Use of the Word ‘Music’ Reaching All-Time Highs In Society…

People are listening to more music than ever before in history. Which means, they’re also talking and writing about that music a whole lot more.

Here’s an attempt by Google to graph societal usage of the word ‘music’ over the past few decades, simply by counting the number of times it appears in books, magazines, and newspapers (data runs through 2008)…


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by comparison…


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by comparison…



Search more yourself on Google’s Ngam Viewer.



19 Responses

  1. Visitor

    “People are listening to more music than ever before in history”
    Hm, how come music sales went down by 50% from 1999-2012, then?

    • Mac88s

      People don’t listen to music anymore, PERIOD! They watch music. For the most part, if they listened to what they thought they were listening to, they wouldn’t listen to it!

      • GGG

        I think way too many people severly overestimate how many people are actually on their computer and/or staring at YouTube when they’re playing a YouTube video. Look up any hit song and there will probably be a “video” that’s just the album cover and it still has 30M views. Nobody is staring at that for 3 minutes. Video is only the default because there was no reliable streaming service until very recently, and even still none of them have caught on to a fraction of the extent YT has.

        • Zac Shaw

          ^ totally true and a good point.
          However there are some cool studies coming out showing how important visual cues are to listening:

          This is why we have lyric videos.
          There will come a day when the cost of video production is so cheap, all songs on an album will be accompanied by a song. Some particularly resourceful and creative musicians are already doing this.

          • Zac Shaw

            I wanted to add:
            Watching a music video is a ritual similar to putting on vinyl. Streaming radio, or streaming one’s digital music library, is passive. Sitting down to watch a music video or play a record is an active engagement with the music. It is hearing — a deeper level of listening and appreciation for the music (and the musicians!)
            Another great thing for music!

          • GGG

            I agree with all of this, but you cannot dismiss that music is at it’s core a purely aural experience. You can certainly add to it with a visual or drugs or whatever sense you want, but it’s still music. People don’t stick on a youtube video and dance while watching the screen. They go to the middle of the room and dance. There are rarely videos screens at clubs playing videos of the song that’s on.
            I don’t disagree that video is important for music now, and may even get more important, but this notion I see pop up in here every now and then that music will only exist in the future with a visual is just weird to me.

          • wallow-T

            “… you cannot dismiss that music is at it’s core a purely aural experience.”
            Time-wasting speculation:
            Isn’t that just an artifact of the recording era, and the technological issue that cheap sound recordings (and electromagnetic-spectrum transmissions of them) became feasible before video performance recordings?
            Or, to cite your example: isn’t dancing something which already brings us out of the realm of the purely aural?

          • GGG

            You can go to a concert hall and close your eyes, inject your entire body with anaesthesia, plug your nose and sandpaper your tongue and still experience all the art of music has to offer. So I don’t think it’s a product of recording. It has always been tied to a visual of sorts, but it’s not a necessity or recording music would have failed out of principle. Like if you rented a movie you saw in the theatre but there was no sound on VHS tapes.
            And sure, dancing brings you out of that bubble, as do other actions/art forms. But I also listen to music walking down the street, sitting on a bus or plane, in the subway, doing work, etc. In those cases the music is still existing on its own.

  2. Yves Villeneuve

    Is there any evidence people are listening to more music outside of films, TV and games? Inquiring minds would like to know.

    • GGG

      I would say the fact YT views have risen so steadily over the years is some evidence of proof. Free accesibility will always turn on more people to content, which is one of my arguments for streaming (and is based on youtube’s performance). You go there to look something up, then realize how much other stuff is on there. Can very easily go down a rabbit hole.

  3. Zac Shaw

    Also worth mentioning: more music is being made than ever before.
    This is why digital music haters perplex me. More music is being made and listened to than ever before. This means people are listening to a greater diversity of music, too. Digital technology is the best thing to happen to music in our lifetimes!

  4. wallow-T

    If this is an absolute count of usages, then how should we adjust the data for the increase in publications and in population?
    What I find fascinating: the sharper rise in the use of the word “music” from the Roaring 20s through World War II — perhaps this reflects the widespread adoption of the radio and the phonograph, and the sentimentality of the swing era?
    But then there is a sharp decline from the mid-1940s until the beginning of the Classic Rock era, around 1965.
    There’s another faster-than-trendline increase through the 1990s, possibly reflecting the Internet, both as a publishing and discover medium, and as a driver of that decade’s economic boom.
    I’d want to see “movies” as a comparative search term, also TV/television. Use of the term “film”, in entertainment, is pretty much an elite thing, and that term also has lots of non-entertainment uses.

  5. wallow-T

    … what a cool toy…
    Here was a Google Ngam search which I found fascinating:
    TV+television, radio, music, opera, jazz
    Also solo searches for “rock music” (note the falloff after mid-90s) and “opera” (just one of my passions, with a big peak in the mid-20th century)

  6. Yves Villeneuve

    I just did one for Beatles, Jesus. Not religious by the way. Beatles is more popular than rock music by far.

  7. Yves Villeneuve

    I just did another… Beatles, Yves Villeneuve… impressive.