Saturday, January 01, 2005

Too close to the bone

Last week the Guardian published this. It's a little close to my bones...

... On a hot day at County Hall in London, [David] Hepworth [of Development Hell, an independent magazine company] stood up and gave Britain's record-company bosses a lecture about their own customers, concentrating on "the 50-quid guy", a term he had picked up from friends in retail. "This is the guy we've all seen in Borders or HMV on a Friday afternoon, possibly after a drink or two, tie slightly undone, buying two CDs, a DVD and maybe a book - fifty quid's worth - and frantically computing how he's going to convince his partner that this is a really, really worthwhile investment."

The 50-quid bloke is a big user of the web, Hepworth says, but unlike his children, he wants to own things. He shops at Amazon as well as the high street. He loathes Pop Idol, telling the kids it devalues everything rock music stands for (the kids reply that it's only a TV show, dad). But he is defined more by his likes than his dislikes and, crucially, he wants to keep up. He likes the White Stripes, Coldplay and Blur and has persevered with Radiohead through the difficult last three albums. His latest buys are the debut albums from the Stands, who remind him of the Byrds, and Franz Ferdinand, who remind him of the Glasgow art-school bands of 1982. The fact that most of the new bands sound old is a definite help.

He has given up on Radio 1 and listens to Radio 4 more than any music station, though he likes the less cosy bits of Radio 2, such as Jonathan Ross on Saturday morning. If he had a digital radio, he would love BBC6 Music, with its slogan "the great, the new and no fill" and its habit of playing Franz Ferdinand alongside the Clash. He adores DVD: "It's impossible to overestimate what a transformational medium DVD is in all this," Hepworth says. "Videos seemed like a waste of money. DVDs are investments."

The 50-quid bloke probably has an iPod but uses it as a radio rather than a substitute for his CDs. His favourite recent film is Lost in Translation, in which Bill Murray shows his own 50-quid tendencies by crooning a karaoke version of the Roxy Music song More Than This.

He has been in love with music all his life - "He's got the High Fidelity chip embedded in his brain," says Jerry Perkins, publisher of Word magazine - but his interests have broadened along the way. He is university-educated, reads a broadsheet, of whatever size, and raved about Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad. He is not a great telly-watcher but loves The Simpsons and The Office and will miss Friends. And yes, he may be a she. Women bought 41% of albums in 2002, up from 38% the year before. "But frankly," says Hepworth, "blokes get the same giddy rush from buying CDs and DVDs that most women get from shoes. It's a spiritual thing." ...

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