Tuesday, 2 September 2008

A Feat Of Marketing

Music is important to me. Really important - I'm one of the rare kinds of people who (despite the fact that I am not 15 years old) still gets undeniably excited when they listen to their favourite bands. I think there is something really special in being able to listen to the kind of music that was written, recorded and released as expression, regardless of whether it's commercial viability would guarantee any kind of real sales.

Which is why TV shows like Pop Idol, X-Factor and the other car-crash reality TV shows that mercilessly beat the life out of the essence of what music means to me depress me massively.

If you aren't familiar with the basic concept of either of these, (close to impossible, if you're subject to any kind of mainstream media) basically, it's a huge talent show. And that's great - I think that sharing your talents is one of the few pure things we have left. However, after the initial audition rounds, it becomes something hugely crass. The most technically apt are chosen by 'judges' (generally major label producers and burnt out pop stars - sometimes even ex-contestants of the very same show (!)) and then they go through weekly elimination rounds, where the general public are encouraged to spend their hard-earned green on phoning into expensive telephone switchboards and place their vote for the contestant that they like the most.

This continues until only a few are left, and then the winner is chosen, landing a six-figure record deal, as well promotion and various other elements of the Hollywood dream.

Now call me a cynic, but surely this is televised market research?

The production company is basically just asking the public, week in, and week out, to tell them whose album they are most likely to buy, whose t-shirt they are most likely to wear, and which act they will most happily go to see in an arena. Where usually this information is derived from a marketing team analysing trends, comparing them with current competing acts, and even then, a major label can never be sure their acts aren't going to fail catastrophically, the public are now not only informing them of their direct purchase behaviour but also paying a television company for the privilege.

I suppose that the argument is that it's 'just entertainment' and that I should probably 'lighten up'. But encouraging the public to pay to take part in the market research, so the 'act' can then be made into another brutally average megastar, who doesn't write their own material, pushed by a record label with the sole aim of making money, well, it goes against everything that I stand for.

I guess that it isn't Simon Cowell, his TV company, Sony BMG, or anyone else involved in the creation of such a concept that are the fools though. Because really, it's just an opportunity to make massive volumes of money, with a tried and tested formula. The only fools in this whole process are the people that get dragged along with the show, the media circus that follows it, and then actually buy the record when it's finished.

When I discuss this, generally I get told to 'stop being such a romantic'. That 'this is capitalism', and that 'it's the way it is'. And I always want to say, 'Fuck you. There are still thousands upon thousands of people who believe in the romanticism of small labels, die-hard fans, the 'difficult' second album, printing your own merch, and playing tiny shows in sweatboxes to 100 people.'

But, I don't. One of the reasons is because I am polite. The other is that because they will most likely have no idea what I'm talking about, they will just tell me to 'shut up'. And that just confirms to me that they have never felt the passion I have felt about music. They have never passed out at a show from the heat, they have never felt the massive energy of a tiny, jam-packed crowd, they have never been kicked in the head by a rogue crowd-surfer, and they will never feel the commitment to expression that I do. And that does make me slightly sad.

What can I say? The concept of paying to be a guinea pig has never, and will never, appeal to me.


Bonus Cupped said...

WTF!!!!! LMAO you r so dum Simon cowell is cool and found luona loois WTF! what da fuk is a sweat box is it where u bum cos ur a FAGFUCK!!Dont u no there wood be no musci if there was no xfactor??????????!!

signals said...

lol wat m8?!

u fkn startin!?

Aaron Hale said...

"Now call me a cynic, but surely this is televised market research?"

I've always thought that. It's such a simple concept, and I'm surprised more people don't ever call it for what it is.

This is a great post, man.

By the way, my name is Aaron. Shoot me an email sometime at aaron@racketmag.com