Nostalgia is a Genre

In Beats + Bytes by Nue Agency

New releases have always been the lifeblood of the music business. The pop charts drove the charts, and the anticipation you could build around an artist delivered reliable results. But right now, catalog music is what’s running the industry.

Roughly 70% of streams come from songs 18 months or older, and huge multiples are being paid for them. Everyone is looking to acquire songs and “classics” are more valuable than ever. Everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Bob Dylan is getting in on the action. The David Bowie and Prince estates could be next.

Blockbuster deals are making headlines weekly and there continue to be large, institutional cash infusements. It’s not our traditional definition of “exciting,” but it’s a pretty remarkable trend. I remember when the music business was off limits for investors. Now, it’s a growth industry again.

Even the innovation side of the business is focused on breathing new life into catalogs. This week, Nas sold portions of his Grammy-winning album as a digital asset to collectors and fans.

There are many reasons why, for the first time in my career, old music is more prevalent than new music. With 60k new songs dropping on Spotify daily (and even more on YouTube), it’s impossible to keep up. It’s like drinking water from a firehose: there will always be another drop. We need help parsing it. We need time to experience before we’re on to the next. In this world, curators are as important as creatives.

Another factor is the rise of nostalgia as a genre, which presents the opportunity to build off old ideas. Cobra Kai is a perfect example of this: it feels like comfort food but still surprises and delights.

Last week, the When We Were Young Festival poster went viral. This lineup of emo bands is getting more buzz than Coachella’s lineup and still gaining steam. The new Avril Lavinge is…exciting?

That said, new music is clearly crucial to the sustained growth of the industry. So how do we help new artists and songs shine? Playlists, IG Stories, and, of course, TikTok are where trends begin. But how can something become bigger than a trend? Music is supposed to be timeless when it connects.

I’m bullish on the gaming sector and how music resonates more in games. In fact whole worlds can be created around the songs of artists. NFTs open this door, too. The cadence is much slower in NFT world and when you collect, it means something to you. The relationship between fan and artist is stronger, not to mention the inherent closeness of investment and ownership aspects.

Artists will need to be developed differently now. They’ll require different skill sets and A&R’s will need to change in kind. Communities are king.

This is all very “inside baseball” talk. It will take time for audiences to adjust. Personally, I want bite-sized curation. In a Wordle world, I want a new app that drops one song a day in every genre. I want something I can trust. “Did you hear the song of the day?” We want our music watercooler moments back, baby!


Also published on Medium.