[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]
Once upon a time, it was comparatively easy to make predictions about where music was headed, thanks to decades-long cyclical flips of rock and pop.
Over a period of about a dozen years, one genre would achieve dominance while the other would slip into the doldrums. Then, thanks largely to demographic and social trends, the polarity would reverse and the two genres would change places in the zeitgeist.
The 12- to 13-year pop/rock cycle proved very reliable from the 1950s through to the middle aughts. But here’s the rub: it only worked while music was governed by radio, record labels, music stores, and music magazines. Together they formed a bloc of cultural gatekeepers that regulated what music made it through to the general public.
But then came the internet and everything got turned on its head.
Instead of a few gatekeepers guiding public consensus on music, individual music fans, empowered by technology like file-sharing and streaming, could access humanity’s entire music library. We all became our own music directors, greatly eroding the power and influence of the old guard. Today, with billions of music fans free to go their own way, the old patterns and cycles have broken down. Making predictions about the future course of music have become devilishly difficult.
On the bright side, though, we have more user data than ever before. Is there any information we can tease out of the noise when it comes to the future of music? Let’s try.