Do Drug Trends Predict Future Music Trends? A 100 Year Analysis.

Photo by GRAS GRÜN on Unsplash

Written by J. Simpson and Benjamin Groff

Predictive analytics is quite the rage these days, as we continue to find new and innovative ways to live better via technology. In fact, it’s our bid to eliminate as much uncertainty and discomfort from modern life as possible. But these are uncertain times, and it’d take a VERY clever algorithm to chart the fractal complexities of our increasingly connected and interconnected world (not that that algorithm doesn’t already exist).

Popular tastes and trends can tell us a lot about a time and place, though. Subcultures can be particularly insightful about the way a culture is heading, as they gestate in the underground, shaping hearts and minds, until gaining escape velocity and becoming a bonafide movement – maybe even becoming mainstream.

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On that note, the musical movements of the last 100 years tell the stories that have shaped the United States, as communities and disenfranchised voices discover new ways to gather and to express themselves. In fact, the same can be said about drugs and alcohol, and how these elixirs accompanied the last 100 years of music creation. From the actual creation to the enjoyment of such – and how people actually enjoy the music (from getting buzzed, stoned, high or blitzed), which often and still is an assumed prerequisite at many of these underground gatherings.

That’s right. From the champagne magnums of the Roaring ’20s to the joints and tabs of the ’60s, to the excess filled cocaine 80s and heroin 90s, these are some of the most popular drug trends which co-existed and/or spawned musical movements of the last 100 years.

And for better or worse — that’s a good question: Which came first? The music or the drugs? In other words, can we predict the future of music trends through a certain prevalence of drug use and / or choice or poison?

For example – in the 80s, did cocaine fuel the backdrop for the creation of neon music and hair metal? Did heroin consumption in the 90s fuel grunge rock? Or did Xanax and Valium in the 2010s provide the backdrop for low tempo hip hop / Soundcloud rap? Or is it the other way around? For example, do the conditions of life and the popular drugs of the day affect the type of music created? In other words — does the popular music of the day affect the popular drug choices that change the tone of life of that decade’s climate?

These are interesting questions – and perhaps there’s no connection at all. But I doubt it. And if you’re a music artist, why should you even care?

Well, whether you’re a music artist, a producer, music executive, or hit songwriter, these are very important predictive observations. Not only can you look to predict the trends of the decade from a musical perspective, but can you make an observation of (believe it or not) today’s drug climate to predict future music trends? That’s right, what new style or genre bending piece of music will be needed to provide the musical context for those new devilish activities?

Does that sound crazy? Well, just ask the famous post impressionist artists aka the “absinthers,” Van Gogh, Manet and Rimbaud (circa late 1800s) if absinthe (which at the time, included the hallucinogenic ingredient, wormwood) had any effect on their art. Were these guys visionaries or just literally painting what they were seeing? Probably both.

Van Gogh - A Starry Night

I think you see where we’re going with this. On that note, please read all the way to the end as we make our predictions for the overriding sound of the 2020s (for better or worse). Thus – without further ado:

Co-Existing and Inspiring: The Most Popular Music and Drug Trends of the Last 100 Years

The ’20s (p.s. we’re talking 1920s here)

Drug Of Choice: Alcohol
Popular Music: Jazz

The 1920s are known as The Jazz Age for a reason. What other music could possibly capture the energy and optimism, style and social upheaval of the 1920s? And what other than alcohol could keep people Jitterbugging and doing the Charleston until sunrise?

Four women drinking from bottles, 1920s

Image via Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images

This might be shocking but the jazz dance floors were literally the EDC and “speakeasy” raves of the day. Yes, these jazz clubs were dance clubs! And btw, what happened in 1918 just previous to the “roaring 20s?” That’s right – the Spanish Flu, a global pandemic that wiped out 50 Million people worldwide and an estimated 675,000 people in the United States. Hmm, do we have something similar happening 100 years later? On that note, keep reading this post to get to our predictions for the current 2020s. For example – will we have a musical repeat of the 1920s – will a new form of dance music or a new musical genre be born? That’s what happened with jazz.

Yes, jazz music was a new creation all within in the context of prohibition and alcohol being illegal.

