2010’s Playlist

Lacey Bartholomay & Hadley Boston 

“Tick-tock on the clock, but the party don't stop, no.” Everybody has songs that bring them back to the past, and growing up in the 2010s during the lower, middle, and upper school we have picked up quite a few. When our favorite songs become intertwined with our memories, listening to them again can trigger the feeling of traveling through time. Many of the songs that students chose as their favorites were songs that we grew up listening to on the radio. However the farther into the decade we got, the more popular streaming became. Its cheaper and more accessible versions gave companies like Spotify and Apple Music a leg up in the music market.

With the growth of these fan favorites, the shift to streaming services, brought about the fall of radio. The music business dramatically changed throughout the decade when the majority of the market switched from buying physical music like CD’s or even listening to radio, to other direct streaming services. 


According to the poll we sent out to our fellow students the 2010 top song voted by our student body was “Tik Tok” by Kesha at 42.7%, and it was also Billboard top song for that year.


2010 marked the beginning of what was the rapid decline in purchasing physical music. According to an article from Variety News, the RIAA (The Recording Industry Association of America) stated, “In 2010, physical still accounted for 52% of the U.S. market composition, while digital downloads accounted for 38%, streaming for 7% and synch for 3% — by mid-2019, streaming had dwarfed every other category, with physical and downloads dropping to 9% and synch holding at 3%.” 2010 is the first year in which the music market started its evolution. Radio was at the beginning of its approaching end in popularity, and streaming was starting to rise. We asked Molly Dresser, a senior, if she could recall any fond memories of listening to the radio. She responded “I remember listening to country music the summer of 2010, I think it was channel 98.7. Specifically I remember fondly how that summer my family had this one country song by Tim Mgraw that we would always hear on the radio and sing to while driving to the pool.”


The 2011 top song voted by our students was “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele at 33.3%, it was also Billboard’s #1 song of the year.

2011 was a watershed moment in the streaming world. Although Spotify was first launched in Sweden in 2006 it did not enter the US market until 2011. The founder of Musonomics and professor of Music Business at NYU Larry Miller stated, “once Spotify entered the U.S. market in 2011 and it along with Apple Music, and other premium on demand services gained traction starting in 2014, [leading to] many teens abandon[ing] AM/FM radio.” By 2014, streaming had made radio look dated. Spotify Premium is a more direct comparison to Apple Music because both are paid for through a per month membership rather than by song. While the free version of Spotify only allows the user to “shuffle” their songs. The poll demonstrated that Spotify is arguably the most popular way to stream music, 68.4% of members in our community use Spotify as their main method for streaming music. 

When we asked sophomore Lindsay Lian, a regular user of Spotify Premium, if she listened to the radio she responded “No because I like listening to my own music and not overplayed pop songs.” This tends to be a common trend among our student body, and it makes sense. Why would one listen to ads and overplayed songs, when they could listen to whatever they want when they want? 

When we asked Mr. Ambrose if this spark in streaming meant that radio was dying he responded, “Maybe it will in the future once middle aged folks like myself have gone on and the only thing individuals remember is streaming.” The streaming world over the last decade has made the groundbreaking change. It has unlocked an endless supply of music that is accessible to anyone with a smartphone or computer. 


The 2019 top song voted by our students was Bad Guy by Billie Eilish at 29.7%, it was also Billboard’s #4 song of the year, #1 was Old Town Road.

Streaming services and their market continue to be on the rise as radio and its revenue continue to decline. Mr. Ambrose believes its increase, “ Is all pushed by the industry. It’s a lot easier just to load a track (or a picture of the track) instead of pressing CDs and booklets. I think it is a lot cheaper.” 

This decade in a nutshell has arguably been the slow, inevitable death for the physical music market, and has also marked the beginning of what predictably will be the continuing suffering for radio. RIAA in Variety News reported that “the growth in paid subscriptions to streaming services rocketed from 1.5 million in 2010 to 611 million by mid-2019, crossing the 10 million mark in 2015 and rapidly gaining momentum, rising to 22.7 million in 2016 and more than doubling that figure by 2018, to 50.2 million.” The growth in the streaming market as a cheaper option forced the decline of radio and tangible options which are less accessible.  


For better or worse the music market in streaming has uniquely grown and changed with our student body’s generation. One thing that is true about this evolution is that streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music can keep us from completely forgetting the decades best songs. Streaming allows us the ability to play a throwback with just one click of a button. The best songs each year voted by the student body wrap up the decade in a playlist quite nicely. All in all our student bodies #1 pick each year fell somewhere within Billboard's top 15 songs each year.

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