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Musicians Bought Back From The Dead Are Making A Killing

In an interview with BBC Wales last Friday, Queen guitarist Brian May revealed that the band (with new addition Adam Lambert) will be releasing a new collection of music later in the year, including a series of unreleased songs by Freddie Mercury. This little gem of information got us thinking about what seems to be a current, albeit pretty morbid, trend in the music industry.

There is a sense of novelty around bringing back deceased musicians; whether it be for live performances, new music releases or weirdly fascinating holographic dance sequences. The big guys are obsessed with the technology that allows for some of the highest grossing artists to return to music from beyond the grave and target their passionate (sometimes still grieving) fan bases to make big money.

We've all heard the phrase 'nobody really cares about you until you're dead' and unfortunately for many artists this has proved true, in fact after his death in 1977, in 2005 Elvis was named Forbes magazine’s top earning deceased celebrity. Other musicians who have made a killing with their posthumous releases include: Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley, John Lennon, Buddy Holly, Jim Morrison, Frank Sinatra and Bob Marley.

Another standout in this category is Tupac Shakur, who released only 5 albums whilst alive but since his shooting death in 1996 has released another 8 albums. Whilst these trends are pretty understandable, the advances in technology are allowing us to take it that step further.

Audiences at Coachella in April were shocked when a holographic image of Tupac Shakur appeared on stage alongside Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg and projections of Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra have been seen in recent years, allowing them to seemingly perform duets with modern artists.

We all saw the performance by 'Michael Jackson' at this years Billboard Music Awards, where the overwhelming realness of the projection became one of the biggest talking points surrounding the awards ceremony, the performance reducing some audience members to tears.

And it's not just limited to deceased performers. Mariah Carey latched onto this idea last year which allowed her to perform simultaneously across 5 different European cities, although we're feeling that the effect isn't quite the same if the artist is still alive, we wish we were a little more surprised that Mariah was the one to pull this stunt.  

It is reported that the Tupac hologram cost well in excess of $100,000 and there are discussions surrounding whether or not this will become a commonplace thing. Gary Shenk, CEO of Corbis, an image-licensing company explained that "with a hologram, profits are split between the owners of the image, the music publisher, the artist's estate, and the people with IP rights to the hologram. It might not be cost effective."

It also toes the moral line, with many uncertain as to whether or not they feel comfortable with the recent obsession of bringing back the deceased. You do have to ask yourself, how would the artist feel about this? In the case of Queen, were there reasons why Freddie Mercury never released those songs? And why now are they good enough?

We think we know the answer... and you probably do too. It's the same reason we're currently being inundated with the reunions of our favourite vintage bands. Whilst the optimist inside wants to think it's all because of a genuine love for music we're afraid we need to address what is reality...

It's all about the money, money, money.

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