Jumping back 100 years … simply thinking of the 1920s brings to mind the sound of popping champagne corks and the soft hiss of a sloe gin fizz, while Charlestoning to the thrilling sounds of early jazz like Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, or Jelly Roll Morton.

Circa The Great Gatsby, the 1920s were a time of unparalleled opulence and glamour. It was a full-steam-ahead era with no time for gazing in the rearview – it came by its other nicknames, The Jet Age and The Gilded Age, quite rightly.

Little did they know their whole way of life would shortly go the way of the Titanic in the next decade, starting with the 1929 stock market crash.

The ’30s

Drug Of Choice: Marijuana
Popular Music: The Blues, Big Band, Swing

Narrowing the substance intake of an entire decade to just one choice over-simplifies both the complicated history of drugs and alcohol in the United States, as well as its music listening habits.

Starting in the 1920s, we could probably just pick alcohol and leave it at that, as the United States dearly loves to drink (even when it’s illegal.) And make no doubt, the popular music of the day is most likely whatever’s on the radio. Many Americans were listening to early Pop or vocal Jazz or tuning into the Grand Ole Opry during the decade of the Great Depression and the Golden Age of Radio. We’re here to analyze how popular styles of music illustrate the prevailing mood of a decade, though, so we might better predict the future.

It’s safe to say that during the 1930s, due to the Great Depression and the social unrest from the Dust Bowl, people were quite down indeed. Really down. This makes The Blues particularly relevant, with its focus on world weariness. The image of the itinerant Blues musician eerily evokes the Okies wandering like the Israelites through choking clouds of dust and topsoil, also.

While alcohol would be a relevant choice for The Blues as well, considering the genre’s ties to juke joints, Marijuana is even more relevant to the history of The Blues and the spirit of the 1930s.

Article titled Exposing the Marijuana drug evil in swing bands

A 1938 Radio Stars article, outlining the frequent use of marijuana with swing musicians.

Interesting side note – marijuana was first made illegal in 1937. The low-down, slow motion of being stoned on Marijuana is an apt analog for the literal depression of the decade, with just the right amount of energy beneath the lethargy to keep dragging yourself into the future.

The ’40s

Drug Of Choice: Amphetamines
Popular Music: Bebop

For some of these decades, we’re picking less obvious choices, which are still relevant. We don’t want to repeat ourselves too much, as some decades weren’t that drug heavy comparatively. The ’40s were a fairly wholesome time as the country re-discovered its sense of optimism and energy and then – prepared for war, as World War 2 progressed in earnest.

So, what was the music flavor of this decade? Vocal jazz like the Andrews Sisters or The Boswell Sisters were probably more prevalent in mainstream America during the ’40s. Jazz of every flavor was the popular music of its day, though, with bebop representing the extreme cutting edge.

Amphetamines were a popular drug of choice from the 1930s to the ’50s, as they were still legal and available over-the-counter in the form of Benzedrine. Bennies, or “Goofballs” – and were a popular past-time among the emerging Hipsters who would, in very short order, become the Beatniks.

Oh and don’t forget that up until the 1950s – cocaine was still legal! In fact Coca-Cola’s early ingredients included, yes, cocaine as part of its massive appeal, thus putting the “coca leaves” in Coca-Cola. Literally.

The ’50s

Drug Of Choice: Heroin
Popular Music: Jazz

To condense the head swirling array of different kinds of jazz in the 1950s down to just one style would be impossible, especially since we already picked bebop for the ’40s when it was at its zenith. The ’50s was an important decade for early rock ‘n roll, r&b, doo-wop, country, and rockabilly, as well.

When we think of the 1950s, though, the image of the black-clad beatnik comes to mind. And while beatniks experimented with any mind-altering substance, the bohemian underground and heroin are inextricably linked.

It’s also evocative of that decade’s coolness, distance, and sense of detachment. The entire world was experiencing a collective PTSD following the atrocities of WW2. The intellectual distance of emerging movements like modernism hinted at a world where rationality wins out over everything, eliminating social ills and ushering in a new Utopia.

It didn’t. Or hasn’t, yet – but it certainly yielded some brilliant art and music!

