[10/7/19] From Billy to Billie: Current Music Trends

Old Town Road stayed atop the #1 slot on Billboard’s Hot 100 for an astounding and recording breaking 19 weeks total. Lil Nas X’s lyrics and Billy Ray’s country background became a powerful musical force and a political-social one too in reframing (and winning) the ‘debate’ over what is a country song. Their run at #1 lasted until Billie Eilish and her “Bad Guy” took the top slot.

Genre- and tradition-breaking seems to be the name of the game. Today’s lecture will explore new technologies and models that are also bending the rules in the music industry.

Eunju Namkung and Scott Talan

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for From Billy to Billie: Current Music Trends



Lil Nas X tells the New York Times what lengths he went to get his hit song to spread like wildfire online. In addition to designing a catchy song, he uses some other digital tricks to get his song noticed and build up a fan base.

For many decades, a debate over whether repetition in music makes it more or less sophisticated has been duked out. Increasingly repetition is used in popular music than past decades. Vox weighs in and delves into research that finds that the simple use of repetition makes what initially sounded like somebody talking to you, sound like somebody singing.

Relevant Music Videos for Lecture:



  • Writing: Please write about an experience where you engaged with a song beyond the music itself (such as learning about the musician, watching a music video, associating it with a movie score, social media memes, etc.). How did that additional experience color your experience with the song?
  • Debate: From music production to distribution and marketing, new technologies are shaping the way we relate to music and artists. Do you feel that the current state of the music industry enables creative freedom for artists and for listeners? If not, what changes do you think are needed?
  • Poll: Would you attend a VR concert?
    • Yes, No, Undecided
  • Short Answer: Lil Nas X deliberately posted a reddit question pretending to be a listener searching for lyrics of “Old Town Road” to help people find his song. How do you discover music? If you discovered music you liked, would you consume it through a streaming service or buy it directly? Or other?


 Current Events Quiz

1. How did Taylor Swift release her new album, ‘Lover’, that was different from her previous albums?

  • She exclusively released physical albums.
  • She released her album directly to streaming services, in addition to physical and digital sales.
  • She secretly announced her album on physical and digital sales without informing her fans in advance.
  • She released only one song from her latest album on Spotify and redirected everyone to by digital or physical copies.

2. What kind of technology are artists now using to provide live music experiences to remote watchers?

  • VR
  • Haptic feedback
  • Twitter bots
  • None of the above

3. According to Nielsen Music, streaming currently makes up about __% of total music consumption in the U.S.

  • 80%
  • 100%
  • 10%
  • 40%

4. Globally, __% of 16-to-24-year-olds used a paid streaming service in the past month.

  • 52%
  • 72%
  • 81%
  • 32%

5. Globally, what remains the most prominent way of listening to music in terms of listening time?

  • CDs
  • Mobile phones
  • Radio
  • Smartspeakers

Featured Image Credit: “Billie Eilish 08/10/2017 #27” by jus10h is licensed under CC BY 2.0 


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