“There are no bands anymore”
March 21, 2021 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Maroon 5’s Adam Levine was scoffed at for suggesting there ‘aren’t any bands any more’ – but if you look at the numbers, he’s right. (SLGuardian)

Whichever metric you use, the picture is clear. Right now, there are only nine groups in the UK Top 100 singles, and only one in the Top 40. Two are the Killers and Fleetwood Mac, with songs 17 and 44 years old respectively, while the others are the last UK pop group standing (Little Mix), two four-man bands (Glass Animals, Kings of Leon), two dance groups (Rudimental, Clean Bandit) and two rap units (D-Block Europe, Bad Boy Chiller Crew). There are duos and trios, but made up of solo artists guesting with each other. In Spotify’s Top 50 most-played songs globally right now, there are only three groups (BTS, the Neighbourhood, and the Internet Money rap collective), and only six of the 42 artists on the latest Radio 1 playlist are bands: Wolf Alice, Haim, Royal Blood, Architects, London Grammar and the Snuts.

The album charts are still regularly topped by bands thanks to loyal fanbases who still buy physical formats – such as Mogwai, Architects and Kings of Leon in recent weeks – but not since 2016 has one hung on for a second week. So what happened?
posted by holborne (128 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's literally and obviously hundreds of thousands of bands, probably millions, and it's easier to discover and listen to them than at any other time in human history.
The thrust of this article seems to be that bands aren't as dominant on sales charts as they used to be, which, ok, apparently they're not.
posted by signal at 12:30 PM on March 21 [39 favorites]


This section of the article absolutely nails it:

...“We’re actively trying to sign bands,” he says. “I’m desperate to find a really young band that I can help develop.”

The problem is, he says, there aren’t that many around. “It’s more likely now that a kid will make music in isolation because of technology. When I first met the 1975, they were all friends meeting in a room to make noise. So much is done in bedrooms these days, so you’re more likely to be by yourself.”

Ben Mortimer, co-president of Polydor Records, says that cost is more of an issue for artists than for labels. “If you’re young and inspired to become a musician, you face a choice. If you go the band route, you need to find bandmates with a similar vision, you need expensive instruments and equipment, and you need to get out on the road to hone your craft. On the other hand, you could download Ableton [production software], shut your bedroom door and get creating straight away. Culture is shaped by technology.”


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Point: The modern era is the era of the auteur.

Bands existed because an individual could not conceivably play all the instruments. There was a period where composers wrote the music and musicians just played it, and the period of the "band" where a small, disorganized group works together to produce art is ending. I remember the rumor around the original Foo Fighters album was that Grohl recorded it all himself and played all the instruments, one-at-a-time. What seemed like a gargantuan effort for a musician like Grohl back then is a few clicks, drags, and drops now.

Individuals have the tools to allow themselves to play all the instruments, and live shows are well, not as popular as they used to be. The vast majority of new music I have listened to in the last few years is made by individuals remixing away in the comfort of their own home studios. They still collaborate with other musicians, but it's a lot more loose and they work with a variety of performers on a variety of pieces. The individual gets the "fame" but fans pay attention to who is involved and often by their music as well.

Also, with digital distribution, the "album" is also dying, replaced by EP's and singles released haphazardly. Few people have corporate sponsorship, so they don't release albums on a schedule dictated by a corporation that's looking to maximize the profit-window.

Finally, while the internet democratized the creation of music, it also atomized the market and made it harder than ever to make an effective "living" off of making music. Part of it is that it's downright cheaper to be a remix artist working with a computer than it is to be a band which needs instruments, band members, a van, tour budget, etc. etc. I've read a lot in the last few years about very popular bands whose revenue has just been dropping year-by-year to where they are barely making more than the average poor person. There's just so much new music that you get lost in the sea of it and all the old bands I used to love kind of keep getting forgotten.

Also, no offense to any of them. You just start getting soft. You don't "rock as hard" because you got old. It happens to everyone. You can't live forever on people buying your old albums and playing the same songs until you die (well, maybe Metallica can.).

I knew I was done with rock music when I saw one my favorite bands of my youth live about five years ago. The singers insistence that they were hard drinking and hard partying didn't impress me, it made me feel sad for him. Like, dude you're in your mid-fifties and still pulling this act to try to impress a crowd? Just, christ, I'm over it. (The band was Clutch and I have never felt so out of place and like I'm the only one who matured in a crowd of people, including when I saw Ratatat and everyone in the crowd was half my age.)

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Counterpoint: The Chats
posted by deadaluspark at 12:31 PM on March 21 [52 favorites]


Orthogonal to the thrust of this discussion but I've been looking for a chance to get-off-my-lawn about this for a while: On my favorite band's subreddit, about 1/3rd to 1/2 of the content now is not anything generated by the band, or new information about the band, any real directly band-related content at all. It's people posting screenshots of their Spotify showing how they are in the top 5% or 1% or whatever of listeners to the band, or people complaining that Spotify has region-locked certain singles or EPs away from their country.

And this is an active, working band, with a fresh album and new tour dates just announced.
posted by glonous keming at 12:58 PM on March 21 [5 favorites]


deadaluspark: Part of it is that it's downright cheaper to be a remix artist working with a computer than it is to be a band which needs instruments, band members, a van, tour budget, etc. etc.

Is music software doing the same thing to the rock band era that rock bands did to the big band era?
posted by clawsoon at 1:10 PM on March 21 [26 favorites]


I enjoy listening to Penn Jillette's podcast, and a recent memorable segment was when he described how his teenage son and friends were working together to make a computer game. One friend was doing the audio, another the graphics, another the programming, all worked together on the storyline etc. The eventual realisation that Penn had was "this is a band. My son is in a band with his friends. They aren't making songs but they're in a band. ". So my point is that there are definitely young people getting together in groups and producing creative content together. That part of it isn't dead.
posted by McNulty at 1:17 PM on March 21 [86 favorites]


So it's been dying for a long time, and now the stats indicate that rock'n'roll is dead. Fine. Young people: please invent something new.
posted by Rash at 1:21 PM on March 21 [7 favorites]


I know the music must change, but I really wasn’t expecting something i loved so much to become so irrelevant so quickly, and for reasons that seem so petty: mainly, that live, collaborative music is suddenly perceived as too expensive, difficult and interpersonally complicated to be appealing. And i’m not here to dunk on changing tastes or technology... it’s just very hard to accept or to feel optimistic about the future when you’re told that something that basically saved your life as a younger person is slated for the trash heap.

And yes, rock bands probably did displace big bands for similar but not identical reasons. Cheaper, younger, smaller, more plentiful, more scalable, etc So it’s all just future garbage, right? I hate how crabby i sound, but the pain is real :/
posted by ducky l'orange at 1:23 PM on March 21 [18 favorites]


Seems like there are more bands than ever, and an ever diverse constellation of expanding genres and styles that bands play, it's just that there aren't any pop bands anymore. The same tools that have allowed electronic bedroom auteurs to accelerate their path to international car commercial sample success has also allowed bands to record and release their own increasingly sophisticated records with little expense or middle men. And in the digital age where every piece of music ever recorded is all available all at once, this has led to a an acceleration of cross-pollination of styles that you could maybe call the golden age of specialization for bands. Saying you like "rock" music or even "metal" in 2021 is kind of meaningless because that could mean almost anything. And pre the-thing-that-will-not-be-named, you could go see half a dozen of these bands play at half a dozen venues or bars in my mid-city sized any night of the week to diverse crowds, not niche scenes.

