, but it's not the only thing. What matters in the arts today, and what has always mattered in pop music, is the effect of emotional communication; the "narrative meaning" has to serve the "emotional meaning"; not the other way around. If you look at children's nursery rhymes that apparently survived many generations, you'll see some kind of narrative content, but it seems to be there only to produce emotional effects of some kind; it is often rather incoherent, and assumes that listeners will choose to contruct some kind of meaning if the sounds simply match up well enough. Poetic effects and musical effects engage parts of the brain that mere narrative does not engage. A song may also be a story, but it has to be an experience first or it won't engage. Whether current pop songs are experiential, not whether current pop songs are coherent stories, is the important question.

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Hummmm – I’ll give you that we are moving into a new dimension and dynamic in music – but I don’t think I’m willing to listen while our minds make it to the next level. This “moving into” session is much to difficult for my 18th century classically trained mind to appreciate. I don’t have the stamina or the time. I’ll have to wait until my teenage grandson’s tinkering on the piano moves me into that new dynamic and dimension.

But thank you for sharing your learned experience and thoughts with me.

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I actually don't see cultural change as necessarily having steps or levels. The appearance of progress seems to be related to the fact that the past tends to get mostly absorbed into the future rather than lost. When parts of the past appear to be getting lost, people must be mostly wrong to say that the culture is regressing or deteriorating, because less and less of the past is getting lost in each generation and with each new trend or movement. But it's important to have some number of alarmists at least alerting us to plausible cultural risks. A simple litmus test for me is whether it's easier or harder for me to hear medieval music than it was for my grandmother to hear medival music at my age. It's easier. A lot easier.

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Most of the new music that is promoted is not very good. Quality stuff is out there, but you have to look for it. I think Ed Sheeran's lyrics and music are good and there is a new artist who just released a quality album- Nick Marzock Disengage (Nov 2021). Again, you have to sort through the noise to find true talent like that.

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I agree with you but the problem here, in my opinion, at least here in Portugal, is the lack of push for rock and other alternative music. In cable TV we have like 6 or 7 channels of hip-hop, rap, R&B, etc. We don´t have anything with rock and other kind of music. In the radio is the same thing. But in parallel in Portugal, you have many sold out venues for rock, metal, punk, hardcore, etc... So it doesn´t surprise me that the market is not delivering what many people wants to hear.

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Our culture is not capable of producing another Beatles.

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It’s the same with cars — they’ll never be simple and pure again. Men used to work on their cars in their driveways, nothing was computerized, and the structure was understood, all while powering a rush of joy through an optimistic, prosperous nation. The old cars are getting top dollar these days because the sweet spot for the automobile has passed, just as it has for rock and roll.

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Talk about a broken record.......Ever notice how little music - good or bad - comes out of the climate change or social justice movements? That's how you can tell the world does not have its heart in them.

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As if you would know!

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That's an interesting observation!

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The Germans make great cars and still have a vibrant cities and public transit. That's because they built their autobahns around cities rather than through them. But wait, guys - aren't we here to talk about music?

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Because new cars are not "pure," it doesn't mean that there aren't great new cars. Same goes for new music. It's a different type of music, just like when rock 'n roll was first introduced. There is an audience for everything, and new music will continue to survive in some form. Right now, I just think there are too many new artists dividing up the pie. Count the number of bands who were around 50 years ago, and then count the number of new artists today. The selection of new artists today is astounding!

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Naw. There were millions of garage bands around, the creme rose to the top. Artist vs. Musician? But they actually played and didn't stroke a computer key board. They sang it straight. Gave us their souls imperfections included. Autotune. WTF is that!? Shish smh.

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We would want to because we would get some great songs. I doubt the premise though. We could have a Beatles but they won’t be as big.

