What will music be like in 20 years?

As a kid in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I remember hearing the futuristic sounds that the mid-1980s promised: gone was brass, in were synthesizers. Computer-generated noise took over the sounds of instruments that people spent their lives perfecting. The noises became harder and edgier as time moved through the 1980s, but there still was an appreciation for vocal talents. By 1992, what was noise became bad noise with harder-sounding guitars and people screeching–not singing at all–into microphones. Of course, there are exceptions to all these ideas; I’m focusing on mainsteam music mostly. In the 2000s, I’m sure even sure what is produced can be called music. Artists today like Celine Dion are considered virtuosos, but in all honesty, Celine, if in the 1970s, couldn’t carry Barbra Streisand’s luggage. Mary J. Blige wouldn’t even be considered an understudy to and understudy to a backup singer in Gladys Knight’s Pips, yet is today’s “music,” she’s a star. The list what is bad goes on and on, and I’m having a difficult time finding what is good in mainstream music. Not just the performers, but the songs are just awful, too. I can’t think of a single redeeming quality when I turn on the radio today, and I also find myself getting sick of music I once liked (classic rock, older rap, etc.).

So what is the future of music? What will it be in 20 years? In the 1970s, I could never have dreamed anything like the 1990s, and likewise in the 1980s to now.

I had your outlook on things for the last several years but have recently begun to have hope. I think the ability to basically get any music one wants for free (maybe not legally, but people do it) is leading to a rise in folks making great music because they just love making great music. I mean, if you could get filthy loaded with cash by pole-vaulting, think about how many crappy pole-vaulters there would be out there, trying to get on reality shows about what great undiscovered pole-vaulters they are.

There are a lot of kick-ass rock bands out there right now who could give a sh!t about being rich (well, you know what I mean). Sometimes when you’re searching for those groups it’s easiest to pick an awesome music town like Detroit, Austin, Atlanta, etc. and sample the music from that area.

Ever hear Jim Stafford’s song I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes? That’s what music will be like in 20 years, except there will be more bass and less cowbell.

Different, but kinda the same.

Have to disagree with your blithe (Blige?) assertion there. You don’t have to like her music, but in this musician’s opinion, she’s a very talented lady.

On the subject of your OP…I have two opinions. Actually, hunches more than opinions. I think the postmodern stylistic soup that the current pop music scene swims in…in which hip-hop, rock, electronica, reggae, nostalgia, etc. are all often mixed together (think “Beautiful Girls” by Sean Kingston), will eventually lead to a rediscovery of some of those styles in their purer forms. Similarly, the heavy reliance on electronic elements will eventually lead to an “acoustic is cool again” phase.

Having said that, I expect to be wrong.

Show tunes. The shadow of High School Musical will be long indeed. It will be like a cross between the Andrews Sisters and hip-hop.

I think this question has already been fully answered.

The sound of “rock” in the 25th Century

20 years? My guess? More of the same.
You’ll have purists and you’ll have those that mix various styles. I don’t see anything groundbreaking. Anything you hear will be a “That kind of sounds like X with a bit of Y mixed in crossed with some Z.”
That’s sort of how it is nowdays. It’s 2007 and everything is borrowed from something else.

Or re-hashed.

Seeing the Rolling Stones touring at 60+ (and selling out) and having their music in car commercials makes me sad.

This is just completely wrong. Both Mary J Blige and Celine Dion are exceptionally talented by any standards, at any time. You may not like their music, but it’s not fair to pretend they can’t sing really really well. Plus, there has been a ton of music in the 2000s that I believe will stand the test of time. I think you might have some selective memory, because the majority of music has always been bad. If you know where to look, you can find some great, recent music.

With recording technology becoming increasingly affordable, I’d actually say that the odds of music getting more diverse, more interesting, and more creative are pretty high. Music is not only available to the average consumer in myriad more ways than it was as little as five years ago, but listeners are now able to easily find niches and genres that were, essentially, impossible to find in the days of payola radio. I’d argue that the near-limitless amount of music at all our fingers, this second, in addition to the ever-cheapening ability to record and blend at home, will automatically give us new and interesting genres and music. The sentiment that “that kind of sounds like X with a bit of Y mixed in crossed with some Z,” has been around forever and, indeed, you could use it to describe many acts considered revolutionary at their times.