From my perspective there are too many bands, so many bands I will never listen to half the records I want to. Do those bands sell a lot of records or top the streaming counts? Probably not, but probably for that reason.
posted by bradbane at 1:25 PM on March 21 [7 favorites]


This is a really nice article! It wanders through a lot of different perspectives from the industry but I can’t help feel like the perspective of music consumers is kind of absent. That’s kind of expected, and reflected through the chart metrics, but at the same time that meta-question exists: what’s a band? Who is it for? Why do music consumers care?
  • As quoted by daedaluspark, this is indeed an era of an auteur. (From a personal perspective, much of the music I listen to is DJ mixes - where a “DJ” is essentially a self-described expert who combs through would-be auteurs and old band recordings to find things that are good.
  • While a band can be perceived as a particular collection of individuals who love and hate each other, for most casual listeners a band is just a single unit on stage. (I can name one Foo Fighter, two Radioheads, two Rolling Stones, three U2s, not even a single Kink, no Haims, two Roots, one Maroon 5, two Pavements, two Garbages, one Stroke, etc.) That’s fine if you’re in the underground, but when the article talks about marketing a band as a pack of distinct individuals, it just seems hard to pull off and barely worth it when there are plenty of people making beats at home. (This is implied in the article, but it doesn’t really wrangle with the anonymity of the band to consumers.) Better to find your lynchpin individual (who people will remember anyway) and let them collect a band around themselves.)
  • The pop group exception is really interesting, but as noted in the article those are branded, packaged products that are carefully crafted. I also think -but could be very wrong- they target the tween end of the spectrum in addition to the mainstream. That is, they need to keep fresh hot bods for people to eyeball, and they really aren’t “bands” as meaningful cultural constructs in the classic Western sense. (Or rather, they are part of a particular lineage of bands-as-defined products, like The Ramones or The Sex Pistols.)
  • Collaborations and guest spots still seem to be all over the place - to the extent that A&R folks want to market performers as having interpersonal dynamics there still seems to be plenty of room for that, just maybe not as one cohesive unit.
  • There’s an interesting race aspect to this - IMO hip-hop and rap, even when focusing on a group dynamic, have often prioritized the identities of the individuals within the group. (BROCKHAMPTON seems like an interesting part of this story, but I don’t know much about them.)
  • Within your own scene (hardcore, metal, etc.) it seems like bands still do just fine.
  • I’d be interested to see a breakdown on Bandcamp of relative popularity of bands versus individual acts, across different genres. Bandcamp is incredibly small scale compared to the pop charts, but would be interesting as an alternate perspective and community.
Anyhoo, as an old, to quote Eddie Argos of Art Brut, “Popular culture no longer applies to me.”
posted by Going To Maine at 1:27 PM on March 21 [16 favorites]


It's a more precarious world, now, especially for those who make money from travelling. And so the machine that makes money off of American Idol-style music like Levine's has probably shrunk some after Covid. Perhaps permanently, and that's probably the anxiety at play, here, for performers like him.

Young people will still get together and make things, but it might be some time before the Simon Cowells and other producers in the industry can glom money off of whatever that becomes.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:36 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


More on clawsoon's point -- for one thing, it was a bigger change than that, rock bands killed a dance hall system that had been growing since the 1840s, and also did amazing damage to the kind of dancing for which you have to cooperate with other dancers on the floor. (See Nott's Going to the Palais for how this worked in the UK. Dance palaces were as grand and popular as 1930s movie theaters and a couple generations older; they collapsed in less than a decade.)

Cooperation and compromise are really hard, it's not surprising that they vanish whenever tech or other wealth make it possible. But it's also possible that we lose more in not getting collaborative work than we gain by not having to slog through failed tries individually -- cooperation is not an unusual evolved strategy in non-sentient systems.
posted by clew at 1:36 PM on March 21 [20 favorites]


clew: "Dance palaces were as grand and popular as 1930s movie theaters and a couple generations older; they collapsed in less than a decade."

A band once did a song about this. (Granted, it was 1982.)
posted by chavenet at 1:58 PM on March 21 [22 favorites]


itt: "get off my lawn" the verb. Very good.
posted by firstdaffodils at 1:58 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


There are still a ton of local bands. It's more expensive than producing beats in your bedroom, because you need a lot of equipment, and in the last 5 or so years most of the venues focused on promoting shows with bands have closed down around here, or switched to karaoke night, rap night, standup night, or club night. So there are less places to play out.

But there's so much talent in the local scene. There's still a call for live music in bars and restaurants, for people with an acoustic guitar to come play in bars and cafes. I think the issue with the venues, and how expensive it is to properly run a show with a PA system and engineer at the soundboard, etc, is an even bigger issue than the issue with people's music tastes though. Currently jazz is in vogue, tastes change following a cycle and right now expertise with instruments is back in.

The issue is after forming a band and spending all this money on instruments, pedals and amps, guitar and vocal lessons, etc, where you can go to play.
posted by subdee at 2:00 PM on March 21 [6 favorites]


And so the machine that makes money off of American Idol-style music like Levine's has probably shrunk some after Covid

But...is there a such thing as "American Idol-style music?" There's a such thing as American Idol promotion, but it's essentially the same machine as Shark Tank, just drawn out into a competition. If anything, AI-style music is covers, but those don't really make it onto radio or YouTube as far as I can tell, to the limits of the bubble YouTube allows me to experience. (after all, recommendation engines are "YMMV as a service") The difference is the AI promotion machine.

Singers singing already-popular songs in individual flavors of Good Singing are undifferentiable, so much so that master voice artist Seth MacFarlane can simulate and execute it, so some kind of discrete commercial power is necessary to launch any one singer loose from the morass. I'm not aware of anybody relying on AI for innovation in anything more than scouting.
posted by rhizome at 2:03 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Which of the following are bands?
  1. Musicians working together under a single name, but not performing together. Instead they record tracks individually and mix them, sending project files back and forth online and iterate on each other's work.
  2. Musicians working & performing together under their own individual names.
  3. Musicians working & performing together on a project that gets released under a single musician's name.
Making music together is doing just fine, it's only the image of the band that's lost its shine.
posted by skymt at 2:11 PM on March 21 [6 favorites]


I think of both DJ-style auteur-filtration and ad-hoc collaborative partnerships as a sort of proactive, granular curation, music as a cocktail in a sense, that has a lot of expressive and amplifying power as an active process. In the worst case the old saw about two DJs deciding what movie to go to holds (“maybe, who’s the projectionist?”) but at their best a great DJ is as much a tour guide as an artist in their own right and a great collaboration, even if it isn’t what you’d call a band in the classic sense, can make two people’s expressions of sound resonate in wildly new and unexpected ways.

I’ve said this before, but as hard as it is to see past the horrors we are absolutely in the middle of a golden age of art, music and culture right now, possibly the greatest in all of human history.
posted by mhoye at 2:14 PM on March 21 [8 favorites]


The issue is after forming a band and spending all this money on instruments, pedals and amps, guitar and vocal lessons, etc, where you can go to play.

Many of the local venues went out of business during this last year in our downtown...
posted by deadaluspark at 2:15 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Many of the local venues went out of business during this last year in our downtown...

That's sad :( Same thing here though...
posted by subdee at 2:17 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


That's sad :( Same thing here though...

"Brutal." -Nathan Explosion

There's also that aspect with a lot of this as well. Rock and Roll literally became a silly joke in a lot of ways. I grew up on metal but sort of left it behind and I found Metalocalypse hilarious because it lampooned how absurd a lot of those bands had become in promoting how they're going to produce metal that's "blacker than the blackest black, times infinity." I'm not the only one who saw rock groups getting older and started thinking they were pretty silly and wanting to lampoon them.

Also, to quote one of the teenage characters of John Hodgman's "Dicktown":

"Rock and roll is dad music."
posted by deadaluspark at 2:20 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


Is music software doing the same thing to the rock band era that rock bands did to the big band era?

rock bands didn't do anything to the big band era - economics, radio going to musical formats while tv took over dramatic entertainment and the studio system of singers being backed by session musicians all had a hand in the big band going away - but it was mostly economics - the big bands were pretty much gone by 1950

music software isn't doing anything to rock bands - it's the continued decrease in places to play - and once again, economics - it's cheaper to get a dj - or let people throw axes at things - and what rock bands get paid doesn't pay them for all the expensive equipment

i couldn't even say what will happen now, thanks to covid, but there will be a lot less people making a living at music
posted by pyramid termite at 2:29 PM on March 21 [9 favorites]


I don't know if bands are dying, but hard rock is definitely one lunging it.
posted by Beholder at 2:30 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


It's difficult right now to think about going out-out, but this doesn't really about inform us about the venue consolidation and the vertical integration of ticketing, scalping, venues and rosters of bands that will play those routes while touring. Someone in the value chain must make more profit, so margins are squeezed elsewhere.

