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Memories for sale: nostalgia is big business

By Tom Cowie - posted Thursday, 3 September 2009

Nostalgia is a very powerful feeling. It forces people to do strange and sometimes crazy things.

Dads refuse to throw out their “awesome” vinyl collections, despite owning neither a turntable nor a decent record.

Mums hold on to all their old Woman’s Weekly cookbooks, no matter how outdated the recipes are (fondue anyone?).


And then there’s the grandparents who hoard their coveted collection of National Geographic back issues even though no one has ever flicked past the third page.

Nostalgia is that yearning for an idealised past - it’s a compelling feeling and it sells.

In the wake of the recent rose-tinted commemorations of Woodstock, nostalgia has become a more potent marketing force than ever.

Forty years ago, half a million hippies, stoners and music fans descended upon a muddy farm in upstate New York for a free concert.

That concert has subsequently become mythologised in the decades since, as the peak of free love, free peace and (in a legal sense) free drugs.

However, 40 years after music’s most famous event, the foggy minds of music lovers have been exploited once again.


Six CD box sets, director’s cut documentaries, and even a new feature film have all spawned coincidentally, at Woodstock’s ruby anniversary. It seems that aged hippies are just as ripe for the picking as the rest of us when it comes to the repackaging of our memories for sale.

Woodstock isn’t the only example of rehashed musical comebacks.

Elvis Presley has made more money posthumously than he ever dreamed of alive; Nirvana continues to top “best song ever” charts and; most recently, Michael Jackson’s mysterious death sent his back catalogue hurtling towards the top of the music charts worldwide.

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About the Author

Tom Cowie is a final-year Journalism student at La Trobe University.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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