Charting consumers’ changing preferences in the digital age.
THE first time I remember seeing a TV music performance was probably the Dick Clark American Bandstand, which was a staple on Saturday afternoon. I hummed, sang and did the bump to the tunes of You Can Ring My Bell and I Will Survive. As a kid, I had little idea of what the musician or artists looked like until they appeared on the American Bandstand or Soul Train.
In the summer of 1981, I was visiting my aunt at Virginia Beach. My cousins turned on the TV and showed me the newly debuted Music Television channel. On the channel was no other than the legendary Duran Duran, singing Hungry Like The Wolf. Like most pre-teens, I was enthralled. For the first time, I found out what Kenny Loggins looked like. Prior to MTV, he was simply the king of movie soundtracks and an invisible artist. I became an MTV addict. It was cool, fun and I could put a name, face and voice together. From what I could see, Kenny Loggins was a big beard guy, sporting a mullet, who sang the lead vocal of Footloose!
In the 1990s, more musicians and singers were primped and made marketable for the ravenous TV viewers. The music factory was churning out groups like Wilson Phillips and Milli Vanilli. In the music videos and on the radio they sounded fantastic. Their popularity brought them center stage of renowned events like the American Music Awards.
Later, Wilson Phillips’ singing capabilities were questioned in stories exploring how much the studio synthesized the band’s sound. Milli Vanilli, meanwhile, were found to be merely lip syncing and couldn’t sing at all. As a result, the handsome pair was stripped of their Grammys. The lip syncing accusations extended to Madonna and Janet Jackson’s concerts. With elaborate costumes and athletic dancing, it’s not surprising that some singers resorted to lip syncing. That fans noticed it, though, proved that audiences wanted the real deal.
The boy bands rose to prominence in the same decade. Cute and slick, the boy bands catered to teens and young adults. At the pinnacle of the boy band hierarchy were Boyzone and Back Street Boys. The latter was formed by Lou Pearlman, who is responsible for bringing together many famous boy bands. With a trail of screaming girls, more boy bands formed to meet the demand. From the sweetie boy band called 911, the rapping LFO, the hot to trot ‘N Sync and the beefcake 98 Degrees fronted by Nick Lachey, the list went on and on.
By early 2000, reality became a big hit with American viewers and it spouted global franchises. MTV led the phenomenon with its Real World show. Today’s shows like The Idol, Got Talent and the Voice have local versions in dozens of countries. Unlike its predecessors, The Gong Show and Star Search, today’s reality TV has been criticized as being fraudulent and deceptive. There are accusations that the scenes are staged, participants are coached and directors use misleading edits to sensationalize the stories. Other critics claim that participants are exploited and untalented people gain celebrity status simply because they have appeared on TV for a season.
Despite these criticisms, some of these shows outrank regular primetime shows and win highly prized time slots. Catering to the YouTube generation and its growing appetite for voyeurism, these reality shows have been instrumental in introducing new talents. These gems have proved that pure talent can be the main ingredient in winning over the hearts of millions.
After appearing on a reality show, Susan Boyle and Sung-bong Choi have become household names. A little closer to home, Bell Nuntita wowed the audience with her melodic male and female singing ability. Andlast but not least, who can forget Psy and his Gangnam style! The antithesis of handsome and suave, his breakthrough as well as others have shown that there is still plenty of room in the music industry and the audience welcomes the authentic marketing of such talents.
Pacharee Pantoomano-Pfirsch is a co-founder of Brandnow.asia, a boutique marketing and PR agency. When she’s not busy figuring out how to twerk, she helps weave beat and rhythm into the client marketing and PR plans. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org