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Only the Beatles were the Beatles and half of them are dead. So what you're talking about is a cultural phenomenon that lives in the same space as the Beatles. My first question would be: if such a thing existed, would you even recognize it? You'd be talking about a band/musician that appealed to throngs of 13-27 year olds. How much music do you listen to that is written for people that age? Taylor Swift is pretty impressive—her music doesn't appeal to me much—but she writes her own songs either by herself or in collaboration, embeds clever jokes and puzzles, plays with different styles. Maybe Taylor Swift is 'The Beatles." If you find yourself rejecting that idea, you should ask yourself why. My second question would be does the space that they filled even exist any more? I have two kids, 14 and 16, and their favorite musician is a guy with YouTube channel with 2,000 subscribers. The internet changed EVERYTHING and killed the mono culture that a 'Beatles' phenomenon requires.

My argument is that the culture generates what it needs and industry either helps or hinders that. To want "the Beatles" is to allow nostalgia to blind you to what's happening now that's good.

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I wasn’t anywhere near born when the Beatles were performing. More than a decade passed in fact after they had broken up before I was born. So it’s hardly nostalgic.

By the way this is an insanely wordy response to a fairly simple query. Why wouldn’t we want the Beatles, or their song writing chops. In any era. By any medium.

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Are we word shaming? What an odd thing to say. People can absolutely be nostalgic for times/places they've never been, it's what 90% of the tourism industry in Paris is based on. Or perhaps, maybe you're too young to remember, the swing trend of the late 90s. The Beatles were specific people, if they were around right now they wouldn't have been raised in skiffle music or the hip trad jazz scene of the British 50's, they'd have been raised on... I don't think I'm in a position to know. I think that people disappoint themselves expecting culture to continue to produce what they're comfortable with and what they recognize. Boomers especially seem to think that young people exist to produce culture that they can easily digest when it's not really for them.

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There hasn’t been a new Beatles since the Beatles. The market is too wide for one band to dominate at that level.

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Wide like the Platte River? A mile wide, an inch deep?

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Plus you've got a dysfunctional industry environment in which Anthony Kiedis was able to pretty much single-handedly shut down a Beatles-quality operation like Mr. Bungle. It's plain sick.

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There is a group like the Beatles, not the exact same because no one is, but they don't sing in English so Westerners won't have anything to do with it because of xenophobia.

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This comment is the equivalent of Yogi Berras “nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.”

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Excuse me? Would you like to explain that or are you too "edgy"?

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Is not understanding the words and therefore being unable to connect to the message "xenophobia"? Sounds like a reach.

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Automatically dismissing something because "it's in another language" is completely xenophobia. Music is music. I know, it might require **gasp** reading, but stop being intellectually lazy and demanding things be spoonfed to you.

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How about you consider also being not intellectually lazy by naming the band.

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Jan 27, 2022·edited Jan 27, 2022

And because we can't understand them?

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Yes, it's so difficult when you have to read, I know. I mean, actually having to read about wet a** pu**y would just destroy most people. Music transcends language, at least for people who truly like music.

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"We demand you learn a 2nd language so that WE are comfortable listening to your music, but our artists are only going to sing in English and you'd better just deal with it."

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But are the songs they write being sung in English? Bad Bunny and BTS are the only ones whom I've seen, and BTS had to put out an all English, very dumbed down song in order to even crack the top 10. The 300+ songs they've put out in Korean have been top sellers and streamers all over the world, but radio won't play them. Of course, their company won't pay to play either. But their music is very eclectic, from rock to hip hop to ballads to EDM to pop, there isn't a genre they haven't covered. And their songs are about relevant issues, mental health, self love, racism, even the educational system. Yet they are just dismissed by the Western music industry, even openly mocked.

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Have they recorded? If so, please name them. I'd love to hear them.

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Not sure who you are speaking to?

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You! What is the name of the group you're referring to?

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Thank you!

Reading comments in this thread makes me fully understand "OK, Boomer" (full disclosure: I am a 71 year old BTS A.R.M.Y.) I also understand why it isn't worth my time to even acknowledge anyone who sneers, "Korean boy band" ...

Baepsae will have the last laugh.