While we selected Jazz as a category to represent the 1950s, certain strains in particular reflect the era’s narcotic cool. West Coast Jazz, aka Cool Jazz, is especially redolent of the opiate’s time-slowing qualities and sense of detachment. Some of the genre’s icons, like Chet Baker or Dinah Washington for instance, were well-known heroin addicts. It was said that Chet Baker was ingesting up to 6 grams of the substance a day by the end of his life.

Chet baker with a missing tooth

Chet baker with a missing tooth, allegedly punched out in a “drug deal gone wrong.”

The ’60s

Drug Of Choice: LSD
Popular Music: Rock ‘n Roll

There’s no drug on Earth that was not being consumed by the boatload during the ’60s. There’s no style of music that was not experiencing a renaissance during that time, as well, sometimes due to that same exploration.

When we think of the 1960s, though, we tend to think of day-glo colors, body paint, music festivals, and all-night light shows. It was the era of LSD, for sure, as Western society shook off the bonds of tradition and conformity in favor of mind-expansion, ancient wisdom, and the search for enlightenment.

Music artists which might come to mind here might include: The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and certainly, The Doors.

Album covers for The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Serious, Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow, The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour

The ’70s

Drug Of Choice: Quaaludes (aka ‘Ludes)
Popular Music: Disco & Heavy Music

Were the ’70s even druggier than the ’60s? It’s possible. It also feels somewhat disingenuous to pick just one during the decade that gave us lids of weed and saltshakers of cocaine. But if we think of the bubble fonts and “Have A Nice Day” sloganeering, perhaps the phrase “Got any ‘luuds, man?” might also spring to mind!

It’s also challenging to pick just one musical movement to sum up the ’70s. Punk rock is just as prevalent, influential, and as representative of the era, with its austerity and sense of imminent collapse. We could write a whole separate article and put Punk and heroin, airplane glue, or whatever else they could get their spiked mitts on, if we wanted to capture the Year Zero feeling of the late ’70s.

In terms of popular imagination, though, the ’70s were undoubtedly the disco era. It was an important time for emerging voices and communities, especially women, queer folk, and POC. All-night disco parties fueled by powerful pharmaceuticals like Quaaludes would serve as launching pads for many of these emerging movements – as well as the world we’re living in today.

In fact, quaaludes were referred to as “disco biscuits.” Users popping these pills would experience less inhibitions and increased euphoria, taking the dance floor (and sex, apparently) to a whole other level.

But if you couldn’t get into Studio54 in the 70s – perhaps, on the other polar opposite spectrum might have been the more socially awkward users, delegated to their bedroom, vibrating with the “heavy” sound of early metal. We’re talking Black Sabbath, Mountain, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Surely, either quaaludes or weed were the accompaniment drug of choice here too.

The ’80s

Drug Of Choice: Cocaine
Popular Music: New Wave, 80s

Do you like Huey Lewis & The News?” – said an early Christian Bale in the now classic film, “American Psycho.”

We held off from declaring cocaine the official drug of the ’70s, although it was everywhere, so we could give it its rightful place as the official intoxicant of the 1980s.

Graph showing cocaine use from the 1970s through the 1990s

Image courtesy of Rand Corporation

Nothing sums up the rampant consumerism and Gordon Gekko-style “Greed Is Good” sensibility other than piles and piles of blow (note the co-author of this article had their own DeLorean borrowed for the Johnny Depp movie of the same name, “Blow” – but that’s another story).

Yes, the 80s! Was it the best decade ever? The bright, bold colors, relentless optimism, and genuine weirdness even oozing from ’80s cartoons, sitcoms, and kid’s shows like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse can also speak to what can happen if you overdo it. Too much coke (apparently) leaves you feeling wrung out and spent, more like the grim modern art of Beetlejuice than the primary colors of Keith Haring.

It’s hard to fully pin down what to call the music of the ’80s. Some of the decade’s best-known music, like Duran Duran, The Cure, Devo, and even early Madonna, would lay the foundation for today’s pop music but, at the time, was often known as New Wave.

We also had the most epic 80s hair metal bands also cycling through gram after gram of the white powder (think Motley Crue, Poison to Guns N Roses). I mean would there be 80s hair metal without cocaine?

Lastly, during this time we also had the widespread embrace of synthesizers and drum machines perfectly capturing the technological expansionism, the feeling of Better Living Through Technology mantra, as the roots of Silicon Valley began to take hold.

