Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pop Music is Now for the Rich

I take my cue from The Guardian: Pop music was a great leveller. Now it’s a bespoke plaything for the rich:
There’s a new Pink Floyd record out, as they used to say in the 1970s. Only it’s not a record, a CD, or anything resembling the modest recorded artefacts with which that group made their name, but rather a 27-disc cornucopia, containing more than 26 hours of music, 42 “items of memorabilia”, five reproduction vinyl singles and three feature films. It is titled The Early Years 1965-72, so prepare for a sequel, and its outward appearance suggests an item of colour-coded furniture. Obviously, any devout fan of the group, me included, will love it. And the price? £375.99.
We can put this alongside the news from Australia that as soon as tickets for Adele's new tour went on sale the price jumped to $5,000 at resellers. Why people want to pay even the regular prices of around $300 to listen to her spend half the concert in rambling chats about her personal life is a mystery to me, but hey.

Pop festivals are going upmarket as well:
The clientele of most festivals is now split between standard ticket holders and those who can afford a super-expensive mini-holiday. Once you have a Glastonbury ticket, for instance, you can progress to something exclusively nicer from a set-up called the Pop-up Hotel – five nights for two adults in an Airstream caravan, maybe, for £5,995). Anyone playing a stadium now offers the upper end of their audience plenty of optional extras: you can go to see the Stone Roses at Wembley as a base-level punter for between £35 and £65, or stump up for a hospitality package that will cost £359 (plus VAT).
Bands and solo acts now routinely charge the earth for the kind of meet-and-greet packages that entail, for instance, a $1000 charge for the briefest of encounters and a “professionally taken photo” with the Canadian rapper and singer Drake. (Beyoncé’s new “Beyfirst” package comes in at $1,505, but a “pre-show reception” apparently doesn’t include the artist herself.)
I recall driving up from Courtenay on Vancouver Island up to Campbell River around 1970 where The Guess Who, Canada's big name rock band at the time, were playing. Before the concert we hit the local greasy spoon for a bite. The guy I went up with had some friends in town and asked around at some of the other tables for their whereabouts: "hey, anybody seen Bob tonight?" After the last table with four rather scruffy, long-haired inhabitants, he turned to me and said, "you know, I think that was The Guess Who?" And so it was.

The 21st century is turning out a lot differently than I expected.

This is, I suppose, an inevitable result of a culture scrubbed clean of any non-material elements. Aesthetic quality cannot be quantified in dollars, but popular culture sure can be. But is it still "popular" culture, or is it just the culture of the coastal elites?


Anonymous said...

You write “coastal elites”, but at least with the super-pricey opportunities to meet the band that are now offered, these are meant for elites in general: they are actively promoted to the new wealthy classes from Eastern Europe, Russia, Central Asia, the Middle East, or China. These people have money to spend and are very social media-conscious, and interacting with celebrity musicians allows them to flaunt their status and possibly one-up their peers.

Bryan Townsend said...

That's a very good point, Anonymous. The whole idea of hollowing out any aesthetic authenticity by monetizing every aspect of the experience seems to me profoundly decadent: T-shirts, mugs, special collector's editions of CDs, special receptions and photo sessions and so on. It all smacks of the creepy cliquishness of high school grown large and grotesque.