Music Industry

Proof that 2021 was not great for new music

Quick: Name an album released in 2021 that will go down in history as an all-time classic. Other than Adele’s 30 (if for nothing other than being an Adele record), I can’t think of many. Yes, there were plenty of commercially successful albums, but nothing on the level of an Achtung Baby, American Idiot, or Blood Sugar Sex Magick, blockbuster records that we will be listening to for decades to come.

I could be wrong–maybe 2021’s releases need to marinate in our consciousness a little longer–but last year was just barely okay when it comes to great new music. But don’t take my word for it. Take a look at this new stat out of the US.

According to year-end stats out of America, 82.1% of the market consisted of catalogue released (i.e. material more than 18 months old). That means current records–think Drake, Olivia Rodrigo, Morgan Wallen, Doja Cat, and that cohort–only accounted for 17.9% of US music consumption during the last six months of the year.

If you look at sales plus streams–that’s known as “total consumption”–current music consumption dropped by 37.4%. People just weren’t digging the new stuff, opting instead to listen to older music.

Another fact: 89% of American Baby Boomers are now into streaming music. Remember when that generation couldn’t grasp the concept and vowed to continue buying music?

If you want to get deep into the weeds on how these numbers were determined (along with some cool charts), go here.

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 37860 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

3 thoughts on “Proof that 2021 was not great for new music

  • This was a great year for new music!!
    For the First Time- Black Country new Road- one of the best new bands/ albums in years!
    Crawler by Idles under appreciated album! Lots of change and growth for the band!
    Cavalcade by Black Midi a new take on progressive rock. Drummer is crazy good
    Little Oblivions by Julien Baker- a haunting album. Great singer/songwriter who plays all instruments on album.
    Cool Dry Place by Katy Kirby- 1st album beautiful voice and good instrumentation.

    I heard of all of these through vinyl not streaming. Not sure they would even register on streaming services. I would put some of these albums against the ones listed as classics.

  • Yes I believe those stats are legit. Today what passes for music is throwaway. Quick name the top 10 songs on the charts 10 years ago. Bet you can’t unless you Google them. I equate today’s “music” to Muzak for the 21st Century. You remember Muzak? Yeah elevator music.

  • Not a great year for big name artists and it sounds like ABBA didn’t impact as heavily as expected. But there have been a lot of top notch releases from smaller artists, Jesse Malin, Unkle, Evans McRae, Hybrid, Loup Garoux


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