My anecdata is that I like the long-play format as a work of art so I want musicians to publish curated folios from a phase or scenery of their creative journey. I like a mixtape, too, curated by DJ as a seamless piece of music. I buy not stream and want high-detail downloads.
I'm looking forward to being in thecsame room as co-ordinated live musicians again soon.
posted by k3ninho at 2:36 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


Speaking as a dude who will be building a basement music studio this year, I'm definitely not OPPOSED to being in a band, but in my case I'm in my 50s and live in the middle of nowhere. It's just easier to do everything myself (or in limited circumstances, bring someone else in virtually).
posted by jscalzi at 2:36 PM on March 21 [10 favorites]


I'd play in a band with jscalzi: \m/ The Last Emperocks \m/
posted by k3ninho at 2:50 PM on March 21 [10 favorites]


Also, another nail in Rock and Roll's coffin was when "selling out" became "buying in."

You don't even HEAR talk about "selling out" anymore.
posted by deadaluspark at 3:14 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


I was thinking about this recently—especially about how much bands used to change over their lifespans. Take Queen for instance: they started out as Prog rockers with an a proto-metal vibe in some of their stuff, and in 10 years time released tracks like "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Genesis also changed radically over 10 short years. Just a couple examples.

Are there any contemporary bands that have changed their sound so much (within a decade) in recent times?
posted by SoberHighland at 3:15 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


rhizome: "so much so that master voice artist Seth MacFarlane can simulate and execute it"

mind .... blown.
posted by chavenet at 3:22 PM on March 21


One of the big problems, in my opinion, is that so far electronic music isn't very portable.

Up until we got into electronic music, the most difficult instrument to lug around with your was the drum kit. And it was difficult, but you could always go down to a snare and hi-hat setup or use a tom, or any of the dozens of adaptations that drummers have brought to Tiny Desk shows over the years.

But with electronic music, you've got a delicate system that's easily broken and can take ages to set up properly. You've got to have power, you've got to have space to set up keyboards, you've got to wire up your devices the right way. Tearing down a home setup for a jam session somewhere is a daunting prospect. And now that more and more people are playing electronic music, it makes sense that they're not getting out and playing with others more.

So I invented MIDI controllers that are absurdly easy to play, and that you can walk around making music with.

Metafilter projects link

That should help swing the balance back towards collaborative music-making, I would think. We can even have synthesizer marching bands now.
posted by MrVisible at 3:22 PM on March 21 [11 favorites]


This article is now almost a decade old, but is very pertinent here.

Rock is the New Jazz.
posted by zardoz at 3:24 PM on March 21 [7 favorites]


There once was a time where music was also a cultural phenomenon. Punk, for example. Is Hip-Hop still a cultural phenomenon? Or is it merely a business now? It seems that business, or more politely, economics is what drives music these days. More than in the past, when the chance for a local band to build a following was still possible, we now seem to live in a world where only prepackaged products are available.

I have the proverbial one person music setup purely for my own enjoyment, I really prefer collaborations.
posted by njohnson23 at 3:31 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


Are there any contemporary bands that have changed their sound so much (within a decade) in recent times?

The 1975 perhaps - they are certainly famous as ambitious art rockers who do many bold stylistic things within the pop mainstream. Of course, since I don’t actually listen to the 1975 because I’m an old, I have no idea.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:33 PM on March 21


It seems that business, or more politely, economics is what drives music these days. More than in the past, when the chance for a local band to build a following was still possible, we now seem to live in a world where only prepackaged products are available.

Pretty sure the trend is towards music breaking big by going viral on tiktok as video backing tracks. Tiktok is certainly a rich-get-richer kind of viral populism, but it’s presumably still fairly fan driven.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:35 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


Or rather, what are these “prepackaged products” we’re talking about?
posted by Going To Maine at 3:36 PM on March 21


Musics big problem is that it’s tentpole acts have been the same for half a century. The Rolling Stones etc should not be a relevant concern, but they’ve been kept in a superior position by a music industry that demands easy returns without investment.

Now, you might like new acts, and you might support younger bands, but the heritage industry of music is worth more. And in some ways, the idea that there was a golden age of music works better for the industry, because it can extort maximum value for icons of that loosely-defined period.

But this is definitely a turn off for getting into music, and that’s before you factor into the problem of no spaces to play/practice, and other modes of representation like YouTube, social media, and computer programming
posted by The River Ivel at 3:43 PM on March 21 [4 favorites]


You know what?

Here. (Top selling music artists, 1969-2019)

Notice what's been missing from the top of the heap since the 1970s, outside of one little blip by Queen?

This is an age in which rock music -- good rock music -- is more accessible to the general public than any other era in history. One of the biggest roadblocks -- the laborious and painful process of getting noticed by record labels, getting signed, recording The Album, getting it played on the radio, going on tour, selling albums, selling merch, and repeating all of the above without some bean-counter cutting you loose OR losing your shirt DESPITE being successful -- has given way in part to a myriad of ways of getting what you've created out there to the public.

But our mass media don't love the band; they love the most marketable person in the band. Which is how, let's say, No Doubt rapidly becomes the Gwen Stefani Cultural Appropriation Tour. Or how The Police became STING![tm]. Or a million other examples.

Just because it doesn't sell better than the focus-group-tested finely-honed solo artist machines doesn't mean that the rock band is dead and gone. It's back where it's always belonged -- in the garage.

ONE TWO THREE FOUR
posted by delfin at 3:59 PM on March 21 [11 favorites]


Musics big problem is that it’s tentpole acts have been the same for half a century. The Rolling Stones etc should not be a relevant concern, but they’ve been kept in a superior position by a music industry that demands easy returns without investment.

I don’t quite get this - certainly the heritage acts are getting richer, but you would have to do a lot of work to convince me that The Rolling Stones are more relevant as tentpole acts to the music industry these days than Rihanna and Drake. Certainly the Stones aren’t headlining modern festivals any more, save ones explicitly targeted at (their now very well-monied) demographic.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:07 PM on March 21 [4 favorites]


when the chance for a local band to build a following was still possible

Since we're talking kind of in economic-ish terms, this was because at that time, the scarce resource was bands. Bands who were good (not even great, just good) in many places truly just had to build it and people would come. Now, quality music is made in such quantities by so many people that the scarce resource is attention, and without either market mechanisms that fight against consolidation, or market interventions (ask Canadians about their 15% rule), the attention-rich will generally become attention-richer.
posted by tclark at 4:36 PM on March 21 [6 favorites]


Is music software doing the same thing to the rock band era that rock bands did to the big band era?

Maybe but I think that the economics of the 21st century make a sort of compelling case.

When I was in my early twenties, me and three friends bumbled around chronically underemployed or kinda pingponging between meh jobs, but still were able to scare up enough extra rent to move our drums and amps into studio practice space, and we gigged at a bunch of great bars and small clubs, and we cajoled our friends to come, and they'd tip the bartender well and we'd get paid in drinks, mostly.

The studio and all those little venues are all gone now. Every last one of them. We make a lot more money now and we can't afford a little extra space in the neighborhoods we used to muck around in. In the USA at least, young people are seeing more debt, a much higher cost of living, and worse economic prospects. Many cities are increasingly hostile to the conditions that allow art to flourish - cheap rent, a little bit of extra space, weird bars that have live music instead of being priced out by a wine bar or a whole foods or a starbucks or whatever other corporate horseman of the gentrification apocalypse. #notallcities, of course, but many of them.

