Are We Seeing the End of Manufactured Pop?

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Like Italian film stars of the 1960s, or English soccer players of the ’80s, rock stars are a quaintly dated category of celebrated person. I sympathize with rock stars because of the sense of isolation that is, or was, inherent in their antiquated mode of stardom. Having grown up in a family setup that might be generously described as bunker-like, I also find myself drawn to people who were sick as children, or suffered from allergies, or buried themselves in books, or moved around a lot, or grew up in cults led by preachers and gurus, or on military bases and other remote or highly regimented places, which are getting ever harder to find thanks to Facebook and Twitter and WhatsApp and the buzzing hive of selfies and chats and tweets and chatter and casual surveillance in which no man may speak from a burning bush or a shimmering mist, or be uncamera-ready, or cranky, or worse still, out of touch.

It also occurs to me that maybe the age of instant communication that killed off the rock stars is all one big misunderstanding. What the techies missed was that the person Mick Jagger was just a contributor to the invented character of Mick Jagger, rock star, who represented a collective investment of x amount of imaginative capital and hard cash by record companies, art directors, and fans. Mick Jagger, the person, could hardly have created Mick Jagger, the rock star, alone in his bedroom using Instagram and Pro Tools, let alone programmed the contingent and chaotic human and creative interactions with Keef and the late, great junkie producer Jimmy Miller that went into the recording of Exile on Main St. and Let It Bleed. Disdaining the wasteful, elitist space where bands hankered after record-company expense accounts that would pay for hookers and villas in the South of France, Silicon Valley presented itself as the tribune of average-Joe air guitarists who never got their shot at the American Dream. It was easy to stoke resentment against the perks enjoyed by the pros while spreading the easy gospel of democratic cultural production. Every boy and girl could be Virginia Woolf and Keith Richards and David Foster Wallace depending on what day of the week it was, thanks to fun new digital software that ushered in a freshly branded universe of frictionless self-gratification in which all movies and books and music would be free, because they should be free, because they were made to be free, because paying for stuff is an unconscionable rip-off in a world where stuff was meant to be free, and who else does art belong to if not to the people, right? And so, the tech moguls could pose as liberators and revolutionaries who would cut out the middlemen while sucking up the market cap of the music business, the newspaper business, and other sadly benighted industries.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “Are We Seeing the End of Manufactured Pop?

  • Pingback: Scherzo TV | Are We Seeing the End of Manufactured Pop?

  • September 30, 2014 at 10:24 am

    I’m not big on absolutes, but I think the ‘promoted’ music star will fade rather than disappear altogether. That said, big corporate ‘stars’ will still latch on to movie soundtracks and other media vehicles that will keep them top of mind.

    I like that you reminded us of other mega-trends that faded and with the Internet age, we’re seeing more industries get shaken up because of a simple commodity: accessible, peer-reviewed information.

    Ultimately, the shake up is with the traditional media institutions that used to be leveraged to broadcast efficiently to the masses: TV, print, radio, etc. With the onset of choice, broadcasting is no longer efficient or even an option. More Canadians are watching ad-free Netflix vs ad-laden CTV or other networks, so the circle has been broken.


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