The ’90s

Drug Of Choice: Heroin
Popular Music: Grunge

And yes, after the hyper infusion of hairspray, spandex infused hair metal and neon leg warmers of the 80s – we needed a break (unfortunately).

And this is a good time to note that every decade seems to usher in a new phase of music. That’s right – with each change of a “9” to a “0” in the big picture i.e. 1979 to 1980, or 1989 to 1990, each decade brings different thinking and a palpable change in the air. So, if you’re a musician or artist and you’re reading this article in the early 2020s, can this be your guide to a new musical direction? What is this decade going to sound like or be “reminiscent of” when we look back from the year 2049?

That being said, as we look back to the 90s, the era basically presented the “talk to the hand” gesture towards the 80s. Big time. That’s right – “Thanks 80s, but yah, we done here.

And as far as drugs go, we’ve done everything we could to avoid repeating drug substances – but you know, the more things change, the more they also stay the same. That being said, there’s simply no over-stating the influence that heroin had on the culture of the 1990s. The idea of cyclical trends coming back into fashion feels fairly on-point for the last decade of the 20th Century, as well.

Although there were a few more musical trends, the ’90s had more of a distinctive musical identity than most of the other decades we’ve written about, barring maybe the ’20s. Without a doubt, the shadow of Seattle loomed large over the decade as Grunge took over. First Nirvana kicked open the doors with their undeniable indie noise pop, leaving the gate wide open for a wild, wooly troop of every eccentric with a distorted guitar.

Grunge and the heroin addiction that gutted the previous glossy hair metal scene exemplifies the “eh, whatever” slacker apathy that was Gen X at their very finest. What’s that? You think nu-metal and boy bands are a better example of the emerging technoculture lurking right around the corner? Oh well, whatever. Nevermind. (Editor’s Note: Do we have to explain that “Nevermind” was the title of the classic breakthrough album for Nirvana? Umm – Probably.)

The ’00s

Drug Of Choice: Meth, MDMA
Popular Music: Pop, EDM

Not that Pop Music and Meth use entirely co-existed. But what even were the 2000s? It feels impossible to truly nail down the first decade of the 21st Century as old ideas about youth and musical subcultures slowly morphed into the world we’re currently inhabiting.

I mean remember the previous note we had on big decade changes and what that psychological impact entails? So – what about a century roll over?! What kind of confusion or mindset for new footing takes place in a society when a 100 year mark passes?

On that note, that’s right – lots of things were happening musically at this time. There were also massive indie rock and EMO movements during the 2000s, which might be indie music’s true heyday, as indie rock became officially mainstream. Even old timey music like indie folk took root as the culture became increasingly nostalgic.

During this time, good ‘ol Pop music became more important than it had in a long time, as questions about popularity and obscurity became increasingly complex and confusing. Even traditionally underground and non-commercial music like punk took on a pop gloss during the 2000s.

As far as the impact on the rise of meth in the 2000s – what effect did that have on these musical mutations? That’s a good question. The other Big 3 – heroin, marijuana, and cocaine – have already been written about. The sensation of your nervous system slowly melting after being awake for 4 days is probably relevant to the music and culture emerging during the 2000s, though.

Purely from a musical perspective, from the spiky aggression of Mindless Self Indulgence and the emerging emo and metalcore scenes, to even the radio pop and hip-hop of the day, everything seemed extra in the 2000s, amped up and cranked to 11 with about as much subtlety as a brick upside the head.

Probably more importantly, as it relates to the premise of this article, the 2000s also saw the previously underground world of dance music go mainstream for the first time. Enormous EDM festivals would take over for underground illicit raves, dragging EDM into mass consciousness and making DJs and producers superstars, sometimes seemingly overnight.

Of course, MDMA, MDA, and ecstasy underscored and fueled the entire moment, perfectly capturing (and possibly causing) the euphoric feeling of rushing into the future; the breathless optimism and almost radical empathy.

Anyone who’s ever spent any time rolling can tell you ecstasy has its shadow, as well, with each peak having a corresponding pitfall, which we will come to see in the next decade.

