If you thought it was a little strange when your grandfather asked to check out your Soulseek account, then be sure to read today’s New York Times article on the importance of the over-45 music consumer. According to the piece, the AARP plans to step up its record-biz involvement by starting a music blog, licensing music-suggestion program Pandora, and sponsoring a Tony Bennett concert tour. The group is hoping to woo the increasingly lucrative demographic of aging listeners–let’s call them roctogenerians–and so far, it’s facing a bit of an uphill battle:
For musicians, a deal with AARP is a different matter than a deal with a hip coffee house or a fashion retailer. No matter how hard the group may try to change its image — even with the likes of Paul McCartney and Susan Sarandon on the cover of its magazine — some people still associate it with the Saturday-night-bingo set. And many musicians may want to keep their distance, even if it means sacrificing enormous sales.
“The problem is going to be getting the artists to allow, next to their name, those four feared initials,” said Jonny Podell, the longtime talent agent who books appearances for artists including the Allman Brothers Band, Alice Cooper and Peter Gabriel. “I’m the agent for half a dozen acts they’re going to want,” Mr. Podell said, and “short of saying, ‘In addition to your normal fee we’re giving you $1 million in cash,’ I don’t think they’d have one taker.” For the artists, he said, “It’s about not admitting they’re old.” For his part Mr. Podell, who is 60, said he has been receiving AARP entreaties for years, and each time “I drop it like a hot potato.”
If the AARP is really looking for older-skewing artists who will perform for a cut-rate price, we have a few suggestions. That said, the piece is a surprising reality-check for anyone who assumes the world is run by a bunch of barely legal High School Musical expats: Consumers who are 45 and over now account for a quarter of yearly sales, partially because they can’t figure out how the hell to download. But please, dear God, don’t let these people start up a music blog–the world isn’t ready for teasing frame grabs of the Captain & Tenille sex tape.
Rock Of Ages [NY Times]