The interwoven crises of debt, gentrification, inequality, and brutally extractive structure of the boomers-vs-millenials FYIGM economy did to bands the same damn thing it did to USAmerican cities and the economic prospects of the not-exactly-young-anymore generation and younger.
posted by entropone at 4:42 PM on March 21 [32 favorites]


firstdaffodils: itt: "get off my lawn" the verb. Very good.

Confused about conjugation of this. Can you help?
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 5:08 PM on March 21


To tie together entropone's point and my historical one -- 1865-1965, urban space might have been just as proportionally expensive as it is now, but private music was expensive or low-fidelity or both, and it turned out that a market of *lots* of people with not much money could support a lot of spaces for big and small music. Now it's easy to get private music, and that makes shared space sacrificable. Movie theaters might be going the same way, now that personal distribution can manage the bandwidth.
posted by clew at 5:09 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


Movie theaters might be going the same way, now that personal distribution can manage the bandwidth.

Christopher Nolan angrily pounds on my door, demanding I come outside and watch his movie on the big screen.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:11 PM on March 21 [7 favorites]


the "album" is also dying

Not if I can help it! I buy and listen to full albums, usually won't touch EPs or singles. Forget about radio, shuffle, and random streaming.

And I only release full albums. I'm starting to love the idea of continuous mixes with transitions, too -- my upcoming release is going to have three tracks, but the first is 28 minutes long, the second 21 and a half, the third 16 and a half.
posted by Foosnark at 5:37 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Regarding musicians not evolving in their careers, I think Beyoncé, among others, still surprises me each time she drops a new record. PJ Harvey, when she was still making music, also seemed to change over time.

I don't know that bands, per se, are dying. Maybe at the level that supports filling stadiums and having your drummer explode? But back in the before times, every little watering hole in this backwards island had a band on a Friday night, usually folks you'd see around town during the day. Good music? Some. Lots of covers, of course. But people jamming with each other a little too loudly in a hot sweaty bar. I think that part isn't going to go away, assuming we all ever start going back to bars.*

* Please. I want to sit down and eat bar food and yell to be heard and eyeball people way prettier than me again.
posted by maxwelton at 5:47 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


wondering too about how a generation growing up in Suburbia, in isolated houses where the noise of so-called "garage bands" practicing would surely wind up getting the cops called on them (or, alternatively, a generation growing up with their free time strictly managed and supervised, to prevent the sort of free time that might lead to band formation) might have affected the music industry too
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:56 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


I blame Foghat.
posted by clavdivs at 6:35 PM on March 21 [16 favorites]


Mostly it's that we, as a society, have decided that music isn't worth paying for anymore such that for non-hobbyists, the most viable path forward is as a solo artist. The venues and gigs that used to support growing bands are just gone, largely replaced by DJs (often playing music they haven't actually paid for) and making money from recordings is pretty futile particularly if you're sharing it between bandmates.

As with the destruction of journalism, we'll pay a price as a society, but it'll be cheered on by people that don't actually contribute.
posted by Candleman at 7:07 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


Things evolve, and sometimes that can be a hard situation for those of us who formed their tastes many, many years ago. I'm not particularly worried about the state of music - if anything this is a bit of a golden age where I can listen to just about anything with a tap of the finger.

What we seem to be discussing here is not so much that music is changing, but that the economic models that music lives within is changing. I don't see that as a terrible thing, either. The old models were far from egalitarian.

As long as humans make music, we'll have music.
posted by elwoodwiles at 7:43 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


As with the destruction of journalism, we'll pay a price as a society, but it'll be cheered on by people that don't actually contribute.

Uh - unlike the destruction of journalism, though, the cost (of solo artists being major pop successes instead of bands) seems a bit harder to quantify.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:46 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


As long as humans make music, we'll have music.

Gillian has some words with you.

the economic models that music lives within is changing. I don't see that as a terrible thing, either.

Easy to cheer it on when it doesn't actually impact you. How do you feel about the robots that are going to decimate high paying restaurant jobs?

Uh - unlike the destruction of journalism, though, the cost (of solo artists being major pop successes instead of bands) seems a bit harder to quantify.

The problem is that anything like this is hard to quantify. You can't show me a mathematical equation that shows that the degradation of paying for journalism led to Trump. Similarly, we don't know exactly what the effects of making many artistic endeavors unviable for anyone other than the rich or willing to be poor will be.
posted by Candleman at 8:25 PM on March 21


The "Rock is the new jazz" article was interesting to me, but I think it's off base. Like rock, much of jazz music started fairly musically simple, and of course was an entirely new sound that felt deeply cool.

But jazz became more and more musically complex as it became less popular. Today, jazz is learned and studied in conservatories and wins Pulitzer Prizes. Rock, however, has largely stayed very four-chordsy; the rock musicians that were musically challenging and complex either disappeared (Beatles) or went out of style (prog rock). Rock is not on the Pulitzer path, and no one needs to study for years to play Nirvana.

Needless to say, "difficulty" does not equal "quality"; I'm not trying to say jazz is "better" than rock. But the way in which it has lost cultural prominence is very, very different from how jazz has. Maybe because all too often, rock was about the ego, and jazz was about the music.
posted by lewedswiver at 8:36 PM on March 21 [8 favorites]


Uh - unlike the destruction of journalism, though, the cost (of solo artists being major pop successes instead of bands) seems a bit harder to quantify.

The problem is that anything like this is hard to quantify. You can't show me a mathematical equation that shows that the degradation of paying for journalism led to Trump. Similarly, we don't know exactly what the effects of making many artistic endeavors unviable for anyone other than the rich or willing to be poor will be.

Regarding journalism, I was thinking about how the decline in local news coverage allows for greater local corruption and graft - not Donald Trump. That, I think, is a quantifiable cost. Shifts in culture are harder to capture. I do think the way society pays through music has gone and continues to go through hell and the process has been destructive to a lot of things many of us care about. Those lost careers and lost earnings are bad consequences. I’m not sure, however, that the new styles of making music - or the replacement of bands with solo acts in the pop charts - is necessarily a cultural loss instead of a cultural shift.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:54 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


the "album" is also dying

I don't think the album is dying at all. Vinyl sales are more than CD sales in the US now, that would only happen if people wanted to listen to the whole album in order. There are still event albums and singles and EPs they just don't always come from rock bands.
posted by subdee at 8:57 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Rock is not on the Pulitzer path

Because it's already there?

If honorary is not good enough, I guess we could consider Nobel prizes?
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 8:58 PM on March 21


rock musicians that were musically challenging and complex either disappeared (Beatles) or went out of style (prog rock). Rock is not on the Pulitzer path, and no one needs to study for years to play Nirvana.

Could be you just picked a bad example, but Nirvana, while superficially sounding catchy, and by all reports Kurt Cobain primarily wrote in a very intuitive fashion rather than from an academic angle, actually is fiendishly subtle and complex musically. You don't have to take my word for it, check out what Rick Beato has to say about Cobain.
posted by tclark at 9:20 PM on March 21 [9 favorites]


I don't think the album is dying at all. Vinyl sales are more than CD sales in the US now

Versus how much in online music sales and streaming music sales? I mean, really? Who the fuck has bought CDs in the last 15 years? iTunes music store appeared in 2003. They dropped DRM from their music in 2009. You're really trotting this out as the metric of "the album isn't dying?"

Just look at the RIAA's own figures for 2020. (last page)

Also, notice how they don't seem to have a category for digital EPs? I think there is a lot in the digital downloads arena that maybe flies under the radar because they aren't on big labels and thus not affiliated with the RIAA. Also, digital single sales still outstrip digital album sales.

But the numbers for streaming absolutely DWARF everything else, and physical sales account for less than 10% of the market in 2019 and 2020.

