Soft sell

Agood number of music studios around the world have a sign hanging in the control room which reads "What would Neil Young do?" It's a tribute to his much-admired, no-nonsense approach to recording. Significantly, the same sign is never seen in dressing rooms at live venues anywhere because the answer to the question in this context would probably be "play an interminable guitar solo that nobody except baldy blokes who find it hard to get a girlfriend are interested in". Still, we always forgive him these aberrations, remembering all of the sublime songs he's recorded.

The whole question took on a new twist last month when our friend Neil sold his entire back catalogue to a UK investment company for 150 million dollars. They have vowed to use his music "tastefully", apparently. Stand by, then, for Powderfinger appearing on washing detergent adverts and Old Man pushing pension schemes.

Bob Dylan has sold his wares for 300 million dollars and Stevie Nicks 80% of hers for a mere 100 million. I've done some rough calculations on this basis, and have come to the conclusion that, in relative terms, I'll be able to offload all of my songs for about seven euros fifty and a couple of pints of lager. The big question here is, of course, why is all of this happening?

Well, I did begin to research the subject on the internet but there were too many mentions of capital gains tax and some other mind-numbing stuff and, next thing I knew, I was waking up prostrate on the sofa, dribbling steadily down my new jumper. Anyway, surely it's clear that the principal reason for these extraordinary sales is that recorded music doesn't make any money anymore. Streaming services pay five dollars per seventy gazillion plays; ok, that may not be an exact figure but it's something along those lines. Nobody buys CDs these days and even if they did manage to find a record shop which hasn't been converted into a coffee emporium, they'd arrive home with their brand new purchase only to remember they haven't had a CD player since 1998.

The whole situation is compounded by the fact that many people are quite happy to listen to music on their mobile telephones, a practice which results in anything being played - from Mozart to McCartney - sounding like a radio station that isn't tuned in properly. Music has become a kind of aural wallpaper, ever-present but barely stirring any emotion. Not to worry, being an eternal optimist, I have faith that all of this will change for the better over time as part of the natural order of things.

In the meantime, however, we're left in a kind of limbo. What would Neil Young do? Keep On Rockin' In The Free World, I imagine.