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Did Rock Music Peak Right Before Oil Did?

Did Rock Music Peak Right Before Oil Did?
  • On December 30, 2013

What’s the correlation between good, quality rock music and worldwide oil supplies? They both peaked around the same time, according to Overthinking It, and they both illustrate what occurs when you’re using something up from a limited pool–crude oil stores in one case, and musical ideas in the other. Have we run out of both?

In order to make this amusing case, OI created the graph below by plugging in US domestic oil production by barrel and the songs from Rolling Stone magazine’s Greatest 500 Songs of All Time feature onto the same timeline. The results show that most of the greatest rock songs were written back in the late ’60s, and the concentration in quality has declined ever since. US oil production, meanwhile, was greatest in the mid ’70s, and has also subsequently declined.

This of course is not news to peak oil watchers, but applying the same principle to music makes for an interesting exercise. It’s then extrapolated that rock music has been rapidly explored, and has declined ever since. The rationale behind the editorial, while definitely entertaining, is based on a faulty premise. The author writes:

“I don’t think I’m being pessimistic about the outlook on pop/rock music or snobbish about my retro music tastes. I think the same idea applies to other creative fields that follow a similar arc of rapid exploration followed by derivative works. Assuming some constraints on the definition of the form, the amount of innovation that can be done within that form is finite. Most of it will come early and fast, then decline after the peak. Impressionist paintings. Star Wars movies. I could go on.”

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