Got To Go 3: Going For Broke With The Fifty Quid Bloke
Ten years is a long time, even though 2004 is geologically less than yesterday. 2004 is the year a new kind of saviour was spotted on the music industry scene. A man that would salve the self inflicted digital wounds, lack of new back catalogue worthy artists, and total confusion.The Fifty Quid Bloke.A beast that would visit a high street content emporium when such thing existed, and spend £50 on Special Edition Remastered Albums of 'classic' or else iconic artists, Live DVDs, anniversary box sets and more high profit margin repackaging of old wine into new bottles. When the kids had killed the Man and switched to pirate MP3 ringtone downloads, the Fifty Quid Bloke was there to pick up the slack and write the cheques.2004. The march of undead and the Dad Rock dollar had begun.It was then that I, too, was first bit big and hard by the zombie rock bug. A bug that had been a long time brewing. The Pixies require introduction and justification than a woolly mammoth stomping into an ASDA. Due to logistics, anxiety and levels of teenage wack and dysfunction I'd rather not remember, I had missed them in 1991 when they blew through DC for a final, vital time. The announcement of the handful of Brixton reunion shows woke me up from the corporate hamster hell wheel and a very dear friend obtained us tickets. Unfortunately, the receptionists at his University forgot he existed and sent the tickets back to the sorting office. My friend want on a rampage and secured the tickets, just in time.The performance was eviscerating and brilliant. One thing about older bands getting back together is that often they are musically tighter, and physically fitter than the first time around. There was such electric joy in the space it was like being in the centre of a fusion reactor. It was clearly time travel, bringing back a magic musical music moment in a new context for those that missed it or were not alive the first time. Not an actively recording band on the up. The reunion tour netted $14m at least, and given that's less than a bonus pool of a fifth rate currency trading desk in the City, so its the least they deserve. Especially given how the industry dicked them about the first time round, with MTV putting their videos on the midnight shift if at all, even when they were big, as the band wouldn't gurn and lip sync with the rest of the era.Five years on and they were back, with the 20th Anniversary of Doolittle's unleashing on the collective consciousness. The Pixies are serious musicians, not Dad Rock cartoons, not really, even now. So it was the full LP, in order, complete with all B-sides. That's the last time I saw them. Now Kim Deal has slumped off, there have been some attempts at inevitably self derivative new material I am too afraid to listen to, and going to big name gigs is just too expensive.£53 is the average ticket price now in the UK. So less than a chain pub pint above the magic Fifty Quid of the Bloke.The Bloke likes whole albums, and even understands what they are. Other than the occasional lifestyle vinyl Record Store Day thing, a rediscovered live performance from Danish TV and studio outtakes there is nothing left to sell except concert tickets.When Top 40 pop radio, the emergence of disco, more singles oriented genres and acts combined with the vaulting Spinal Tap ambition of the 60s spawned stadium fillers meant it was time for whole album shows. Jethro Tull, The Who, and Pink Floyd and plenty more despaired of the fact radio formats were single obsessed, and too many fans turned up expecting to hear a Best Of and The Hits not worship at a church of Genius and Prog. So whole album concerts were a Trade Mark of Quality as well as a novelty.Now they are just a money spinner and a default format for any band more than 15 years old, or else is now considered 'classic' to tour and make a bigger buck than before.Thing is, diminishing returns will set in. Artists will die or retire. People who shelled out the cost of a budget minibreak to see an LP played live once will not want to do so again for some time.The challenge for the industry is to keep turning 30somethings into Fifty Quid Blokes. At the moment, 'Classic Rock', which still is at the core of so many downloads, streams and radio plays, kind of ends in 1981 in the mainstream. Yet at the margins, the Fifty Quid Bloke is moving the needle of what is considered 'Classic' far further into the 90s. Expect the dinorockers who now infest Glastonbury to be the next goldmine for the industry. Metallica, Green Day, U2 all coming soon to an album show cash in near you.Of course there is another, more final way to cash in for good on a musical legacy. And the old way still favoured by less lucky acts. It is to this world of once in a lifetime final shows and shifty corporate sales conference PA's that we'll turn to next.