DDAENG!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdJl1SL03Ac

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I think it is. But we haven't got the several people who could do it. Also, remember that throughout their fabulous career, The Beatles were deeply eclectic. From the start, they drew on a lot more than the first six years of rock and roll + fantastic applied imagination: traditional English folk music, Broadway, the Motown girl groups' sound, c&w, r&b, and that never failing strikeout pitch, the gorgeous ballad.

I remember reading thirty years ago or more that some then - recording industry A&R rep asserted that if they were to appear twenty - five years later than they had, The Beatles would very likely have remained unsigned, because the public's breadth of taste had shrunk too much for it to accommodate a band as different and as eclectic as The Beatles.

I'm excited that music sales of new product is as sluggish as it is. It may indicate that more instinct for great and interesting new things may have survived than the A&R guy of thirty years ago believed.

Rick Beato has an especially salient video to this matter on YouTube: Why Boomers Hate Today's Pop Music. Seriously, he begins it this way:

1. It has no melody.

2. It has no harmony.

3. It has no interesting rhythm.

At that point, I was giggling, and couldn't concentrate on the rest of what he had to say.

I am giddy that the young are having trouble with it, too.

Maybe we're in an era which is destined to continue until the world ends: an era in which all of the good songs really have been written. If so, society could do worse - it's proven that - than to immerse itself in the thousands of treasures of the past. As an example, I have a ten CD Artie Shaw boxed set which I listened to throughout much of 2013. I have many other examples I could provide.

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I read a comment like this one and I’m perplexed because there is such a breadth of music being recorded right now that it’s a mystery to me how anyone could possibly generalize to that extent. What it says to me is that they aren’t actually listening and their imprisoned by their own mindset.

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Alex, I try to listen! I don't hear anything good! I'm open to learning. I'd love to find interesting new people. Can you name some?

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Bach. Handel. English Baroque. Mozart. Schubert. Beethoven. Brahms. Grieg. Bizet. Faure. Stravinsky. The Great American Songbook writers. Jelly Roll Morton. Sidney Bechet. Louis Armstrong. Bix Beiderbecke. Eddie Lang/Joe Venuti. Red Norvo. "The Austin High Gang," and associates/graduates such as Bud Freeman, Dave Tough, Benny Goodman ( especially the small group sessions ), Bobby Hackett, Pee Wee Russell, Jack Teagarden. Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelli. The glorious Boswell Sisters. Artie Shaw ( I have a 10 CD set of Shaw's work between 1936 - 1942, and it's a treasure ). Fats Waller. Ellington/Strayhorn. Coleman Hawkins. Count Basie. Mary Lou Williams. Charlie Barnet. Woody Herman. Frank Sinatra. Ella Fitzgerald. Irene Kral ( a wonderful, tragically short lived singer ). June Christy. Charlie Christian. Charlie Parker. Thelonious Monk. Bud Powell. Tadd Dameron ( the great Tadd Dameron ). Clifford Brown. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Dorothy Ashby. Les Paul. Miles Davis/John Coltrane. Bill Evans. Earl Hines. Erroll Garner. Wes Montgomery. Antonio Carlos Jobim. Antonio Carlos Jobim. The Beatles. The Beatles. The Beatles. Jacques Brel. The Kinks. Steely Dan. Stevie Wonder.

I know I've unintentionally left people out, but you get the idea.

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Ah, Andy, but why should you refuse to listen to music just because it is 80 years old?

As long as the music is good, what can its age possibly matter?

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Sure. Why not 180 years? Why not 580 years?

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Exactly. If the music is good, what does it matters how old it is?

Can't answer that simple question?

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The article isn't about people refusing to listen to older music. It's about people listening to less new music than supposedly they used to. You'll notice, though, that the article almost exclusively treats the idea that young people are listening to Boomer music, and doesn't examine other facets of the trend that might be more telling, such as whether young people today listen to more medieval music that Boomers did when they were young. Why would they not be?

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Or is it about the people in control aren’t interested in music at all but what makes the most??