Looks to me like the album is pretty fucking ding dong dead and the shared streaming "mixtape" is reigning.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:30 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


Looks to me like the album is pretty fucking ding dong dead and the shared streaming "mixtape" is reigning.

This is likely quite true, but on first pass those charts don’t break out how often people stream albums or chunks of albums in track order. I assume that shuffle play dwarfs that, but I do feel like part of the story is being hidden from me. After all, if the album were completely dead we’d be seeing review sites dramatically restructuring themselves around singles and far fewer artists dropping new albums at all. The album as a convenient method for bundling tracks by the same artist and creating big release events is, I think, still alive. The album caters to the fan, in other words, not the casual listener.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:09 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


Confused about conjugation of this.

Although not clear from the infinitive example provided, I believe that it would have to be inflected by appending the appropriate suffix to the end of the phrase, thus:

I get-off-my-lawned the shit out of that thread.

rather than:

*I got off my lawn the shit out of that thread.

The latter approach would create serious garden-path problems even in contexts in which ambiguity did not arise.
posted by Not A Thing at 10:35 PM on March 21 [5 favorites]


Because it's already there?

Every Pulitzer Prize for Music has gone to classical or jazz, until Kendrick Lamar.

This is not a value statement about what type of music is "good." It's a structural and class-based description of the roles these genres are playing in our culture.

Rock is not winning Pulitzer Prizes. It's just not the direction the genre is going.
posted by lewedswiver at 10:51 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


What we seem to be discussing here is not so much that music is changing

Ensemble music up to -- very recently! -- reached the height of human skill in collaborating and improvising in real time. I've never done it very seriously or well but the feeling when it works is like another sense, or a new dimension. And, performing live, the audience is part of it too. The more complicated the structures you're expected to keep up with while improvising together, the stronger the effect. I would be really surprised if one person laying down eight tracks comes up with the same music as eight musicians playing their own lines.

So we're in for a generation or more of a different kind of music, which is probably fine, and drum circles and conservatory kids will be the appendix preserving the lost art. But it is likely to be different.
posted by clew at 11:50 PM on March 21


OK well Casey Kasem isn't counting down the Top 40 anymore either, and the Soul Train dancers are collecting Social Security. The music industry changes. It's not terrible, it's just different. Anyone who wants to tell me a Beyonce concert isn't every bit as brilliant as a Rolling Stones concert was can fight me.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:37 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


DarlingBri, a younger colleague of mine sent me a number of links to Djent bands in an attempt to convince me that Rock is still very much alive and I came away saying "meh" but in the full realization that musical tastes tend to be locked into what we liked when we were younger and, despite trying to tell ourselves otherwise, advancing age tends to lock them in even more. Typically if there is a newer song my kids introduce to me that I actually like (Paramore's "Hard Times") it's mostly because it sounds like something from the 80s or 90s.

There are still a lot of decent artists out there but the music business has been forced to change a lot over the past couple of decades.
posted by drstrangelove at 3:50 AM on March 22


signal is 100% correct, and this article is nonsense.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:57 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]


"Looks to me like the album is pretty fucking ding dong dead "

I guess your definition of "dead" and mine are very different (I'll ignore your creative "fucking ding dong" modifier for ease of discussion). When used as an adverb, dead means "absolutely or completely".

Streaming accounts for 80%+, sure, but vinyl record sales went up by almost 30%, no doubt pandemic-related, but if you go to a forum such as r/vinyl you'll see that the demographic runs fairly young, high school, college, etc. They are looking for something new, as the young-uns tend to do. I see this anecdotally with my 19 year old, who loves his Spotify, etc., but is also discovering the long play album and getting into it.

It's all a pendulum swing. The album is not dead. Bands are not dead. In X number of years, we'll all be here discussing the inevitable article about how bands/albums are back.
posted by jeremias at 5:07 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


To add to the anecdata, it feels to me that the streaming era has simply highlighted the very, very small percentage of bands who have ever managed to make a living writing and performing songs. In decades past, there was far more money flowing around the industry, and even though the cost of access was higher (time, studios, technology, etc.) the returns were also much, much greater because of record sales; in some cases, one hit single could set you up for life. That might still be the case in certain genres, and as others have noted, maybe it's solo artists who are more likely to have those successes in this very personality driven digital age.

But overall I think there are more bands than ever before, just as there are more solo performers, thanks to the democratization of production and distribution, the relative cheapness of instruments and equipment and the fact that we're constantly watching a massive virtual global stage, so any form of recognition, however tiny, is validating. At the same time, the stakes are also way, way, way lower, and most modern bands are all too aware of that (disclosure, I am in one such low stakes band). Is there more authenticity in acknowledging that music can be an enjoyable, but perhaps peripheral, passion and not an all-consuming, hedonistic lifestyle that bankrupts labels, destroys hotel rooms and sneers relentlessly at the phonies? Being a professional musician and being in a band is not necessarily (and never was?) the same thing.
posted by srednivashtar at 5:44 AM on March 22 [4 favorites]


This is bullshit. There are tons of bands and there always will be. I personally haven't played with my band for a fucking year because, duh, covid. Do you think it was easy before that? We're dedicated but not local stars. We play basements and DIY spots and sometimes bars. Where is the worst place to play? Bars, if you can even get them to let you play. It is usually for no money or at least under $30 for the entire night. We provide atmosphere and entertainment for a venue and they profit off our labor. There is no ability to recoup costs like equipment, a practice space, feeling some dignity.

We do this because we love it, and we scrape and save and repair our shit with friend's help and struggle to put out our albums ourselves.

No one with money and power is going to help, there is no help. But still we press on. And after the pandemic, it's game on again. Same as it ever was.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:27 AM on March 22 [9 favorites]


I blame Foghat.

Aiming for the low hanging potato, are we?
posted by y2karl at 7:05 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


I've thought before that rock is the new jazz, as well. And, as a lifelong rocker, I'm happy with that. Not being the dominant form of popular music feels liberating. Now I can nerd out on the new rock bands I like without caring at all about what's 'cool', because rock's not cool.
Thousands of genres and sub-genres and regional variants are sprouting. For instance, in Chile, where I live, the music scene, including rock bands, is more vibrant and interesting than it's ever been, in part I think because the lack of an aggressive hegemonizing swarm of 'real rock' has allowed people to explore and create freely in a way you couldn't really if the yardstick you were measured against was Led Zeppelin or Bon Jovi and their global marketing machines.
posted by signal at 7:27 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


Are there any contemporary bands that have changed their sound so much (within a decade) in recent times?

My opinion of course:

Different Album to Album:
Arcade Fire went from world rock music to disco
None of Vampire Weekend's albums sound particularly musically similar
The Killers from indie pop hooks to Bruce Springsteen/lyrics oriented to back and forth
Ryan Adams covers many genres - releases too much to be considered consistent
The Strokes latest doesn't sound much like their early material.


Similar Album to Album:
Kings of Leon sound similar from album to album
White Stripes/Raconteurs - added a bunch of instruments but sound relatively similar
Imagine Dragons
21 Pilots
The National
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Foo Fighters - sound so similar album to album - that someone joked they had to record a different album just to put a acoustic guitar part on.
Arctic Monkeys
Green Day
Queens of the Stone Age

Are Maroon 5 really a band? Having heard quite a few of their songs, it seems like a "No Doubt" situation, where the rest of the band members are completely disposable.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:28 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


And I'm just picking current rock bands that get regular radio airplay or had a recent (since 2000) hit. I may have missed a few.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:33 AM on March 22


OH NOES!
How music is made and who's collecting the cash is changing and this bodes ill for teh olds that want things to stay the same!
I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but WEA ain't one.
posted by evilDoug at 7:35 AM on March 22 [6 favorites]


The issue is after forming a band and spending all this money on instruments, pedals and amps, guitar and vocal lessons, etc, where you can go to play.

