The Musical Trends of the Past Five Years

As we wrap up our celebration of five years of Hidden Track, we wanted to take a look back and reflect on the various trends across the music landscape since we’ve been in existence. Clearly, there have been some seismic shifts in the business of music including the demise of record sales, a complete overhaul of the avenues for distribution, and the rise of the internet as a means for breaking new acts, but this column will focus more on the actual music and the fans who consume it.

[Graphic by Elaine Fogel]

Jamband Fans Have Segregated – We talk a lot around here about the late nineties and the good heyday of the jamband, and that is not meant to be a self-congratulatory proclamation, but the fact is the jamband scene was significantly different. The community element was much more prominent. If somebody liked jambands, they pretty much liked all jambands. If Widespread Panic came to town, you went to see them. If String Cheese Incident came to town, you went to see them. Shit, if Ekoostik Hookah came to town, you went to see them too. It was always the same people at the same shows with a common interest: improvisation. Nowadays, for better or worse, it’s a totally divisive beast. Of the people who still actively listen to jamband music today, it seems the vast majority listen only to Phish, and virtually nobody seeks out truly new jamband acts.

NPR – Music’s New Tastemakers – I’m not sure that anyone would have seen this coming, but NPR Music has legitimately become the go-to place to discover new music  – and we’re not talking about the lesbian-Afro-Norwegian-funk music of Nefertiti’s Fjord, or  the intellectual singer-songwriter types that appeal to tote bag carrying suburbanites. NPR Music, with its flagship program All Songs Considered, has become the one-stop shop for music fans from its on-air content to its smartly written blogs to its live festival and concert coverage to its amazing Tiny Desk Concert without pigeonholing itself into the stereotype of what an people thought an “NPR act” is supposed to be.

The Festival Bubble – It’s hard to believe how much festivals have changed the landscape of music in recent years. In the early part of the 2000s, festivals were still in their infancy outside of the old guard like Lollapalooza, H.O.R.D.E., Telluride Bluegrass, the Phish Festivals and High Sierra. But once the more mainstream audience got a taste and Bonnaroo opened its doors to a broader audience, the whole industry went on its head. Today, there’s essentially a major festival in every region of the country for each weather-permitting season coupled with hundreds of smaller regional festivals. Furthermore, bands of all sizes have begun introducing their own proprietary festivals with the ability to curate a like-minded lineup. At this point, we’ve reached a full on festival bubble and the downside has begun to rear its head as were seeing more and more failures every year. From poor planning, financial difficulties, inability to deal with weather and even full on disasters (i.e., stage collapses), we think we’re just getting the tip of the iceberg. After all, the problem with a bubble is sooner or later, it’s bound to pop.

Americana Revival – In the 1990s flannel and long unruly hair was the instantly identifiable trademark of the grunge-era. Fast forward some 20 years later, and there are a whole new generation of acts that have embraced that fashion sense, but whose sounds are a far cry from the crunchy guitars and the disaffected nature of those bands. While it may not be as reactionary as say the singer-songwriter movement that followed the psychedelic era, since we came onto the interwebs, Americana, or as one-time NPR blogger Carrie Brownstein dubbed it Beard Rock, has become arguably music’s biggest break-out genre with acts like Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, The Avett Brothers, Dawes, and Mumford & Sons leading the charge.

PAGE 2 = The Stream, Full Album Performances and More

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5 Responses

  1. Kraftwerk, people! Does anyone remember Kraftwerk??!! Trans. Euro. Express… Before Beard Rock we had these lunatics and guess what: they were experimental. Sound familiar? Great article as usual – how about a follow-up on what’s next? Feels like a turning point… FYI – Happy 5th – keep up the great work.

  2. excellent article as usual. HT is my go-to site these days and essential daily reading. I’ll just add that I think the dreaded “jampop” genre, actually may exist. I think I heard the term bandied about once in reference to The Heavy Pets (incredible jamband from FL, poppy or not). And I think you missed one, for me, disturbing trend which is the rise of “pay to play” access to top-tier musicians through high priced VIP packages with meet & greets,e tc. which I can see leading to a class structured jamband experience, which cannot be a good thing.

  3. Man I loved Ekoostik Hookah. Killer version of Southern Cross. Although I asked them to play it once when I was in college and they said they stopped playing it because the guy who brought it to the band, left the band. I was heartbroken.

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