Stardom and Popular Music


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lecture on stardom in pop music

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  • Lex Borghans and Loek Groot
  • Moshe Adler
  • Jamie Anderson & Martin Kupp /Madonna: Strategy on the Dancefloor
  • Jamie Anderson & Martin Kupp /Madonna: Strategy on the Dancefloor
  • Stardom and Popular Music

    1. 1. Stardom & Superstardom <ul><li>John Williamson </li></ul><ul><li>Popular Music Theory </li></ul><ul><li>19 November 2009 </li></ul>
    2. 2. Contents <ul><li>Definitions of stardom and superstardom </li></ul><ul><li>Economics of superstardom </li></ul><ul><li>The history of music stardom </li></ul><ul><li>Problems with concepts of stardom </li></ul><ul><li>The 1980s </li></ul><ul><li>Case Studies and Examples </li></ul>
    3. 3. The success continuum <ul><li>Shuker: “a hierarchy among performers, endorsed by critics and fans, as well as by musicians themselves” (2008: 61) </li></ul>superstars stars and auteurs making a living from music session musicians starting out
    4. 4. Success continuum <ul><li>Starting Out: often reliant on cover versions, little or no income, attempting to raise profile, amateur music makers </li></ul><ul><li>Session Musicians: paid employees of bands, orchestras. Very few career musicians </li></ul><ul><li>Making a Living: even fewer musicians and wide range from scraping a living to successful acts </li></ul><ul><li>Stars and Auteurs: significance is in relation to their “influence and status, creativity and commerce, genre and authorship” (Shuker, 2007: 67) </li></ul>
    5. 5. Auteur Theory <ul><li>connection between cultural texts and their creative source </li></ul><ul><li>widely used in film theory - directors perceived as the auteurs </li></ul><ul><li>stems from high culture notions of creativity and aesthetic value </li></ul><ul><li>distinction between mass commercial appeal and “notions of individual sensibility and enrichment” </li></ul><ul><li>status reserved for those seen as outstanding creative talents: </li></ul><ul><li>Frith: “frankness, musical wit, the use of irony and paradox were musicians’ artistic insignia - it was self commentary that revealed the auteur within the machine” </li></ul><ul><li>Examples in music? Only musicians? Successful or unsuccessful? </li></ul>
    6. 6. Problems and Issues <ul><li>Multiple authorship of many musical texts </li></ul><ul><li>Auteurs are not necessarily stars - and vice versa </li></ul><ul><li>Shuker: “contradiction between being an artist and responding to the pressures of the market” (2007: 70) </li></ul><ul><li>Location of auteurs within industries which are inherently commercial and profit-driven. </li></ul><ul><li>Many of the artists who may be considered auteurs have been reluctant partners with the record companies, etc </li></ul>
    7. 7. Stardom: starting points <ul><li>“ Individuals who, as a consequence of their pubic performances or appearances in the mass media become widely recognised and acquire symbolic status” (Shuker, 2007: 70) </li></ul><ul><li>“ as much about illusion and appeal to the fantasy of the audience as it is about talent and creativity” </li></ul><ul><li>Stars as: “mythic constructs” / “economic entities” / “unique commodity form, which is both a labour process and a product” (ibid) </li></ul><ul><li>star system used a means of adding symbolic values to products via advertising </li></ul>
    8. 8. Economics of stardom <ul><li>2 major approaches to stardom from an economic perspective - one suggests that it is a result of genius or talent, the other that star status is more reliant on luck . </li></ul><ul><li>Alternatives? Tendency of audiences to buy into what is already successful, available and accessible – snowball theory </li></ul><ul><li>But: “empirical testing of superstar models lags behind the development of new theoretical versions” (Connolly & Kreuger, 2005: 845) </li></ul>
    9. 9. Talent? <ul><li>Marshall (1947) talks of “the relative fall in the incomes to be earned by men of moderate ability is accentuated by the rise in those that are obtained by men of extraordinary ability” </li></ul><ul><li>“ a man exceptionally favoured by genius and good luck can amass a large fortune with a rapidity hitherto unknown” </li></ul><ul><li>Rosen (1981): “relatively small numbers of people earn enormous amounts of money and dominate the activities in which they engage </li></ul><ul><li>“ marked skewedness in the associated distributions of income and very large rewards at the top” </li></ul><ul><li>this was observed across the arts, letters and sports </li></ul>
    10. 10. Talent? <ul><li>Economic concept of convexity - “small differences in talent become magnified in larger earnings differences, with great magnification if the earnings-talent gradient increases sharply near the top of the scale” (Rosen) </li></ul><ul><li>Preferences: tendency of consumers/ buyers to gravitate towards already successful operators in a field (Rosen uses surgeons as an example) </li></ul><ul><li>This results in “a marked concentration of output on those few sellers who have the most talent” (Rosen) </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence of this in the music industries . . . . </li></ul>
    11. 11. Luck? <ul><li>Stems from the work of Yule (1924) and Simon (1955) --> stochastic model of success. </li></ul><ul><li>Chung and Cox (1994): “artistic outputs will be concentrated on a small number of lucky individuals, and it does not require differential talents among the artists” </li></ul><ul><li>They also argue that the likelihood of consumers buying a CD increases with number of previous sales / snowballing. </li></ul><ul><li>BUT this remains disputed: empirical research on the US charts by Giles claims “we do not find evidence of their (Chung and Cox) form of the superstar phenomenon in the US popular music industry” (2006: 73) and “leaves open the possibility that Rosen’s explanation of superstardom is relevant to this industry” (ibid) </li></ul>
