Friday, February 6, 2009

Excerpts From My New Book Cult of Celebrity Part 1

For my book, The Cult Of Celebrity: What Our Fascination With The Stars Reveals About Us , I had a really cool talk with Barbara Skydel (of the William Morris Agency), to find out how to be successful in the music business (for you of course, not for me, I'm tone deaf).

Just some background, Barbara Skydel is a legend in the industry, she has signed everyone from U2, the Who, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, to Journey, Roger Waters, the Pretenders, Bon Jovi, and Van Halen. She told me how it was when they first met U2:

“We signed them before the first record was out. We heard the music and said, ‘This is fantastic.’.. . Sometimes you hear something and you just know."

Well who wouldn’t know? Take one look into Bono’s sultry blue eyes and how could you not hand him a contract, the keys to your summerhouse, and the rights to father your firstborn? Barbara said, no, she never saw Bono, only heard the demo.

She tells me, "It was the music. We heard the music before we saw what they looked like. We didn’t even know what they looked like..... The truth is, that all started with MTV—how you looked became important—but before MTV, artists were creating something that a lot of those MTV acts couldn’t duplicate on stage.”

Growing up as I have in a pop-culture, celebrity-driven, looks-oriented world, I cannot imagine the freedom that musicians must have felt when it didn’t matter what they looked like. Skydel tells me,

“The first time I saw the Jefferson Airplane, they didn’t even face the audience! They played with their backs to the crowd, they were dressed in the clothes that they woke up in that morning, and it didn’t matter what people looked like. You didn’t have to have your teeth fixed, your hair colored, or whatever you do now. The only thing that mattered was your songwriting ability and your performing ability. When MTV came in, it really changed all that."

"American Idol is just a quicker way to get there, but if a person’s got the goods it depends on their own limitations, how far they can go with it, what is the marketplace, and who’s behind them.” And if they don’t have real talent and are instead created by the AI machine, with nothing substantial to back it up, they "might not have a long shelf life."