T Nation

The Manufacturing of Music Stars

Anyone else think that todays “popular” music is such crap? Nothing more than ready made music. Seems like todays youth and young adults can’t see the facade for what it is. Grrrr. I wrote this awile back figured I’d post it here. It’s long…

The Manufacturing of a Music Star

In the early days of music it was such that you needed to be able to actually sing in order to become a star. Today the reality is very different.

Have you ever listened to a group/singer on the CD and said “wow! Great music?”. Of course you have. Have you then ever listened to that same group or singer perform live and say to yourself “doesn’t really sound like them at all”. If you ever have then you have just witnessed what is called “the manufacturing of music”

“Making” music and “manufacturing” it are two entirely different things. To make music, you need to be able to sing. In the old days when groups sang there was only so much that sound techs could do with that voice. They could enhance it but not all that much. The underlying voice talent could never be changed and was always there. You couldn’t cover up deficiencies in the voice much if at all. So, in essence, you had to be able to sing in order to record a track. If you could not sing as per the “standard” of your chosen genre you were not getting the coveted “air-time” or even studio time.

“Manufacturing” music is now today extremely common. The voice you here, the guitar, the drums, almost everything in the track has been enhanced, but it is the voice that undergoes the greatest change. Sound technicians will remove all breaks, chirps, crackles, all flaws from the track. The voice will be crystal clear and enhanced so much that when the artist performs live, with no enhancement, you can clearly tell that they are not the person on the CD. Such it is with manufacturing music.

The manufacturing of a star is not that much different. All one needs to make a person a star is, can you guess? Yup. Money. Nothing more. Let’s start from the beginning.

So you want to be a music star? Ok that’s fine. I’ll help you as I got buckets full of money. First thing we need to do if find your “edge”. Your selling point. Something that people will draw upon. Once we find you edge we can make your “look”. The way you are going to be presented to the world. Think of your favorite “modern” bands and the way they “look” and “feel”. You will notice they all have some feature or look that makes them unique in some way. Some will use makeup and look like crazy clowns, some will dye their hair various colours, others will dress all the same or in a uniform. Yet others may not wear much at all. This is all part of something greater called the “image”, and the image is what sells.

After we find your look we make your image. Your image is not the same as your look. You make look like an angst teen but your image will be that of a really nice misunderstood one. An example of this would be Avril Levene. How she looks is not what they have made her image to be. She looks like an angry teen yet comes off as a very nice one. One that a parent would not consider too much of a “bad influence”. Your image is your overall way your presented to the world. It’s more than looks. It’s how you act, how you speak in public, it’s the whole “deal” so to say. Once we have this…We’re gold.

Some may be wondering, “Don’t I have to sing?” Well, not really.

So far we have your look and your image done. Now we need the incidentals like singing and dancing. Sure you need to be able to sing but you don’t need to be a great singer. “Ok” or “Fair” is all we need. I don?t need you to be able to play an instrument at all. In fact if you can dance a routine we’re defiantly going somewhere quick. There will be singing and dance lessons everyday for weeks on end just so you can play your part. Once you actually sing in the studio, technicians will enhance it. In fact modern technology can turn an ok singer into a modern great. I personally have been in a recording studio with a friend of mine who was showing me around the place. He took my voice, and I will say that I SUCK at singing, and changed it so much that it actually sounded good. He used a setup that had hundreds of dials and switches which controlled every aspect of the recording. It’s an amazing process when you actually see it done. As for “what” to sing, don’t worry. Hardly anyone writes their own music now as you can buy it from professional songwriters, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do with you.