There was a time when music execs actually liked music… so did promoters and record execs… now? Not sure.

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[Or is it about the people in control aren’t interested in music at all but what makes the most] The "people in control" are somewhat divisible into those who are trying to milk intellectual property rights and people who are trying to milk the public domain. Eventually, they will begin to conspire more. Disney has really dropped the ball by not adding a distinct bridge to Toot Toot Tootsie so they can sue people who forget to cut off that part when they duplicate. Toot Toot Tootsie is now in public domain, and it's got the millenial whoop for f*ck's sake.

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Isn't much of Classical music primarily written 150-250 years ago?

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Sorry on the delayed response; lots and lots of emails backed up.

That's an excellent point; in fact, almost ALL of the music I listen to is 80 years old; new and old performers, though. I also tend not to listen to any commercial radio as well. My interests are strictly folk music; mostly of the instrumental variety.

However, I like to listen to brand new music sometimes. Not the same old Classic Rock songs that I hear on every commercial, every Target store, every (already noisy) restaurant as background music. This music, the first 10,000 times you hear these songs, is good music, but I am just tired of hearing the same stuff so often. This music is being strip-mined by people who treat it like a thing to be used to get people's attention like flashy ad graphics. This is music I heard on the radio when I was a teenager...a half century ago!

This entire issue is primary a pop/rock/r&b issue. I don't think anyone is going to be giving the heirs of Chick Corea $300 million dollars for his work. [this hasn't happened, right?]

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Doowop forever!

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Real Doowop:

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In the Still of the Night - Fred Parris and The Satins

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBT3oDMCWpI

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I respect purer Doowop. I just don't see it as some kind of fixed museum piece. Doowop variously informs many other kinds of music which are greatly enriched by it.

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I'm wondering if anyone will try to meld classic Doowop with Hiphop? That might be interesting.

For anyone interested, the top Doowop stations are http://doowopcafe.org/ and http://doowopradio.com/. They both stream or you can listen through the web.

What's nice about the Cafe is that they mostly have live DJ's, some of whom used to sing themselves and will talk about the music, not just play song after song. They also have a chat app active so people can interact.

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Jan 19, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

All the issues in jazz audiophile seem to be reissues. Personally I like it but it’s not a good trend. Years ago, my late boss who went to a lot of jazz clubs referred to me as the “guy who likes the dead guys.” There seem to be a lot of people like that nowadays.

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That's a problem with jazz. Once someone has played every wrong note and got away with it, there's no way to innovate.

You could pretty much play random notes in jazz at this point and it would be analyzed as derivative.

The only "innovation" is how much of one thing you're willing to force listeners to hear at once.

Other than spending at least a solid minute on something set class 7-3, there's not much left to do.

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What complete and utter nonsense Joshua.

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Don't you miss the old days of the internet, when trolls were trolls?

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Surely that says more about the perceived market for expensive audiophile releases than it does about the state of jazz.

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I hope you are right about new good music coming from the lowlands. Personally, we have lots of old vinyl and cd's that we have not really listened to carefully. One of my favorite Angolan artists came out with a new album a few months ago, but all I could locate was an mp3.

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If Chutney Soka and tap into the High Life market, that's gonna' be pretty important.

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Not to mention zouk, beguine, cadence et al.

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Sure. I only suggest Chutney Soka because it's already viably co-marketed between India and the Carribean. High Life and Dance Hall are similar enough that if Chutney Soka can adapt to both those markets, it could be the Next Big Thing. I'm betting that teens in Nigeria are ready to hear Shree if the beat is right. Pop musicians have been avoiding Shree for what now seems more and more like no good reason.

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Not familiar with Shree. Had to look it up.

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Like I said, it might be the next big thing. It's what's left still to do.

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The music I listen the most is classical and what I can say to you. This thing (people don't listen to new music, they only listen to the old masters) has been said in that genre for a century. Who knows what will happen, but it is entirely possible that people focus on the past for a long time.

