Music Industry

6 reasons why old music is endangering the music of today and the future

[This was my weekly column for – 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?

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38156 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

7 thoughts on “6 reasons why old music is endangering the music of today and the future

  • The true music scene is underground. They are young Indie collaborators (like my son) that have been writing & producing their own music for over a decade. The record scene will comeback because it’s authemtic. The villains driving these data points are these music monopolies such as I-Heart radio, Spotify, etc. They have a responsibility to promote young talent across every medium. If they need regulated then so be it. No exposure = No growth.

  • Already replied.

  • I gradually started to appreciate 90a music even some 21sr century but… one can only take so much ethereal whining

  • Nonsense. Musical instrument sales are way up. More people are learning to play (or relearning) music than ever. Online learning platforms such as Drumeo, Pianote, Truefire are growing exponentially. YouTube is packed with exceptional music by amateur musicians as well as professionals. Sales of non-English music is way up too. All good signs.

  • Looking at your bio after reading your article… little bit of irony in there, don’t you think? U2? David Bowie?

  • The new music does not need to be streamed because radio plays it all the time. It’s the “old” music that rules streaming and that’s a ealthy thing. Otherwise it would be forgotten.

  • Could it be because more people are working from home, so they don’t listen to the radio on the way to and from work, so they are not exposed to new stuff and rely on the stuff that came out before work went to remote work?


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