A Change Gonna Come
“It’s been a
long, long time coming, but I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will”. Man this Sam Cooke jam really says it all these days. Currently, the world seems to be in the midst of a great change politically, technologically and sociologically. COVID-19 is starting to rage and shake the foundations of society like nothing any of us have ever seen before and our society, economy and sanity will all be tested when this is said and done. What’s been particularly difficult to witness and contemplate for me is what’s going to happen to music? A change is truly going to come and is already well on its way.
It’s no shocker, music venues across the globe have closed due to the virus, and it doesn’t appear that they will be reopening anytime soon. In Nashville, one of the main HUBS of music in the
U.S, the outlook is particularly grim. Will Anderson, the Managing Editor of the Austin Business Journal reports “that more than 60% of Austin’s live music venues are in danger of closing this year.” He writes that “According to the survey of more than 1,000 businesses, first reported by the Austin Monitor, 62% of live music venues said they will close within four months “under current conditions.” That was the highest percentage of 14 industries surveyed”.
The reality is th
at this is in Nashville, a huge center for music in the whole country, is going to struggle. If they are going to be struggling, what’s that’s going to mean for other music venues that depend solely on local resources to survive? Most likely, when the virus fog has cleared, it could be some time before the live music scene gets back into a rhythm resembling what we all experienced B.C (before Corona). This occurrence will likely have ramifications throughout the entire music industry for some time to come.
Since the advent of streaming services, artists main source of income is touring. Long gone are the days where it was all about how many records were sold, now it is all about how many shows have you played? Artist receive almost nothing for their song’s streams, and the major streaming companies have basically become giant marketers for artists at this point. So with their main source of income gone, how will these artist be able to weather the storm? Big enough acts will be able to survive, but a lot of the mid tier acts and up and comers will be taking a huge hit. What effect will this have on music as a whole?
Essentially, a whole crop of music is being destroyed and the resources needed to push for a new generati
on of music creation halted. Another question then arises, what type of music will be created and of what quality will it be in the coming years? Will it be major chord based, happy escapist type music, or will it become a more dissonant, shared pain type of music?
Based on the article “Pop Music is Getting Faster” written by Mark Savage, “The average tempo of 2020’s top 20 best-selling songs is a pulse-quickening 122 beats per minute. That’s the highest it’s been since 2009.” He goes on to highlight that “For the last few years, pop has been getting slower, as artists like Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish incorporate the leisurely cadences and rhythms of southern hip-hop and trap music into their songs.”
In the article he also incorporates a graph that illustrates the tempo in the form of BPM’s. It’s at its lowest point in the years 2017 and 2018. After 2018, it begins to shoot upwards. What could be t
he cause of this shift towards higher BPM’s? Songwriter Bonnie Mckee told Rolling Stone Magazine in 2017 that “People were burnt out on up tempo, super poppy stuff like they were with hair-metal bands back in the day”. She goes on to say that “Then as the sociopolitical climate got darker, people just weren’t in the mood to hear some upbeat bop.”
"You would expect political or emotional music matching the aura of the time to be more prevalent, but it's actually the opposite - which shows how we're coping in the UK especially.
"Tempo, pace, escapism: Music that draws you out of the reality of what is going on right now; and transports you to somewhere more positive and uplifting."
So, it appears that a couple of things are going on. The music that the majority of people are consuming now is music that was created B.C. and is being used to cope and escape and I feel that as the sociopolitical environment starts to heat up, this will change and we will start to see a rash of angst, dissonant, shared pain type of songs as this is most likely what a sizeable amount of musicians will be experiencing and wanting to write about.
I think we are in the midst of a huge change in music. A lot of musicians will likely drop out of the scene and a lot of new music will seemingly be lost. But a new crop of artists will have the seas parted for them and with their purest musical intentions at front center, above the trappings of wealth and fame where only the cream is able to rise to the top of this daunting and challenging musical crop. Maybe we will be able to see a golden age of music, where the sincerity of the music and the appreciation of the shared experience of it will be of the upmost importance. Where we can all be close together again experiencing something that brings us together instead of at home watching the news that solely aims to tear us apart. One only needs to listen to Sam Cooke’s final verse in the song to know where to go from here “There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long, but now I think I’m able to carry on”. We will carry on my friends, just hang in there.