Feeding frenzy this week at the trough of Simon Cowell and Simon Fuller’s truffle-stuffed trough.
Allegedly – always a useful adverb – the stitch-up is already stitched with Gareth (the winner) signed, Will (the loser) signed (first single Light My Fire) and Darius (the also-ran) signed so that no evil, nasty, Machiavellian, manipulative competing label can launch a spoiler single at the same time.
The only losers are the people who are paying for it. In case you didn’t spot it, that’s the phone line voters, who’ll be stupid enough to buy the CDs, and asinine enough to think that they’re listening to decent music.
You can’t knock the PR. The battle bus idea – ripped straight out of the pages of New Labour electioneering – is a stroke of public insanity-stoking genius.
Everyone is gripped at the evolution of this carefully scripted charade. We think we’ve been handed the power to make or break celebrities, when we’re actually mute walk-on parts who are bankrolling the whole production.
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Big Brother established the principle of covert (phone line) pay-per-view, but their money trees collapse (bar the licensing deals) when the cameras stop rolling.
Pop Idol uses (phone line) pay-per-view to fund a risk-free A&R process, and once it all reaches its conclusion, the money trees multiply into a forest of hit singles, merchandising, and franchising, with a mass market all wired up and ready to part with the pennies.
Cool, cute thinking and the kind of thing that could give PR a bad name. It all makes Big Brother look like a great Big Baby.
Of course the cracks are beginning to show (see Dominic Mohan’s backlash) but it’s all a bit late. PR is about pushing product. Most mass entertainment is a product that’s pretty ephemeral, and this scam capitalises on that. By the time everyone’s on to the game, the players are gone with their bank balances bulging.
There’s bound to be fall out. Craig Whatsisname from Big Brother? Erika Roe? Joe Schmo? Fifteen minutes of fame and now not even the sniff of a part in a local panto, that most desperate of rest homes for has-beens, never-should-have-beens, and never-were-anything-anyways.
And what about all 3,000 sad punters conned by the carrot of Hear’Say fame who were the unwitting stooges of a rigged audition? Tough tits, suckers.
This is the big new entertainment business – sellebrity. Hype people’s hopes, get them to shell out time and money in the (illusory) pursuit of fame, and clear off when you’ve cleared a profit.