Now that we have your look, image, and now your brand new recording all that’s left is the marketing. This is the most crucial step in the road to stardom. If this process is not done right I just lost the buckets of money I have invested in you so far. What I do is use my “powers” to get you airtime. It does not matter if no one had heard of you before. All that matters if that you get on the air. So many modern singers have literally come out of nowhere and landed on the top100 or even top10. Literally coming out of nowhere. Not a single blip of them on any radar. It used to be that a singer worked hard for years and fought their way up the numbers and slowly became “known”. Not anymore, in fact what your seeing is the powers at the top in action. If I can make money off you, or think I can, you WILL be on the air. Once you get on the air and (If I pay enough) you will be in primetime slotting. That is morning (6-9) , lunch (11-1), afternoon (2:30-4) and evening (5:30-8). Your recording will be slated in for maximum impact and coverage. Once your on and people hear you it’s only up from that point. The more money that is spend keeping you on MTV’s, MuchMusic’s, and radio airwave primetime slots the greater the chance of you climbing, or even beginning at, a hit. In fact if I do if right your image will be simultaneously presented on all media in the prime slots even before your release, thereby almost ensuring a “hit”.

Now some will say “It is I the consumer who decides what is a hit by buying the CD”. Well that is only partially correct. If something is in your face all the time it will sell. If you never see it you never buy it. Marketing is all about that. Being seen and letting the world know you exist. There are TONS of great musicians out there that, if they could get airtime, would be great. Some probably would be legends. Instead we get this. The manufacturing of music stars. The quick buck. Once you’re on the air and I have made millions off you it doesn’t really matter if you drop out of sight. You have been my “one-hit wonder” and if you make more, great. If not, no skin off my behind. I made my money. You MAY have made some but probably not a lot. Recording contracts well, that’s a whole new rant.

You drop out of the world’s site and I set mine on a new star.

Okay forgive me if I ramble a bit as I have just come back from Happy Hour. I do agree with your views of the “manufacturing” of music stars - up to a point.

First off everyone has an image, even if it is an anti-image - think of Pearl Jam for instance. I think it begins to get phony when it almost completely overshadows the music - think of most pop stars.

In relation to singing I will agree that it is a sad state of affairs when anyone can be made into a technically great singer while ending up fooling the public. But you don’t have to be a great technical singer to get your point across. To the contrary, someone who really can’t sing “technically” and whose voice cracks as they try to hit the high notes can be far more interesting. I’d rather hear a broken voice with soul than hear someone who hits all the notes in key everytime without soul. That’s why I listen to Norah Jones and Nina Simone for example but I don’t listen to Mariah Carey or Beyonce. All those people do is give a performance in vocal acrobatics. THEY HAVE NO SOUL. There is no restraint in their voice and everything is over-sung. It’s the struggle to communicate an emotion that reaches me as a listener. That’s what moves me. Then you can look at all the “manufactured angst” from what amounts to boy bands with guitars. Think of Chevelle, Simple Plan, or Sum 41. If you wanna hear real rock with some roots then play Kings of Leon or The White Stripes.

In relation to marketing I think you are letting the public off the hook to easy. Certain pop stars and bands wouldn’t be able to sell so much if it wasn’t for the bad taste of people. You can throw Insane Clown Posse in my face and and play Puff Daddy until my ears bleed but I’ll never buy any of their shit because it sucks! It’s that simple for me.

So I do believe that we have some common points of critque and it defineitely is an interesting topic.


[quote]Zeppelin795 wrote:

In relation to marketing I think you are letting the public off the hook to easy. Certain pop stars and bands wouldn’t be able to sell so much if it wasn’t for the bad taste of people. You can throw Insane Clown Posse in my face and and play Puff Daddy until my ears bleed but I’ll never buy any of their shit because it sucks! It’s that simple for me.

I agree with what you said previously. IT is more interesting to hear the flaws in a singer voice. Makes it that much more dynamic. As for not buying Insane Clown Posse and Fluff Daddy, it is very easy to manipulate people into viewing a particular “image” is cool and “in”, and in order also be cool and “in” you should listen to it. Now almost all adults are not fooled by flashy marketing and shiny looks, but you can sure bet young adults and youth sure are. The reason they sell is because it’s out “there”. It’s on MTV, MuchMusic and the radio. Even the Internet. With exposure comes sales. This you can almost be sure of. Again only a certain demographic falls under this category and most of the 25+ need more in order to buy. They have much more refined tastes (for the most part).

