" Is Old Music Killing New Music?" asks Ted Gioia at his substack The Honest Broker, and goes on to explore the steady growth of catalogue sales in music.
"I had a hunch that old songs were taking over music streaming platforms—but even I was shocked when I saw the most recent numbers. According to MRC Data, old songs now represent 70% of the US music market....
"The new music market is actually shrinking. All the growth in the market is coming from old songs.
".... the 200 most popular tracks now account for less than 5% of total streams. It was twice that rate just three years ago.
"The current list of most downloaded tracks on iTunes is filled with the names of bands from the last century...
"....Never before in history have new tracks attained hit status while generating so little cultural impact.
"... Old recordings, like zombies in those bad films, are out to kill the living"
Gioia also points to declining audience figures for the Grammies, radio programming trends, hologram tours, A&R and other music biz executives losing confidence in the present, and other symptoms.
In Retromania, I looked into this issue of catalogue outselling new and recent ("deep catalogue" being a particularly potent category) and asked Billboard's Ed Christman for his specialist-knowledge low-down. So I'm not surprised to see the tendency has continued and escalated...
It's a kind of oligopoly of the elderly - a gerontocracy comprised of those who were able to establish enduring stature through the Analogue System aka the Monoculture. Now as Gioia observes, they are selling off their publishing for massive sums, to investors betting on a posthumous dominance that will continue to hold sway:
"The hottest area of investment in the music business is old songs—with investment firms getting into bidding wars to buy publishing catalogs from aging rock and pop stars. The song catalogs in most demand are by musicians in their 70s or 80s (Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, etc.)—if not already dead (David Bowie, James Brown, etc.). Even major record labels are participating in the shift, with Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, and others buying up publishing catalogs—investing huge sums in old tunes that, in an earlier day, would have been used to launch new artists."