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author

Popular music is increasingly resembling classical music in its veneration of the past—and that's something I never thought I'd say.

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Ted, I've thought it, and discussed it with two or three people, for about thirty years, now.

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Indeed, they even try and sell off digital equipment as the work of the head cook, one door down from heaven...

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Jan 19, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

There's just too much #$@& music. Any kid in a bedsit with a laptop can "compose" a "song", record it, "publish" it and broadcast it. Who's going to listen to all this stuff? Not me. I've had too many disappointments with popcrock; I don't bother any more. Call me a curmudgeon.

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author

But a lovable curmudgeon.

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There are very few popular new artists who possess the talent to write, sing, and record every track on a song, let alone an entire album. Nick Marzock is the Billy Joel or Elton John of our time, but there's too much emphasis on social media numbers and less on talent. That's what is killing the music industry today.

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The "too much music" is true not only for all the Soundcloud/Bandcamp artists trying to break through, but also for all the very good obscure music from decades past that is on offer. After you tire a bit of your Al Green and Aretha Franklin records, for example, you can spend years learning about artists like Syl Johnson, O.V. Wright, Ann Peebles, and Irma Thomas, and that's just one genre. The past is DEEP. And it's pretty well curated...you can keep discovering "new" old stuff seemingly forever that is very rewarding.

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"And it's pretty well curated...you can keep discovering "new" old stuff seemingly forever that is very rewarding."

I love discovering "new" old stuff! Love it. It often holds up much better than newer things, especially most new/popular music. I like music that is made by actual musicians.

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Jan 19, 2022·edited Jan 19, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

It is an odd trend. Since every decade typically had its own musical trends. I am not sure that happened in the 2000s. But music was an important form of entertainment in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Before video games, computers, and the internet started stealing its audience.

Now social media and video streaming (Netflix, etc.) have many people addicted for hours on end. When are they going to listen to music? Music is essentially background noise for many young people.

In the 70s musicians toured to sell albums. Now they give away albums to sell tours. And what do people want to see in concert? Songs they know. So they go see older groups.

It is a dire time to be a working musician. Or writer. Or photographer. Or artist. It seems most no longer value creativity enough to support it.

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Although abetted by lockdown, A&R people at major labels now trawl Tik-Tok, looking for viral youth whose fragments of music have attracted the attention of high-profile rappers and popsters, anxious for the quick buck. The erasure or fluidity of genre, which I'm sure you've written about, and is palpable in the complete lack of consensus in top albums of 2021 lists even across mainstream music media, is an interesting work in progress. Great article, may I share it with my Writing About Music class (16 students), which begins tomorrow?

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Yes, feel free to share this with your students. I suspect they might have some interesting perspectives on this matter.

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Indeed. I'll let you know.

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Great article and important topic.

Are the gatekeepers powerful enough anymore to hold back music in an age of Reddit and Spotify? The costs to produce, self-promote, and consume an album these days are quite low compared to previous eras. If there were lots of truly great albums being made out there now, wouldn't they spread quickly through the internet, and wouldn't the Grammy's then find them? I feel like if someone were to produce a Dark Side of the Moon, Thriller, Aja, or Kind of Blue, etc., all of us music fans would know about it within a few months.

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The biggest obstacles in 2022 are no longer the gatekeepers—there isn't much of value beyond the gate they are guarding. The bigger obstacle is the noise and clutter in the marketplace. If you wrote a great new song, you could release it immediately on the web—no one will stop you—but how do reach actual listeners? Listeners, for their part, are demoralized by too many choices, too many new albums, too many artists. Most have just checked out, giving up on new music. Some talented people will find a way to emerge from this maze, and delight us with their songs. That will inevitably happen, no matter what obstacles are in the way. But they will succeed despite the system, not because of it.