Wait - lessons? The kids these days take lessons?!
posted by Cardinal Fang at 7:44 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]


If you ignore pop, which is easy if you avoid the radio, bands are doing okay. Of course, I say this as someone who records alone at home with the use of technology so perhaps I'm full of it.
posted by tommasz at 7:51 AM on March 22


You don't have to take my word for it, check out what Rick Beato has to say yt about Cobain.

The problem with Rick Beato is he only reviews songs that were popular and famous, so it's interesting, but it's akin to describing why rich people are so awesome.

You should take the things he says about artists to be specific to them, but shouldn't imply that what they did was only done by them or that their music is more complex than those who didn't become famous, because music is not sports.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:54 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Interesting discussion.. I think people who are focused on the question "are bands surviving" or however we phrase it might shift that focus to "what is coming to an end" whether we all agree on that (or not).. Because there is a trivial sense in which we can agree that the Big Band era ended. And I'd say something is definitely ending, but as soon as we embody that 'something' in more concrete terms we appear to differ in our opinions. Perhaps the 'something' needs to be lifeless for a period before it's obviously a corpse?

I mean, big band music still happens but it's not happening in the same way it used to.
posted by elkevelvet at 8:20 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Streaming accounts for 80%+, sure, but vinyl record sales went up by almost 30%, no doubt pandemic-related, but if you go to a forum such as r/vinyl you'll see that the demographic runs fairly young, high school, college, etc.

Why would increases in vinyl sales be tied to the pandemic?

A subreddit dedicated to vinyl seems like a good place to get a feel for the vinyl scene, but a kind of deceptive one if you want to consider something representative of the health of the medium in the overall culture. I agree that vinyl is experiencing a boom -something physical and tangible is nicer than something virtual- but it’s hard to believe that it’s a driver of anything when streaming is so ubiquitous. (OTOH, as previous posts about YouTube driving the rediscovery of Japanese ambient from the 80s) I think that there’s an interesting interplay between new media as a tool for rediscovering old media that has been forgotten.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:20 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Also, no one here (including myself) has mentioned the guy from The Needle Drops, and he is likely the most important critic driving what the kids listen to today. The channel name is a vinyl reference, and as a non-watcher all I know for certain is that he always has a vinyl-size blow-up of the album art behind him.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:23 AM on March 22


Going To Maine: "Also, no one here (including myself) has mentioned the guy from The Needle Drops, and he is likely the most important critic driving what the kids listen to today. "

That really, really, really depends on how you're scoping what you think of as 'the kids'. Youths in your neighborhood, city, region, country, continent, social class, language group?

I doubt the kids dancing to trap and reggaeton in Santiago care that much about this one English language Youtube channel.
posted by signal at 8:46 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]


That Penn Jilette quote upthread made me realize that this can't possibly be a very recent development. When I was young 30 years ago my friends and acquaintances were part of the demo scene, some programming, some making music, some drawing. (I wasn't particularly good at any of those things.) Pretty much a band-type thing, including silly names.

For the un-initiated, the demo scene in the 80s and 90s concerned themselves with making the home computers of the day do stuff they really weren't designed to do, mostly to impress the other movers and shakers in the demo scene. A good demo had visual displays and music and some kind of technical wizardry to tie it all together. There's even a MetaFilter tag!
posted by Harald74 at 8:54 AM on March 22


Why would increases in vinyl sales be tied to the pandemic?

People are home more and have time to listen to their turntables.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:55 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]


Musics big problem is that it’s tentpole acts have been the same for half a century. The Rolling Stones etc should not be a relevant concern, but they’ve been kept in a superior position by a music industry that demands easy returns without investment.

That's not really new, though? Dark Side of the Moon didn't vacate/ the top 100 in album sales for over 20 years. While it's probably the most long lived in that respect, I'm pretty sure there were others that just wouldn't leave.
posted by wierdo at 9:21 AM on March 22


Yes, that’s the point: popular music as represented by the studio system has determined its canon as being roughly 1961-198*. Anything after that must either ape the forms of classic rock or be Othered. Grunge music followed the forms of rock and was allowed in; rave music (now a subgenre of dance) did not, and is hardly discussed despite being the foundation of much of modern contemporary music.
posted by The River Ivel at 9:35 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


What do you mean by that? Discussed by whom? By 'modern contemporary music', do you mean rave music underlying pop music, ie: modern contemporary pop music is rave music with pop lyrics?
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:56 AM on March 22


Yes, that’s the point: popular music as represented by the studio system has determined its canon as being roughly 1961-198. Anything after that must either ape the forms of classic rock or be Othered. Grunge music followed the forms of rock and was allowed in; rave music (now a subgenre of dance) did not, and is hardly discussed despite being the foundation of much of modern contemporary music.*

What do you mean by that? Discussed by whom? By 'modern contemporary music', do you mean rave music underlying pop music, ie: modern contemporary pop music is rave music with pop lyrics?

Yes, “othering” seems very ambiguous here. Has Beyoncé been othered? Was EDM “othered”? When we say that rave music was “othered” - well, EDM tore up the charts (as you note) and it’s not like you can’t find people paying homage to club music out there.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:09 AM on March 22


Back in the 80s, my rule of thumb was, if the guitar player can sing, you've got a solo act, if the guitar player can't sing, then it's a band.
posted by straight at 11:01 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


Back in the 80s, my rule of thumb was, if the guitar player can sing, you've got a solo act, if the guitar player can't sing, then it's a band.

What if the guitar player couldn't play guitar?
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:23 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


Honestly, the guy behind the Needle Drop is 35 and his tastes cater more to his age group than to the "youth."

Promoting a guy that's nearly 40 as the music critic that "knows what the kids like" is super disingenuous. I say this partly because he's usually reviewing stuff I'm already listening to. I'm nearly 40, this means it's SUPER unlikely that he's actually pushing the envelope for "youth," especially since he's been a staple of everyone in my age group for years now. He sounds to me like just a major millennial music critic. He started making videos critiquing albums in 2009, 12 years ago, pardon me for thinking that's "old hat." Millennials aren't youth, no matter how much our media keeps pretending they are. Fantano is firmly in the middle of millennial demographics and his tastes freaking show it. People telling themselves otherwise are deluding themselves into thinking that they're still "hip." I'm over 30, I'm not hip, period.

Also, as for the physical media, well, digital has caught up with that, too. Grimes made a shitload of money releasing music videos as NFTs, which make each video "unique" digitally. People who want that unique feel of a copy of a record that is truly theirs and no one else's can now do that in the digital realm.

Physical manifestations of art are quickly losing all the things that make them distinct from digital art.

"What if the guitar player couldn't play guitar?"

You labelled yourself "experimental noise rock."
posted by deadaluspark at 11:25 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


What if the guitar player couldn't play guitar?

Band.
posted by straight at 11:28 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


"What do you mean you're a bass player but you don't know how to play bass?"

"I'm the bass player in a band."
posted by straight at 11:30 AM on March 22


"What do you mean you're a bass player but you don't know how to play bass?"

"I'm the bass player in a band."


Jazz bassists shake their heads and facepalm at this.
posted by deadaluspark at 11:33 AM on March 22


I'm not saying bassists can't play. I'm saying "drummer" or "keyboardist" can be a description of musical ability and/or the name of a role in a band.
posted by straight at 11:50 AM on March 22


12 years! 35! That’s true, definitely not a Gen Z or Gen alpha thing.

But NFTs as a replacement for physical albums seems more debatable - the key attribute of an NFT is that it’s a limited commodity, not that it’s something you can own. The vast majority of record buyers wanted to just have the album, not to be the only person who had an album. To go back to a Bandcamp, it’s a perfectly viable tool for signifying that you like an artist enough to pay them some money and add their album to your collection without the limited quantity or weird liminality of an NFT.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:51 AM on March 22


"What do you mean you're a bass player but you don't know how to play bass?"
AC/DC got by without a legit drummer or legit bass player. It's not that big a deal.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:08 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


Rock as Real Estate by Ian Svenonius:
Typically singular or small, the "folk" and "electros" can practice anywhere, and therefore can do away with the need for the sound-proofed practice space, a hot commodity in any "gentrified" city. This stylistic transformation, besides exposing electro-clash's debt to Mr. Greenspan, reveals that the rock-n-roll group has always been an expression of expansion and settlement, linked forever to property and real estate.