The 2010s

Drug Of Choice: Fentanyl, Xanax & Valium
Popular Music: Hip-Hop / Chill

Everything went harder during the 2010s. While some of the other eras were somewhat complicated to comment on, it’s safe to say that sadly, fentanyl is truly the most influential, and reflective, of the intensity of recent history, especially considering the toll it would take on the hip-hop community.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, would claim the lives of everyone from Mac Miller to Lil Peep, during the 2010s. Meanwhile, rap music could be viewed as growing ever harder, sharper, meaner, gradually morphing from the relatively mellow good vibes of crunk and dirty south to the harder, more aggressive sounds of trap.

Iconic artists who died of fentanyl overdose

Iconic artists who died of fentanyl overdose.

Meanwhile, hip-hop continued its global domination to become the sound of its times. In the 2010s, hip-hop and pop were often more-or-less interchangeable, especially considering the cross-pollination between the two genres. Hip-hop had come a long way from its streetwise origins. 2010s hip-hop was all about bling, Benjamins, fat rims and poppin’ bottles.

It’s a good example of the increasingly polarization of our society. The cash and prizes were bigger than ever but the fall was steeper, as well. There was little room for error in an always-on, side-hustle grind culture.

The 2020s

Drug Of Choice: Virtual Reality or the “V” (we don’t say the word here for “algorithm” purposes), Ketamine, anyone?
Musical Style: Who knows ?? But some ideas and predictions: K-Pop, Hyperpop, Anti-TikTok, Rock / Metal + “real” artists.

Now, we’ve finally reached the point of prognostication, which is the main exercise of this whole article. Looking at the consumption habits of an era can shed invaluable light on the values and energy of that time, as we have seen. One thing is abundantly clear, though – it’s very hard to predict the future right, especially now.

Or is it?

So, as the 2020s are still emerging – look, we’re all still guessing – and more importantly, creating our current future. There’s little telling what the outcome and after effects of a global pandemic will have, as well. We might all be incurably insane by the time this “viral mess” which started in 2019/2020, is fully in the rearview. Who’s to say what music we’ll be listening to, to accompany our madness? Or will we be partying up just like the roaring 20s?!

Luckily, we’re also developing new tools and better awareness. While thinking and talking about the potentially sci-fi implications of the intersection of music and tech, it’s our opinion that as far as illegal or semi-legal substances, cannabis is perhaps the most consumed substance, so far, of the 2020s. There are also several striking pieces of legislation currently on the books that could have profound cultural implications. Researchers have been having promising results treating everything from depression to addiction with substances like ketamine and psilocybin, both of which are being considered for decriminalization.

And in Portland, Oregon – they are of course experimenting with practically all drugs being legal. Even widespread legal ketamine usage is bound to have a musical impact, you can rest assured.

But if we take a look at previous decade changeovers – we’d be remiss to note the radical changes and the rise of new music genres (and drugs) that fueled the change in life’s direction. Sometimes it seems that – whatever the most popular trend was in the previous decade, a direct reaction to this springs into place.

In other words – what is the “anti”-movement?

To that note – please God (or whatever deity you pray to), as far as music is concerned – are people done yet with TikTok? And sure, the counter argument (and regretfully one that probably has more merit) is that TikTok and vapid overnight pop and hip hop “sounds” (literally we’re in a place where these are no longer “songs” but actually “sounds”) are taking over. People have less attention spans than goldfish these days (that’s a real fact). So, a legitimate question is – are “songs” as we know them – like, on the way out!? Is this the beginning of “sounds” – where we merge into a more of a “soundbite” world? I shudder at that thought.

But even go out to a club on a Friday night or hell, even a wedding reception – and rarely does the DJ ever serve you a full complete song – just the juicy clip. In fact, Spotify and Apple streams are declining each year, as TikTok becomes more prevalent. What?

Average attention span of a human in 2000 vs now vs average attention span of a goldfish

Image source.

It’s my hope the anti-genre to these TikTok artists and overnight desperate fame will emerge. Slowly at first – and then like a lightning bolt. I’m already starting to see these glimmers. We’re talking about the antithesis of TikTok. Yes, the anti-pop star, anti-social media, an “anti-desperate for fame” movement – and more of a focus on “real” music. And what sound would that be? Maybe more rock, goth, dark sounds, real crafted singer/songwriters, artists who have worked on their craft for 10 years instead of just a “moment” on a platform that couldn’t be repeated. Just something more “real?”

