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ITV…Did the Brits just invent a new award for One Direction?

20 Feb

The Brits is pretty much what you expect a host of stars, starlets, luvvies, media types, the full A to Z  of celebrity. Then you have the those they all came to see and be seen with the Brit nominees and the winners.

It was a good night for Emili Sande taking home the Brit award for British Solo Female Artist of the years and album of the year.  Other artistes who won were Ben Howard (Best British Breakthrough and Male Solo Artist), Lana Del Rey (Best International Female), Frankie Ocean (Best International Male), Black Keys (Best International Group) and Adele received her award over in America for Best Single.

Pretty much all the usual suspects picking up awards except that is for uber-boy band of the moment One Direction. Host James Corden spent a lot of the programme talking about them and mingling with them. When Talyor Swift made an appearance it did not take long for James Corden to head over to join them (well Harry Styles). A beaming open shirted Simon Cowell was close by, keeping an eye on his money spinning wards.  Generally they were the focus of a lot of attention.

Surely with all this focus they must be here to pick up an award, but as the awards were handed out one by one it looked like they were heading home empty handed. That was until out came Robbie Williams waddling up to the satge in a suit that fitted very snugly over what looks like the beginning of a very ample belly.

He announced the winners of the ‘Brit Award for Global Success’ and the winner? Yes One Direction. What? Where did that come from you might say?  ’Brit Award for Global Success’ where was that when Blur, Oasis, Cold Play and others were sweeping the world before.

Who knows but maybe in the minds of some these other artistes aren’t as ground breaking as One Direction. The lesson it seems is if the fans, and critics don’t want to show any love for One Direction, the Brits awards committee will.

BBC4….The World’s Richest Songs

29 Dec

One of the biggest gripes with the talents unearthed by shows such as the X-Factor, American Idol, Britain’s Got Talent etc is that the nature of these programmes start artistes on the wrong path. Spending their most creative early years singing covers of other people’s songs, or songs created by their labels in-house team of writers. Why is it the wrong path you might ask?

Well it is the wrong path because all the hard work from gigging, touring and personal appearances will simply be lining other people’s pockets as this informative BBC4 documentary – Richest Songs in the World – showed. The beneficiary’s of this wealth? The Song writers and owners of the copyright to the song.

Fronted by BBC DJ Mark Radcliffe who also doubles as one half of the comedy rock group The Shirehorses, the show revealed the top ten highest grossing songs ever and it was a very interesting list.

We are given tidbits of where the money comes from 7-8p a CD, 4p for a downloaded tune and usage of music on the BBC for instance can attract about £16 a minute. Then there are films, adverts, Karaoke machines, shopping centres and more.

So who is in the list?

10. Mel Torme – Christmas Song. (1944) [Listen]
The tenth spot was held by the Christmas Song written by Mel Torme and it was made famous by the great Nat King Cole. The song introduced two theme’s that ran throughout the list.

First was that a Christmas hit doesn’t just sell well, it sells spectacularly well! The other  was that for incongruous reasons song writers of Jewish origin were masters at producing Christmas hits.

Estimated Earnings – £12.5 million.

9. Roy Orbison & Bill Dees – Oh Pretty Woman. (1964) [Listen]
Roy Orbison and Bill Dees were apparently struggling for song writing ideas when Roy’s wife walks in on them and announced she was going shopping and thus the opening lines “Pretty Woman walking down the street” were born. The rest of the song followed, and so did a no 1 hit in the USA and UK and elsewhere.

The Richard Gere / Julia Roberts film Pretty Woman brought a substantial boost to the song’s earning potential, as well as introducing it to a whole new generation, so much so that in late 1998 Bill Dees was reportedly earning $100,000 a year.

In the USA the song was the subject of a legal case that established the doctrine of parody. When rap artist Luke Campbell and his 2 Live Crew sampled the song into a somewhat salacious version the copyright owners objected.

The US supreme court ruled the version  was a parody and exempt from royalty payments establishing a legal precedent that exists in the US till today. It may have made a small dent in revenues but not enough to stop the song from being a money spinner.

Estimated Earnings – £13 million

8. Sting – Every Breath You Take. (1983) [Listen]
This is the UK’s first entry in the list. It’s the 80′s super group, The Police, greatest ever song contributing a quarter of the revenue that their entire catalogue ever made. This song throws up another theme that crops in discussions about song revenue, who actually owns the rights. This song is credited to Sting (Gordon Sumner) but in the interview for this programme Andy Summers recounted how he had provided the guitar riff for the song.