“Selling out.” What a great hilarious line!

We should start a thread on other quaint usages from the past that haven’t had any meaning in decades. 23 Skidoo! Mad as a hatter! Not worth a plugged nickel!

Hours of fun!


I’m not going to guess about 20 years from now, BUT I predict that within the next few years, the distribution of music will be revolutionized, and the available music will become so varied and abundant, that you will be able to find something you like. Basically, artists will skip signing record deals, they will make their music available direct to the public, and they will earn their money off of live shows and merchandising (kind of like now, but without the record industry taking all the profits from CD sales).

Somebody once said, that the music industry will destroy itself – however, we will still be able to get music (paraphrased).

Rewarding creativity with money and so forth actually destroys the creativity. The drive to create music should come from the love of music, not the love of money. Internal vs. external motivation, call it what you will.

Sorry, I got a little preachy there.

No-one really knows, of course. Futurology is not so much a ‘hit and miss’ affair as a ‘miss and then miss again, occasionally fluking a hit’ affair. But maybe we can attempt some good guesses…

  1. There will be a transformed and greatly reduced role for record companies, as technology further erodes their efforts to maintain a stranglehold on the means of recording, distribution and marketing. They will continue to exist, but they will have to trade on their ability to arrange and promote live events, co-ordinate media access, offer talented PR efforts and so forth… in other words, things that may constitute an attractive deal for an artist, but have less and less to do with the actual production and dissemination of music.

  2. The music scene as such will increasingly incline towards a pure democracy, a virtually limitless free market. Anyone can make music, anyone can offer it, anyone can take it or buy it or not buy it. Any and all style or manner or mode will be available, leading to a greater (in both senses) fragmentation of the market, a richer diversity of talents and styles unshackled from the dictates of record company accountants. Some artists will find few takers, some will find more. The popular acts will be able to make money, because the music (in and of itself decreasingly a path to profit) will fuel interest in live gigs and related merchandising. The less popular acts may not make much money (or any at all) but will nonetheless be able to offer their music if they want, to the small constituency to which they appeal.

  3. Market trends will tend to favour artists who have live performance skills and who are willing to work hard at touring and putting on a good show, and prove a less hospitable climate for those who are simply studio artists and not entertainers.

  4. Music, like fashion, goes in cycles. Whatever is ‘in’ cannot be in’ forever, and becomes less interesting over time until it is ‘out’ again. Whatever is ‘out’ gets ‘rediscovered’ and becomes the new ‘in’ thing. Wheels within wheels, turns within turns, cycles within cycles. So to some extent if you want to see where we’ll be 20 years from now, you can look around and see what is waiting to be re-discovered. I think people, even young people, might eventually get a little tired of rap, sampling and related forms that don’t require the artist to invent a tune or be able to sing. I think it might get to the stage where people who can think up their own melodies and have the wits to write lyrics worth singing and worth listening to might start to becomes more valued. But I readily concede this could just be wishful thinking on my part.

How did you think I meant “selling out?”

“Selling out” as in “having their music in car commercials makes me sad,” which is the classic definition of selling out.

Does the fact that I find this an interesting possibility make me weird?

If your talking about what music “the kids” will listen to, I suspect it’ll be pretty similar. A lot of innocuous pop, either dance music or ballads for the majority. (I don’t think Celine is any less talented than the Bee Gees, and while I don’t care for either artist, they all have decent voices.) Tough macho music for young rebellious males. Not sure what’ll replace 50 cent and Jay-Z, whether it’ll be more Gangsta rap or something else. Then thre’ll be some sort of underground, like punk rock used to be, or prog, or whatever.

Ah, your assumption was incorrect. What I meant by it is that they sell out individual venues when they go on tour.

What I wrote was:

“Seeing the Rolling Stones touring at 60+ (and selling out) and having their music in car commercials makes me sad.”

See what’s in bold.

Further, I really don’t care if a musician sells their product for commercial interests. What I am saddened about is that this relatively old music is still thought of as good enough bait to attract consumers for cars (and other things). The statement quoted above was more a testament to the fact that mainstream music is just not very good and hasn’t been for such a long time, that we still find bands like the Rolling Stones as relevant as we do.