We hear less and less new songs. Is yesterday’s music killing today’s? | icon | The USA Print

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At the beginning of the year, a song from 1977 was among the most played on Spotify. The video of a young man skating while listening dreamsby Fleetwood Mac, and drink cranberry juice became so popular on TikTok that even Joe Biden used the song at his inauguration. This is just one example of songs that have risen from the ashes to invade the charts. This week, Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush (included in his album hounds of love, from 1985) is the most listened to on Spotify in the United States and is in second place in the world list. All for appearing on something almost as popular as TikTok: the recently released fourth season of stranger things.

In accordance with the consultancy MRC DataIn the United States, the consumption of current music albums (released less than 18 months ago) decreased by 3.7%, while catalog music grew by 19.3% in 2021, occupying 70% of total consumption. Old songs are in fashion and gaining momentum thanks to the magnetism of vinyl, the growth of streaming platforms streaming and the growing influence of TikTok.

The same consultant affirms that during the confinements caused by covid-19, “the fans they looked back on their old favourites.” The increase in vinyl sales (which grew 51.4% last year, the highest in the last three decades) would be related to the rise of catalog music, says Daniel Vidaur, product manager for Rhino in Warner Music Spain. “The public has associated vinyl with classic records, such as Pink Floyd and Neil Young, which were recorded conceived for that format. But we must not forget that there are current artists who sell very well on vinyl, such as Pablo Alborán and Ed Sheeran”, says Vidaur.

Eugenio López, who founded the Mad Vinyl factory a year and a half ago, says that the demand for reissues varies depending on the time of year. “About 20% of our production are reissues. At the beginning of the year there are fewer and when summer comes the percentage increases a lot. I attribute this to the fact that Christmas is coming and the record companies want records that can be used as gifts”, he explains. In the same way, there are themes that always come back in certain seasons of the year, such as thriller of Michael Jackson, which increases dramatically for Halloween, and All I Want for Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey, which always breaks into Billboard’s coveted Hot 100 during the holidays.

The old themes also find the ideal place to spread on the radio. Javier Penedo, announcer of The 40’s Classic, acknowledges that radio stations are putting fewer new songs into rotation in favor of old, sure-fire hits. “In the old days, there were many more novelties than now. The radio listener is getting old. New songs have to be released sparingly, because the ability to take on novelties is limited,” she notes. The platforms of streaming they could also be fueling this trend, by putting an almost infinite catalog at the fingertips for the price of a CD. In addition to accounting for each play, playlists, and algorithm-driven radios encourage consumers to listen to the same songs more often. Spotify, the largest platform today, had already been pointing out since 2020 that music from past decades was on the rise in Spain, when music playlists soared by 54% oldies.

“In recent months, at Spotify we have detected a tendency on the part of our users to listen to music from past decades. The 2000s is the clear favorite and the most listened to artists are Spanish. It is also common to all generations, from baby boomers even the Zs”, explains Melanie Parejo, music director for southern Europe at Spotify.

However, the main responsible for the rise of catalog music would be TikTok, says MRC data. Through its challenges and dance challenges, the application makes popular songs that many times had already been forgotten. The Chinese social network itself recently announced that more than 175 songs that went viral on the app last year ended up making the US charts. An example is Sweater Weatherlaunched nine years ago by The Neighbourhood, which took off on TikTok and peaked at number 53 in early 2022.

This reappraisal of the music of the past made record labels snap up the catalog of classic artists like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young in 2021. More than 5,000 million dollars were moved in acquisitions of rights and catalogues. The expectation is that these purchases will continue in 2022, with artists such as Pink Floyd and Phil Collins in the spotlight. González, founder of Mad Vinyl, fears that the investment in the catalog could affect young artists. “Filling the FNAC shelves with Paul McCartney records is playing it safe. They prefer that bet to take 20-year-old kids and see what happens. Groups come here that rehearse on weekends because they have their jobs, they record in some amateur studio and their albums are truly marvelous. Obviously, it costs a lot more to make them known.”

Old songs find new life in the cultural context offered by the internet. Classics can now be rediscovered through a playlist, dance challenge, or viral video, and become hits overnight. And everything indicates that there will be more of this in the future. It is clear that when we like something, it is difficult for us to overcome it.

Is the old music killing the new?

According to MRC data, this last year streaming catalog consumption increased by 22.3%, while news consumption fell by 4.9%. As the music historian Ted Gioia had in an article for Atlantic, these data would be a reflection of an industry that is increasingly focused on controlling its assets instead of developing new talent. On the opposite side, Billboard critic Robert Levine points out that the 18 months that separate a release from a catalog are just a graphical gimmick, and just as Drake and Swift have catalog hits, Dylan and Springteen make current music. Within this convulsive scenario, one thing is certain: investing large amounts in an unknown voice, advertising it on the radio and the Internet and taking it on tour around the world, is no longer done as it used to be.

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