British bands often drive musical change--but there's not been as much change as you think


The 60s and 80s eras were very noticeable in the sound landscape shift of the time but the 90’s Hip Hop one is surely controversial. Hip Hop was a product of the same 1980 landscape , it just didn’t become mainstream until the 90s.
This surely doesn’t count unless musical innovation is solely seen through mainstream music consumption. Which has nothing to do with innovation.

1980 saw punk disco new wave/indie two tone electro industrial.
1990 saw hip hop become mainstream with a few variations , some metal , and Brit pop which is what we have now, endless style cover bands.

I think another significant contributor to the perceived homogeneity of music is that the Internet has created an disrupted sense of the traditional flow of time, specifically in the way that older artists influence new ones.

With everything archived and accessible on the net, everything is current; the obscure artists and bands of the 60s and 70s are not much further removed than things happening now.

I still disagree with the hypothesis put forward in the article. Most musical genres are grounded in a sense of identity and place that archived music on the net cannot properly convey, but the net has eroded the physical aspects of that, too.


This is interesting. Obviously it applies to a narrow genre, but I am gonna have to figure out how they did their study (I’ve only just looked at the graph).

Overlaying jazz would be interesting. There was immense change from say 1915 till perhaps Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra, but we have stalled since then.

By “music”, the study means the US Billboard Hot 100, which is “This week’s most popular songs across all genres, ranked by radio airplay audience impressions as measured by Nielsen Music, sales data as compiled by Nielsen Music and streaming activity data provided by online music sources.”

It would be helpful to know more about the Hot 100. Were there changes in their methodology? Which streaming data is included, and when was it added? The periods of change could just be artifacts of the data collection, rather than actual musical changes. Though of course, it’s more fun to speculate how important the Beatles were…


This is a good observation. Skimming a top sample off of the larger population is risky, especially when the criteria for Top has perhaps for sure changed. Although they did analyze 17000 songs, which sounds like a lot of work, even if it is the computer doing it. These measurement also miss the deeper populations and probably sub populations.

While adding all of the other songs not on the Top 100, we could combine this analysis with contextual analysis of the topics, lyrics, rhyme and meter, etc. of the songs as well. I am just going to wait for something on the internet to become self-aware and do it for me.


In those “100 Years of Hair and Makeup” videos I’m always hard pressed to discern what exactly differentiates the 90s from the 2000s from the 2010s.


I wonder how much Brian Eno has contributed to those more clearly defined ch ch changes. Or was his work kept separate as a kind of control group?

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That’s a good point. Lately, I’ve been listening to the regular rotation on my local college radio station a lot, and I notice that many of the bands they play remind me of something older. It’s interesting to see how people in their 20s are being influenced by music that’s far older than they are.

[ETA] Then again, if they are only looking at the top 100 of Billboard, would they include the college radio charts?

@turtlecrk, I think that billboard used to operate on self-reporting sales from the industry, while now it’s numbers taken from Soundscan? But that only began in the 1990s. I was recently looking at a book put out by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, and they only began tracking international sales data sometimes in the 60s, if I’m remembering the document correctly. The RIAA was formed in 1952 or 3, and began to certify records as gold, etc in the late 1958s, so right around the time of the rise of rock music.

The recording industry has always had some fuzzy accounting going on, actually. It’s hard to know what’s being sold and who is buying what, especially since the secondary market is generally not taken into account, and has long been the bane of their existence. I’d think that the shift to digital actually makes it easier to track such things, with the except of maybe copies of cds, as you can more easily chart the sales and even “illegal” downloads of music than you can used media sales.

The last song I transcribed was a poem from the 20’s that got turned into a tune a few years later, and I have exactly one source for it. It is hauntingly beautiful. And luckily I play rhythm guitar so I just needed words and chords.

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This study was not talking about the “perceived homogeneity” of pop music. If you read the study, it’s based on specific features of the music. It’s not an opinion - it’s a scientific study. Based on the aspects of music they studied, things haven’t changed much since 1991. It’s possible to pick different criteria and do another study, but they certainly looked at a large variety of factors.

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This is not a new phenomenon. When I was a kid, my dad was always listening to older pop music. Every generation listens to the modern stuff AND some of what their parents listened to.

Or their great, great grandparents music. :smile:
I love modern pop. But there is literally 1300 years of pop before you even need to get esoteric.

(This next one is so. Damn. Good)


Sure - did I suggest otherwise? I think it’s more widespread now, though,and far more accessible. More people have more access to popular music across time than ever before. You can listen to entire albums on youtube or whatever streaming service you like, find them to buy on Amazon, etc. I’d suspect that it’s been common since the “discovery” of the country blues by some music nerds back in the 50s and early 60s.

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Right, popular music has a long history, but the relationship we have to music has fundamentally changed in the past century or so, with the rise of the recording industry.

I have noticed that if you study the music on the radio, then nothing has changed since 1985, because half of the radio stations play music from 30 to 50 years ago. “Classic Rock” and “oldies” stations have a surprisingly large share of the radio dial. I assume that this is because mostly old people listen to music on the radio, and they are all listening to the music of the particular style revolution they enjoyed in college.


Sure has. Used to be a more social interaction. These days I think recorded music, with delivery mechanisms and variety of tastes has made it more solitary.

Last one,I promise. Pop from 1947 I think?

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You’re right about commercial radio, especially on who listens to the radio. We’re old, dude! :wink:

I think independent radio (what exists of it) and college radio are different. I have two major college stations around here (though one is now off the air from 5am to 7pm… grrrrrr). Regular rotation is taken from the college charts on one station, another plays a mix of noise, freeform jazz, classic blues, with some stuff of the charts sprinkled in. The weekend and nights are full of specialty shows. Right now, I’m listening to the show Deviltown, which is a neo-folk show… at 2, they play Charm Academy, which is always fun (girl groups, french pop, early english rock, etc).

[eta] WRAS forevah!!!

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Damn your eyes Mindysan, you know I can’t be trusted with either fish puns or English rock!

This is on your head!!

(Fucking awesome rendention of an ancient tune)

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You should read both Evan Eisenberg’s book, The Recording Angel - which is a more philosophical discussion on the shift to recorded music (he argues it a new and different art than playing live, which has its own social process that are both alienating and constitutive of new kinds of community):

And David Suisman’s book Selling Sounds (which sort of discusses how this happened):

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