The Decline of Current Pop

Content from BPR

There are a number of issues which periodically drive a shift in listening preference from new music to older music, but the key reason is when too much current pop sounds the same for too long.  When this occurs, people start to default to oldies because of their boredom with Pop.  Oldies become a safe harbour of variety and passion during these times until a new sound or style emerges that piques their interest and passion. Then the cycle starts all over again.  BPR has seen these phenomena develop a number of times over the years in various markets. This time around however several factors have converged to dig a deep hole for new music. Some of these being:

  1. Massive opportunity for music exposure across multiple platforms which accelerates a song reaching its market saturation point.
  2. A music industry business model which is attracted to solo artists that require a fraction of the production and management overhead compared to the overhead involved with a band comprising several people and multiple egos. This diminishes depth of music supply.
  3. Consolidation of music recording and post-production into a small number of dominate studios which narrows creative perspectives.
  4. The tendency to recycle music elements and production techniques from song to song and artist to artist thus massively reducing costs but creating a “sameness” to songs.
  5. Music labels/publishing companies focussing on milking existing artists rather than trying to develop new talent which can be expensive and risky.
  6. TV’s shows like Got Talent and the Voice have provided excellent platforms for new solo talent however they are not conducive to bands or music which is too complex. As much as these shows have done good, they have also further cemented the solo artist paradigm.

It would be good to think that a new sound or artists will emerge and turn the tide back to current pop however are the music companies necessarily equipped to facilitate this?  At present their business model is honed to the current sound regime and they are driven to a great extent by online metrics. The music industry has never been more commoditised, margins can be slim, the creative environment seems introverted. The main-stream music industry appears to be following its tail and at present it looks like a downward spiral.

If we assume optimistically that at some point, we will see the emergence of something new that refreshes the momentum of popular music then the question many are asking is what will it be? Over the last 60 years we have exhausted all combinations of notes and chords.  A scientific study published a while back suggested that around 2010 every combination of music’s 12 notes and finite number of chords had been invented and used.  There are no new melodies or riffs, just different combinations or instrumentations of what has been heard before. In the short to medium term expect to hear more remakes or songs that remind you of something you have heard before.

I am hopeful that someone or something will emerge that will alter the trajectory of current pop however whichever way you look at it the creation of something “new” is an increasingly difficult task requiring vision, boldness and talent.  As David Bowie once said “Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming” Bowie could.

A perspective from Wayne Clouten, BPR