The Singing Dead: Deceased Performers Will Soon Generate More Money Than Live Ones

Within 10 years, the big money will be made from dead artists. Michael Jackson, Tupac, Elvis, Kurt, Whitney–they’re already killing it (sorry) when it comes to revenues. And it’s only going to get weirder as Bowie, Prince and everyone else who has died in the last year come back online with zombie careers. Anyone else find this weird and…creepy?

The Daily Beast takes a look at the future for the singing dead.

I can predict, with 100 percent certainty, that the hottest movies this weekend will be the latest releases. The same is true in books. I don’t even need to look at The New York Times bestseller list to know that it is filled with recent titles. Clothes are the same. I don’t have to read Vogue or GQ to figure out that the hottest fashions are the newest fashions.

Consumers love new stuff. The first thing you learn when selling to a mass audience is, the trend is your friend. The latest is the greatest. The oldie is for the moldy.

Except in music.

In a bizarre development, largely ignored by the music press, old songs are now outselling new ones. Nielsen reports that 123 million catalog albums (defined as more than 18 months old) were sold last year, versus 119 million new releases. The same trend is evident in the purchase of digital tracks: 485 million old songs were sold versus 480 million new ones.

Only a decade ago, new albums outsold old ones by 150 million units. What a change! If this trend continues—and there’s no reason to think it won’t—new music will become a kind of niche category. A minority of fans will pay attention to new bands and up-and-coming artists, but most people will live happily among those moldy oldies.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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