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Somehow I feel it won't be long before all kids will want to go to stage school. I don't blame them. It beats working. I have hung on to the rather jaundiced view of these schools as the manufacturers of huge quantities of Bonnie Langfords, or Michael Crawfords. Alright in their place, I suppose, but not exactly genuine rock or pop stars. When I was a teenager real talent was discovered in dark corners of housing estates in garages thrashing away or in local pubs playing for the price of a beer. In fact stage school people were always a bit naff. Not real. Not raw. Not Bob Dylan. Not The Beatles.
Now all larger towns have their colleges of Rock and Pop. These are partially funded by Government and partly by parents who, responding to the ever-growing idea that fame and success can be bought, dig deep into their own pockets. The main purpose of these higher education colleges, it seems to me, is to pander to the rather unrealistic dreams of parents and kids alike. These places are everywhere. The local one to me has 3000 students. Over the country millions of 16 to 21 year olds are learning how to be...well... talented. They can't all make a career in music, can they? There are as many vacancies for successful people in that job now as there has always been. Which is to say, not very many.
Unemployment is what bothers me. The numbers out of work involving this age group in the last few years as far as statistics are concerned has looked acceptable to most commentators. These kids are not in the job market or in the dole queue. They're in Stage School. What happens when the time comes to give up the dream and get a proper job? The real picture will emerge. These schools or Academies as they like them to be known, are masking the problem. This is similar to what the Labour Government did on the thorny question of hospital waiting lists. You know the trick, raising barriers and preventing you from joining the list creates an illusion that the list has grown shorter. They would have us believe that youth unemployment is not a problem. In fact they're all at colleges learning to be stars. It's a bit too cynical for me. Short term political point scoring versus the long term prospects for young people.
I think there must be a better idea somewhere.
What makes you talented and what makes you famous are two different things. The boundaries become blurred, so I try very hard not to get confused between being famous for being known and being famous for having a talent. And please don't confuse real talent with some of the talent that the Music industry big wigs choose to allow us to have and force us to eat. Everything is from a menu these days. Even our pop music. You can buy anything you like as long as it's on the list. It's all part of them, the Music Industry, controlling us, the market place and record buyers. In fact that's what these colleges and Academies are all about. Back in the early nineties, when the charts were taken into the control of the BPI, you were not allowed to have hits and sell loads of records on your own as a true independent. You had to be in their club. However, the industry soon realised that by cutting off the independent production teams like SAW they were effectively cutting off their own lifeblood. Record sales dipped dramatically, more companies went under. What they needed was a plan. The Brit School was the answer.
This college was the result of the cosy relationship that developed between New Labour and the Music bosses. New Labour was desperate for a turn at the helm and this idea was bound to smash the Tories. ‘We'll organise support for you,' said the Music bosses, ‘if you help us put academies together so that we have our own seed bed and in a few years can reap a harvest of new pop stars.' It's highly doubtful that you can be successful today without having gone to one of these academies. Testament to a cynical government ploy and a protectionist and anti-competitive music industry plan coming together. A rather thin diet for us all as a result.
The only other item on the menu is an X Factor winner. But that's the same thing really. Most of those who reach the finals are already at stage school. When you see the queues for the auditions they all seem like stage school or academy kids in costume, to me. All looking for fame without the hard work and talent. Not forgetting the risk factor. You have to invest your own time and talent at your own expense to really appreciate what success is all about. Go hungry. Give up things. Make sacrifices. X Factor contestants and stage school kids don't actually stand to lose anything. It's all so easy come, easy go. If you don't succeed at least you had a good time failing at someone else's expense. Three years in college learning Pop music, or 15 seconds of limelight on the TV. What have you lost?
In the meantime, radio, TV and downloads supply the same musical meal we've had for the past ten years or more. That hasn't stopped the general decline in record sales though, and the menu is getting shorter. A bit of variety would be a good thing. What happened to the idea that it's a great big world of music out there? Have a look at any top twenty chart from the 1950s to the 1990s. Such variety. So many styles. Much more healthy for us and so robust. I do feel slightly mal-nourished these days.
It can't be doing any of us much good to be living on a diet consisting almost entirely of stage school kids.
(c)2009 M Stock
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