    12. 12. Monopolistic Power <ul><li>Borghans and Groot (1998) instead reject both the talent (“we rebut the traditional view that superstars have extremely high incomes because they are extremely talented compared to others”) and luck/ random theories (“unlikely”) </li></ul><ul><li>Instead they view it as a combination of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ more talented people are inclined to make larger investments than less talented players” and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a degree of monopoly: “people prefer to watch the best players. .superstars become representatives not only of their own talent, but also of the arts or sports in which they are involved” (1998: 557) </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Monopolistic Power <ul><li>They note that this power is generated through the media - e.g. Premiership football, TV coverage of music festivals mean wages / fees/ exposure is higher. </li></ul><ul><li>The use of the global media extends the market </li></ul><ul><li>“ The extent of the market is much more important than the quality or superiority of the superstar” (Borghans and Groot, 1998: 570) </li></ul><ul><li>Adler (1985): “what produces superstars is a need on the part of consumers to consume the same art as others do” </li></ul><ul><li>Adler: “globalisation intensifies the phenomenon of superstardom” (2006: 905) </li></ul>
    14. 14. Problems <ul><li>Connolly and Krueger argue that contemporary music industries (especially live) have “highly skewed” revenues suggesting that popular music remains a “superstar industry” </li></ul><ul><li>BUT problems with proving this: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of empirical research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of reliable data on artist income </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inherent difficulty of measuring talent – other than by economic success. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Krueger uses print space in Rolling Stone encyclopedia & ticket sales. </li></ul>
    15. 15. Brief history of musical stardom <ul><li>Original singing stars were personalities rather than stars - often geographically fixed, limited audience. </li></ul><ul><li>This changed through a combination of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Technology: microphones as a means of projecting personality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Radio: as a means of reaching wider audiences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Geography: partly as a result of radio (and physical recorded products) local personalities were able to become regionally/ nationally/ internationally recognised. </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Brief history of musical stardom, contd. <ul><li>New type of star in the 1920s and 1930s - Kate Smith advertised cigars, other band leaders associated with products </li></ul><ul><li>New consumerism / Joan Crawford: “everything I earn I spend” </li></ul><ul><li>By 1950s, rock stars beginning to replace film stars as the dominant star figures - Elvis, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Construction of stardom (& associated qualities) to match the personality of the singer involved </li></ul><ul><li>shift from clean living to more counter-cultural/ rebellious stars </li></ul><ul><li>Stars = combination of voice + sincerity/ authenticity/ sex appeal/ aura (Buxton, 1983) </li></ul>
    17. 17. Stardom in the 1980s <ul><li>Notions of stardom seemed to be at a tipping point in the early 1980s. </li></ul><ul><li>Buxton - writing in 1983 - argued that “the star is a declining force today” (in Frith and Goodwin, 1990: 437). His evidence? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>record sales declining - no longer fetishised as a commodity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>loss of aura of records - disco used as example </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ rock music as an art form is undoubtedly in crisis” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>technology bypassing traditional relationship between musicians and instruments - Kraftwerk, etc. </li></ul></ul>
    18. 18. Stardom in the 1980s <ul><li>BUT emergence of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteenn, Madonna + re-emergence of Fleetwood Mac and Aerosmith provided an enormous boost for the recording industry </li></ul><ul><li>A number of factors involved here: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Economic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technological </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Media </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Globalisation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>And the increased use of music as a sales agent / soundtrack to consumption – links with advertising and film industries </li></ul>
    19. 19. Changing role of the stars <ul><li>Artists become economically and creatively much more powerful after achieving initial success </li></ul><ul><li>Ability to negotiate longer, more lucrative and wide ranging contracts </li></ul><ul><li>Stars as entrepreneurs / business people. </li></ul><ul><li>Michael Jackson re-signed to Sony for $65million, Madonna to Time Warner for a similar amount in the early 1990s. </li></ul><ul><li>Jackson and Sony effectively became partners / profit share </li></ul><ul><li>Madonna - advances for both music, HBO specials and her record label, Maverick </li></ul>
    20. 20. Eighties’ superstars <ul><li>What changed in the period after Buxton proclaimed the end of the superstar? Can be loosely grouped as factors related to the music industries & those associated with the individual star. </li></ul><ul><li>Industrial Changes: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Economy: sales of recorded music increased as economy grew. End of long downturn – 1981 global music sales: $20 billion, by 1991: $28 billion. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business changes: mergers of the major record companies – by late 1980s record labels were investing heavily in both new and existing talent. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technology: new technology made it possible to sell old music again, often to the benefit of established artists. Increased profits from CDs (higher price). Portability of music, improved studio technology. </li></ul></ul>
