Grumpy old men

Clockwise from top left: Rod Stewart, Bryan Ferry, Morten Harket, Paul HeatonClockwise from top left: Rod Stewart, Bryan Ferry, Morten Harket, Paul Heaton

In 2010, the BBC News website has spoken to a number of pop stars from the older generations.

Here are the thoughts of Bryan Ferry, Rod Stewart, former Housemartins and Beautiful South singer Paul Heaton and A-Ha’s Morten Harket on today’s music business.

Dwindling record sales

Paul Heaton: The Housemartins could have succeeded if they were starting out today but their success would have been even shorter [the band released two studio albums].

“Mercury Records normally released seven albums a month when I brought out Every Picture Tells A Story, now it’s 200 a month”

Rod Stewart

I think songs like Happy Hour, and even Think For A Minute and Caravan Of Love, are strong songs but I don’t know if we would have been paid for it really. They might have been used in a car advert.

I think I was lucky to get professional when I did.

Rod Stewart: In this business, it’s hard out there, there’s not the money there was.

Albums don’t sell – that’s the ridiculous thing. You’ve got to sell about 160,000 and you get top of the Billboard chart.

There’s just too much music about, it’s been diluted somewhat from what it was when I started. Mercury Records normally released seven albums a month when I brought out Every Picture Tells A Story, now it’s 200 a month.

What happened to Rod Stewart the songwriter?

The music business

Bryan Ferry: It’s a bit of a puzzle really isn’t it? I still can’t quite get used to the fact that there aren’t any record stores any more. It’s quite hard.

Maybe if you go to Antwerp or somewhere like that, you’ll suddenly find a little record shop and you think, “oh great”, and you can go and browse and then find something and buy something that you hadn’t got before. It’s a shame.

Morten Harket in 1988A-Ha were propelled to international fame with 1985 debut single Take On Me

Morten Harket: It can become too much about cheekbones or what you wear.

We got deflated because there was so much energy pouring all over us about things that were about nothing – it really was about nothing, it was just about being famous.

There’s the sex drive or the response to looks, which is one thing – and I don’t denounce that, it’s a central part of defining us as human beings.

But we also need something to feed the soul, the spirit, the mind and that’s what we were there for.

Taking on A-Ha classic

The road to success

Rod Stewart: It’s a shame that the acts can’t do the sort of apprenticeship that I did, and people of my generation did, where they had to play night clubs for four or five years in front of 10 people.

It just makes you a better performer, to zero in on your craft, and when you make it you really appreciate it whereas, with instant gratification, it’s not the same.

There’s not a pub/rock scene anymore – it’s disappeared.

Paul Heaton sings with the Beautiful South in 2001Heaton now records as a solo artist after success with the Beautiful South and The Housemartins

Paul Heaton: With most bands of the 70s or 80s, you formed a band, you wrote some songs, you then got a gig and then you maybe made a record if you could afford it.

The very, very last thing which could have happened would be for you to maybe make a video or go on telly.

Now people want to go on telly first, then they want to make a record, then they suddenly want to write songs, then they want to form a band and then they want to be photographed with a guitar to make them look real.

That’s exactly the opposite way to how we approached it in The Housemartins and how it was done in my era.

Songs for whoever – Paul Heaton on his hits

Positive change

Bryan Ferry: You have to kind of embrace the positive, perhaps, and we’re now doing things with my new record that we couldn’t have done before.

Instead of just having the one vinyl version of the album, we’ve got three different versions of it.

In the old days, that was too sophisticated for the record industry and now they’re kind of embracing new things like that so it’s good in a way.

Bryan Ferry and Roxy friends stick together

The X Factor

Rod Stewart: I was very disappointed to read they used auto-tune technology on X Factor, I’ve always been a bit of a champion of that show because I’ve seen so much talent that’s gone unnoticed.

“They’re not as dumb as people think, the public”

Rod Stewart

Look at the thousands of people that try to get on that show, some of them are really good and they never get a look in so I was a little disappointed with that but it all seems to have blown over.

Thank goodness the public saw through it, they’re not as dumb as people think, the public.

Paul Heaton: It would bother me more if I watched the programmes but I don’t watch the programmes, I just crack on with what I do, really.

It bothers me about other bands, it bothers me that bands that I like don’t do well and are ignored.

The charts are made up by such a percentage of X Factor contestants or ex-X Factor contestants that there are so little opportunities for good new bands.

I’m not so bothered about me, I’ve had my fun.

This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation, The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

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