6
Some of the workings of the music business

The first contact between a teenager and a pop star is impersonal, through the medium of a record, or the wireless. Here the singer or the group is cast in its secondary role as musicians; and they are judged solely by the musical appeal of their work. In this situation the young bring a set of reactions to bear which, in the kind of questions asked, are not dissimilar to the reactions of adults to their own music. Derivations are closely watched, for imitation is endemic in the pop world, where there is far less originality and talent than is needed. How is this original? Does it improve on the singer's last record? Does it take ideas forward or back? is it good for dancing? Are its emotions sincere? Is the arrangement well-balanced, and the backing constructive? Phrased less abstractly, this sort of question is the staple of television discussion programmes like Juke Box Jury, or Thank Your Lucky Stars. But the central question: will it be a hit? is repellent to adult aesthetic standards. It means: how many copies will it sell? how much money will it make for its promoters? Certainly, a hit record makes a good deal of money for people whose concern with musical standards is perhaps suspect, but a hit has other implications.

Records that will 'miss' are often said to be 'nice but not commercial'. In terms of the language in which classical music is now discussed, this is indefensible. No-one now asks whether a contemporary twelve tone symphonic work will be a hit or a miss and perhaps it would be a good thing for listeners if they did; but it is a question that might well have seemed very pertinent to Mozart.

This stigma of commercialism, which so offends critics of pop music, has to be considered in the context of what pop is trying to do. 'Pop' abbreviates popular, and simply the money a record makes, whether it is a hit or a miss, is an index of its real success in pleasing its audience. Naturally its singer and promoter get rich. So do property developers, but there is no demand for television programmes

-93-

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