Niagara Gazette

Music

December 17, 2009

MUSIC: Best of the Decade

No industry changed more this decade than the music industry. The rise of Napster and file sharing accompanied the decade’s beginning, and music sales have never recovered. The experience of attending a movie in the theater can’t be replicated on a computer. But for most people, a free mp3 is a good-enough substitute for a CD track.

Apple’s iPod and iTunes service have reduced the “anything goes” file sharing crowd. But the rise of the iPod and other similar audio players have struck a blow to CDs that should prove fatal eventually. It’s history repeating. The same thing happened to cassettes, 8-tracks and vinyl (which has found a younger niche audience). It’s simply more convenient to carry an entire music collection in your pocket.

The album format has suffered as well. It’s much easier to buy (or download singles) than it was 10 or 15 years ago. The best-selling albums of the decade say little about the decade’s best music, though the gap between “best-selling albums” and “best albums” became more pronounced back in the 1980s. After all, though Leif Garrett was popular in the 1970s, he never topped the year-end charts like the “High School Musical” kids.

As the mainstream splinters further, there are very few, if any, musicians that enjoy any kind of widespread commercial success. It’ll be much harder for the current generation to find even a few artists they might be able to use as cultural touchstones.

Of course, none of this means that people like music less. If anything, musical tastes will become more varied now. And the cream rises to the top. It always does, over time. Just remember that. So if you missed some (or all) of this decade’s best music, here’s a quick learning session.

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