I was astonished when a friend alerted me recently to the fact that a limited edition single by a band I fronted in the late eighties had been sold on e-bay for £170.
My guess is that the folk who were bidding for it were interested because it is rare, not because it is a work of towering genius (because it isn't). It is possible (or maybe even probable) that these bidders were hardly interested in the music at all. They may well have been specialist collectors interested solely in gathering artefacts from a particular time and place. In this case, their passion would appear to have focused on obscure Glaswegian pop acts of the late eighties.
When I buy music, it is usually because I like the song and /or the artist. I say ‘usually’ because I recall, with a degree of embarrassment, that I was once bedazzled into purchasing an Alicia Keys album on the back of a beguiling TV appearance. Talented as she is, I suspect that had Ms Keys looked like Jabba the Hut, I would have been rather less beguiled and rather more inclined to let her middling tunes pass me by. I’ve nothing in particular against her music, but the fact that, once purchased, I hardly played the album in question indicates that I was hypnotised more by her beauty than her talent.
So, the odd exception apart, I buy music because I like how it sounds. Whilst it’s true that there are artists that I really like (or even love), I don’t feel any particular need to own everything that they have ever recorded. If they’ve put out something that doesn’t hit the mark, I’m quite happy to let it go. But the true collector has a different mentality; he or she (and let’s be honest and acknowledge that ‘collecting’ is an overwhelmingly male occupation) will need to own everything once his full attention has focused on the object (or objects) of desire.
The unfathomable logic of this need to collect has now seen fit to bestow ‘value’ upon an obscure old song that, all but forgotten, had long been grazing in the far fields of memory. It’s been slightly odd coming to terms with the fact that music I made more than two decades ago has -for whatever reason- acquired some significance for a small group of people. Even odder is the fact that collectors are willing to pay extraordinary sums of money to own an artefact that had long ceased to have anything but sentimental value for me and, I’m sure, for the other musicians involved in making it.
As it happens, I have several of these valuable artefacts gathering dust up in my attic. Without wishing to get carried away or to diminish the exalted status of this rare piece of vinyl, I’m thinking that this might be the break that has been tantalisingly just around the corner since 1988. It may be time to quit the day job.