Published on July 3rd, 2013 | by Alan Cross


Are We Making Classic Music Anymore?

“Today’s music is shit. Music back in the day was SOOOO much better.”

Don’t lie.  You’ve at least thought that at some point.  I have–but then I recall this profound statement I read somewhere:  “Every generation has the biological right to believe that the music of their youth is the best music of all time.”

It’s true.  There’s that musical coming-of-age period that begins sometime around the time we enter high school and ends when we get a real job in the real world in our twenties.  Music is so integral to our existence during those 10 or so years that it becomes imprinted upon us for the rest of our lives.  

But there’s nowhere in that axiom that says this music itself has to be current and of the moment. It’s possible that, say, you discovered The Beatles or some other classic band (Led Zeppelin, the Stones, the Who) at age 17 and they became a soundtrack for a big chunk of your late teens.  Or maybe you got into classic Goth or mid-80s industrial or early 90s grunge. 

This older music was so good that it’s being embraced by younger generations, 20, 30, 40 and even 50 years later.  Which brings up this question:  what of today’s music will be discovered and embraced my young music fans in the future?

In other words, which of today’s artists/songs/albums will have the same kind of staying power of The Beatles, Sabbath, Van Halen, the Ramones, Sex Pistols, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, U2, Oasis, Blur, etc?

Coldplay?  Possibly.  Kanye?  Maybe.  And then there’s…um…



About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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14 Responses to Are We Making Classic Music Anymore?

  1. kenneth says:

    Arcade Fire's Funeral quickly comes to mind as a rock record that will stand up over time. The Radiohead catalogue also can be revisited years down the road and stands up as well(Even though it dates back 20 years now). Wilco? LCD Sound system?

  2. NMF says:

    chances are, the future will lock on to the EDM/Dubstep sound the way the droogs from A Clockwork Orange locked on to Beethoven

  3. Nicole says:

    I'd say it will be more difficult to pick out "the greats" when the music industry is so saturated, while we also now we have multiple ways of discovering and accessing music. Although still dominating, a lot of people find music outside of tv and radio (yay Internet!). Not as much focus on a certain group as much as there used to be, I'd argue…or at least the group that most people are paying attention to is just too vast to pick from.

  4. kenneth says:

    Also raises the question: Will there ever be another album like Nevermind that tilts the axis so far that that music veers off in a new unpredicted direction?

  5. Blake says:

    It happened very gradually, but the album has already died. It's gone and it may not come back for a long time.

    Sure, there will always be artists making albums, but the for the most part younger Millennials and the new generation of young teenagers have almost zero loyalty to any current artist as something they want to physically own or something they want to have in 50-minute chunks. The new Daft Punk? Great album. But I would garner that downloads of "Get Lucky" will outweigh album downloads by a margin of 1000-1.

    Even the idea of having a music collection on an iPod is becoming an antiquated idea. Most plugged-in kids just bring up whatever song they want from online sources. It's always there, so why purchase it?

    All those best-album-of-the-year lists are being created by hardcore music fans in their 30s and 40s, and even the most ardent music fans like myself have no idea who the majority of the artists on the list even are, much less have even heard any of the songs.

    After all… If you're not obsessively scoping out all this new music online constantly, how will you ever hear it? On the radio…? Yeah? Which station?

    So to answer your question: Classic music is being made today, definitely. It's just that a lot less people will ever discover it.

  6. Liz says:

    I admit at the beginning of the 2000's, I was worried about the future of music…then I heard a girl that forever changed my opinion and brought me over to listening to country music. That girl was Taylor Swift and the first song that drew me to her was "Love Story". Hearing her gave me hope and now I am a huge, huge fan! And not just of her…Lady A, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and so many more. With country's overwhelming popularity today, I believe music was redeemed.

  7. Blake says:

    Sorry Liz…

    I don't even know where to begin with this.

    I'd say you're trolling, but you sound so damned sincere. That makes me sad.

    Here's a sad face now, to prove it: —> 🙁

  8. Stephen McDermott says:

    Two Words…Foo Fighters

  9. Eric says:

    One Word: TOOL

  10. Michael says:

    Every generations says the same thing, no? It's never all shit. There's always some, no doubt. And what is shit to one is great to someone else. It is the way of things.

    To your question: It will depend on how we get music, I think. When bands such as you've listed hit, were people thinking wow…this music will last for generations? I guess some were. It will be interesting to see the impact of today's technology and how it's used on this question. I still amazed when I find something great that I've never heard of. There's so much out there.

  11. doubleJ says:

    It's a tough call really. The delivery of the music appears to be more important than the music itself. So much is over commercialized crap and the ability to discover it via traditional methods has become very difficult.It also allows for so many bands to be heard (or not heard) due to the sheer volume of music available today. I do still discover gems from time to time but not to the same extent I did when music was a valued item rather than the commodity it has become. It takes time for music to become classic and only time will tell what will stand the test of time in 20-30 years. I think the death of the album will make it harder for music to be perceived as classic as it was the albums that defined what classic meant, not the individual songs.

  12. Kirsten says:

    I think the biggest difference between what is being produced today as 'music' and what was produced 20 or 30 years ago is the technology used. There was a time when pro-tools and (barf) autotune didn't exist, and those who were successful were either really really good or really good at being bad. These days it seems that if you have the right promoter and backing, anyone can be a 'star', regardless of whether or not any actual talent exists. This saddens me.

  13. Ian says:

    Sometimes you need all the stars lined up right, and you certainly have it in the UK right now. Tory government, Check. Economic disaster, Check. Hopelessness felt everywhere, Check. Now all you need is some rough diamond of talent to drag us all along on their own musical odyssey. Certainly saw some Greats come out of this environment in the 80s from The Smiths and The Cure, amongst many others, right up to the whole Madchester scene. This was a statement from those previously without a voice, the time is now for it to happen again.
    Just a thought, unfortunately nothing to back it up yet. Nature though, will find a way and buck the trend set by The Man. Nirvana did it 20 years ago, when really bad Hair Bands ruled the airwaves, aside from CFNY of course.
    Maybe an American band will do it again, or a Canadian one!!!

  14. Mark says:

    Every generation gets the music it deserves.

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