These are my own (overly optimistic) thoughts on what I think will happen in the musical sphere for the new year. I culminated these ideas over the last week or so of 2020 and did a bit of tidying up on January 1st, Reading this back on January 3rd, I find it very ‘wishful thinking’ and honestly I want to label it ‘Fan Fiction’ in the Tagline, but I’ll keep it as it was created. The Header Image was surprisingly prescient.
In the spirit of of the ‘Mordant’ part of APITE (ie: Music. Media. Mordant.) I’m publishing it, and hopefully you’ll find a few tidbits of wisdom lodged in the chunks of insipidness. Regardless, let’s come back in year and see how dreadfully this pans out. 🙂
1) As we get ourselves slowly out of the Pandemic and can safely hang out with each other again (I expect this by late Spring/early Summer), the entire Music and Media Industry will explode. People will head out to the big shows first (because short memories on how ‘celebrities’ have acted during it), but will give way to local and Regional acts as the year passes the Three-Quarters mark. I say this because pent-up lack of musical expression will likely cause the rise of ‘scenes’ in local markets. I keep feeling the mid-70’s ‘Punk’ rebellion as the boilerplate here, with kids (and non-kids!) just doing it themselves as a reaction to the times, the freedom, and as a retort to ‘Big Artists’. Yes, the last decade has never been a better time to DIY, but we also have been through the kinds of changes that necessitate serious rethinking of well, pretty much everything. It’s high time for music (and just art in general) to be the Vox Populi again. Local bars and venues will reap the benefits and I can even see a ‘comeback’ in practice spaces and even recording facilities. As anyone can make a record on a cheap laptop or even a tablet these days, this may be very wishful thinking on my part. As this is an inclusionary process I’m thinking of here – not the ‘bedroom producer’ vibe – I don’t think I’m too far off the mark. However, it also depends on whether a lot of smaller bars and venues make it that long or can recover when it’s done. This may also lead to adventurous souls venturing into this space as the ’scene’ flourishes.
(Sidebar: In order for this to truly work though, it has to stay ‘under the radar’ for as long as possible, which will be very difficult in the ‘Interwebz® Age’. Said Online Sharing may be needed to ‘copy/paste’ ideas from place to place, but it might be better to let areas develop in their own styles – look to any musical scene from around the mid-1990’s and earlier to see how this naturally happened. Manager/agents (and (I can’t believe I’m using this term, but it’s true) ‘Influencers’ looking for trends to latch onto) will eventually ruin this, since they will always worship money over substance. Remember though, that such people (minus Hated ‘Influencers’) are needed in the biz, so keep that in mind too.
This may also coincide with a ‘Back to Local/Neighborhood’ movement as Conglomerates continue to Hoover up all the carcasses of failed businesses and services and the adventurous (as noted above) grab the leftovers. The giants are only in it for the Rentier Capitalism (warning – search this term and you will wind up saddened and eventually incredibly angry). Stay local!
2) Although Formulaic Pop and Sonic Wallpaper® will never truly disappear from the landscape, Gen Z has been slowly ploughing through their parents’ streaming services (or –gasp- record collections) and has come to the realization that music that has dynamics and key/chord/structure changes sounds much better then what they hear in the mainstream. This can lead to all kinds of great and crazy things, but the general gist I’m feeling is ‘early demo-tape Devo and/or Metal Box-era PiL’. This is undoubtedly a long shot, but raiding the past to find the future is an age-old artistic endeavor and we’ve seen it many times before. I see this happening already and have no doubt it will continue to gather steam as an ‘anticulture’ even if it remains just that – underground.
3) Speaking of Formulaic Pop, their songs will get shorter, more insipid, and ever more Formulaic (I believe to the point of no-one will honestly know who made what they will sound that similar) as the established artists grab the remaining slices of dwindling money cakes. This is the snake eating its own tail and happens with everything eventually – and is a slow motion train wreck to watch (maybe paint drying is a better term?) Gazing far off into the void, this will probably be blamed on AI by future historians. I really want to show my age here and use ‘BlipVerts’ as a tag for this – complete with people’s heads exploding… Oh, and this will not be limited to Pop – almost every other music genre becomes a lumbering dinosaur as it gets old and fattened. The coming generation will pick the usable parts from them and leave the carcasses to rot. However, expect plays-on-familiar Genre names until the music press catches up.
4) I predict no change in the technology of music-making. Companies will continue to mine the past for content or implement ‘AI’ goodies to shave milliseconds off routine tasks with no new breakthroughs that will be worthwhile. This has been the trend for decades now and honestly it’s getting pretty sad. New Tech does push New Ideas, but think of this is blessing in disguise. To quote one of my favorite phrases: ‘Use it up, wear it out, make due, or do without’ – so don’t believe the hype that some bit of hardware, software, or vaporware will make you the next Big Thing®.
5) I talked about this a bit above, but the procedure for recording everything will go from ‘squeaky-clean and precise’ to ‘insanely simple and efficient’. The only way to counter the clockwork perfection is a complete 180 degree turn from it – stay off the grid, embrace Human foibles, and use the tech to capture reality and not to render it into something artificial. The ‘three chords and the truth merchants’ will welcome this first, with the true genii emerging from the fray. Collaboration, not computerization will be the key, with ‘practice makes (im)perfect’ the way forward. I’m probably about 10% right on this, but it’s worth tossing out there…
There is a lot of wishful thinking here, but we’ve all been through (and will continue to live with) major disruptions to our lives. Art reflects life and thinking that everything will magically go back to ‘normal’ is a fool’s errand. Of course, it could also just be “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Je ne sais pas…
Lastly, I leave you with the ‘Hot/Not’ Buzzwords of 2021. Feel free to put the ‘Hot’ ones out in the Memezone for everyone’s attention and misusage. 😀
-Hot: Screech, Cubist, Sector, Trank, and Manx.
-Not: Silo, Zoom, Influencer, Wellness, and Schaden-anything.