U2 promoted their 1987 LP, The Joshua Tree with a live performance on Whistle Test…how things have changed.
U2 you used to be cool. I remember a mid morning in March 1987 when myself and my school friends proudly hot footed it to Phase One Records in Wrexham to buy The Joshua Tree and somehow made it into registration without a trip to the headmaster’s office. Although our teachers went through the motions of reprimanding us for our lateness you could tell they were secretly impressed by our commitment to the music. Even the art teacher adored the beautifully designed gatefold cover and Anton Corbin’s black and white shots. And that’s the first gripe before I get to anything else is the loss of physicality.
In case you think I’ve deleted the opening paragraph of this blog or want to reprimand me for jumping into an article without an intro, I think everyone reading this will know what I’m talking about. In fact unless you don’t have a computer in which you wouldn’t be here anyway, the multimillion selling darlings that are rock band U2 have deemed it necessary to give anyone with access to iTunes their new LP whether they want it or not. Ironically called ‘songs of innocence’ (and I shudder to think if ‘experience’ is to follow) this LP has been burnt into everyone’s playlist much to the dismay of many iTunes users.
And there’s another word for this SPAMMING. We all get spam e-mails, from time to time. Now I may want or need Viagra, diet pills or even a penis extension but at least with spam e-mails at least I have the right to choose to a degree but not with this, it’s here whether we want it or not.
U2 have always struck me as a band that are uncomfortable technology but want to use it by the barrel load. The question is why? It’s a simple answer, TO SELL CONCERT TICKETS. Now before we get any further let’s look at live shows. The tour that accompanied The Joshua Tree was ambitious to say the least. Not because it had 50 foot lemons and hundreds of video screens and middle-aged men running around in cycling shorts but because of its minimalism. It was simple formula put five bands on in a large setting, cram 80,000 or people in a field with a high end sound system and let them get on with it. Tickets could be sold as cheaply as possible (around £12) and there was no class or elitism, just a scrabble for the front row. And my how things have changed. Last time round the ‘top tier’ tickets went for £250.
In June I had to sit through Alan McGee’s address to You Bloom conference in Dublin. His message to the young hopefuls was this; there is no future in physical releases. Instead the future lies in record labels negotiating ‘kick back’ deals with phone, social media and other companies to ensure artists get paid for their music. Did Alan know something we didn’t or did our humble tax evaders have their ear to the ground at the conference as this is in effect what has happened. And whilst it may seem all well and good on the face of things it isn’t. Why? Because it gives record companies more control than ever. They can control who we listen to and who gets paid.
But all is not lost, in his glaringly out of touch rhetoric, and I use rhetoric because quite frankly no one else could get a word in edgeways, Alan asked for a show of hands; the first question was; “who still buys CDS?” most of the room put their hands up. The second question was; “who is in a band and sells CDs” again the show of hands was overwhelming.
Local music scenes are not in a good place right now, venues are closing all over the country, promoters who I may add despite being constantly accused of exploiting bands are actually struggling to keep their venues open. So with less money to pay bands than ever how can bands survive? The answer is simple; CD sales. A band’s CD, especially with home-made art is truly a thing of beauty.
Walter Benjamin in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” stated that as a work of art got reproduced it lost its aura, and it’s and that through re-producing the art it lost its meaning and original context.
With this in mind a free, unsolicited download must be bottom of the pile whereas a home produced CD is the closest to the artists intentions you will ever get.
So next time you go and see a local band or any band for that matter buy their CD and keep music free, not in a monetary sense but free from the constraints of social control.