Monday, December 21, 2009

2009 - The Year the Music Died

About once a month I comb Amazon's bestseller lists (music and books) to look for new stuff.

Today's perusal ended in dismay over the state of the charts. Since Amazon represents only that company's sales (and I've noticed they are skewed towards web people's tastes), I hopped over to Billboard and ran the numbers on types of music selling (for the first 100).

Christmas - 25
Rock - 13
Country - 8
Hip-hop - 10
Pop - 21
Christian - 3
American Idol - 4
Dunno - 16

A solid fourth of the list is Christmas albums - old ones even. 8 of them are catalogue (meaning old) albums or greatest hits compilations - and that's not including the Christmas albums that are ancient. Even Christian albums are charting (most Christian music gives me the dry heaves, even though I am a Christian).

That many Christmas albums shouldn't even be charting if the industry were healthy, let alone a showing by Christian music at all.

Note that there are 16 albums I couldn't identify genre by sight. These days, my wife and daughters listen to a station that plays a mix of the old and the new, so I knew who Lady Gaga was before she started showing up nekkid everywhere. Yet, for almost a fifth of the albums, I've never heard of the artist.

So, I think the evidence is pretty solid. The music biz, and I knew it and loved it up until American Idol came on the air, is pretty much dead.

Merry Christmas.


The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Well, you really had me excited with the reference to "the Christmas albums that are ancient" making up a significant part of the Billboard top 100. You left me hoping to find Anonymous 4's "On Yoolis Night" or "A Star in the East" having made a resurgence. Alas no. Even Bach's Christmas Oratorio was unaccountably absent. Everybody must be listening to Arvo Part these days.

Yahmdallah said...

Sorry to get your hopes up, but since what you were looking for has NEVER happened, I'll only accept partial blame.

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

The music industry is hopelessly fragmented today, a new phenomena within the last 15 years or so. Christians started it, with their behavior of buying and listening only to Christian performers (though I don't think we can blame them for the problem overall). Nowadays we have hip-hop fans who don't even know the names of current rock artists, rock fans who don't have a clue what's going on in metal, and metalheads are completely ignorant about today's pop.

It hasn't always been this way. Look at the lineups of artists who played at Woodstock or the Monterrey Pop Festival in 1969: there's blues, soul, pop, hard rock, and even traditional Hindi music performed by Ravi Shankar. All on the same stage, at the same festival. Radio stations also used to have broader playlists than they do now, perhaps this particular change has been driven by pressure from advertisers to focus more precisely on desired demographic groups. So we have classic rock stations today playing the same 60 songs they've been playing for the last 20 years, on endless repeat.

A friend has recently been introducing me to the techno/trance side of things, Tiesto and Armin van Buuren and other artists who I didn't know existed until she played them for me. I really believe that such ignorance of musical alternatives was less of a problem 20 years ago: people used to know more of what was out there.

So today we have music sales spread so thinly over such a wide variety of niches, that old people buying Christmas albums in December (as they have done every December since the Harding administration) can actually skew the charts now.

Is this a good thing? I think not.

Whisky Prajer said...

"Bach's Christmas Oratorio" -- now that's an idea whose time has come!

Yahmdallah said...

Anon - 'xactly.
And what a niche for someone to dive into and make some green, no?

Bud, ain't it tho.