You would be amazed how easily we are led to buy. I can’t remeber where I found it but a study in the UK focused on the buying habits of people at the supermarkets. They found that on the endcaps (products at the very end of an isle) sold great but they could manipulate people into buying more. If they put mushroom soup on as “.99 cents each” it sold just as one would expect. People would grab on average 2-3 cans. However if they put a sign that said “.99cents each/Limit 4” almost everyone grabbed 4 cans. You see we see a sign like that and say to ourselves “what a great deal, since I’m limited at how many I can buy I might as well stock up”. And so the studies continue and we are like cattle being led to the feeding pen (not all…but most).

Wow. Superb article.

I have had doubts that there was a formula out there for stocks, ever since Stock, Aitken and Waterman (not sure of the names) started pumping out hits for Rick Astley (so sue me, I’m in my 30s) and a stable full of artists in the mid-80s.

At that period, ‘fabricated’ stars were accidental. Now they are the norm.

It’s very much like movies. Everything is engineered, tested, re-tested, PC-filtered, PR-jobbed, mass-produced, mass-copied, mass-imposed (and mass-propaganda in some cases). In the end, you wind up with a select few who get all the action and the $$. Not because they’re the best. Just because they’re the best marketed. If you want different, you have to search for it.

I don’t recall stumbling into Power and Power Metal bands because of the media. I got to know this alternative by word-of-mouth. To fans of the genre, Manoward AND Rhapsody will be on tour in North America soon. They’re even coming up here in Canada in June.

You’re absolutely correct. Been aware of that for a long time and hate it with a passion.

BTW: They get their air time by the record companies either owning networked radio stations or being in bed with the owners and sharing $$.

Music is art. but today it’s only treated as a Business and a good one at that. Good the their pockets, not good for broadening that horizons of the young and old. It’s just the same “instant gratification” crap played over and over. All songs without meaning blahhh blahhh blahhh, oh baby hit me one more time…

I’ve been considering this more and more lately, especialy with the full press that Disney is exerting. It’s really quite scary to see what the Big D is doing to some of these “Stars”. THink about Linsey Lohan. She is owned lock, stock, and (Two) barrels by Disney. not only are they pushing her as the next teen movie queen, but also as a singer. Same deal with Hilliary Duff (There is a useless waste of air). For the rest of there lives they will be Disney Property. No one will touch them after D had had there way with them. Remember what happened to Melissa Joan Hart. She was everywhere untill she did that spread in Maxim.

It’s sad when Good Charlotte and Averal Lavigne are the symbols of teen discontent. It’s like Rollins said “When I was a teen I wanted to Fuck on the floor and break shit, when I was 20 I wanted to Fuck on the floor and break shit, when I was 30 I wanted to Fuck on the floor and break shit. What happened to bands with some Testosterone??”


Tracing it back, manufacturing stars has always been around to some degree. With the invention of the music video it multiplied 100x or even 1000x. They promotors saw the huge impace the music video had. Since it was a “production” piece and not live they could manipulate anyway they wanted. Right around then we also had great leaps in computer and synth power, thereby feeding more fuel into the manufacturing machine. Sad is the state of our music industry today. Very sad.

MTV killed music is what I hear a lot…hehe

Oh I am happy to see a thread like this. I thought most new music really, really sucked because I was getting old. Yes, music to day is passionless, pointless, and flat out boring. Somehow this darkness has got to give, I hope online downloads puts some of these record companies out of business. Send them the message that if we are going to pay for shit, it is going to make my grass greener not clutter up the recycle bin.

So what’s your idea for someone who wants to be a star making actually good music?


Wow, what a great quote by Henry Rollins! How absolutely true!