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Helps explain the often immediate popularity of mashups with new songs and legacy artists ... https://www.tiktok.com/@maxfrostmusic/video/7056840456319061294?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1&source=h5_m

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Where the music biz has had its greatest threat is the internet and streaming. There is little gain from developing an artist to greatness. And development is necessary. Was DSOM Floyd's first record? Born To Run Bruce's first? Aerosmith didn't get spot on until Toys, their 3rd. And, where is the modern day equivalent of The Wrecking Crew? Oh shucks?! You mean we gotta be able to knock out 3 well played hits in three different styles before lunch? Without time to develop artists / bands do not meet their full potential. Hot off the wire and no one hears? Ach, Anarchy (pistols) Sold 5,000 upon first press in less than weekend. Why? A music scene, including mags like NME et al. Someone above mentioned kids and their distractions. That too is a heaviness to over come. Kids do not define themselves now as they did in the past. No mods v rockers. No punks v metal boys. Nope, Gaming is it. Hell, that is how they hang out now... on line, not in person. How in the hell are you going to get into the garage and jam if your are twindling gaming buttons in your bedroom all alone?

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I'm a person who works in the service industry. We are paid to lie to you. Boomers have all the money, so boomer music is on the radio. You might have a point here, but please realize the anecdotes leading in to your story are just describing economic conditions, not tastes

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And assuming we want (need?) a more significant and unified presence of music in our culture, I don't know how we get past this, other than waiting on the ultimate law that in the long run anything can change. One obvious solution it to try the guild tactic: to reduce the supply to "certified" practitioners. I'd bet there'd be folks in this set of responses who'd sign up for that. Some would assume they or their favored artists would be in the included members of the guild. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be included and think it might ineffective too with the power a guild of musicians could muster -- in a putative SF story of trying that move I'd expect musicians would need to ally with some unsavory interests.

It's also possible that will eventually have a "Great Extinction" of music creators, after which the little rodents or cockroaches will get to try to reconstitute our musical environment.

It's possible that the all you can eat streaming buffet will become financially unsupportable, but the unofficial Internet sharing environment that proceeded it will likely increase to largely fill that void.

It's also possible that a highly diverse, low-barrier to entry, many but smaller audiences, less financially successful music world has values in itself that will emerge, even if overthrows our recent historical context expectations. I don't know that that so, or possible, or the best way to go either.

I wonder if you have more ideas on how this could change or could become welcome change Ted.

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I think the lack of gatekeepers is part of the explanation, though I have the opposite conclusion. There is still excellent music coming out, but it's localized to niche audiences.

There's no longer a centralized place like the radio that captures our collective attention and popularizes major label artists. The Grammy Awards reward popularity, not necessarily talent, which explains its loss of traction. The acts popular enough to get on the Grammy stage just aren't nearly as popular as the acts who dominated MTV when everyone had little choice but to tune to that channel for their music fix.

Instead, people are turning to streaming, playlists, satellite radio, and even DIY sources like Soundcloud. You can dial into the exact subgenre or sound you like and find vibrant new and independent artists there, but their popularity is capped (and artists are potentially leaning into these niches, capping their broader appeal). There's little centralizing power that can launch an artist into our collective attention anymore.

The result is you've got artists with deeply loyal followings who can fill 2,000-5,000 person venues, maybe amphitheaters, but the idea of the arena act is withering.

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Muticulturalism plays a part. Something like a third of the country probably listens to Cumbia etc. There's simply less of an American majority now.

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It's funny, a lot of the Mexicans in my neighborhood are obsessed with AC/DC.

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Cumbia is a great way for teens to irritate parents anywhere but Colombia. I hear that asymmetric rhythm in the streets all the time in Bogotá, but I think it's still sort of a novelty in other countries where they're playing "cumbia" with straight 8-16-16. There's a reason why Supermer K2 uses the heavy, heavy cumbia asymmetry in "Resaka". The reason just isn't obvious to Colombians.

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I’ve began noticing this in the 1990s, believe it or not — even though I was a teenager then it was obvious to me that the music of the 60s, 70, and 80s was just better music. And nothing has changed since then. I don’t think it is possible to make better music than Creedence Clearwater Revival, frankly.

