Recently while attending the Canadian Music Week meetings I wandered into a session called - Is Hip Hop Dead? An interesting panel headed by Guy Routee from the 90s' group Aftershock who now manages artists and others from the world of Hip-Hop. Of course they were keying on the statement from artist Nas who recently declared Hip Hop dead. Sales fell over 20% in 2006 for the first time in 20 years and no Rap artists pulled off a top 10 album in 2006.
The panel concluded that Hip Hop is really the 'culture' here and Rap was a music trend within the culture. Of course the culture isn't dead, but Rap as a music form is not the force it was just a few years ago. As Rap moved from the authentic street movements in N.Y. and L.A. to the glitter and excess of success it lost its roots. Once McDonalds decided to re-make its image a few years ago with rap infused TV campaigns the writing was on the wall. Suddenly it was all about the 'bling.' Now the original appeal was watered down and the Hip factor was fading fast.
Music styles are clearly cyclical. In Rock we can go back to the 70s and watch the supergroups emerge in the early part of the decade with Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, the Stones and many others. The rebellion factor with longer hair, longer songs, and the rock lifestyle grew into the corporate rock days of Foreigner, Boston, Bad Company and others. In the mid-80s we began to see the decline - ever watched some of the Whitesnake videos? Suddenly it was all about hot cars, lots of babes, and being stars - not artists. Look further back to the Motown days which started out with an authentic sound from the streets of Detroit, but by the 70s it had become a glitzy show that had largely moved to L.A.
What's next? Indie rock will likely be the new 'authentic' music form from the streets of MySpace with a sound that's pretty much a 180 from the Rap style. Pop songs with bit of a folk side from small independent bands that are more geared to building themselves instead of being built by a big label machine. While some might label it as an extension of the Alternative sound of the 90s Indie bands are emerging quickly in the 16-21 age group. There's even a movement within the Afro American community for Indie bands with the Blipsters.
How will radio respond? Hopefully we will - MySpace is already way ahead of us in leading the charge here. Internet radio is also ahead of us. It's also a tough landscape with lots of bands, very little formal infrastructure (like the record labels). We may need to put down the charts, stash the research for a while, and find a way to connect with the streets again - only in this case the street may likely be on the Internet in the social networking world.
We also face little interest in non 25-54 formats and right now this movement is a lot more 18-34.