Oldies But Goodies: Streaming Makes Catalog Records New Again

Since 2014, digital music streaming buoyed the recorded music business into its third year of rising global revenue. As if that weren’t good enough news already, fans found out that their old music- or what industry executives call “catalog”- mattered again.

In the recorded music business, “frontline” has traditionally been considered any track less than 18 months old. “Catalog” was any music older than that 18 month period. This distinction- while mostly arbitrary to everyday fans- meant a lot to how money was allocated to a recording artist’s career.

In the omnipresent streaming environment, Billy Joel is just as playable as Travis Scott, Ariana Grande as much Guns N’ Roses. So it begs the question: how important is “new”? Will “frontline” records continue to hog both label and fans’ severely limited attention spans, or are “catalog” records set to explode beyond its “Greatest Hits” limitations?

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