Editor’s blog: A trip down musical memory lane

As the owner of a vintage green vinyl copy of the ‘Hotel California’ album, it was inevitable I’d wind up watching The Eagles at the O2 Arena over the Easter weekend. And as I sat for an hour afterwards trying to extricate myself from the car park, I had plenty of time to reflect on how the music business has changed since 1977, when I donned my Brutus flares and took the steam train up to Oxford Street to pay my 2.99 for the precious LP.

The first thing to note is that while Hotel California cost me a month’s pocket money back then, today you can get a copy on play.com (remastered) for 3.99. And this method of actually handing over money for recorded music is increasingly only for the technically inept and the terminally honest – you can download it for zilch elsewhere without leaving your seat. Such is the deadly power and convenience of the Long Tail.

They say that the rise of digital, which has wrecked the cosy business model of the music industry, has also led to an unpredicted rise in the popularity of live performance. Prince did no fewer than 21 nights at the O2, which seats 23,000 people. It’s easy to see why, since the most expensive ‘gold circle’ front row seats for the ageing Californian country rockers were going for 950 a snip. Do the math, as they say in Sacramento.

There’s no real point belly-aching about this, as the Guardian reviewer of the Eagles concert did: ‘Suited and booted, they take to the stage looking like a gaggle of senior executives jamming on a team bonding exercise. And they are about as captivating… It seems harsh to accuse four baby boomers playing a three-hour rock show of lazily going through the motions, but that was exactly what this was. The Eagles came, they saw, they cashed in.’

The problem is – as new EMI owner Guy Hands will tell you – that after years of pursuing an economic model that didn’t work, this is good business. As the Eagles’ cadaverous 60-year-old guitarist Joe Walsh sings: ‘Life’s been good to me so far’.