Bottom line though – if we’ve learned anything over the decades – is whether you’re a music artist (or an executive) or a writer/producer – you need to stay relevant. That’s right. If you were crushing it as a disco producer in 1977 and then 1982 arrived – and you’re still making your Giorgio Moroder or Barry Gibb (of The Bee Gees) music productions – let’s just say your mortgage payments would suddenly become much harder to make in 1983, if you didn’t evolve.

And while the 2020s could be the decade of TikTok (please, Lord, no, I beg of you) – I would probably take the bet that – it will be. Which means more (in the editor’s opinion) vapid and meaningless and disposable pop, hip hop and indie pop / next gen singer / songwriters – who often get “lucky” for one song – where lightning strikes – and then sadly, can’t follow it up. Yes, thus we have (this is fact) – the graveyard of TikTok artists and major labels dropping TikTok artists as fast as they’re signing them. Not that I’m at all bitter or negative here.

The great news is that if you, as an artist or a songwriter can present something “real,” a crafted copyright, something that stands out, that fulfills the void of vapidness – rest assured, that door is wide open for you to smash in. It’s the space left open by everyone who’s doing “the standard good enough” to get on a best new music playlist – that everyone forgets about next month. I think Billy Joel said it best: “I am merely a competent artist, vocalist and songwriter. But in an age of incompetence – that makes me extraordinary.”

Lastly, let’s also take a look at K-Pop. It’s no question that Koreans make the best pop music and entertainment today. Full stop. From K-Pop infectious songs to the live shows and choreography, and amazing videos and marketing – K-Pop owns pop music. Those heavyweight labels also have the cash flow to accomplish global domination. Yes, you’ve heard of the British invasion? Get prepared for the Korean invasion. That’s right. It started with BTS and now we’re seeing BLACKPINK, NCT-127 and others like TXT – on deck, emerging to take over. Not that K-Pop is dependent on a “drug” to fully enjoy – however – going back to our previous point – does having something (the “v” word) to combat “the virus” in the 20220s allow people to go out to a stadium setting – to have the most fun, after being on perpetual lockdown? Is Pfizer or Moderna the drug provider here for the backdrop of this decade? Perhaps.

As humans, we generally love great songs, to be entertained and wait – there’s that other thing too – having fun. And actually – historically, there’s nothing “really” new here with K-Pop! We had girl groups and boy bands in the 1950s and especially in the late 90s and early 00s. This is just the next phase of pop boy bands and girl groups – and K-Pop is leading the way towards global domination.

What else? Considering the trends and social currents, you can be certain that technology will play a major role in how we think about and consume music, as well as the world as a whole. There are numerous tech trends that are shaping the music industry right now, including Web3, NFTs (make sure to check out our NFT Academy for Music Artists coming soon) and virtual reality / augmented reality, collectively known as The Metaverse. (Also let’s make another prayer to God that Mark Zuckerturd won’t “own” this space).

These all offer radical departures from the way we’ve traditionally consumed music!

On that note, could the metaverse (and not just gaming but “play to earn” gaming) be the new overstimulating “drug” of choice for the 2020s? Think about it. Certainly, the metaverse does, in fact, create a drug – or should we say our own natural drug, a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is the pleasure chemical of the brain. Dopamine is also what’s created even from a ping on your phone that you got a new text message or if someone likes or comments on your latest IG post.

Now think about this. Imagine throwing yourself in a fully immersive metaverse with haptics (the actual feeling in your controls where things are happening i.e. vibrations, shakes etc), where your brain literally can’t tell the difference between IRL and the metaverse – we’re talking MASSIVE amounts of dopamine.

So what is the companion piece of music for the metaverse? I mean, it literally could be anything. From your favorite music to something nostalgic to something new to accompany your ideal reality and personal identity which you have complete control over. Surely, most everything will be personalized in this space.

