Whitney Houston’s Death and the Music Industry

As I’m writing this, Twitter, which is the ideal medium for bogus admiration and fake indignation, is up in arms over Sony raising the price of a Whitney Houston compilation only 24 hours after her death. … In cases like this the business simply follows the public mood, which is allegedly grief-stricken but really ready to shop. … The week before the artist died there were lots of members of the public who didn’t appear to give a fig about her work but now, having been tenderised by 24 hours of throbbing news coverage, decide that they really can’t do without it. … At the same time the newspapers and the TV channels go into the sort of frothing overdrive that can’t be justified as news coverage and the producers of the Grammys reorganise the running order so that LL Cool J can go on first and lead a prayer to “our fallen sister”. All these people do it because it sells papers or puts bums on sofas. … These are all forms of exploitation dressed up as tribute. … Nothing improves an artist’s reputation half as much as death, and that improvement is often expressed in pecuniary terms. I refer you to the wise words of Colonel Tom Parker on hearing news of Elvis Presley’s death: “This changes nothing.” Well, actually, it did change something. Elvis sold more records dead than alive, and he did it thanks to the very morbid interest that people denounce the record industry for feeding.

~ David Hepworth in the perennially excellent The Word magazine


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