So successful was the song that it grosses about $2000 a day. A lot of that is due to P Diddy’s incredibly successful sample of the song in memory of the late rapper Notorious BIG. Ironically the main part that was sampled was Summer’s iconic guitar riff.

Estimated Earnings – £13.5 million

7. Haven Gillespie & Fred J Coots – Santa Claus is coming to town. (1934) [Listen]
So popular has this song been that is covered pretty much anyone who’s anyone from the soulful rendition by the Jackson 5 to hard rocking version by Alice Cooper, and there is even a version by Justin Bieber.

Estimated Earnings – £16.5 million

6. Ben E King, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller – Stand By Me. (1961) [Listen]
I personally have believed the best music comes out of time of uncertainty. In particular the sixties and early seventies a period of profound political and social change brought us some of the best music that has ever been produced. Ben E King’s anthemic song is a worthy representative of this era.

Ben brought the song initially to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who were working out of the famous Brill Building in New York. They added to it’s composition and also agreed to a royalty split of 25% to Leiber and Stoller and 50% to Ben E King, an unusually amicable agreement in an industry where back stabbing over royalties is a way of life.

Stand By me was successful in its own right but the River Phoenix film of the same name amongst other reuses of the song have seen its commercial success soar

Estimated Earnings – £17.5 million

5. Alex North & Hy Zaret – Unchained Melody. (1955) [Listen]
Written for a prison movie ‘Unchained’ in the 50′s it was originally about about a prisoner yearning for freedom. The song was made famous by two guys with most perfectly sculptured chins in show business The righteous Brothers and in the UK by two less sculptured British blokes Robson and Jerome. In between the song has been covered at least an amazing 650 times.

Estimated Earnings – £18 million

4. John Lennon and Paul McCartney – Yesterday. (1965) [Listen]
Back to Blighty for number 4. Yesterday was said to have been specifically written by Paul McCarthy but given the arrangements that existed within the Beatles it is credited to Lennon and McCartney.

When the song was originally written the final lyrics had not been worked out so Paul McCartney used in its place were an homage to scrambled eggs until he came with the now famous lyrics. Despite it seeming simplicity the song is the most successful of the Beatles’s compositions.

Estimated Earnings – £19.5 million

3.Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Specter – You lost that loving feeling. (1964) [Listen]
Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil a legendary Husband and Wife song writing team working out of the famous Brill Building music factory. They worked with Phil Specter on this song and when interviewed on the programme stated he famously added the line “and he is gone, gone, gone, Whoa, whoa, whoa”, much to Mann and Weil’s skepticism . The addition along with Phil Spectre’s wall of sound production worked and helped make the song the most played on radio ever.

Memorably in the UK the song release pitted a very young Cilla Black against the great chins from America – The Righteous brothers in a battle for No 1 both with the same song. Cilla eventually lost  out to the tighter more sophisticated production on the American version. Must have been a ‘surprise, surprise’ for her. [Sorry!]

Estimated Earnings – £20.5 million

2.Irving Berlin – White Christmas. (1940) [Listen]
“I am dreaming of a white Christmas”. This song bundles up all your nostalgic memories of Christmas into soft heavily sentimental wrapping, the ultimate Christmas Song. It was Irving Berlin’s masterpiece and in the hands of all American crooner Bing Crosby it sold an amazing sold 40 million copies and has since gone one to sell over 100 million units netting the man who started as a poor jewish immigrant from Russia a fortune.

Interesting Irving Berlin was a leading light in the creation of The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) the body that first adopted a unified approach for the collection of song royalties and arguably laid the foundation for the fortune of many others on the list.

Estimated Earnings – £24 million

So what’s number one? I heard about this before but was never sure if it was an urban myth or not, well it’s been confirmed.

1.Hill Sisters – Happy Birthday. (1893) [Listen]
No not the Stevie Wonder one. The one you sing at home when it is a birthday, yes that one. You might think of it a ditty, a rhyme, a kids song, but if it is musical and can been copyrighted it will generate royalties. When you consider that every one of the 6 billion people on earth has a birthday you can begin to see the earning potential.

Kindergarten teachers Patty and Mildred Hill created it as a song for their kids with the words originally ‘Good Morning to You’ along the way it morphed to Happy Birthday and into an incredibly popular song. So much so that Warner Brothers bought the rights to the song for 25 million dollars. Happy Birthday reportedly costs 25,000 dollars for use in a TV or Movie and despite its age remains under copyright in the USA till 2030. In the EU the copyright ends in 2016.

Estimated Earnings – £30 million

All in all a great programme and given all the music clips of theses songs and their various cover versions it definitely added a few more pennies to the earnings.

