As many music fans, hipsters, and jaded listeners have noticed, lately it seems we have run out of new music. A lot of the new music that has been coming out sounds remarkably like the music that has come before it. There are also quite a few cover songs and remixes floating around the airwaves. Are we really running out of original new music? and even if we are not running out yet, will we ever run out of new music?
To figure out if we will ever run out of new music, we have to assume that if modern recording technology can’t tell the difference between tow audio files, neither could we. If we store a 5 minute audio file on a CD or as an mp3 file, the audio file is stored in bits. There are approximately 211 million bits in a 5 minute audio file. The possible ways to arrange those bits are so numerous that it actually defies our ability to understand it any meaningful way, but the number is still finite.
We have to narrow the field down a little more to try to understand if we will ever truly run out of new music. Just because one sound file is technically different from another sound file, does not mean we could detect those differences with our ears. Even if we narrow the field down to notes in just one octave and consider the number of combinations of 8 specific notes, there are almost 79 billion combinations. So no, we will never run out of new music.
So why do so many songs coming out today sound the same? Well, part of that has to do with what we humans find pleasant to listen to. Out of all the sounds in the world, there are a specific few that we find more pleasant to listen to than others. This is demonstrated in The Axis Awesome’s 4 Chords Song and the web series Everything is a Remix. Also, today’s artists are influenced by the artists that came before them, so their music will have similar qualities. So, while we will never run out of possibilities for new music, new music will also always be at least somewhat similar to music we already have.