"Punk Rock," for example, began in New York during a famous economic blight when space was readily available in the form of lofts. It can be considered a form of homesteading, a call to colonization, especially considered alongside the later punk affinity for squatting in abandoned spaces and transforming fallow warehouses into clubs.

Like the terms "arena rock" and "bar band," the term "garage band" implies a relationship with space...
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:09 PM on March 22 [5 favorites]


Rock isn't dead, it just went underground. It's better off not being in the mainstream.
posted by Ber at 12:17 PM on March 22 [4 favorites]


rave music (now a subgenre of dance) did not, and is hardly discussed despite being the foundation of much of modern contemporary music.

Hardly discussed? A light sampling of recent publications:

Electronic Dance Music in the Dubstep Era

Unlocking the Groove: Rhythm, Meter, and Musical Design in Electronic Dance Music

Beyond the dance floor : female DJs, technology and electronic dance music culture

Inner Sound: Altered States of Consciousness in Electronic Music and Audio-Visual Media

Playing with Something That Runs: Technology, Improvisation, and Composition in DJ and Laptop Performance

There also many texts available that discuss Detroit Techno and other 90s electronic dance music sub-genres specifically ("rave music", broadly speaking), as well as the rave experience from social, emotional and psycho-pharmacological perspectives.

A blithe statement like "there are no bands anymore" denies contemporary praxis. No, there aren't, not like there were in the 20th century, but collaborative music-making is alive and well. There is no problem here, just ever-evolving tools and practice. And the waning of rock as a style is as predictable as a sunset--anybody still partying to the hottest dance music genre of the 1900s, ragtime?
posted by LooseFilter at 12:26 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


anybody still partying to the hottest dance music genre of the 1900s, ragtime?

Of course, but we know we're weird.

The LRB letters section had a hilarious exchange over months in which an enthusiast of court tennis contested a historical reviewer's characterization of current players as a small group. There are as many of them as of -- this is where it got funny, the debate over how many members of a pastime it takes to not be trivial; all the numbers were trivial compared to the human population, but all the numbers were also way, way over the Dunbar number.
posted by clew at 12:37 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


It's *harder to find them* trying to wade through all the radios' tomato soup. However e.g.

Royal Blood 'Typhoons'
posted by Twang at 12:59 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


...the need for the sound-proofed practice space, a hot commodity in any "gentrified" city

That whole quote was really interesting. I recall the bassist Marcus Miller said that a key event in his development as a musician was when his family moved to Queens, and the houses there had basements, so he and his peers had places to rehearse bands.

I wonder if you could still get away with having a bunch of kids running a funk band in the basement, in his old neighborhood, or if you'd be crushed with noise complaints at once.
posted by thelonius at 2:02 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


If the neighbors aren't bitching, you're doing it wrong.
posted by delfin at 2:14 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


What if the guitar player couldn't play guitar?

New Order is definitely a band.

<ducks>
posted by GuyZero at 2:27 PM on March 22 [4 favorites]


Throw-away comment from a music industry insider yields massive claims from click-hungry journalists.

Yes, technology is making it easier to be a solo artist. More to the point, it is probably making it easier for people who would have been the singer/songwriter/leader of a band to dispense with bandmates, who were frequently not as talented, got jealous, hogged the limelight and demanded money.

Does this mean bands are passé? No. People will form bands because they (a) actually like collaborating (b) see the benefits of collaborating (c) like the social nature of being in a band etc etc.

This is like a recent NYT (I think?) article that tried to argue that because TikTok is currently a fad, the entire structure of pop music has been irrevocably changed to nothing but riffs and hooks.

Coming back to Adam Levine's comment: I am sorry, but while he seems to have a fine voice, I don't recall him being elected spokesperson for all humans on all musical matters.
posted by senor biggles at 2:30 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]


One thing that no one has mentioned, although it's probably pretty minor in the scheme of things: bands that aren't advertised as bands. My examples are pretty old but both Bryan Adams and Corey Hart were not studio auters by any definition and while there was no guarantee that they toured with the same people who played on their albums, my understanding is that artists like these tended to have the same musicians most of the time and were effectively bands that just had a different contractual arrangement than a regular band. I wonder if there are still any of these kinds of "solo" singers still around. Does Ed Sheeran really have a different drummer every time he shows up for a gig?
posted by GuyZero at 2:50 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


I'm trying - and failing - to remember an essay or radio production from some years ago lamenting, a bit hyperbolically, that there are no longer any songs in popular music. Instead of songs, we now mostly have individual recordings. (With alternative versions, remixes, covers, etc, of course.)

To paraphase and probably choose less convincing examples, as a performer you play Ain't Misbehavin' and Folsom Prison Blues, while you cover A Day in the Life and Like a Prayer, even though they're all hits made famous by very specific individual artists. Whether it's good or bad isn't obvious to me. But, it does seem consistent with my impression of how pop music has changed. I wonder if the trends discussed in this interesting piece aren't related.
posted by eotvos at 2:52 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Yes, that’s the point: popular music as represented by the studio system has determined its canon as being roughly 1961-198*

no, not the studio system, classic rock radio - and it's classic rock, not popular music - pop continues to produce songs that can be as good as the 60s-80s without sounding just like them

half the rock and rollers departed for country in the 80s anyway
posted by pyramid termite at 3:39 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


One thing that no one has mentioned, although it's probably pretty minor in the scheme of things: bands that aren't advertised as bands.

I mean, I haven’t mentioned that much but it’s kind of covered in the article - which itself discusses Phoebe Bridgers as an artist who is social media savvy, doing very well on the charts and plays with a band - but who is specifically branded as an indvidual and not a band.

People in the thread are occasionally ragging on Adam Levine for making a dumb statement, but the article itself notes, in the second paragraph

Levine was quick to clarify that he meant bands “in the pop limelight” but the internet doesn’t really do clarification, so his remarks sparked bemusement and outrage among the literal-minded, from aggrieved veterans such as Garbage (“What are we Adam Levine? CATS?!?!?”) to fans of newcomers such as Fontaines DC and Big Thief.

Thanks very much, Guardian author and headline writer, for making your article slightly more clickbaity than it would be otherwise.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:51 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]



Wait - lessons? The kids these days take lessons?!


Not only do the kids take lessons, but a fair number of musicians I know make their living by teaching lessons.

You can also find a ton of tutorials on youtube, of course.
posted by subdee at 4:36 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


pyramid termite: half the rock and rollers departed for country in the 80s anyway

A guy I know who used to work in a studio in Nashville said the same thing. Country music became rock-and-roll bands with a twangy accent and an occasional fill from a pedal steel guitar. The impression I got was that the studio musicians were often straight-up former rock studio musicians.
posted by clawsoon at 5:12 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


subdee: Not only do the kids take lessons, but a fair number of musicians I know make their living by teaching lessons.

That's what happened to a bunch of jazz musicians, too, isn't it?

...or so I remember from high school trumpet camp, anyway.
posted by clawsoon at 5:16 PM on March 22


The impression I got was that the studio musicians were often straight-up former rock studio musicians.

I personally know 2 former-Cleveland-now-Nashville guitarists who work with Country Artists You've Heard Of who got their start playing hair metal originals and classic rock covers. So, yeah.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:42 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]


I mean, I haven’t mentioned that much but it’s kind of covered in the article - which itself discusses Phoebe Bridgers as an artist who is social media savvy, doing very well on the charts and plays with a band - but who is specifically branded as an indvidual and not a band.

Except that she's been a recording and touring member of two bands in the last three years. Boygenius and Better Oblivion were both very much not solo projects.
posted by octothorpe at 5:45 PM on March 22


That's what happened to a bunch of jazz musicians, too, isn't it?

