Instant souvenir

by Rob Horning

27 September 2005


Now, according to today’s Wall Street Journal, you can order online recordings of concerts you are planning to see, thanks to a new service the music industry is testing in hopes of recouping revenue lost to filesharing and consumer indifference. With the help of concert-venue czar Clear Channel, you can arrange through something called Instant Live to have a CD of a concert you are planning to see sent to you. Another option gives you a chance to purchase a copy of a show immediately after its over on your way out of the venue. Now, I can almost understand the latter, how one, in a state of postshow euphoria, might think one ought to pay $20 to have forever preserved the memory you just collected (even though you would be better off with just the memory, letting it become embellished and magnified and mythologized over time in your mind). But I can’t understand at all buying a copy of something before hand. It’s as though one can’t wait to turn the experience into a souvenir—one is so impatient to reify it that one commodifies it before it’s even happened. Sure, these arena shows are pretty much ossified from the get go a devoid of much spontaneity or variation, but still, that’s no reason to be memorializing it in advance as though you were licensing merchandise rather than hoping to enjoy the experience. (A Journal caption reads “Beyond the Concert T-shirt.”) If one can have the souvenir beforehand, one may as well skip the show; that might involve untold inconveniences—those annoying other fans, the whole “crowd” thing. Who needs that?

Souvenirs like these are paradoxical, because you want to comemorate your presence at some event that many found significant, but by elevating your own presence to the primary reason the event shoudl be remembered, you nullify the significance that others may have found in it. “I was there” negates all historical relevance while trying to exploit it.


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