EBay Is Retirement Plan Of Last Resort For Aging Rockers - InformationWeek

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10/24/2007
01:45 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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EBay Is Retirement Plan Of Last Resort For Aging Rockers

Once the glory has faded and your music is most fondly recalled by folks north of 40, all some rockers have left are their memories. So when they need some extra coin, and a reunion concert or small-venue tour won't be on until next summer, they can always turn to their collection of instruments. Fortunately, these days they don't have to hock them; there's eBay.

Once the glory has faded and your music is most fondly recalled by folks north of 40, all some rockers have left are their memories. So when they need some extra coin, and a reunion concert or small-venue tour won't be on until next summer, they can always turn to their collection of instruments. Fortunately, these days they don't have to hock them; there's eBay.That's what punk-rock icon Exene Cervenka did last week, when she put her Fender bass up for sale via an auction on Ebay. (You don't know who she is? My point exactly.)

True, it's not her main bass, but an old instrument which she probably doesn't use much anymore. (She's mainly a singer.) It sold on Monday for a high bid of $1,600. That isn't much money for a music of Exene's stature; Her band X's 1983 album More Fun In The New World is a high point of the latter phase of the New Wave era, all the more so because there was so little of this stuff out of California.



Exene Cervenka's bass was sold on eBay for $1,600. (Click picture to enlarge.)

I know I'll probably get pilloried by the same people who beat me up over my Brad Delp post. I have to confess, though, that I find it a bit sad that talented, creative people who've made a contribution to the arts have to sully themselves with ecommerce to get a little extra cash. That's not meant as a slam against Cervenka; it's a commentary on the tough row to hoe most artists have.

On the other hand, it's great that the Web has opened up this venue for selling off stuff. It's far better to disintermediate some music-industry middleman and connect directly with your customers.

Indeed, thanks to the Web, those customers -- music fans -- have more options to interact with their idols than ever before. Paradoxically, the increased access has been spurred by the death throes of the traditional music industry.

Band these days are going directly to their fans, just like Radiohead has done for its new In Rainbows record. Whole labels, like the innovative classical recording company Naxos are changing the industry from the inside out. In Naxos's case, the company is offering online access to its entire catalogue of 5,000 CDs.

Personally, I'm convinced that the biggest change ahead is that subscription services will ultimately dominate online music. It's hard to gain much traction for that idea right now, when iTunes' pay-per-song model dominates. As well, many of the subscription services started so far have dropped like flies, including Microsoft's fine URGE offering, which is folding in the wake of MTV's decision to go with Rhapsody. Yahoo Music has also pared-back its subscription service, quietly pulling the "To Go" option, which allowed customers to load up their MP3 players, in July.

Right now, Napster is the best of the subscription services out there, and I expect it to quietly grow as knowledgeable consumers seek out and find an alternative to iTunes.

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