We’ve all heard the news by now: Legendary progressive rock band Genesis has reformed for a tour (or, as Phil Collins adamantly insists, “a selection of shows”)—and without singer Peter Gabriel or guitarist Steve Hackett. Which isn’t surprising, considering the band’s 25-year-long denial of their progressive / art rock roots. Chart-friendly Genesis is pop-ish Genesis, and pop-ish Genesis is Genesis without Peter Gabriel or Steve Hackett.
Artistically, the now-revived Banks / Collins / Rutherford trio are quite proficient at performing their distinctive brand of adult contemporary rock live. The ticket prices, which will no doubt be outrageous, are worth it, if you’re a fan. But after ~32 years without Gabriel, and nearly as long without Hackett, it would have been nice to stage a proper Dark Ages of Rock revival. No need for the guys to wrangle themselves into a confined space for a new studio album—just a slightly more elaborate live show, complete songs from the olden days, something…different.
Ah, but I suspect this latest reunion has more to do with the PR slant than it does the band’s actual desire to return to the fold as a functional creative ensemble. Of course, they’ve earned the right to rest on their respective laurels, but as lucrative as a reunion is from a ticket sales standpoint, I can’t help but feel it’s going to be more of the same. A freshening of the back catalog. That much is obvious from the fact that the official Genesis web site has drastically scaled itself back, only offering meaningful content to “premium” members—folks who pay a fee for such commodities as biographical information, press releases, multimedia clips, and so forth. I find this sort of approach counterproductive, especially for an act as venerable as Genesis. Heck, during a recent interview, the guys themselves admitted that they’re loaded, so it’s not as if they need to make ends meet by charging access fees. And even if they did need the money, or if they were an up-and-coming band looking for some cash-flow—what fan, potential or established, enjoys going to a site that charges premium fees? (You know the Web’s Golden Rule: Unless it’s porno, people don’t expect to pay for it.)
Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe it’s the fact that Genesis is such a popular act that has them needing to maintain a super-expensive, nuclear-powered server to handle the inundation of fans wanting to download video clips from their site. Let’s say Genesis can’t afford a streaming server; couldn’t they have their videos hosted on YouTube, put something legit up there for a change? Meh. I don’t know. When bands do this sort of thing, it tends to alienate all but the most die-hard fans. But, then, this is Genesis we’re talking about, and it has been 15 years since the last tour. Fans will probably pay anything for the novelty, and I’ll probably be right there alongside them.
The Moody Blues’ management had something of a merchandising orgasm in 1999, when Strange Times, their first new studio album in eight years, was released—to the point of inserting advertising into the jewel case itself. Any value the album might have had as a collector’s item went right out the window (though musically, Strange Times was a solid effort).
My opinion on the whole Web-merchandising thing: Use your Web site to give out free shiat, like multimedia clips, photos, press material, ticket information, discographies—save the “pay me or get lost” attitude for the actual albums, boxed sets, T-shirts, autographed towels, toenail clippings, etc. And whatever you do, don’t put out an album in an empty jewel case with the words “Steal This Album!” printed on the front. (*cough* System of a Down *cough*)