2010s: A Decade of Change in Music

As 2020 begins and the previous decade comes to a close, I think it is important to look back on who and what defined the music landscape during the last 10 years. 

The 2010s brought the world countless classic albums and breakout artists. While this is cause for celebration, we have seen both of these things in every other decade before it. What sets the 2010s apart from past decades is the huge variety of popular genres in music, and the drastic change in how we listen to music.

 Before we get into how music changed so much during the 2010s, we should look back on some major events that will be remembered for many years to come: 

Arcade Fire became the first indie act to win a Grammy in 2011, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis beat out Kendrick Lamar for best rap album at the 2014 Grammys, and Billie Eilish becoming the first artist born in the 21st century to top the Billboard top 200 really stand out as defining moments in the music industry, along with many others that I did not list.

There are two major aspects of music that transformed before our very eyes in the last 10 years; the first being the breaking down of genre barriers in popular music. 

In the 70s and 80s we saw the rise and domination of rock music, and we saw the same thing happen in the 90s and 2000s with pop music. In the 2010s, however, we had indie rock, rap, pop, punk rock, electronic, R&B, country, and various other genres that were once thought of as ‘niche’ enter the limelight and grow exponentially. In a way, the 2010s was a celebration of music as a whole, showing that all music has its place in modern culture and can be enjoyed by everyone in some facet.

Even bigger and more prevalent than this, however, is the new wave of streaming completely changing the way we listen to and experience music. With Spotify arriving in America in 2011 and Apple Music debuting in 2015, the new phenomenon of streaming music took over. 

For the first time ever, revenue from streaming royalties overtook sales as the largest source of revenue in the recorded-music business – giving the industry its first double-digit growth in percent since 1998. And why wouldn’t people make the switch? Music is more accessible and easier to listen to than ever before, and it costs less for the consumer.  

In fact, in November of 2019, total U.S. audio and video streams passed 1 trillion in a single year for the first time ever.  Of course, we could not have experienced any of these radical changes without incredible music to drive us to listen so much. Let’s take a look at what albums prompted us to press play over 1 trillion times in a year:

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