A recent Slashdot thread about the death of the CD lead to the usual postings from various people over the age of 30:
“Well of course music nowadays is rubbish, not like it was when I was in college, those were real songs, now it’s all boy bands and disposable pop, bring back prog rock, I miss vinyl…”
I happen to believe that’s a load of cobblers. There’s interesting music to be found in any year, it’s just that most people stop seeking out anything new and interesting, and allow their tastes to ossify.
It occurred to me that I had a source of data to test my belief. I’ve got my CD collection ripped and tagged on our MP3 server. So, I wrote a quick Ruby program to run through every MP3 file and total up the number of tracks released in each year.
The result is quite interesting, and the first few decades fit my expectations:
- Nothing much of interest happened until the late 1950s.
- There was an explosion of good music in the mid 1960s.
- Taste died a rapid death around 1970, and the 70s basically sucked until punk arrived and kicked things up in 1977.
- Music got progressively more interesting during the 1980s as the technology became more affordable.
I applied some simple averaging, and was able to draw some tentative conclusions about more recent years.
It appears that interestingness peaked in 1994, and there has been a reasonably steady descent since then. The rapid drop after 2004 is most likely due to two major factors:
- It takes me a while to hear about good new music, as I don’t listen to much that might ever be played on the radio.
- I’m a cheap bastard, and don’t buy CDs until I can get them for less than $12.
Some of the outlying data points deserve closer attention. It seems 1982 was an incredibly bad year by 80s standards, and 1998 and 2000 were both unexpectedly bad also. No obvious explanation springs to mind.