Strictly versus X-Factor…Whats’s the nation watching

6 Nov

It is now an autumn TV tradition now. The head to head battle between Strictly Come Dancing and X-Factor.  For years X-Factor bigger, brasher and more “glittery” won at a canter.  Strictly though was a dogged foe, it was tenacious and arguably delivered a more consistent level of entertainment and it seems it is making a difference as Strictly has squeezed past, and stolen a lead on the X-Factor as the infographics below shows.


Strictly Come Dancing v X-Factor

Strictly Come Dancing v X-Factor

Lucy Spraggan exits the X-Factor

3 Nov

Lucy Spraggan has left the building! Well it was not totally unexpected. She been ill, She’d fallen out with the Producers over her antics with Rylan Clark and she had pretty much used up all her self-penned songs.

In a statement this evening. The X-Factor production team said

“Lucy isn’t well enough to perform this weekend so she has decided to withdraw from the competition.  We are all sorry to see her go and wish her all the best for the future. She has been a fantastic contestant.”

Lucy also released a statement saying

 ”I am gutted not to be able to continue on this journey but I’m not well enough to perform. To accept another free pass having missed last weekend would not be fair on the others in the competition. I wish them all well. I would like to express my thanks to everyone who has supported me. There is no way that this setback will prevent me from fulfilling my ambition. You’ll be hearing from me again very soon.”

The success on ITunes of the her songs which she performed during the auditions means she will probably have more chance than most to get a record deal. We’ll see how that develops.


X-Factor…Can we use Twitter to predict this week’s results?

3 Nov

One of the biggest developments to come out of the slew of reality TV programmes we have had over the last few years is the engagement between TV and social media. One of leaders in this regard is the X-Factor. In contrast to the traditional view of TV programme makers, this programmes have has gone out of its way to leverage all the outlets offered by digital and social media to reach out to its target audience.

All the contestants have Twitter and Facebook accounts they actively use to engage with their support base, at the end of programmes all the performances are loaded to YouTube to allow the audience relive the moments, and the programme strongly encourages its audience to interact with the show using Twitter and Skype. It is a positively 21st century show in this regard.

As the programme promotes itself with social media, but can I also use social media to find more about the programme. In particular can I use social media to predict the relative popularity of the contestants?

I have tried a little experiment for tomorrow’s progamme, to determine the most likely contestant to be in the bottom two on Sunday. The experiment data gathered mainly from Twitter is outlined below

No of Followers: I compare the number of followers each contestant has, this is the major input we use to determine popularity but it is not the only factor.

No of Tweets: I use the number of tweets to determine how much the contestants interact with their fan base. A higher level of interaction would encourage loyalty and loyalty is a strong indication of the willingness to vote.

Daily Mail mentions: This is an odd one, but I have to take into consideration that there are fans that are not active on social media and are influenced in other ways. In general these will be mainly from the older generation, a generation more in tune with the sensibilities of the Daily Dail.

We apply our formula to turn these into points by giving  a different weighting to the number of followers, the number of tweets posted, the dailymail mentions and  taking into consideration groups versus indivduals and this gives us the table below

X-Factor - Can twitter predict results?

X-Factor – Can twitter predict results?

Now this is only indicative and does not take into consideration the performance on Saturday night which can change the the popularity stakes significantly, but we are taking our measure before Saturday to see if popularity is a greater inidicator of who wins than actual performance.

By our reckoning the bottom two will come from Christopher Maloney, Kye Sones, District 3 and surprisingly Ella Henderson. Unexpectedly Rylan Clark looks very safe. It will be very interesting to see how accurate our prediction model is.

X-Factor…Is James Arthur, the UK’s Adam Lambert?

28 Oct

Any serious fan of the X-Factor and the genre in general will have fond memories of this performance. It is from American Idol Season 8 (2009), this performance of the ‘Donnie Darko’ verion of Mad World lifted Adam Lambert out of a contestant pool of saccharine similarity into being a real contender.

It was stripped back of any distractions, it was technically proficient, it was edgy, and it took you away from the fact that you were listening to a performance on a reality show into a heart of an emotion laden tune. Simply put it was damn good! It also got the only ever standing ovation from Simon Cowell ever in all his years on American Idol.



In James Arthur I see the same potential. He isn’t there yet but he will get there. His performance yesterday of Eurhythmics’ Sweet Dreams put me in mind of Adam Lamberts performance it had a similar haunting edginess to it.



