The Death of Pop

One of moonbat friends sent this to me today. Being a moonbat, he stopped at the nice graph that he most likely did not understand. What he cared about was the headline. As a moonbat, he worships black people (from a great distance, of course) and he naturally assumes non-moonbats are racists who hate black people. That’s why he sent it to me. He thought it would bother me that hip-hop the most important thing since pockets.

Being a normal, I already assumed that pop music was mostly black. Every day of my life I hear heavy base coming from a crapbox, driven by a white kid or an Asian. Rock music largely died out when black people stopped playing instruments in the 1970’s. Hip-hop went mainstream in the late seventies with The Sugarhill Gang. You can count on one hand the number of black guys playing instruments in rock bands since then.

Anyway, not being a moonbat I looked at that story about the evolution of pop music and wondered what that has meant for sales. A little looking and I found this graph:

Interestingly, music sales started to fall off once hip-hop broke through to the mainstream. It continued to slide until CD’s got everyone to re-buy their music collections. The higher quality medium probably drove sales too. I know the first time I heard a CD (U2) I was stunned by the quality and immediately went out and bought a bunch of them.

Music companies were smart enough to know this was a great way to re-sell their catalogs, which they did. All of the big bands from the 60’s and 70’s not only released their old stuff, they released stuff that had not made the cut the first time. After a decade it started to fall apart as people learned how to rip mp3’s and pass them around to friends and strangers on-line.

Once you net out the boost from digitizing and repackaging music from the 60’s and 70’s, hip-hop has been a disaster for the pop music business. Demographics has something to do with it, but you cannot get around the fact that sales are at all-time lows, despite the country having more than a third more people. There’s a lesson in those numbers that extends beyond the music business.

Something similar happened with the NBA after the Jordan years. Thinking the key to prosperity was to embrace the hip-hop culture, the league encouraged the players to go full gangster rap. The result was a cratering of their TV audience, two labor stoppages and a decline in revenue from which they have yet to recover. Maybe it was just a coincidence, maybe not, but the sport still has an image problem.


18 thoughts on “The Death of Pop

  1. Pingback: The Soundtrack Of This Age | The Z Blog

  2. Can someone please tell me who is this zman that my friends are talking about how they’re going to miss him dearly

  3. Pingback: The Cycle of Life | The Z Blog

  4. I admit up front that my hearing was never good. As a youngster I let my uncle shoot off numerous large caliber weapons near my ears. As a ute, like most of my peers, I listened to music on a cheap Japanese transistor radio or an equally cheap record player. We had one pretty well off kid in my neighborhood who had a very nice McIntosh component stereo. Naturally, we were awed to hear it. We were also smart enough to realize that our LPs were going to sound better when played on something that cost about 100x more than the RCA record player we got at Kresgees. By the way, the cracks, pops and hisses on the McIntosh sounded superior too.
    There have always been audio snobs. In those days, the bleeding edge was reel to reel audio tape. Like most enthusiast pursuits it was harder, more expensive and had its own corpus of secret knowledge. Staring with the irony that you had to tape music off your buddies expensive turn table since nobody sold music on reel to reel.
    For some people audio snobbery is a hobby that doesn’t hurt anyone. For most of us cheap, quality digital recordings are more than sufficient. I can carry hundreds of my favorite songs on a computer in my pocket that makes phone calls.
    How cool is that?

    • I can carry hundreds of my favorite songs on a computer in my pocket that makes phone calls.
      How cool is that?

      Cleaning out a closet, I found an old walkman. It was the size of a motorcycle battery and I could carry maybe ten songs. My first mobile phone was the size of a brick and weighed about the same. Imagine dragging those things around along with a dozen tapes. Technology is a wonderful thing.

  5. The first graph in the story is bogus. It claims to show that the Rap Revolution was so much bigger than birth of rock. Its just missing one little thing: what units are used for the y-axis. Is it number of titles, number of individual songs sold, amount spent on a genre? Even if they told us, none of those common sense categories can be constantly measured without “adjustments,” as the climate scientists might say. For the first category alone, how do I compare singles and LPs, with CDs, or with MP3s, pirated or not.

    This is TED science. Bitchin’ infographics that say nothing other than providing a colorful background on a screen for a over-emoting charlatan to peddle his agenda-driven junk science.

  6. Jazz, I want jazz!

    Time was there were four or five stations on the air in Boston that played a lot of jazz and I could always find something to listen to. Now, the last time I scanned the dial I found nothing.

    Jazz is music, jazz has complex notes and harmonious rhythm. Maybe that’s not the right or proper way to describe it (I personally have NO musical talent) but I’ll tell you this, that back in the eighties and nineties I put hard cash down on the counter almost every week to buy music. Buy, not steal, not copy, not even for the most part share. And the first thing that happened that began to change my buying habits was when Sony started putting copy “protection” software on their CD’s and suddenly I had trouble playing the music. Some disks wouldn’t play on some devices (mostly laptop PC’s) at all. Whatever they were protecting wasn’t my right to listen to music I had purchased.

    These days I still buy an occasional CD (online), but it’s distressing to realize that the performer and most of the musicians I’m listening to are dead.