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I came of age in the 90s, and I'd agree with you EXCEPT that I have a much lower opinion of the 80s.

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I think Madonna and U2 and The Police and Peter Gabriel and Dire Straits save the 80s.

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I’m not sure whether Michael Jackson and Bon Jovi will truly stand the test of time, but Livin’ On A Prayer and Billie Jean will never go out of style.

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If they are still streaming anywhere, it's for a reason. I was not a fan of this music in my teens, despite that I was born in 1968. But stuff that is still streaming is still streaming for a reason.

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We’ll, sure, but not because it’s “in style.”

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When I could no longer find used flannel shirts anywhere, anything that was great about 90's music was mostly over. There was a bunch of good obscure electronica eventually, but none of it became hits. David Shea, for example, never got close to charting anywhere as far as I know.

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Let me posit by you thinking major labels are the music business you yourself are using old ways of looking at this business to quantify what’s happening now. The artistic energy has left the now, only, big three, and that underscores the fact that their catalogs, with little investment, make more then an expensive chance on someone new. Luckily, as they are artistically bankrupt, it’s not particularly relevant. Because of streaming, so many more people then ever are consuming music, so a lot of people are using music as wall paper but because there are so many more people total, there’s a lot of people who would have -only- been listening in elevators before.

Think about how much music our parents listened back then, compared to how much, at the same age, we listen to today.

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[Let me posit by you thinking major labels are the music business you yourself are using old ways of looking at this business to quantify what’s happening now. ] Yes. "The industry" as it was decades ago really has no choice but to cling to whatever hasn't already yet failed for them. Mounting a Grammys presentation at all is the second worst choice after not mounting a Grammys presentation at all. Can you blame them?

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The mindset in the music industry towards new distribution methods has always been blatantly regressive and legalistic. I used to work for EDS, and in 2003 I talked with a person who worked in the Digital Strategy team. They had actually presented to record companies in 2001 about digital distribution. At the time, Napster was on the rise, with lots of people using it to download music. The record company executives were adamant that they were not going to shift to digital distribution, and were going to litigate Napster out of business. They were totally uninterested in our strategists' explanations that digital distribution could not be (in practical terms) litigated out of existence, it was here to stay, and it would be better for the industry to embrace it instead of playing whack-a-mole against it.

Apple then kind of led the way, and the industry had to come to terms with it. But the explanation that I heard from my work colleague at the time sounded like she had just come face to face with the 20th century reincarnation of the buggy whip manufacturers.

I later had a discussion about the management in the music industry with a well-known engineer and producer. I asked him over dinner "why is the music industry so badly managed?". His answer was that most of the leaders were amateurs, placed in positions because of who they knew instead of what they had done. So they were fundamentally clueless about most of the things they were trying to do.

I have not seen any improvement since that conversation. I lost interest in listening to pop music a long time ago because of a combination of simplification of musical forms, and the "loudness wars", which ruined dynamics on mastered music. I have been a jazz listener, although I do listen to a lot of musicians who are still very much alive.

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Thanks for sharing this story. I'm going to write about this subject again in the future—the record industry had plenty of opportunities to create its own platforms for digital music, but they preferred to fight it instead. Then, when Steve Jobs and Apple launched iTunes, digital music was too big to fight. So the major labels just rolled over and played dead, handing control of music distribution to tech companies that don't really understand (or love) music. That may have been the single most disastrous bad move in the history of the record business, and we're still paying the price for it.

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The other disastrous move (for the artists) was the rise of streaming companies, whose payment structures have led to artists with millions of streams a month getting royalty checks that are about enough for a fast food meal. I remember Roger McGuinn writing on Twitter about a royalty check he received from a streaming company for a ludicrously small amount, for millions of streams of Byrds tunes.

If corporations really loved music, they would ensure that the creators got the biggest share of the revenues. The streaming model certainly did not do that. Unfortunately other platforms such as BandCamp and ArtistShare have only a peripheral presence in overall activity terms.

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