A bit of blue for the Dads!

So this week brought news that Britain’s Got Talent is a fix.  In other shocking news, I enjoy going to Florida, I am ever so slightly over my ideal weight and grass is green.

For anyone who missed the revelations this week, here are some snippets.

For reasons which will become obvious, I can’t reveal my full identity. But let me just say that, I am an executive with Sony Music UK with many years experience in music management. My work involves close liaison with Simon Cowell’s SYCO company (specifically SYCO Music and SYCO TV) and, as a result, I have seen what goes on from the inside and this has left me increasingly uncomfortable about the integrity of Britain’s Got Talent and particularly the workings of SYCO.

It’s long been known that there is a quite a degree of “fixing” in BGT. ( Daily Mail http://bit.ly/fxkWne ) But press reports on “fixing” are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SYCO’s manipulation of, not only the show and the contestants, but also the viewing public and hopefully, in this email, I can shine some light on the smoke and mirrors trickery of SYCO.

Take BGT 2011 for example. Scouts working for SYCO first saw Ronan Parke (the 12 year old singer) some two years ago when he was just 10 and was singing at a birthday party for former Norwich City goal-keeper, Bryan Gunn. Following that, Ronan was privately auditioned by SYCO scouts on two more occasions and, as is usual practice on BGT, he was “invited” to audition for the show as a “preferred” contestant. At the same time, Ronan and his parents were “required” to enter into a contract with SYCO. Like all SYCO contracts, it is heavily weighted in favour of the label and are notoriously bad, even in the cut-throat world of the music industry. Simon effectively signed Ronan for life and he’s got little or no chance of ever getting out of it…unless Simon decides to terminate. Recording contracts are legally extremely complex and usually require input and advice from very expensive, specialist contract lawyers. SYCO knows that such legal advice goes well beyond the means of most contestants. As one senior SYCO executive said to me recently. “These people are mugs. They’ll sign away their own mother just to get on tv. It’s a f****** turkey-shoot and then we own their arses!”

Smugness be thy name

It goes on at length, and whether everything is true or not, surely, this is the Great Rock n Roll Swindle of this century.  I use Rock n Roll loosely of course.  There is simply too much at stake money wise to leave the outcome of these things to chance.

The ability to manipulate viewers opinion is vital if you are to control telephone voting and indeed get the required result. SYCO see this as essential to the success of the show and are very open about fact; planning and delivering live shows of quality is impossible if it was purely left to the public vote. As Simon said in a meeting once. “The public NEED to be told who to vote for.” Everything on BGT is geared towards telling you who you should for, particularly on the production side. It’s an art really, which Simon has honed to perfection and SYCO are now world leaders at.

Clever editing, highlighting  of certain hopefuls at key stages, and scripted judges comments make the outcome inevitable.  Whether it be BGT or X Factor, every year, about half way through the finals there is a “shock” elimination to ramp up the press coverage and re-engage the public.  Laura White a few years back, and those singing Glee type blokes from Cambridge this series are two examples I can think of from the top of my head.  I am pretty sure the actual phone votes are not fixed (anymore, but remember the Ant n Dec scandal a few years back when the phone vote system was found to be “suspect”?) but they are clearly manipulated.  It only needs Simon to say the usual “I think you are in trouble tonight” and oops out they go.

Why do I care?  I don’t really, as I don’t watch these things if I can help it.  I guess I am more insulted than anything else, at the presumption that they can get away with this nonsense.  In the early days of this genre (Pop Idol etc) I found the shows enjoyable, but they have since morphed into smaltz ridden, sob story based soap operas that merely serve to allow Cowell to sack all of his A&R men, as these shows take care of all that, and he makes millions from the votes and adverts!

The whole thing is an insult to the country’s intelligence, which I fear for, judging by the hook line and sinker response to these shows all over Twitter and Facebook when they are on.

The power of social media is strong, and Cowell knows it, hence things like this….