The amnufacturing of music has been around for ages. I know the Monkeys were manufactured. Hendrix only exploded onto the english music scene after his record company recruited hundreds of cronies to buy up all the copies of his first single from record shops who returned chart information. And you shouldn’t admit defeat by saying music is dead. Pop music has always sucked. instead of apathetically waiting for an exceptional band/artist to appear on your doorsteps, seek out the music that is truly art; that hasn’t been affected adversley by greedy record companies. Salut3 Strapping Young Lad. Regard music the same way you might regard resistance training. Ignore all the bullshit fads, quick fixes, and seek out some quality like T-Nation.

[quote]redsol1 wrote:

It’s sad when Good Charlotte and Averal Lavigne are the symbols of teen discontent. It’s like Rollins said “When I was a teen I wanted to Fuck on the floor and break shit, when I was 20 I wanted to Fuck on the floor and break shit, when I was 30 I wanted to Fuck on the floor and break shit. What happened to bands with some Testosterone??”


Cool, Rollins fan. Rollins keeps his style of music, never selling out. Even his music didn’t sell, he keep it real. It sucks to see good bands disappear because no one is buying their music. I’m sick of 50 pennies, and that Simpson girl on MTV. Bring back the bands that actually play their guitars and sing for a change.

I must say, the most noticeable breath of fresh air that goes against that trend lately has been the popularity of Velvet Revolver. Real good band! Can’t wait for their second album.

[quote]dond1esel wrote:
So what’s your idea for someone who wants to be a star making actually good music?[/quote]

I’m afraid that the two (being a “Star” and making good music) are getting mutualy exclusive.


[quote]raygon wrote:
Pop music has always sucked.[/quote]

It also unfortunately always sold too. As they say, there’s a sucker born every minute that compensates for the ex-sucker that outgrew pop.

As for Boobs Lohan being owned by D, I absolutely. Here’s yet another proof:

Hope there’s a couple of bikini shots. I expect PCed bullshit.

Yeah…pop sells very very well =(
If we could only show those people that buy it the error of their ways!!

We must turn them from the Dark Side…

i have been thinking that music gets worse and worse for some years. at first i thought it was my age, as i heard my father say the same about nirvana when they came out and that whole era of music. but looking back, some of that stuff was sweet. its mostly what i listen to now a days. while some songs sound good, they never perform well as of late. someone who i have been a big fan of for a while is howie day. his recorded music sucks… but his live concerts, which you can get for free somewhere, are amazing.

one man, one guitar, an amazing sound.

Hmmm… pop music has always sucked. I’m not sure I’d agree with that, but of course we’d have to come to an agreement of what exactly pop music is and I don’t think that would be easy.

What is the criteria that defines pop music? Is it sales? Hooks? Image?

It’s probably alot easier to name certain bands or singers and give them a thumbs up or down and then defend your decision. Maybe then a definition of pop music would begin to form.

IMO For entertainment value pop is fun, especially for eye candy that I can look at while I’m at work.

To the powers that be: Please manufacture more Hillary Duff, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan look alikes.

Oh, and I fully claim Juggalo status, have to shout out for ICP! However growing older and AAAHH!! growing up! (help me! responsibility! NOOO!!!)I have grown out of the fanaticism. Family, work and friends come first, as it should. I still see old friends wasting thier lives and money following ICP around buying all thier merchandise, not realizing theres more to life than “pop” culture. :slight_smile:

-Down with the clown since '93 baby!

I just wish big business would let music develop. As it is, if you’re trying to do something new your basically on your own. Seems more and more common for people who don’t conform to the “pop standard” (IE-will sell out for money)has to go to indy labels. All the big ones are only interested in the “formula”. Someone asked who I thought a good star who was trying to make it big without being a manufactured one. Dave Matthews Band. Good (IMO) and do not follow the mold. They have been at it for years (91) and sell out massive. I like em. =)