John Loken, a former record label marketing exec posted an intriguing blog last February (2011) titled “The Death of Pop Music?” where he talks about the decline of, well, Pop Music. In particular, the industry “defined as the commercialization of short form songwriting, a historic aberration that lasted for the better part of the 20th century” is what he’s referring to here. He gives a short run-down of that industry’s history that’s a counterpoint to the history of how the Cost Disease has shaped Pop Music that I outlined in a previous post.
The pop music era started with ragtime and the player piano roll, evolved with composers like Gilbert & Sullivan and George Gershwin, and flourished with the advent of broadcast radio which popularized recording artists during WWII. Pop music reached its creative zenith in the 60s through 80s (a completely subjective analysis, I’ll grant you), and hit its commercial peak in 2000 when the inflated returns from CDs masked the creative stagnation underneath. (Again, ‘stagnation’ may be too strong a term, but I think digital recording tools removed all barriers to entry, effectively diluting the market with mediocre artistry; a separate post, I suppose). Napster’s disintermediation and Apple’s unbundling of the album hastened the collapse of concentrated/controlled music distribution – the engine of economic rents for decades.