It was also interesting to see that even before the final credits rolled on Ronan’s audition show, SYCO TV had uploaded the offical video of Ronan onto YouTube. Today, that particular video has been viewed over 2.5 million times and growing. SYCO don’t do that for other contestants, so why Ronan? The gaying-up Ronan plan slightly backfired on SYCO when lots of negative comments were being posted on YouTube and Twitter about Ronan’s image and the supposed sexuality that represents. Things got so bad on YouTube that the posting of comments had to be suspended. But SYCO learned from this and dressed Ronan more appropriately for his semi-final show; preferring a much more Bieber inspired look to the ‘gay- kid’ image presented in the audition.

In another unusual move for BGT contestants, SYCO created Ronan’s Official Facebook Fan Page and Twitter account. Both these services are managed from within SYCO and they post messages and pictures, not Ronan. This is because they don’t want Ronan posting anything controversial and is standard practice for current artists signed to SYCO.

So please let’s not believe the nonsense that the likes of Susan Boyle, and this young kid just wandered into an open audition, happened to luckily get in front of the judges, rather than the production runners, and happened to take the country by storm.

Enough soap box?  I think so…..and I apologise for becoming boring on the subject.  Onto other stuff…

With the advent of June this week, the holiday excitement was raised a notch.  Having paid all the final balances on cars and villas, we’re now just waiting for the day to come.  We did have some tentative plans (who am I kidding, it was added to my spreadsheet in a special highlighted colour to denote that it was not yet booked) to add a one night stay at Universal into our five days in Orlando, so I did a little bit of research into that this week, only to be put off by the cost of staying on site and the tickets.  At north of £500, I had to question the value for money, and started to evaluate other options.

Even as I type this, I am doubting my own logic, as we all love the Hard Rock, and I would really like to have another go at Harry Potter, well probably more Hermione, but that’s a whole different post.  We’ll see what happens.  I have requested a full family meeting over tea this evening to discuss in detail, and come to a final conclusion, as long as I agree with it of course.  Whose credit card is it anyway??

Blue Man Group
Bit of blue for the Dads

After a week and a bit of beaches and stuff, the girls (who am I kidding) will be gagging for a little bit of theme park action.  So if it isn’t Universal we’ll be getting a two day ticket for Sea World and Busch Gardens instead, for £70 each.  Aquatica may replace Busch, after the meeting, but I suspect the coaster draw will be too strong.  On Friday evening, whilst browsing ticket options, Louise asked if we were able to fit in a visit to Blue Man or Cirque.  In the past I have always been put off by the expense of these shows, but I had a look nonetheless.

A few brief moments of keyboard action saw me satisfied, not for the first time!!  I also had procured four tickets, six rows from the front, for Blue Man Group on our first night in Orlando.  This is to be a trip of different stuff, so it is fitting and good that we finally do one of these things.  I always seem unable to comprehend the word budget when a price is in dollars!!!

I do know (due to threads such as this) that there is a high degree of scepticism that I will be able to resist the tractor beam draw of a Disney theme park.  It is not so much my ability to resist, more my inability to afford it, and Louise’s promise to separate me from dangly bits should I even think about it.  Of course, whilst in Orlando it is very difficult to avoid Disney altogether, as he built the place (didn’t he?), so we will dabble with Disney.  Of course, we are staying at Vero, which is Disney, we’ll probably wander through Downtown Disney (purely for gift and souveneir shopping of course), and our annual meet up with Jakki, Steve and the kids means we simply HAVE TO go to Bay Lake Towers and take advantage of their rock star lifestyle, and watch Wishes from the viewing deck in their posh resort.  The price for doing so is to feed Jakki’s cocktail addiction for the duration of our visit.

So we continue to countdown, with real life stretching out between us and the holiday.  Speaking of real life, Emily resumes examination tomorrow after a week off for half term.  Business Studies on Monday and the dreaded Maths on Tuesday.  I continue to encourage her to work hard, as clearly the better job she eventually gets, the more she can afford to take her doddery old Dad to Florida every year so I can continue the tradition of embarrassing Williams Grandads in the sunshine state.  I am preparing my neb already.

So leave me to my neb, family meeting and six pack development (not so much the last one) and…

Till the next time…..