It is the X-Factor, so I am not going to predict that he will go on to win. In many ways winning would do him a big disservice, with its commitment to release record after record of teeny-pop drivel. Some name recognition and the ability to his own thing it what he needs and I hope that is what he gets from the show.

X-Factor USA…unearths a diamond!

18 Oct

Before you watch either of these two videos just bear in mind she is 13 years. ‘She’  is  Diamond White and she has blown me away. I am sure in the deepest recesses of my wardrobe I have clothes older than her.

Incredible eh! and then after that she then goes and delivers another faultless performance at Boot Camp.

As great as she is I still think 13 is way too young for these shows, cos when it gets tough a 13 year old will simply not have the mental strength to deal with difficult situations that are bound to come along. I think 16 should be the minimum age. If she is this great at 13, imagine what she will be like at 16!!

X-Factor..It is “Rylan Style” as he is officially crowned this season’s clown.

14 Oct

We all know good clowns are entertaining, we also know the X-Factor is an entertainment show so no surprises that every season the series needs to anoint an entertainer to ensure that people don’t mistakenly label it as a serious music show.

In the past we have had Jedward, Wenger and Chico all X-Factor legends who fulfilled this role admirably. So this season’s big question was who will step into the role.

Well truthfully, it wasn’t really a big question as we all knew who the anointed one was. Step forward Rylan Clark . If we had any doubts he was the One, his performance at the Judges house when he was told by Nicole Scherzinger he was through, erased any doubt

In a cringing 2 minutes he showed himself to be the Drama Queen’s favourite Drama Queen as he wailed, cried, rolled on the floor in a display of shock, surprise, happiness, shtick and crassness. To call it over the top would be seriously downplaying it.

Rylan’s Oscar moment

If he was anointed at the Judges House, yesterday’s live show was his coronation. The “entertainers” are always given big productions, stage props, dancers and lots of glitter all purposely designed to hide the fact that the “entertainer” can’t sing for toffee.

Yesterday Rylan was given his first big production. He opened with a few seconds of Take That’s Back For Good to Gary Barlow’s initial despair, but that was just a tease it was going to get worse for Gary.

An X-Factor “entertainer” is not bound to a single song like other contestants. His or her weapon of choice is the mashup and that’s what we got, a mix of Groove is in the Heart, Gangam Style and Pump Up the Jam and the resulting attrocious concotion has been  appropriately dubbed “Rylan Style” by his fans.

A reluctant world is introduced to Rylan Style. The only highlight of that clip is Nicole Scherzinger dancing gangam stlye.

Like Marmite, it possible that some people actually love Rylan, if you are  one of those poor souls let us know.

X-Factor USA goes old school…The Amazing Panda Ross

11 Oct

I can’t deny I do love a really good audition on X-Factor  UK or USA. While it is becoming increasingly rare on the UK version, the USA continues to deliver some serious talent. This lady is one of my favourites.

I love Sam Cooke and this cover of his song Bring It Home To Me is epic.. Plus her flirtation with Simon is very amusing.

I bring you the amazing Panda Ross bringing it home.

X-Factor ten more things you will hear over the coming weeks

6 Oct

We are now at the live shows and for the next few weeks we are going to see some great musical moment popping up between a relentless stream of cliches. To get you ready here are our top ten live show cliches to look out for

“That was not the performance of the night … that was the performance of the series.”
This makes it appearance from about the third week, but a definite one to look out for

“You know what?…”
The opening phrase “You know what” is a sure fire sign that a cliche is on it’s way. Favoured by Gary Barlow.

“The thing about you is you can really sing”
So you took them through the auditions, boot camp and the Judges Houses and you are only finding this out?

“The whole of XXXXX will be picking up their phone for you tonight”
Insert Wales / Ireland / Scotland or anywhere the judges think people are so amazed to see one of their own on TV they don’t care how good or not they are.

“I want to win this for my son/daughter and give them a better life”
At least one of the contestants will remind us that how coming on the X-Factor is the only way to ensure your kids don’t end up in some Victorian poor house.

“You made that song your own”
And Madonna, Luther, Nirvana, The Beatles are never going to get it back…ever!

“People like you are what this show is all about.”
As well as the millions in revenue from adverts, text and phone voting, the tour after the show etc…

“You look like a pop star, you sound like a pop star…you’re a pop star!”
A Louis Walsh favourite, accompanied by jabbing his pen in the air.

“You have the whole package”
Often to the better looking contestants, a reminder that they don’t have to be that good to get far.

And the top cliche of them all is a favourite of the cliche-meister that is Louis Walsh

“You remind me of a young…..”
End as a appropriate taking in to consideration their race / hair colour / weight etc.