Are old school songs pushing new tracks to the sidelines?

We all love a throwback, whether it’s from our era or not. There are some songs that will never get old and are just as strong now as when they were first released. It’s said that 70% of the US music market is made up of old songs. Think about how many get remixed and altered slightly. They just keep coming back to our charts.

Shark Tale old school GIF

Just like the film Shark Tale, some old school classics are seriously underrated. Or, at least they were. It seems now, old music is taking over to the point where new music just can’t compete. Even new songs contain components of old music. So many include similar or identical beats, or are simply remixes of songs we all know and love. It seems even big artists are following this trend and adding huge hits into their new tracks. It makes sense because these songs simply will never die out it seems. They keep getting stronger. Whether the songs were your era or not, you’ll likely know them as classics.

Out with the new, in with the old…

Yes this saying is backwards, but it seems to be exactly how music is going at the moment. We can’t speak for the entire world, but the US certainly value their old tunes right now. 200 of the most popular new tracks make up less than 5% of total streams. This has decreased massively in a short amount of time. Just 3 years ago, the rate was twice this figure. Within the songs purchased, more and more people are favouring older songs. Is this because it’s so accessible to get your hands on music these days? Do streaming stores mean there’s less demand to buy new songs? However, if that is the case, why are people buying older songs? They’ve made it to streaming stores too. It doesn’t seem to make sense.

Bands such as The Police are currently in the list of the most downloaded tracks on iTunes alone. It’s likely that a lot of iTunes users weren’t even born when The Police were in their prime. What’s driving younger audiences to listen to old school music? Is it simply that new songs aren’t made the same any more? The amount of new listeners choosing old music far outweighs those listening to new songs. Over the past couple of years, the US market have continued to pick tracks already in the catalogue rather than ones being added.

Bar chart showing data of new songs vs old songs being listened to
Credit: MCR Data via The Atlantic

How are consumers discovering old music?

When you think about it, you can’t escape the classic songs. They are played everywhere. Radio stations can’t get enough of them. The same ones are always on repeat on a Friday evening or on your commute home from work. Although they won’t play only classics, they do still throw multiple into the mix reminding us of the past. DJs, clubs, bars all play music that classes as throwbacks. Taking us back to our childhoods with some absolute classics. They want people to be able to sing and dance along to songs they love. So, older songs fit into this category nicely.

Artists are using older songs to remix and change into something new. Even if it’s only small snippets of the track, it’s still reminding us of old songs we used to know. Once they’re stuck in our heads, they become earworms, and we’re more tempted to go back and hear the real thing. It’s a sense of nostalgia. People put together feel good albums, especially through the pandemic. Consumers want to hear songs that remind them of happier, carefree songs. On a Saturday evening friends come together and want to dance along to songs from their childhood. It’s all about how music makes you feel. We’re far more likely to have a positive connection to songs we heard when we were younger.

What’s the future for new music?

What’s really important to point out with these statistics is, according to the MRC, only songs released in the past 18 months are classed as new. It seems these stats are a little unfair with that reasoning. With the whole world on standstill due to a global pandemic, it is unlikely artists will be releasing their normal amount of music. If you have access to all the equipment from the comfort of your own home then you might not have been phased by everything that’s been going on. However, if you rely on other services or individuals then you’ll have noticed the impact the pandemic has had on creating music.

Hopefully we will see an increase in new music becoming popular again. As we approach the summer months it seems people are loving hearing new tracks. With new music being anything from now until 18 months ago, before you know it the music being released today will be placed into this older category, and maybe it will have its chance to shine. Perhaps with the pressures of the pandemic, people haven’t been going anywhere to discover new music. Instead, they’re listening to their comfort songs from the past. It’s likely promotion for artists hasn’t been as easy as it once was either and this will have had an impact. It will be interesting to monitor these statistics and see where we’re at in a year’s time. As many places start to relax their measures, will we see new music boom once again?

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