That’s right. Think about the 1980s and the prevalence of “video game and arcades” – Yes, the blip bleep wonderment of 8-bit sounds probably helped influence and create some of those “sounds” and musical influences of the 1980s. Anyone remember the hit song “Pac-Man Fever?” So, is there a place, say for example, “hyperpop” music that is fueled by the metaverse? Perhaps. If “hyperpop” can actually have a real hit emerge from the genre, which so far it hasn’t. (Note: I’ve seen this movie before – see “Electroclash” and “PC Music” which never really had a hit, disposing the subgenre to just a cool hipster moment in time).

Also, don’t be surprised if personalized music via artificial intelligence (A.I.) plays an increasingly important role in the 2020s. Instead of simply having one official version of an album or single, every listener can make their own music, mixes, etc to suit their taste.

Expect to see increased collaboration between artists and listeners, also, whether that be through the audience commissioning original works via NFTs or with bespoke remixes and sound installations for VR/AR.

Here’s another thought. Will A.I. just know – when you get home from work or school that you had a rough day – and knowing your favorite music artists all time – let’s say, Queen – will A.I. create a new Queen song – processing all the elements of the Queen stems (pre-recorded multi tracks) that Hollywood Records has provided to A.I.? Or will there be a new Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody” type of hit that A.I. creates and is even better than the original – as an official new Queen release?

Lastly, as we go “maskless” and reconnect with people and become real humans again…here’s a question? Is this just like 100 years ago circa the 1918 event we previously mentioned?

And are people now ready to party?

If it’s one thing we’ve learned – there are actually three things to keep in mind.

  1. History repeats itself (or it certainly rhymes)
  2. Big music changes happen around the turning points of decades, and of course…
  3. People love to party

So the question for you is – what type of music are you going to give them?

Even if it’s chill out or yoga based music to deal with the constant stress of the times – there’s an opportunity here for everyone. Maybe.

As purveyors, creators and guides of the future – we have to be thinking these thoughts.


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Musical Movements and Drug Trends: Final Thoughts

It’s no coincidence there’s been such a steep drop-off of futuristic science fiction in the 21st Century. Some of it might be due to a rise in cynicism and fatalism, as our world is increasingly ravaged by seemingly unsolvable problems. It likely has just as much to do with the difficulty in imagining truly revolutionary paradigm shifts, though.

There are major battles being waged around these ideas right this very second. Online communities are forging an alternative to the internet and public social media via emerging networks like Urbit and Second Life (God bless you, Second Life for hanging in there). An increasingly busy micro-ecology of substacks are Discord servers are becoming the new new underground, filling a similar niche to what underground record stores, bookstores, and cybercafes might have had in the ’90s.

Remember, we never predicted the rise of smartphones, iPods, or the MP3, all of which have shaped and influenced the world almost as much as gunpowder or papyrus, if not the printing press.

We just don’t know which of these developments will end up catching on. We’ll simply have to observe, keep waiting and watching, being open to change, hoping for the best and playing our part in our various music cultures and subcultures to the best of our abilities.

In the best case scenario – we’re all collectively making these changes, creating and moving the needle (of a record player – not a syringe) of popular culture.

And of course – if there’s a new drug that hits and takes over the streets and the suburbs – much like Huey Lewis who “wants his new drug” – such a new trend will most likely require the need for a new music genre to compliment.

So – what will you be bringing to the party of the 2020s?

About the Author

The Author of “How Do I Get A Record Deal? Sign Yourself!”

My career in music publishing extends over 25 years, including BMG Music (bought by Universal) and EMI Music Publishing (bought by Sony), as well as the 1st U.S. employee of Kobalt Music Publishing, where he helped build the roster over 10 years as Executive VP of Creative.

Benjamin is currently heading up his own publishing company, Brill Building, as well as label and music filter, We Are: The Guard. Benjamin’s signings range from Ryan Tedder, Kelly Clarkson, The Lumineers, Grimes, Savan Kotecha, OneRepublic, SOPHIE, Ariel Rechtshaid, Greg Kurstin, Tiesto, Kid Cudi, TOKiMONSTA, TR/ST, Cut Copy, Big Freedia, Lindy Robbins, Peaches and yes, even Steel Panther. His specialty in the music business is early artist, writer and writer/producer development.


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Topics cover hit songwriting, music publishing, DIY self-releasing, contracts, strategies, how to get DSP playlisting support, securing and pitching for syncs, Web3/NFTs, getting your songs placed/cut and so much more.

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