I'm sorry if your bad news dance card is full. I know mine is. We, however, must keep up with the new bad news that fills our actual and metaphoric in-boxes every morning. Especially if the bad news relates to the issues that most touch our hearts. Like Music, for so many of us.
Bad news? Don't forget to look for the silver lining!
In 2010, something like forty million people watched the Grammy Awards TV show. By 2020, the number of viewers had fallen to less than half of that, down to eighteen-point-seven million. It gets worse. For 2021, the number was eight-point-eight million. This year's show has been delayed indefinitely by COVID, and no one seems to care.
Unmentioned in coverage of this apparent disaster is the fact that fewer and fewer people have access to what was once quaintly called “television.” I receive no real-time television access, and I do not get cable-TV. I think that an ever growing number of people are in the same situation. I pay for Netflix, and watch Colbert and Kimmel on YouTube. Would the Grammy show be in there somewhere? I don't care. I wouldn't watch it anyway. I have so little interest in what passes for music these days that it wouldn't even move the needle off of the peg.
It turns out that I am not the only one that feels that way. The statistics are fascinating. It's not only Boomer Geezers like me that turn our noses up at all of this four-chords-from-an-app, plus a sound scheme from another app, plus a stolen beat from another app, overlaid with an auto-tuned voice, and meaningless lyrics about lust or braggadocio or money. No, now the overwhelming majority of music listeners are turning their noses up just like me.
Older songs, many much, much older, now account for 70% of the music market. “New Music” is defined as having been released (made available for the first time) within the last two years. Last year, the two hundred most popular new tracks represented only five percent of total streams.
I didn't miss the decimal point there. I mean five percent, as in ONE OUT OF EVERY TWENTY streams.
Listeners who are willing to pay are choosing to listen to songs by Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, or similarly famous bands from more recent decades, like Guns and Roses, or Soundgarden, or, one would hope, less well known bands like the Dandy Warhols, the Transplants, or even deeper, like the Gories, or Bantam Rooster.
I think that many youngsters today might be thrilled to discover singers like Jimmy Scott, or Patsy Cline, or Little Willie John. I'd be thrilled if they only discovered modern singers like Leslie Odom, Jr. (Try “Joey, Joey, Joey” on for size!)
Or even just the few genuine bands that are trying to make a living today, like the True Loves, or John Batiste and Stay Human, or the Roots. Guys that set up and play in real-time, playing analog musical instruments, and they make the magic old-school.
Has anyone noticed that classic jazz is all the rage on made-for-streaming TV shows now? Especially detective shows (Bosch) and sci-fi shows (the Expanse). Nice if that caught on. By “classic jazz,” I am referring roughly to the years between Lester Young and Ornette Coleman. With an emphasis on the years of Bop and Hard-Bop (Charlie Parker; Dizzy Gillespie), and the Golden Age of John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
Anyway, the point here is that we geezers were right. The music was infinitely better in our day. Do some reading, you youngsters, check around a bit. It's all available. You can listen to some of this new crap if you want to, but don't deny yourself the pleasure of discovering some of the fantastic treasure trove of music from all over the world that's just out there waiting. Pick a platform, go Deezer, go YouTube Premium, listen on your phone through Apple buds, or buy a nice tubed up hi-fi. Have some fun! I'm in a giving mood, so you can listen to those Goddamned Beatles if you have to.
Have some fun!
(Factoids from the Atlantic Magazine.)