Things That make you go, “Told You So”.

In the two decades since Nielsen Soundscan started to keep track of U.S. album sales in 1991, the company has seen the industry fold in half, digital sales catch up to physical, and vinyl mount an almost resurgence. But until last week, they’d never seen old records outsell new ones.  

Analysts analyze of course, that’s their job. 

According to Neilson’s paid analyst:

“The slide in sales is attributable to a slump in purchases of new albums, which are also more expensive. Catalog CDs and most digital albums stay close to the $7.99-$10.99 range, while new CDs are mostly in the $13-$18 range.”

In other words, older artists are “able” to sell their stuff less expensive.

So is the message here that consumers would be willing to buy more new CDs if the price dropped?


 But maybe it’s more than that.  First of all it’s hard to find “new” music.  Good new music anyway. 

What’s shoved down our throat now by the top 40 of today is full of auto-tuned beat driven drivel that is as disposable as a Bic lighter. 

Good stuff is out there.  I have found things I like a lot.  ‘The Heavy’, ‘Plain White Tee’s’, ‘The Black Keys’, Jack White, ‘Citizen Cope’,  Matisyahu,  ‘The Foo Fighters’,  and a whole lot of others.  You just have to look.  Too hard. 

 A lot of it is also pretty derivative of the old stuff, so why go to the trouble of searching for all this when the old classics did it better the first time around.  I mentioned “The Heavy”, I love them because they sounded like Curtis Mayfield.  So I went and got my Curtis Mayfield CD out.   Yep, then it made me want to look into his “catalog” that I guess is cheaper than the new LMFAO cd.  But I didn’t know that.  I just preferred Curtis Mayfield.  

I love discovering new music.  I always have.  But now it always seems to make me go back to the original stuff.  The stuff that used to take chances. The stuff that used to push the envelope and your imagination.  And I believe that is not the new artists fault.  Are they really less talented than the musicians from the 60’s 70’s and part of the 80’s?  Quite the contrary.  The musicians hired for each album The Black Jacket Symphony performs range in age from kids to men.  The young musicians most always make some of the seasoned veterans scratch their head.  They simply are amazing.

 Most of this has to do with timing.  These are the same guys that used to be able to walk into EMI’s office and get a writing deal, then down the street to get a label bidding war started on them.  The business is just not the same anymore.  No label (or what’s left of them) is going to gamble on an album that’s about…anything.  Katy Perry isn’t going to record a “Quadrophenia” like The Who.  I’m not saying she can’t (although…she can’t) she just wouldn’t be allowed.   Artist today have to be on the road 364 days a year to build their own following (that’s why you see so many jam bands) or you play the game and give the company one single at a time they can exploit on iTunes, and/ or YouTube.  

And of that entire list of newer groups that are great, do you think they will still be discussed and studied like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones?  I’ll answer that for you.  No.

 But this made me feel like I was finally getting old.  As I have said in a joking way about the Black Jacket Symphony’s appeal, every generation says their music is better than the last.  We just happen to be right.

I say that in radio and television interviews for the BJS.  And I always meant it a little tongue in cheek. 

But now I look around the crowds at our shows.  These are not just baby boomers that are out there.  College kids represent.  30 somethings are everywhere.  Even high school kids and much younger are coming with their parents.  They are into it.

Do they think it’s better?  I know we are paying respect to very deserved music, and the crowds seem to agree.


And now the old stuff has out sold the new for the first time in music history.  




6 responses

  1. Shawn Ryan

    So here’s a question. What happens when these older artists die? Their albums will always be there, but these guys are often the top concert draws, too. Who’s going to take their place? Very few new artists have the mystique and allure of the old ones. Name a new artist that can fill Hyde Park in London like Springsteen just did or do a stadium tour like U2 and keep doing it year after year.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:18 pm

  2. I wonder how many people have turned away, like I have, from the big-time big selling artists. For ages now I’ve spent my time (and my money) on local/regional acts and you might be amazed at what’s out there. They may not be filling stadiums but there is talent and originality to spare. They are packing them in at the local bars. I’ve been buying my cd’s from the band, for cash, between sets. (Check out Reverbnation if you haven’t already.)
    As far as what do we do for big draw concerts when the big guys aren’t around? Just please (I’m on my knees here) don’t let great, historic bands start hiring temps from American Idol to fill the empty slots and going on as if nothing’s changed! This is heartbreaking and sad. (Can anyone say “Queen with Adam Lambert” I can’t–I sort of sob a little when I try.)

    July 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm

  3. Clark Virden

    Today’s “create your own radio station” apps have introduced me to some really great music from artists I would not have known otherwise. And conversely, it tries to recycle crap that I have purposefully buried, such as one app consistently trying to slip in some Candlebox on my Hold Steady channel (3 strikes and you’re out, Pandora, fair warning). Do I think “our” music from the old masters is better than what’s being produced today? Absolutely. But I also saw some really great, energetic, hungry musicians at this past Secret Stages Festival here in Birmingham. Bands that would have made the Boss proud with the way they held a crowd in the palm of their hand, or Bono nod in approval at a lead singer’s use of “call and response”. Bands that knew 3 power chords, but knew how to work a crowd into a frenzy. Embrace the old, and welcome the new. Long live rock, I need it every night…..

    July 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm

  4. Clark, if that’s Birmingham as in “way down South in…” (not the snooty Brit one–no offense if it is) then you’re in my neck of the woods. I’ll have to check that out next year. The closest we have nearby (don’t anybody outside of the South laugh at this or I’ll come find you!) is the Chicken and Egg Festival but this area has some amazing young talent.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    • Clark Virden

      Yes, Pam, Birmingham, AL. The festival was held in several bars / restaurants around the 2nd Ave district downtown. Here’s a link to the 2012 website:

      July 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm

  5. I remember when I used to be excited about new music. Every once in a while my daughter will say “Hey, check this out!” and about 75% of the time it’s worth listening to…in fact, she’s responsible for some of my new favorite bands (Cage the Elephant, for example). But for the most part I find it unlistenable, and take much more joy in going back and listening to stuff I’d forgotten. On a Chicago kick right now. Man those cats were (are) talented!

    July 27, 2012 at 12:33 am

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