  7. The source story is yet another silly Because Science! exercise from the LA Times.

    One unfailing clue: Describe the study’s authors as super-sciencey :

    “……music informatics expert Matthias Mauch….”
    “……a bioinformatics expert from Imperial College…”
    “……a data scientist from….” ( It’s an on-line music source. C’mon, lady.)

    Then there’s the reporter’s pedigree:

    “Eryn Brown covers healthcare for The Times’ Metro desk. She graduated from Harvard with a degree in history and literature..”

    This tells me that she avoided the Math and Science Hall like the plague. Harvard or not, she’s the type who needs an app to calculate a 15% restaurant tip.

    Third irritant: The recent trend of (usually) prog publications to add something silly/funny/clever at the end of the bio. A lame attempt at “humanizing” the reporting staff? I’d love to see the goateed and top-knotted hipster doofus in LA Times Marketing who thinks this is a swell idea ——–

    “….Her husband, two sons and primary-care physician hope that writing about health won’t stoke her hypochondria….”

    Ha ha.

  8. I think there is also an element of lack of musical ability by everyone. A lot more 50’s parents made their kids take piano lessons. The members of many rock bands like Led Zeppelin actually had extensive musical knowledge and thus could cook up all sorts of interesting music. Today the kids grab a mic and make it up as they go so it ends up being a bunch of mimicry.

  9. I openly profess not to understand basketball for all sorts of reasons, but I can see a sort of image of the sport in my mind which doesn’t appeal to me at all. I think too that the idea held by the great and good above us is that if the black sportsmen are popular and black sportsmen like rap and hip-hop and all the rest of what is essentially an ugly sound then the non-black public are sure to like it too.

    That’s why we get that sort of music over here, wherever you go. In my local supermarket in a small town away from major urban centres (and with a 99 per cent white customer base) the sound played for the shoppers is of some (largely talentless, limited range) noise that passes for singing. The assumption is we will all enjoy it. I don’t, though it may be to make the shoppers get on with their shopping and get out quick. Such an idea, I would have thought, is against the principles of making more money, but it is their choice.

    One thing I have noticed in a lot of ‘pop’ music is that the singer these days never stops making a noise. No longer is there a few bars of instrumental to break up the singing, but just continuous uhs and ahs and what passes for words. A continuous stream of poo, some would say.

    But I think popular music more or less ended on December 31, 1989, so don’t ask me.

    • Hip-hop has always been doggerel put to a simple jingle. I read a long article about the first “impresarios” and its’ pretty clear the genre developed to be crude, simple and improvisational. It was basically another way for males in the ghetto to peacock. The commercial version is even less sophisticated because they rely on a library of other people’s music from which to sample. It’s basically a fusion of ghetto and B-school.

      That said, some of it has artistic merit because it works as a sound track for a time and place. Whether or not anyone will care about that time and place in the future is debatable.

  10. Not quite totally off the subject: I had read somewhat about there being a trend, retro, to vinyl albums. One of my grandkids has fallen for that scam. I tried to change his mind by describing how, in the sixties and seventies, we would argue for hours over what exactly the lyrics were to various rock tunes.

    Because you couldn’t understand them, for certain, on vinyl. Either my hearing grew much better over the years, or digital music is far superior. I’m pretty sure my hearing isn’t better than it was in the sixties.

    • There’s an argument that music was deliberately made for vinyl. Therefore, the only way to hear it as intended is on vinyl. It’s another spin on the vacuum tube versus solid state amplifier debate. A very good book on the dawn of pop music in the mass media age is called The Wrecking Crew. It details the lives of the main studio men in the LA pop scene in the 50’s and 60’s. What’s clear is they never thought for a second about how things sounded on vinyl. They did all their playback in multi-track tape.

      The amplifier guys do have a point about vacuum tubes. It is a different sound and solid state does not replicate it. Software has been able to replicate the sound in the studio, but that’s not much help on stage.

      • The greatest reproductions of sound of which I am aware were made beginning in the early sixties. By greatest I mean absolutely accurate reproduction of the live acoustic performance of genius. The final product was in vinyl, but I don’t know what that did or did not have to do with it. Anyway, some of those recording engineers must have had an ear equal to the artist if not his talent. I have learned people in general do not really distinguish sound terribly well.

        The greatness of those vinyl recordings does not in fact transfer to digital. I am told analog cannot be digitized exactly. The recordings are still great, but you are no longer listening to a live performance. I am still amazed what those boys in the stone age were able to accomplish, like going to the moon with gears and levers.

  11. Rock music largely died out when black people stopped playing instruments?
    Noway Hosay, in fact the only black rockers i can think are Hendrix and Berry.

    It only got really started with the new wave of heavy metal and hard rock
    and those were mainly British blokes, no blacks anywhere after Hendrix.

    At this point rock/metal music is as white as brunch, metal festivals here in Europe for example are all white, with more Japanese people in attendance than actual coloreds!

    In Scandinavia metal is essentially main stream…

    • You said “white as brunch” , still laughing. Lenny Kravitz, Living Color.

Comments are closed.