Why You Should Care About the Past, Present, and Future of Music Styles
Music is always changing. What was popular in the 1950s or 1980s (or any other decade) is dramatically different than what is trending now. As a songwriter, you have to know where the music industry has been, where it is now, and where it is going in the future to be successful.
As you look at your current song portfolio and what you are planning on writing in the future, remember these lessons from the past, present, and future of music to find greater success.
1. The Past
Some Trends Are Gone Forever – Like the dinosaurs, some song styles (whether it is a specific sound, lyric structure, or song topic) have gone extinct and will likely never return (pending resurrected fossil material). If you have songs that sound like a past trend that seems unlikely to return, you should rewrite, reproduce, or forget about those songs entirely. Your chances are slim to none of getting them cut unless you do.
Trends Sometimes Come Back – Some trends come, leave, and come back again years later. If you have songs that match past styles (or a specific element of a past style) and you feel like that style will gain resurgence soon, just be patient and wait for the trends to swing your way again.
Past Styles Are Rich Sources of Inspiration – Don’t discount the past as being worthless just because it isn’t popular now. Each ebb and flow of song styles brings its own unique flair and value. Since every music phase is an evolution of all previous phases, as you study the past, you’ll gain inspiration to help you mold the future of songwriting. Who knows, maybe Frank Sinatra, Led Zepplin, or the Backstreet Boys spark an idea that leads you to your next innovative song?
2. The Present
What Is Current Right Now – It’s easy to tell what is popular now. What records are selling best? What songs are on the radio most often? Who is getting all the awards? What topics are people singing about? As you pay attention to what is hot on the charts, you’ll know if your songs match that style and how likely your songs are to get placed.
If your songs are outdated or too different from the rest of the market, your chances of present success are slim since the music industry generally accepts and rejects songs using a risk-averse mindset. This doesn’t mean your style won’t come back to popularity or that your innovations won’t someday become mainstream. But if you want success now, you likely need to write in the vein of what is current.
Is the Current Trend Coming or Going? – Writing similar to what is currently successful makes the most sense if the trend is rising. As music styles mature, it becomes more difficult to cut songs that are similar because the market will begin to look for innovation and for the next wave to emerge.
3. The Future
The Next Innovation Is Just Around the Corner – What is current now won’t be so forever. Eventually the market tires of the same style and shifts (sometimes gradually, sometimes dramatically), towards new, innovative ideas. As you change your songwriting mentality towards innovating and not just writing what everyone else is writing, you put yourself in a unique situation.
As you position yourself ahead of the curve, you take the risk of innovating in a way that is different than where the market goes and end up being left behind. But you also have the upside of being the first of an emerging class. In such a case, you’ll be praised as a thought leader and ride the wave all the way through to great success.
Innovating Lyrics, Melody, and Production – What will the next innovation be? Who knows… but you it will always revolve around some combination of lyrics, melody, or production. So what are you doing in your songwriting to innovate in these areas? Are you trying new lyric structures? New chord combinations? New song arrangements? Different instruments? However you decide to innovate, do so with confidence and you may uncover the next great song style of the future.