Seismic shifts upended the music business in the 2000s and laid waste to the album, to radio stations, to record stores, and hopefully, those unsightly Case Logic CD cases. But the news wasn’t all bad. More people are now listening to more kinds of music in more ways than ever. The following is a quick sample of some of the trends that made this the decade that shook, rattled, and rolled the way we experience music.
Listen Like It’s 1999
Hard to believe now, but 1999 was one of the most successful years in the history of the music business. It was also, of course, the beginning of the end. All the seeds of consumer rebellion were being sown. CDs were $19 — even though making them was never cheaper. Radio was consolidating under the Clear Channel monopoly, meaning fewer and fewer songs were being played more and more often. MTV was moving away from music videos and using its biggest asset — TRL — to promote millennial boy bands, hip-hop-influenced nü-metal, Carson Daly’s love life and, well, Britney. Only Britney would survive.
TV Is the New Radio
With fewer options on radio and MTV, bands needed to get their music out somewhere. Luckily (for me), The O.C. premiered in 2003, a tough time if you were an indie band trying to be heard. That inspired some of my (and Seth Cohen’s) favorite bands — Death Cab for Cutie, Interpol, Modest Mouse, et al. — to consider being played on a Fox drama about Orange County teenagers. Some music fans fretted it was destroying the integrity of their favorite acts. But by 2009, Bright Eyes could be heard on Melrose Place, Phoenix was shilling for Cadillac, and Death Cab had the lead single off the New Moon soundtrack.
Time for a Napster
What began as a way for college kids to find the most obscure version of Dave Matthews’ ”Ants Marching” became the tool that would change the game. It changed how kids used the Internet to find music. Changed the notion that free was bad. And changed the relationship between lawsuit-happy music labels and their consumers. The toothpaste was out of the tube.
Every Day’s a Mixtape
With one simple button — Shuffle — the iPod changed how we listen to music. It became normal to skip from Nirvana to Bell Biv DeVoe to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Digable Planets. And iTunes gave us the ability to effortlessly make playlists that helped revitalize the mix-tape/mix CD for a whole new generation. It also meant that Shuffle-happy Genius mixers were freed from the constraints of listening to albums from beginning to end. That didn’t mean the end of the album (see below), but nothing would ever be the same.
My favorite albums
From an artist who defined the decade
The Blueprint, Jay-Z
One that captured what it felt like
Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem
And one I juts…listened to a lot
Boxer, the National
To check out Schwartz’s full list of the albums that defined this decade, go to music-mix.ew.com