Music History

Looking back on the 2010s: How music changed (both too much and not enough).

There’s plenty to analyze when it comes to how the musical landscape has changed over the last decade. Here’s my take.

  1. Physical sales (i.e. CDs) cratered. Streaming rules.
  2. After initially opposing streaming with every fibre of their being, record labels figured out how to adapt to the new technology. The majority of their revenue now comes from streaming.
  3. Vinyl came back. Who could have predicted that?
  4. The album’s status as the currency of the music industry is being eroded by the popularity of playlists.
  5. Latin and K-pop music exploded worldwide.
  6. Hip-hop is the number one genre many parts of the world. Not everywhere, but its influence and popularity continues to expand.
  7. There was very little to hold rock together. No significant sounds/scenes arose during the 2010s. There’s little consensus among rock fans about what’s truly good.
  8. The biggest moneymaker in rock? Classic rock artists. Most aren’t selling or streaming in big amounts, but people are willing to pay big dollars to see them live before…well, you know.
  9. Alternative music swung very, very far to the pop side. Too far, for my tastes. Even with the chaos of Donald Trump and the confusion of Brexit, alt-rock didn’t step up as the voice of youth, the disaffected, the alienated, and the angry. Name an alt-rock artist from this past decade who spoke with authority and authenticity like Eddie Vedder or Kurt Cobain. Go on. I’ll wait.
  10. Our attention spans shrunk, thanks to the ease of access to music (i.e. streaming) and the damn skip button.
  11. On that note, it seems that there were way more one-hit-wonders. Anyone hear from Gotye lately? Psy? Hozier?

Then there’s this from The Guardian:

“It’s that time in the decade when people like me – professional monitors of mass culture – look back at the preceding 10 years and try to make sense of it. Give it a shape. Problem is, I’m finding that it all feels a bit foggy and formless. The chronology of the 2010s is jumbled and indistinct, its peaks and landmarks hard to pinpoint.

“Without consulting end-of-year lists, I’m not even sure I could tell you what came out in the 2010s and in what sequence. All that remains are faint after-images of things that were utterly absorbing at the time of listening or watching, but seemed swiftly to vanish into the void of the recent past. I binged my way avidly through shows such as Sex Education or BoJack Horseman or Atlanta, then promptly forgot their very existence, until the startling reminder of a new season being announced. There is always something new to watch, after all: an endless, relentless wave of pleasures lined up in the infinite Netflix queue.

“The reason that it feels like nothing happened in the 2010s is that too much happened.”

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 37441 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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