Today’s music model: meet the 1950s

by on December 28, 2009 at 8:44 pm in Music | Permalink

Someone teleported through time from the early 1950s to 2009 would find a music business curiously similar to the landscape of 60 years ago.  Few specialty record outlets.  Department stores dominating the market.  A singles-driven industry.  Pop music dominating radio.  TV musical talent shows all the rage.

That's from the 21 December issue of Variety.  One difference, of course, is that the best-selling album of this decade — but not the 1950s — was by The Beatles.

1 Steve Sailer December 28, 2009 at 9:09 pm

But the quality of songwriting would be much lower.

2 Steve Sailer December 28, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Generally speaking, we have the worst of both worlds, musically: the lack of excitement of the early 1950s without the mature craftsmanship of the Sinatra era.

3 Tom Dougherty December 28, 2009 at 9:52 pm

It would be very interesting if The Beatles had a best selling album in the 50s. Perhaps the invention of a time machine will rectify that.

4 rluser December 29, 2009 at 1:15 am

Bull pucky.

and of course there is

5 minutes alone with a search engine

5 dearieme December 29, 2009 at 6:44 am

But now really good popular music – from the 20s and 30s -is out of copyright and therefore effectively free.

6 Minderbinder December 29, 2009 at 12:33 pm

I’m not sure about “deparment stores dominating the market” these days. Maybe the retail market? I think we have it much better today; the internet has allowed many musicians who would have been marginalized in the 1950s to now flourish. You’re much more likely to find a band today that satisfies your unique taste, however weird it may be.

7 Josh December 29, 2009 at 3:06 pm

I always thought it interesting that in an age of piracy and digital singles, the bestselling album of the decade was a collection of indvidual singles that had already been out for over 30 years.

Digital piracy has had a huge effect on music with plummeting record sales, but I suppose it also creates interesting parallels to the days before technology allowed records to be sold at all – increased reliance on touring, etc. It’s also interesting that vinyl sales are up again, thanks to the music aficionado niches. Something like 50 albums in the 90’s sold 8 million copies or more; only 8 or 10 in the “Naughts”; and I doubt anything will in this next decade, despite music (the iPod, et. al.) being more popular than ever.

8 The Dirty Mac December 29, 2009 at 7:53 pm

One difference today is that much of the popular music today is not actually produced by musicians.

The publicity machine surrounding the big stars is probably well beyond the imagination of even the most crass of the teen idol promoters of the early sixties. Having something like the payola scandal today would be absurd because promotion is now a national or international mass media blitz

The “critical press” is even in on the action. The new U2 album got its five stars from Rolling Stone. I’m sure its a credible or maybe better than credible album, but at one time five stars from Rolling Stone was very rarified air. Surrealistic Pillow didn’t even get five stars.

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11 Phen375 Reviewed June 10, 2010 at 11:23 am

Good music is still being written, it is just not being marketed as the masses love to listen to rubbish.

12 Maqui June 20, 2010 at 7:29 am

If only the beatles could be around again

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