Friday, 1 February 2013

Is Food the New Music?

HMV employees tweeting about their impending departure yesterday actually shut down Twitter, for about an hour, such was the outrage of the people of Twitter. It's a truly sad day for them, as finding a job is scary for anyone. And especially when you're in the music industry. But the funny thing is though, most of them probably don't even buy music. 

Truth is, we all know that the music industry is dying. People don't buy music. They might use Spotify, they might illegally download or they just might not be that bothered about music any more. HMV died not because of a bad business model or any greedy corporate nastiness. It died because kids don't buy music anymore.

Alex James crossed the line from
music to food. 
What they are spending money on though, is food. Talking to various people and most agree, those in their thirties & forties wouldn't have dreamed of going out to dinner in their teens or early twenties apart from a special occasion or date. But most would have budgeted for an album or two per week. Now twenty-somethings, (as the Daily Telegraph's 'gastronaut' article pointed out) me included are dining out 3-4 times a week without thinking about it. But buying music? I've not bought an album in six months. Even the word 'album' seems rather quaint now, like something my mum would say.

This age group used to spend all their money on music. Gig tickets, CDs, t-shirts, were what disposable income used to be splurged on. Now, the younger generation think nothing of spending £70 in one sitting, for a regular meal in a dingy basement and it's not even a special occasion. 

I went to a party the other week and ended up having a long conversation about not clubs, bands or festivals, but which restaurants we'd been to. It became like a competition of who was cooler. 'Haven't been to John Salt yet under the new chef? Christ.' 'Well, I got a table at Dabbous.' Not film, or music, or anything that young people used to talk about. 

Food is becoming the new music. You can no longer remember the names of all the members of The Strokes but you can name all of the head chefs of the Polpo group. 

Calling oneself a foodie now seems to be the norm, almost as normal as saying that you like music. Before, you the foodie were the one all your friends went to for restaurant recommendations, the coolest and newest places. Now, you get a text from your mate saying 'I've just heard about this place called Pitt Cue Co's [sic]. Let's go there!' People are no longer excited about being the first to own the new Foals album, they're too busy buying tickets to Tom Oldroyd's (Head Chef of the Polpo group) pop-up at The Thatched (which sold out in 9 minutes, give or take a few held tickets). 

It's sometimes difficult to tell what's a cool gig and what's a restaurant. The chefs have loyal groupies who follow them from pop-up to pop-up, the wait staff have tattoos, there are queues around the block to rival those of what you'd expect to get into a Muse gig and there are those who the newly enlightened can only wish to be - the bloggers (the new equivalent of NME writers). Dishes are hit singles, menus are albums.

And it's not just a niche group of hard-core foodies any more. Now you really just need to follow the right people on Twitter or read Time Out and you can know all of the new openings and gossip, without having a lot of background knowledge. And more and more celebrities are tweeting about, and being spotted at, the new cool places, making it even easier to discern which are the cooler places.

Where will this go? Will people jump ship? A photographer friend of mine at EMI has been talking about food 'being the new rock n roll' for ages now, he'd  get into restaurant work in a flash if he had the balls. 

The good news is, there is no real 'digital threat'. You can't download food or pirate it, so if anything, food culture benefits from rather than fears the internet.

I predict food festivals equaling music festivals in a few years, chef residencies being as in demand as DJs were in the 90s. Dishes will develop into cult 'done it/ not done it yet' statuses.

Where young people were staying out all night at gigs, they'll now spend them in a more civilised manner: sharing small plates and discussing the generation's burning question: burger or lobster?


  1. Mind what you say, what with the advent of 3-D printing upon us, downloading food is just around the corner

  2. I have long thought food = music and I invented a game called "liken the restaurant to a band"


    Gordon Ramsay: Liked their early stuff. Now gone to their head, i.e. U2
    MeatLiquor - Cool to be seen liking. Cannot not like otherwise you won't be cool i.e. Arcade Fire
    Byron - Rapid expansion, still remains cool i.e. Radiohead
    McDonald's - Spangly and naff, but an allowable dirty secret and occasionally used when drunk - i.e. Kylie
    Angus Steakhouse - Not good even if trying to be ironic or something - i.e. Chris de Burgh

    1. I hear where you're coming from, Richard, but I disagree with a couple of your analogies. I think Radiohead and Arcade Fire are far too art school to be linked with something as prosaic as burgers. I have them down as being at the molecular gastronomy end of the culinary scale.

      Melissa - I like your analogy of the single/dish and menu/album. This raise the spectre of the dodgy cover version e.g. when an European chef decides to go all Asian/Peruvian/Middle Eastern etc...

  3. Raw milk is new the new Punk; it attracts groups looked upon as either potentially violent (libertarians), smelly and deluded (failed hippies) or both (paranoid survivalists).

    Modernist cuisine is the new Electronic music. It makes good use of new and inventive technologies, and requires a high level of skill to execute. But it is ultimately cold and soulless, and will not help you get lucky as quickly as would a quaint little red sauce Italian joint (Dean Martin).

    Guy Fieri is the new Garth Brooks. No one will admit to liking him, but he didn't get rich all by himself.

    Quinoa is the new Katy Perry. Or Taylor Swift. Or Carly Rae Jepsen. Or whichever one is the latest. I stopped paying attention back in the Eighties with Tiffany (oat bran).

    Cupcakes are the new Madonna. No matter how many different ways they think of to reinvent them, you still get sick to death of them in no time.

    And finally.

    Pizza is the new Elvis. No matter how you change it, no matter how many iterations it goes through, no matter how bad or embarrassing it becomes, you still can't help but love it. There is an element of simplicity and authenticity that lives in the heart of it that neither rhinestone-studded jumpsuits nor ham and pineapple can touch.

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