Wanna go for a ride, neighbour? "Soft middle age". It's Roger Waters' lyrical take on the end of youth. Tip the magic 40. It becomes increasingly more challenging to stay in physical shape. Only the very fortunate few enjoy a dietary cruise control as they amble towards (and through) their fifties. The rest of us, we must work hard to maintain a stable weight; some by signing up to a gym, others by soliciting the services of a personal trainer. Also more of a challenge after crowning the hill of a 40th birthday is staying connected with modern music. Life can get in the way of attending gigs, spending the afternoon in a local record store or hanging out in the pub with mates, chatting about music. Post 40, time often becomes shorter than money.

A friend, let's call him Joe, recently remarked that by scanning his parents' CD collection, he could mark the year in which they effectively gave up on listening to and discovering new music. Their wall of shiny silver discs went no further than early nineties Brit Pop and Seattle grunge; as though The Stone Roses' debut and Nevermind had waved the chequered flag on their disc-buying days. "2000 CDs were enough" was apparently his parents' response when teased about this by their son. Was their interest in—and ownership of—music simply a matter of hitting a target? I'm sure it was more likely a case of retrospective reasoning; a mum and dad justifying their unconscious drift from contemporary cultural awareness but after the fact. Perhaps the real reason was that life got in the way. Children eat their parents' time.

Music also was considerably more expensive in the 1990s than it is today. Discretionary spending on CDs and later, downloads, goes out the window when there are extra mouths to feed. For Joe's dad, about to turn 55 in 2016, his music discovery clock probably began to slow sometimes during his late thirties. Only catching snatches of music where previously he'd live and breathe it, he might not be fully across the sheer volume of music made and released in the noughties. Post 2000, tumbling music hardware and software prices meant that records could be made for pennies on the former dollar. The Internet allowed the up-and-coming musician to bypass the traditional PR+CD/R promotional model. These two factors contributed to an explosion of post-millennium music. The noughties gave us The Strokes, Interpol and The Arctic Monkeys. 10+ years on from their respective heydays, each of these bands were seen as Classic Rock.

But what if Joe's dad were still a DJ as per the late 80s and early 90s? How broad might be the appeal of a DJ event in 2016 that revolves around bands like the Inspiral Carpets, Stone Temple Pilots and New Order? I'd wager not much. Perhaps a few guys of similar age might stumble out for old times' sake but the lack of contemporary music choices would keep the kids at arm's length. At best. At worst, they'd be a no show. In other words, to Gen Yers and millennials, Joe's dad would be considered out of touch. Now imagine Joe's dad as a loudspeaker manufacturer, with the audio show circuit his main avenue of promotion. He'd join guys of a similar engineering bent and music taste in the promotion of hifi hardware. This imaginary audio show taking place in the mid 90s would be an exciting place. Recent hits from the likes of The Sugarcubes, Pearl Jam or The Cure would dominate. Sounds cool, huh?

Picture that same show 20 years down the line. Drifting from room to room, we'd hear the familiar ring of Brit Pop and grunge, one that we'd heard ten (and twenty!) years prior and every year since. The hotel hallways would echo with angst-ridden rock but the vibe would be dated. Twenty years of shows featuring the same music, irrespective of genre, would be stultifying.  Songs we once loved from the Psychedelic Furs and Talking Heads are reduced to audiophile pulp and cliché. What of the Gen Yer keen to get his or her first taste of the audiophile experience at such a show? S/he'd know not of—or care for—Lloyd Cole, Nick Heyward or Roddy Frame despite their attempts to maintain late career relevance. A million miles from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs or LCD Soundsystem or The White Stripes, to our Gen Y drop-in, Edwyn Collins is D(e)ad Rock.

As Paul Simon sang in The Boy In The Bubble: "Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts". Asking our Gen Yer to relate to The Happy Mondays would be like asking Joe's dad in the eighties to admire the contemporary relevance of Buddy Holly. Think of it this way: the 1950s were to the 1980s what the 1980s are to the 2010s. No matter the year, a 30-year gap presents an almighty chasm, one that only the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin could straddle. Between 2006 and 2010, I DJ'd across Sydney's indie club scene. If I played now what I played then, I'd not get a single gig. Time advances. Tastes change. Today's cutting-edge band is tomorrow's heritage act. I'd be laughed off the booking sheet were I to claim that they just don't write songs like they used to; the first sign of a dude out of touch with contemporary culture. But it doesn't have to be this way.

The price of 2016 music has never been lower. Anyone can now access 30'000'000 plus tracks for the same dollars as a single CD. It's an awesome reality that, as a listener in his mid 40s, has me pinch myself each time I fire up Spotify, Tidal or Apple Music. We get so much for so very little. Were I still in the DJ game, music streaming would be pivotal to discovering new and exciting music to play out in clubs and pubs. Similarly, had the streaming world arrived just as Joe's dad began his unconscious drift from new releases and modern music, perhaps he too might have been saved from the ignominy of being labeled out of touch. On a personal level he might not care but as our imaginary seller of audio gear, it'd probably be in his best interest to appeal to as many different customers as possible.