Well there is a whole big economy of jazz education, and, in the university programs, it's kind of become like the MFA scene, where you have a lot of artists with mostly an audience of other artists and students, who are devoted to an art form that you can't support yourself in anymore otherwise. There is a sort of grim irony in the jazz performance degree programs, because where and for who are the graduates going to perform any jazz? There used to be jazz clubs in every big city, or at least supper club kind of places where they had some hoary local working the piano and having players from out of town sit in, but even that is pretty much gone. Someone is getting hired as side players by established artists who tour, but good luck....I saw Christian McBride a few years ago, and he had some young musicians in his band that were just unreal, out of this world. That's the competition.
posted by thelonius at 6:34 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, this is probably an interesting time to go to such a program. A friend's son graduated from one recently, (or covid-graduated, they didn't even get to play normal recitals) and he says the student jams and gigs had a lot of fusion with neo-soul and electronica, which sounds like more fun than running Michael Brecker licks up and down while your peers glower at you thinking they could do that better. So the students are aware that they are studying something that is a thing among other things, and that if they have a career in music, it will probably be doing one of those other things. The touring gigs are mostly country and R&B and pop, some of those young jazz degree holders work in those bands. Starting your own band, as always, is the best way to get work, except it will be work that you don't make any money at for a long time.
posted by thelonius at 6:43 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


Rock, however, has largely stayed very four-chordsy; the rock musicians that were musically challenging and complex either disappeared (Beatles) or went out of style (prog rock).

When we are talking about rock as a niche genre rather than rock as a mainstream genre - and we are certainly talking about its evolution in that direction - I am not sure this is true. There are a lot of experimental and musically sophisticated offshoots of rock music. Anything from Sonic Youth type stuff to noise rock to post-rock to (the progressive end of) death metal.
posted by atoxyl at 6:44 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I’m not sure the last time I thought of a band as a “rock” band with no other qualifier. Haim, I guess, but I’m not sure if their fans would agree. It’s all subgenres at this point.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:48 PM on March 22


Rock, however, has largely stayed very four-chordsy

What's the fourth chord?
posted by Cardinal Fang at 1:13 AM on March 23 [4 favorites]


probably the vi, then you have the infamous I-V-vi-IV formula of modern radio as well as the "ice cream changes" (I-vi-IV-V) of oldies radio era rock
posted by thelonius at 1:36 AM on March 23


Are Maroon 5 really a band? Having heard quite a few of their songs, it seems like a "No Doubt" situation, where the rest of the band members are completely disposable.

There seem to be a lot of "bands" like that. Jamiroquai is basically the Jay Kay show, for example. Zender was the bassist in the 90s and he bolted because Jay Kay refused to give credit to anyone else in the band for anything.
posted by drstrangelove at 4:02 AM on March 23


On the other hand, this is probably an interesting time to go to such a program.

Side note, but definitely, and the evolution that some schools are pursuing is to reframe jazz programs under a "Black American Music" umbrella, which will allow for a more rich exploration of all (e.g.) blues-based music within a curricular framework. The other kind of programs that are changing in (some) music schools in very interesting ways are the music technology/industry/production/sound design programs, which are growing from mostly technical toward more full intellectual and creative integration into students' activities and requirements as musicians. YMMV depending upon institution, of course.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:20 AM on March 23 [3 favorites]


You can also find a ton of tutorials on YouTube, of course.
50% of the you tube watching my kid does is of Ukulele tutorials. The only "band" that she listens to right now is Imagine Dragons. Everything else is songs about video games or showtunes. Oh, unless you count Asap Science as a band. They do videos, but their songs are part of her Spotify playlists, too.
posted by eckeric at 8:27 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


> There are a lot of experimental and musically sophisticated offshoots of rock music. Anything from Sonic Youth type stuff to noise rock to post-rock to (the progressive end of) death metal.

certain kinds of post-hardcore have been pushing in those directions too. I think it's a little ironic to be a genre that originated in anti-prog-rock populism slowly re-inventing prog-rock from first principles. They're doing a great job of it, mind you. But it's a bit funny.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:01 PM on March 23 [1 favorite]


What's the fourth chord?

David played it and it pleased the lord but you don't really care for music do you?
posted by GuyZero at 4:14 PM on March 23 [6 favorites]


What's the fourth chord?

Dunno, damn thing's still lost.

(I'll show myself out....)
posted by gtrwolf at 9:57 PM on March 23


Is rock dead?

Nah. It just manifests in unexpected ways.
posted by delfin at 4:35 AM on March 24


While the article covered the change in the industry, and we have hashed out many feelings about bands and rock music’s moving to the underground, there’s a pretty good, somewhat anecdata-powered-but-in-the-right-way-though-skewed-older article by David Dayen in The American Prospect about the current state of the industry for working mid-tier musicians as streaming has evolved: “Islands In The Stream”
Spotify also pays out absurdly low per-stream rates, though not as bad as YouTube. “Last year, the COVID year, Galaxie 500 had 8.5 million streams on Spotify,” Damon Krukowski explained. “We also released a 2,000-copy, limited-edition LP. They raised the same amount of money. Neither is enough to live on.” Krukowski calculated that to earn the equivalent of a $15-an-hour living wage, a band would have to get 650,000 streams per month per band member.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:29 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


My clear, simple, and (probably) wrong solution is to split all stream revenues evenly: 1/3 to the artist, 1/3 to the streaming service, 1/3 to the rightsholder. Spotify has negotiated separate contracts with the labels rather than going through SoundExchange, and those numbers are unknown. Knowing the music industry history, it's not looking good for the artists.

I've been waiting for a long time for a direct-to-fan model to become viable, but Bandcamp is the only existing service that seems capable of incorporating that kind of feature, but I think their goals and priorities lie elsewhere. Like, what if you had an app that was your streaming service? Like Google Reader, you plug in bands' URLs and the app switches between the artist's stream providers (like Bandcamp, or YouTube) like a radio station. Shuffle for RSS items.

What's the music consumer spend not including live events? $10/year per artist you want to subscribe to? Maybe less! Not sure where ASCAP gets their hooks in, but that's an implementation detail. Also it might only be good for artists who still own their publishing.
posted by rhizome at 1:41 PM on March 25


Not sure where ASCAP gets their hooks in

ASCAP and BMI are hardly the problem, at least from the writers' and performers' point of view.

The Am Prospect piece Going To Maine linked and this NPR piece (also featuring Damon Krukowski) make it obvious that it's the labels & the streaming services that are getting the lion's share.

Which is hardly unprecedented in the music industry - there's an established pattern where a new format arrives (long-playing vinyl, cassettes, CD's) and the labels all claim to believe that it's a flash in the pan and so justifies a lower royalty percentage to the acts & writers, and these lower royalties stick around long after the new format has become wildly popular if not dominant. So with streaming it's New Boss Same As The Old Boss.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:18 PM on March 25


One of the other Krukowski quotes in the “Islands In The Stream” article that stuck with me was:
Artists used to rely on labels, and while that could get antagonistic, the labels still needed hit music to stay alive. “Apple stepped in, if they abandoned music tomorrow, it wouldn’t change their bottom line,” said Damon Krukowski. “They’re not a music company, Spotify is not a music company, YouTube is not a music company. None of them need me, but I need them. That is unsustainable for music.”
Related to that, Spotify is continuing to diversify away from music. From Pitchfork: “Spotify Acquires Live Audio App Locker Room to Build Clubhouse Competitor”:
The new commitment to the emergent live audio marketplace is the latest step in Spotify’s moves toward positioning itself as an all-encompassing “audio” platform, following major acquisitions and investments in the podcasting space. Whatever Locker Room ends up evolving into, it will be up against the invitation-only audio app Clubhouse and Twitter’s recently-launched competitor, Spaces. Read the full blog post about the acquisition at Spotify.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:04 PM on March 30


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