Clichés are clichés because we all know them to be true, and there's nothing more universally known then "hindsight is 20/20." It's pretty easy to look back and see the mistakes we made, it's less easy to see ourselves making them in the present moment. And looking towards the future? Well that's practically impossible. But that's not going to stop us from laughing at some people whose predictions about the music industry we're terribly, hilariously wrong. Even if we wouldn't have been able to do any better. So come on hypocrites, let's take a journey.
1. The iPod will be dead in a few months (2005)
"Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput." – Business mogul
Sir Alan Sugar
"There's no chance the iPod is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
People were predicting the death of Apple since the success of the first Macintosh begin to plateau. It's one thing to not predict the iPod, however, and another to completely dismiss it. This particular prediction baffles me, because who wouldn't want a device that can fit in your pocket and can play 5,000 songs? Plus, these predictions come several years after the release of the first iPod in 2001, after several design refinements and a lot of sales growth. But every success will come with its fair share of naysayers, and I'm sure it was all the more fun for Steve Jobs to prove them wrong with a line of products that would stick around until 2017.
2. The subscription model of buying music will never take off
"The subscription model of buying music is bankrupt. I think you could make available the Second Coming in a subscription model, and it might not be successful." — Steve Jobs
Not that Steve Jobs has anything to laugh at. Despite being one of the biggest visionaries of our time, he couldn't foresee the rise of Spotify and SoundCloud, staying adamant that "People want to own their own music." As it turns out, people don't really give a crap. Apple has been playing catch up ever since- Spotify already had 20 million subscribers when Apple Music was created, and today Spotify still has over twice the number of subscribers as Apple. Steve Jobs didn't live long enough to see his own company cave to streaming- Apple music was created 4 years after Jobs died.
3. Guitar Groups are over (1962)
"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." – Decca Recording Co.
This is one of the most famous musical gaffs in history, and the moment the unfortunate Dick Rowe, Decca Records representative, will be most famous for. This was in his statement that he sent to the manager of the Beetles, declining to sign them. He's usually ragged on for his miss with the Beetles, but we think it's a little unfair. I mean what were the chances of the group his dismissively waved off becoming the hugest group in history? Hahahha jackass. Anyway…. what's truly astonishing is that he thought guitars were going away. I mean… why? What made him think that? What evidence did he have to back that up, just as classic rock was gaining momentum? These days, we've started hearing about the death of the guitar again, but although electronic music and synthesizers have lessened the guitar's influence, I'd say it's proved it has staying power.
4. The Roland TR-808 will fail
"The Linn LM-1 is wayyyyyy better." – A lot of people, presumably
Maybe you haven't heard of the Roland TR-808 drum machine, but you've definitely heard it. Marvin Gaye was the first to popularize it on the charts, but it's since been used by Madonna, Rihanna, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and just about every other pop or hip-hop artist of the 80s. The legendary drum sampler is, to this day, so ubiquitous that Kanye actually called his 4th album 808's and heartbreaks. (The album uses the machine in every single song.) Drum and Bass producer Bassnectar is so fond of the device that 808 has become a significant symbol to his fans.
But at the time of its release in 1980, it was dismissed by producers across the board because of it's unrealistic sound, which was synthesized rather than sampled from actual drums. It struggled so much that it was discontinued just three years later, but quickly developed a cult following in the hip-hop underground. Producers scrambled to get their hands on a machine, and now the sound is available to anyone thanks to digital sample packs. Man, there's a weird amount to say about a simple drum machine, but I'll just leave you with this: The 808 changed music forever. And no one saw it coming.
5. No one will want to listen to broadcast radio
"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?"- Colleagues of David Smirnoff
David Smirnoff's associates practically laughed in his face when he urged them to invest in the radio. But he had the last laugh, his vision let him rise through the ranks of the Radio Corporation of America, becoming president. He went on to help establish NBC as well as TV in the United States, but his first success came because he saw the potential of radio as a mass media rather than a one-to-one communication. He'd been pushing for broadcasting stations for almost half a decade before the RCA began to establish them, so it was well deserved when he was finally put in charge of them at RCA. He made a killing, and everyone who doubted him, well, didn't.
6. Rock will die (1995)
"Rock n' Roll? It will be gone by June." – Variety Magazine
Variety magazine was probably kicking themselves for years after making possibly one of the most well-known, astronomically off-the-mark music predictions ever, declaring rock a fad that wouldn't last the year. Oh, and this was in 1955. The biggest rock star back then was Bill Haley. This was before the Rolling Stones, before Led Zeppelin, before Kurt Cobain, before classic rock
. That's like declaring that music is dead before Beethoven. It's understandable that Variety didn't predict the dozens of sub-genres that would emerge from rock over the next half century, but they didn't even give it a chance. Variety magazine basically looked at a newborn baby and went, "nah."
Now, on the other hand, there's a lot of predictions out there that were right on the money. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, but there are some people out there that really knew what they were talking about when it came to the music industry. That or they had crystal balls.
1. David Bowie foresees music streaming (2002)
"Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity...you'd better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that's really the only unique situation that's going to be left. It's terribly exciting. But on the other hand, it doesn't matter if you think it's exciting or not; it's what's going to happen."- David Bowie
Bowie's prediction becomes slightly more straightforward when you consider that Napster and LimeWire were already in full swing in 2002. But the peer-to-peer file sharing they were known for isn't equivalent to the ease that Bowie is talking about. And the wording itself is pretty remarkable. (Streaming? Running water? Ok.) Plus, Bowie perfectly predicted the reliance that artists would soon have on touring. Just take a look at the prices on ticket master to see the effect that free streaming is having on concert sales.
2. Jim Morrison predicts EDM
"A lot of people like Mozart were prodigies; they were writing brilliant works at very young ages. That's probably what's going to happen: some brilliant kid will come along and be popular. I can see a lone artist with a lot of tapes and electrical … like an extension of the Moog synthesizer — a keyboard with the complexity and richness of a whole orchestra, y'know? There's somebody out there, working in a basement, just inventing a whole new musical form."- Jim Morrison
It's a long quote, but it's worth the read. Because Doors front man Jim Morrison could see the future. He understood the possibilities of synthesizers and the compositional brilliance of a lot of electronic producers that's still not recognized today. He could foresee a time in which technology would allow one man to perform entire symphonies by themselves. And he foresaw this 19 years before Skrillex was a twinkle in his mother's eye. (And, coincidentally, 42 years before Skrillex would collaborate on a song with the remaining members of the Doors on the song "Break'n a Sweat.")
On a side note, this prediction becomes pretty eerie when one realizes it's not even Jim Morrison's only correct prediction. He also predicted his own death, proclaiming that he'd become a member of the infamous 27 club. After Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin both died at age 27, Morrison remarked "you're looking at number three."
So, if we can learn anything from this article, it's 'expect the unexpected.' Because if music was predictable, it wouldn't be half as interesting as it is now. Personally, I'm gonna refrain from making any predictions about the future- I don't want this article to come bite me in the butt. Oh, except I'm calling it now. Acid rock. Its gonna make a comeback. Oooh yeah.