    21. 21. Eighties superstars <ul><li>What changed in the period after Buxton proclaimed the end of the superstar? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Media: new outlets – MTV, increased importance of music videos. Deregulation of radio – more commercial radio often supporting already successful acts. New range of music publications catering for an older music buying audience. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Globalisation – global reach of such media, breaking down of trade barriers, US cultural imperialism, access to previously unheard/ unmarketed musical styles. </li></ul></ul>
    22. 22. Eighties superstars: personal qualities <ul><li>Anderson & Kupp (2007) used a management studies analysis of the success of Madonna and highlighted a number of characteristics which had produced and maintained her success? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Vision and Originality – “her vision to become the world’s foremost female performer” / “clear commitment to her superstardom goal that has been pursued with single mindedness throughout her career” (2007: 2) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understanding of Consumers & Music Industries – use of media – MTV Awards 1984 and 2003 – collaborations with contemporary producers, other stars of the moment. </li></ul></ul>
    23. 23. Eighties superstars: personal qualities <ul><li>Anderson & Kupp (2007) characteristics, contd: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Leveraging competences and addressing weaknesses”: use of external musicians, technologists, producers, dancers, designers, with herself as focal point / “early on in her career Madonna realised that neither her dancing abilities or voice were strong enough on their own ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consistent Implementation: despite working with Warner Music and Live Nation, Madonna has been able to do this on her own terms – e.g. direct negotiations with Apple / iTunes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Continuous Reinvention / Renewal: ability to restore popularity by doing new things in the event of setbacks, decline. Consider the changing image of Madonna, 1982- now. </li></ul></ul>
    24. 24. Eighties’ superstars: personal qualities <ul><li>Other factors beyond these also contribute to super-stardom: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Control – manipulation, even exploitation of those around them and to safeguard their artistic/ creative vision, and of the media to promote / explain it. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Substantial bodies of work – hard work, wide range of projects and collaborations, spin offs to maintain profile </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Appropriation of other art forms – films in particular (Who’s That Girl, Purple Rain, etc) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Geography – place and time factors. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Live Shows as huge spectacle to reach mass audience but also remain slightly removed from it. . (cf. Prince and Springsteen doing intimate / club shows regularly) </li></ul></ul>
    25. 25. Madonna / 1972 to present
    26. 26. Contemporary superstardom <ul><li>Forbes magazine compile an annual list of the highest earning musicians in the world. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How many of the top ten can you list? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What does this tell us about the nature of contemporary superstardom? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Using the criteria listed on the previous slides, work in small groups to analyse which are the most important in the success of any of the acts in the top ten or any of the major 80s superstars referenced previously. Each group will have to make a short presentation of their findings. </li></ul></ul>
    27. 27. Top earning musicians 2008 <ul><li>Madonna / $110 million </li></ul><ul><li>Celine Dion / $100 million </li></ul><ul><li>Beyonce Knowles / $87 million </li></ul><ul><li>Bruce Springsteen / $70 million </li></ul><ul><li>Kenny Chesney / $65 million </li></ul><ul><li>Coldplay / $60 million </li></ul><ul><li>AC/DC / $60 million </li></ul><ul><li>Rascal Flatts / $56 million </li></ul><ul><li>The Eagles / $55 million </li></ul><ul><li>Toby Keith / $52 million </li></ul><ul><li>Forbes Magazine </li></ul>
    28. 28. Contemporary superstardom <ul><li>superstars still able to generate large amounts of money: but sources of revenue are continually changing. Records are no longer the primary source. </li></ul><ul><li>Live performance, publishing revenues, endorsements, films, sponsors, clothing lines, fragrances, etc. all play a part. </li></ul><ul><li>Madonna has earned between $40-$50 million dollars per year since 2002. </li></ul><ul><li>BUT - extreme caution required in using these or any other figures, can at best be viewed as a guess. </li></ul>
    29. 29. Conclusions <ul><li>Stardom is a shifting and difficult to measure concept. </li></ul><ul><li>A very small number of superstars tend to dominate the market. These are not necessarily the type of auteurs described in film theory. </li></ul><ul><li>Economists offer a range of explanations for superstardom based on the nature of markets and skewing of them to produce a very small number of people earning the most money. </li></ul><ul><li>These centre on permutations of talent, luck and monopolies. </li></ul><ul><li>The nature of (super) stardom in the music industries has changed considerably since the 1980s though remains similar to other arts and sports </li></ul>
    30. 30. Conclusions <ul><li>Attaining and maintaining superstar levels of income requires an alignment of economic circumstances and personal characteristics. </li></ul><ul><li>Among the former are technological and media advances and favourable economic circumstances in the music industries. </li></ul><ul><li>The latter includes personal ambition, vision, renewal, image transformations and control/ power over business and musical associates. </li></ul>