First of all, I feel I should apologise. I’ve kind of been like an absent parent with Music Think Tank recently, and it seems to have grown up an awful lot in my absence. Mostly I’ve been speaking about this kind of stuff in real life and doing a lot of writing and the background invisible work - but I’m back now, and like any parent that abandons his child for a period of time, I’m going to assuage my guilt by showering gifts - or at least blog posts.
I’ve been thinking a lot about music consumption recently, and the ways in which the music industries understand music consumption. It occurs to me that a lot of thought goes into the teen audience, and what will attract their attention.
Historically, this is good thinking. Teenagers and the popular music industry go hand in hand. Rock and Roll was at the birth of the teen phenomenon when the first wave of babyboomers wanted to distinguish themselves as something other than just slightly smaller and more youthful versions of their parents. Performers from Jerry Lee Lewis to Marilyn Manson have understood that the best way to appeal to the teen crowd is to at least alienate - if not terrify and mortally offend - their parents.
But since the birth of rock and roll, the popular music industry has been overwhelmingly geared towards the teen audience on the simple understanding that this is where the majority of the market resides. I’m not sure I believe that’s true any more. In fact, I suspect (though cannot currently prove) that not only does the overwhelming majority of music purchasing take place by people over the age of 30 - but that this is a cultural, rather than a technological shift.
That is to say - the reason that more adults than teens buy music is not because the teenagers are all stealing it. It’s because the adults have grown up in a world where the consumption of popular music has become so normalised, it’s no longer part of the teen rebellion experience.
I’d be interested in the thoughts of the Tank here. Would the record industry be better off taking the focus off the dwindling teen market and focusing on recorded music as something aspirational that you grow into instead? My suspicion is that the resulting investment in acts of ‘quality’, rather than acts of immediate and fleeting fad appeal will contribute to the overall economic health of the sector.
But I could just be selfishly insisting that people make records that I like now that I’m 40.