[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]
A couple of weeks back, MRC, the company that monitors music consumption, released a report for the U.S. that gave the entire recording industry a bad case of the vapours.
Of all the music Americans listen to, stream, and purchase, 70 per cent of it is considered “old” — that is, released more than 18 months ago. That’s 19 per cent higher than just a year ago. At the same time, current tunes saw a 3.7 per cent drop in listening.
Things played out even more dramatically in Canada. Our MRC report showed that across-the-board listening to new music decreased by a whopping 17.9 per cent from 2020. Meanwhile, time spent with older music was up 24 per cent. Even if we look at just streaming, a place traditionally inhabited by young people looking for today’s music, the decline was 5.3 per cent, the first such drop since MRC started monitoring streaming.
Frankly, this didn’t come as much of a surprise to me. Chatter among those who follow the fortunes of the Canadian recorded music industry has said the catalogue divisions have been killing it over the past couple of years. Old music has been generating the vast majority of revenue.
This may seem counterintuitive in a world where we constantly hear about the streaming glories of artists like Drake, The Weeknd, and Justin Bieber. New releases get all the attention and press. But the reality is the 200 most popular tracks are responsible for just five per cent of total streams.
Fewer people than ever seem to care about new music. This market is actually shrinking. What’s going on?