Stars are made, not born. No more is this true than in the music industry, and record companies are making good note of this fact.
The music business has been resorting to desperate measures lately in order to make new stars. This has turned pop music and its stars into manufactured products.
The phenomenon we have witnessed in recent years seems to have started with the resurgence of boy bands. The formula for manufacturing the next big stars was easy. Get five boys with pretty voices and make sure you have one of each personality type: a rebellious troublemaker, a cute cuddly boy, a hot pretty boy (cute and hot are different), a mama’s boy, and maybe even another cute one if the other isn’t as cute or as cuddly as he could be.
Now you have a band, no wait, I mean a product.
Yeah, these guys are going to make someone a great deal of money, usually a man in his fifties already fat off the twenty other bands he made. Tour around Germany for a while, get a fan base there, go through puberty, hone your new beautiful man-voice, and then it’s on to America.
Once in America, you’re on the verge of hitting it big; now the only move left is getting your single on Hot 97 and being heard by millions of 8- to15- year-old girls.
You’re now a big hit, you’ve sold 2-3 million copies of your debut “Boo-yah, All Up in Your Face.” Now here comes the lucrative advertisement deals, (the product is finally being sold). Drink Pepsi, Coke, Lipton Hot Brew Tea, as long as the companies and you are getting paid, everything is all well and good.
In the case of boy bands the manufacturing was subversive. It was hidden from plain view because people and critics would be somewhat wary of a band that is merely a manufactured advertisement with pretty voices and nice moves. Boy bands are not unlike a computer chip or the Taco Bell Chihuahua, but because they at least had to pay their dues working the state fair circuit there is some respectability.
However, the manufacturing of the next big pop star is now in plain sight. One has only to change the channel to Fox, or MTV to see such reality television shows as American Idol and Making the Band. What these shows boil down to is a talent show. Whoever has the prettiest voice, nicest body and is most popular with the viewers will be the next star.
These shows are attempts to not only make money off the eventual star that is made, but also to make money off the very star-making process. And judging by the ratings of these shows (I myself admit to being an occasional viewer) a great deal of money is being made for someone.
But, what about the star that is made? They have to sacrifice their artistic integrity, if they ever had any in the first place, in order that they may be properly molded. They must dress how they’re told to dress, they must sing what they’re told to sing; in essence they must give up any sort of artistic vision.
This is at least true of the beginning of the star-making process. The record companies know what the public wants, so they give it to them and the public eats it up. Perhaps after their product is established the companies will allow them to write their own songs and act as they wish. But, it’s really hard to gain integrity once you have given it up.
The music industry seems to be focused on making money right now. They keep tabs on pop radio and MTV to see what the public is listening to and buying. Discovering new bands with a creative vision takes too much time and is too risky – so the record companies are resorting to manufacturing their own bands. These bands are often not musicians at all, but instead singing cash cows. And mainstream pop radio eats it up because the public does, and I don’t know why.