Saturday, January 31, 2009

Now that's a barely-thought out idea

Simon Fuller is trying to turn Now That's What I Call Music into a TV show, reports Billboard. How do you turn 'some recent hit records' into a TV show, exactly? Sure, you could just play some recent hit records, but that's not quite a format, is it?

"The TV show is designed to take the brand 'Now' and bring it to a broader level," says Bob Mercer, CEO of Now That's What I Call Music, a partnership involving Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and EMI Music. (Warner Music Group has a competing product called "Only Hits.")

"A lot of people are buying 'Now' as their guide to what is happening in the music world over the last few months," Mercer says. "The intent is to take that brand and that trust in that brand and establish it as a TV show with the same elements."

Bob, mate: if you think people buy Now albums as a "guide to what's happening" - rather than as a cheap way of hoovering up a lot of hits they already know they like - you might want to step down from developing a programme based on the brand.
That, he suggests, could mean featuring performances by artists from the compilations, whether through concert footage or in-studio appearances. "We'll probably form our own pop chart so the public can be involved," Mercer adds.

Ah, yes. It'd be a great idea to make a pop chart of your own - where the public can show what music they like - rather than, erm, using an existing pop chart which shows what music the public likes.
Another element of the show would involve appearances by such veteran acts as the Rolling Stones or Madonna, possibly through interviews, performance footage or in-studio appearances, he says.

Oh yes. Interviews with the Rolling Stones. That would be exactly what someone whose defining musical purchase is to buy a compilation of recent chart hits would want to watch on television. "Wow, hearing some crumbly old dude talking about playing songs before my parents were born really captures the spirit of getting an album with Britney Spears and Lady GaGa hits on it."

Having spent some time stressing that - although coming from the American Idol stable, this programme would be in no way like American Idol at all, Bob then reveals his master stroke:
The program's final aspect would involve finding the next "Now" artists, Mercer says: "That would be new up-and-coming talent that's either already signed or just as likely not already signed."

And how would you find these bands - by having a team of experts go out and listen to groups and singers in clubs and bars? Or... and here's a guess... would this be some sort of interactive strap on?
The show's Web site will play a critical role in its development, Mercer says, adding that a section of it will be devoted to videos that people upload of themselves trying out for the show.

Ah. So, that's creaky old acts being interviewed, people you've never heard of doing songs you don't know - it's almost as if you'd taken the simple 'chart music with all the dull stuff edited out' format of Now and deliberately tried to create a TV show that was the polar opposite.

Simon Fuller, though, has one final pitch to throw onto the table:
"'Now' is a good, existing example of the music industry working together," Fuller says. "This show will unite the whole music industry and give it one voice."

So, let's just examine that: The music industry is united in working on the Now records. And yet, somehow, they're not united, because they need a television show to do that. That makes... some sort of sense. Probably.

It's a touching idea, though, that the music industry needs to be united. Who knows, if this is a success, perhaps this previously dissolute business sector might think about forming some sort of permanent representative organisation to act as an umbrella group for their interests. Let's just hope if that happens they don't go insane with the power and start trying to sue their own customers or anything.


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