Music critic Ted Gioia worries that even though our gigantic culture industry invests billions every year searching for market share, the whole arts world seems to be stagnating:
The latest news comes today from market research outfit Luminate, who tell us that the share of new music continues to shrink in the face of competition from old songs. I wrote about this a few months ago, and the numbers were already ugly back then.Things may be even worse in the movies:
But they have gotten worse.
The latest report shows that the consumption of old music grew another 14% during the first half of 2022, while demand for new music declined an additional 1.4%. These old tunes now represent a staggering 72% of the market.
And it’s likely to get worse when the full year numbers are released—because we are still in the midst of the Kate Bush/Metallica phenomenon spurred by the showcasing of their old songs on Stranger Things.
A number of recent articles on Hollywood have announced that we are living in the Golden Age of the Aging Actor. Harrison Ford, who turns 80 this week, may be the most prominent example. As the public face of several major brand franchises, he is still in demand, and will soon show up in another Indiana Jones movie, a kind of Raiders of the Lost AARP Card affair. But this aging Ford assembly line is hardly an isolated example—the graying actor is everywhere. Top Gun is the biggest box office success of the year, and it features Tom Cruise reprising a role he last played in 1986. I fully expect to see a septuagenarian Superman or Batman in the future.
The Ringer recently did the math and found the average age of male leads has risen from around 37 in 2000 to over 45 in 2021.
I’d like to be amused by all this, or maybe even applaud these senior citizens who have somehow extended their careers beyond normal limits. But the larger picture is disturbing.
Just follow the dollars. Every big budget movie this year is either a reboot, sequel, prequel, remake, or brand extension. Every last one of them. The largest investments in music are the acquisition of old publishing catalogs, while almost nothing is spent developing new artists. . . .
Nobody wants to take a chance on something new and different. It’s just too risky. You could even get fired for that.
Does this matter? Gioia thinks it does:
But when cultures stop innovating, they soon lose the essential skills they need for their survival. I’m reminded of the Arch of Constantine built by order of the Roman Senate between the years 312 and 315 AD—when the Empire, for all its military might, had forgotten how to create impressive artistic works. As a result, the builders of this monument had to steal parts from older structures.
Decline of empires, etc., etc.
I am not much of a doomster myself, but I share this sense that there isn't much new happening in music, film or television. It has been years since the last time I eagerly awaited a new movie, a new cd, or the new season of a tv show. I am not sure how much of this is a change in me, and how much of that change is caused by cultural malaise. I certainly feel less involved in new cultural products than I used to. Some of that may be aging, but I don't think that's all of it, since my children feel pretty much the same way. I often find myself laughing out loud about the old songs they find to get into.
I don't know what's going on, but it doesn't feel right.