Digitally Impecunious Pop Stars

It seems that being a pop star is no longer the route to guaranteed wealth. According to several reports I've been reading, stars such as Lily Allen earn peanuts from writing and releasing songs and albums. Should we be feeling sorry for them...?

The trouble is, they say, that nobody actually buys music albums any more. The twenty highest selling entertainment products last year were dominated by video games and films, with only a couple of music albums making it into the list - and they were "mix tape" compilations. The best-selling albums now have sales measured in the very low (or less than) millions rather than the thirty-plus millions of past years.

The reason, they say, is that listeners tend to buy just the songs they like, rather than whole albums. A bit like in my younger days when everyone rushed out to buy the latest singles (we called them "45s" in those distant days). Or now they just listen to them for free, or with a subscription to an online "radio" station or streaming service. And I can kind of verify this because my wife occasionally hears a new song she really likes and buys it for less than a pound online. Our music database in Media Player has dozens of entries for artist/album that contain only a single song.

Maybe it was because my peak record buying days were in the periods we now call "Classic Rock" and "Prog Rock" that I was conditioned to buying a complete album. Often there was no single release from them, or you had to have the whole album to get the full experience and to "understand the concept and follow the story". I still occasionally find new music I like (there are bands out there creating great new rock and prog music). Inevitably I buy the physical CD, rip it onto our music server, and then pack the original away for safe keeping. I suppose it shows just how old-fashioned I am in both my musical taste and my approach to digital media.

But getting back to the problem of impecunious pop stars, it seems (according to the articles I read) that the only way they can make money is by live performances, touring, and personal appearances. Simply agreeing to sit in the front row of a fashion show, or opening a supermarket, pays enough to keep you in champagne for a year. But the big money is in touring - I guess why the Rolling Stones, Status Quo, and a myriad other aging rock stars choose not to retire. And, of course, most stars have at least one range of clothes, perfumes, or other high-priced commodity to help scrape together a reasonable living.

So it seems that, in our artificial digital world where almost nothing is real any more, our pop stars can't survive unless they are actually there in person as a real-time, physical entity. Who'd have thought that would happen...?

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