If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of music available today, it’s very understandable. According to music streaming data over 100,000 songs are uploaded daily to Spotify and other streaming platforms: this way too many songs, how can anyone possibly keep up with this number? The market is oversaturated, and professionals are complaining that despite this profusion, or rather because of this profusion, almost nobody is producing a hit. The production of new music has never been so high: in comparison, only 20 000 songs were uploaded daily in 2018 so the growth seems to be exponential, and can we even compare with the previous decades? In 1970, 4,000 albums and only 5,700 singles were released in the US in the entire year. The funny thing is that there are a lot of chances I remember a lot of these ‘70s songs – The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Johnny Cash, The Doors, Black Sabbath, Harry Nilsson, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, Ray Charles, James Brown, Bee Gees, Jackson 5, Carole King, The Beach Boys, The Who, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, just to name a few, released music in 1970 – whereas I cannot even name one song that was released in 2022. I receive press releases every day and most of them are forgotten as soon as they have been streamed.
Is there too much music out there? Without any doubt. Is the market very different? The professionals don’t even recognize it. Billboard magazine emphasizes on the importance of social media (of course) and especially TikTok which is now playing a big part in this game. The platform has helped artists like Em Beihold’s “Numb Little Bug” and Nicky Youre’s “Sunroof” climb the charts, but if you avoid TikTok, I bet you are as clueless as I am. Who the hell are these people? TikTok is also very unpredictable as you cannot manufacture “viral,” every success resembles a big lottery.
As much as I hate the platform, I don’t blame new artists for trying TikTok. In this deluge of new music, they are probably ready to attempt anything to get attention. A few years ago, “It used to be that you released an album, got Rolling Stone to review it, got on tour, got on late-night TV, and that was how you broke,” a senior executive at a major label declared to Billboard. “It was four or five things. Now you need four or five things a week, or at least a month, or else your streams don’t go up.”
In other words, it’s much harder than ever to build a new audience because the competition is almost infinite and the methods to promote a song exhausting. Haven’t we reached a point where we should trim that ever-growing bush of new tracks? Almost everyone can release music and upload it on the internet, but is this a good thing? Not everyone has talent or something interesting to say, although everyone thinks the opposite, and the market is more flooded every day. For the average music consumer, it has become a daunting task to find something valuable. Furthermore, the influencers are all over the place. Before artists could concentrate on TV and radio, “now, just because you’re in a top 10 slot on a big Spotify playlist, it doesn’t mean your audience is growing,” one manager said to Billboard.
What bothers executives the most is the disappearance of real hits. Every successful artist has a little niche but breaking mainstream, as famous artists used to do it a few decades ago, is almost impossible.
Today, if I look at what Spotify proposes me in its current “Hot Hits USA,” I get Sam Smith, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, One Republic, Doja Cat, Harry Styles, Lizzo, Post Malone, David Guetta, so a bunch of artists who have been well established for a while now, and the only newcomers are Steve Lacy (“Bad Habit”) Zach Bryan (“Something in the Orange”) and d4vd (“Romantic Homicide”). If I hadn’t attended Palomino fest, I would not have any idea who is Zach Bryan (10 M monthly listeners), and I honestly don’t know anything about Steve Lacy (30 M monthly listeners) or d4vd (13 M monthly listeners). These people made it, but for how long?
Professionals agree that “the number of new acts vaulting into the top 10 of the Hot 100 has declined precipitously in the last few years. From 2001 to 2004, over 30 first-timers cracked the top 10 annually. In 2019, however, only 15 first-timers reached the top 10, and 2021 had the lowest number of new entrants this millennium: just 13.”
So what can labels do? Warner Music CEO Stephen Cooper told that the major had “reduce[d] our dependency on superstars” and instead prioritized building relationships with “artists at the beginning of their career.” I am not sure what this means concretely, and to be honest, this seems less practical than what singer-songwriter Linda Perry is doing in promoting unknown young female artists during her EqualizeHer showcase!
It’s probably that “breaking” will never have the same meaning anymore: choices are unlimited and with the available new technologies this is not going to slow down, on the contrary. One thing is certain, people discover new music using all kinds of tools, but mostly the internet. According to this recent survey, 36% of young people discover new songs using music apps such as Spotify, whereas 32% do that using social media (this reaches 50% for 18-24 year-olds). 33% of older people (over 35) discover new music via terrestrial or satellite radio, then there are TV commercials, movie soundtracks, podcasts, video games, blogs, and friends’ recommendations which all play a role. The list goes on and on so that new artists have to be everywhere to have a chance. TikTok will get you somewhere but rarely to the top.
Limited Edition Box Set “Chick Corea Elektric Band: The Complete Studio Recordings 1986-1991” Available Now
a previously unreleased album of live recordings with the reunited classic Elektric Band
64 years after it first charted
Rocky Kramer’s Rock & Roll Tuesdays Presents “Rockin’ Around the World” On Tuesday December 5th, 2023, 7 PM PT on Twitch
will be hosting “Rockin’ Around the World”
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capped by Jack