Saturday, 20 October 2007

Popular music

Despite popular thinking, so called "popular music" tells you nothing about what's actually popular. What you hear pouring out of shops and bars and cafes is less popular than you might think.

As recent digital forays by Amazon and the BBC demonstrates, however, it turns out charts that tell you what CDs sell most in a week -- on which the playlists of so many radio stations and restaurants and drinking halls are made up -- don't actually provide a reliable guide to popular taste.

When the BBC made nine Beethoven symphonies available online in 2005, it turned into the most successful online download of all time, beating out crap by the likes of Coldplay, James Blunt and U2.
Final figures from the BBC show that the complete Beethoven symphonies on its website were downloaded 1.4m times, with individual works downloaded between 89,000 and 220,000 times... According to Matthew Cosgrove, director of Warner Classics, it would take a commercial CD recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies "upwards of five years" to sell as many downloads as were shifted from the BBC website in two weeks.
That was 2005. Now at the end of 2007, news is in from Amazon who have just begun selling online digital music downloads -- and who do you think was the most popular artist at the beginning of October? The Beach Boys? Rolling Stones? Pink Floyd? Someone called Kanye West? Well, they're all in the top ten, true, but beating out al that dross for number one spot is a chap by the name of Richard Wagner! How about that! Nearly one-hundred and sixty years after he began writing it, his four-opera fifteen-hour extravaganza known as the 'The Ring Cycle' is back on top.

See MP3 Maniacs Go Wild for Wagner (As in Vahg-ner) - Doree Shafrir, NY Observer.

So much for CD sales figures as a measure of popularity. I look forward to hearing more genuinely popular music next time I head to the bar.

Here's just a few YouTube excerpts so you can understand why the old boy is still so extraordinarily popular -- there's really no other music like his:


  1. James Blunt and Jack Johnson - ARRGGH!!

  2. Good news - proves that classical music and opera are not, and never have been, elitist...although more than a few people in the business have tried to make them so.

    I remember the scene in Pretty Woman where Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts to the opera, and she cries during it.

  3. You're just trying to get me to watch 'Pretty Baby,' aren't you. :-)

    BTW, if Erin Brockovich was really as adept at using her boobs as Julia Roberts' portrayal suggests, isn't it rather hypocritical to complain about advertising that takes a humorous view of sex?

  4. Yes Peter it is hypocritical, but we all get old and grumpy.

    She's given Bond and Bond free publicity anyway.


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