Are audio show exhibitors not DJs in a different context? The dark rooms, the beer and the sticky floors of the nightclub are replaced by a mood-lit hotel room, comfortable seating and a bottle of water. In both scenarios, proper tune selection is a make-or-break deal. Audio show exhibitors have an advantage in that they aren't shackled to a particular genre. In his imaginary role as loudspeaker designer, Joe's dad can potentially spin anything found on Tidal, Qobuz or Deezer Elite. But he doesn't. He chooses to depend on that which his audience has come to expect: the likes of Joy Division and Soundgarden. He and his now ageing audience are trapped in an interlocked dance of the familiar. To the casual onlooker, this is Groundhog Day for audiophiles. Doing his best Bill Murray impersonation, Joe's dad spins what his audience likes. And they like what he plays. And so it goes on and on, 'round and 'round, year in year out. Joe's dad grows older. So does his audience. Soft middle age inches toward retirement and its soundtrack stays the same as it ever was…

...until someone asks: what about the future? "Won't somebody please think of the children?" might be a little too hysterical (when isn't it?) but the sentiment is highly applicable to the 60-year old fella playing tunes for other 60-year old fellas. What food for the guy or gal in their forties or thirties to whom the Foo Fighters' eponymous debut is a generation apart from their own?

How about some Korn from the late 90s to kick things off? It's not so far removed from Joe's dad's audio show programme that listeners will bolt for the door. And if you think that this shouldn't be played at real world not imaginary audio shows, then I know a guy at Peachtree Audio who begs to differ. David Solomon doesn't subscribe to such snobbery. At the most recent T.H.E. Show Newport in Irvine, Solomon's self-imposed mandate wasn't simply to make a break from the norm but to accommodate as many attendee requests as possible. Hence Korn. Just as Tom Waits gives us haunting ballads in stark contrast to his gruff stuff, there are two sides to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. "Stagger Lee"'s predatory verses tip-toe through the darkness like a silent-film Nosferatu before the chorus bites down hard on your neck. The final vamp indicates the moment when the victim joins the assassin as a member of the undead.

Too strong? How about Nick Cave as a more conventional piano man? "Love Letter" is a pure and tender ballad with zero tricks up its sleeve. At time of writing, yesterday (June 7th) was Prince Day as declared by the Governor of Minnesota. It would have been the recently deceased artist's 58th birthday. You probably know "Purple Rain" and "Kiss" but one killer cut you might not have heard before is "5 Women". That's been dropped squarely in the midst of a late 90s contract-filling compilation called The Vault: Old Friends For Sale. "5 Women" is Andy Moore's favourite Prince track of 'em all. Moore is product manager for Arcam. No wonder his buddy and Munich High-End co-host Johan Coorg, brand ambassador for KEF, were keen to afford this Prince cut repeat spins. Thankfully "5 Women" also featured on Moore's demo disc as Arcam's promotional road show blew through Sydney earlier this week.

If I were charged with audio show music, the baby and bath water would not be dispensed with simultaneously or even immediately. Radical and immediate change is not the answer. I'd first try to woo my audience with music they not might have heard before but which remained 'pleasant'. Only after a little trust was secured would I pull up something a little racier. Afterwards I'd return to the comfort of familiarity before turning up the wick once more. Rinse and repeat. First up in a possible one-two would be the Kings Of Convenience's "I'd Rather Dance With You", easily one of the more upbeat cuts from 2004's Riot On An Empty Street. Elsewhere, their approximation of Simon and Garfunkel's synchronised vocal lament is more overt and less cello driven. Here are nice sounds for an audience well accustomed to non-confrontational sounds.

Delivering more aural punch is Trentemoller's "Vamp" as played loud and often by fellow Danes Dynaudio at Munich High-End 2016. "Vamp" isn't on (my) Tidal so instead I give you Eat Static's "Voodoo Doll" which takes bpm to a whole other level. Hang tight for the Scooby Doo samples. How well does the demo system convert Eat Static's demonic bass thump and macrodynamic contrast without turning to mush? This barnburner sorts the men from the boys. So too does Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker" whose Chris Cunningham-directed video gave the wonky breakbeat extra legs on MTV in the late 90s. Then there's F.U.S.E.'s "Close", a dark screw-driving techno cut from the mind of Richie Hawtin (to yours) whose Plastikman alter ego is strongly rumoured to be a show favourite of MBL's Jürgen Reis. A word of caution. Referring to these techno tracks as doof doof sadly marks the complainant as a little out of touch. We often see the same guys refer to modern music as "manufactured". Some of it is for sure but it's not an accusation that'll stick to Beyonce's Lemonade. With Jack White featuring on "Don't Hurt Yourself", we get real drum kit and hammond organ underpinning a stomping R&B hook. That isn't really my cuppa irrelevant.

One might reasonably ask why so very little black music is heard at audio show demos? Where's the funk, the soul and the hip-hop? How about something at which even white dudes would struggle to turn up their noses? Most readers will be familiar with the movie Shaft and the Isaac Hayes' penned "Theme from Shaft". Those high hats, that wah-wah pedal, those strings, that horn section – it's a sound that defined a genre which  possibly signified the emergence of black music as a truly dominant force in the American music scene of the 1970s.

Just as sonically agreeable is a cut from one Howe Gelb whose music speaks to a different side of Americana - the dusty desert of Arizona. Gelb is one of America's most underrated songwriters. Better known as the leader of Giant Sand, Gelb's albums, though rarely flawless, usually turn up one or two stone-cold gems. Listen to "Fields Of Green" from Blurry Blue Mountain and try not to picture a guy sat on his porch between a rocking chair and cowboy hat, acoustic guitar pulled across his lap. Zu Audio's Sean Casey had this ready to go on vinyl in Munich. In rounding out this playlist, we return to Joe's dad's musical heyday: The The covering Hank Williams' "Praise the Lord, I saw the light." Do ya?

Some of these songs might not be to your taste—personally, I can't abide Korn—but being a DJ isn't about what you like as much as it is about harnessing the broad range of tastes among one's audience and, in the case of audio demos, without succumbing to the safety of a soft middle age and its comfortable passage to retirement. It's not only regular exercise and healthy eating that keep us feeling young. So too does maintaining an interest in new music. TIDAL Playlist here, YouTube Playlist here. Go get a workout.