For 60 years, Billboard, every week, has ranked the best music. Using sales, radio play, and now streaming, they tell us what we like the most.
Recently though, there’s been a fundamental change.
Where are we going? First to Drake and then market concentration.
Billboard’s Hot 100
Decades ago, the Beatles had the records. When they were in the Top 100, they established a new high with 14 simultaneous hits. Now no one is surprised if Canadian rapper and singer Drake has as many as 25.
Made easier by online streaming, many more songs are flooding the airwaves. In addition, the cameos are multiplying. Kanye West and Taylor Swift both did recordings with Future (rapper and singer). Cardi B has the cameo at 2:53, below, for “Maroon 5’s Girls Like You”:
This avalanche of songs and cameos is creating more big-name dominance. There used to be close to 100 artists in the Hot 100. Currently, it’s closer to 75.
Our Bottom Line: Concentration
One reason for a “superstar artists economy” could be a digital music catalog that is overwhelmingly large. Faced with too many decisions, listeners default to the superstars. It happens all the time when we buy a car. Faced with too many options, we select the default package. So too with artists. But here the defaults are the names we know. A behavioral economist might say we are experiencing choice overload.
We also are seeing some crowding out. Here, the big stars have so much power and appeal that they are nudging those with less fame and fortune to the margin. The idea of crowding out is typically used to explain the impact of government borrowing. Textbooks say (but it has not worked out that way) that when government borrows too much money, it pushes rates skyward. Responding like “average” artists, smaller borrowers are crowded out.
As economists, might we say that Drake, like Apple, represents more concentration?
My sources and more: Thanks to the WSJ Numbers journalist who always alerts me to something interesting.