Judging the judges

Just like the rest of the Australian population (if the latest ratings figures and Google analytics are anything to go by), we are just mildly obsessed with The Voice here at Stancombe.
Also, like the majority of the population, if Chinese whispers are anything to go by…Delta is really lagging in the popularity stakes over here.

So we ponder...what IS IT about her that is SO VERY ANNOYING?? Let’s pose an analogy for a moment that might ring true for anyone out there who has worked with a Creative Director over the years who supports their own ideas first, foremost and forever (rather than directing other people’s ideas and creative energies to shape them into better more robust ideas and individuals). The issue is that Delta can’t let go of Delta, and seems to only want to create individuals in her own shadow – rather than helping to craft the individual talents and personas of those artists themselves. Some people call this phenomenon a ‘one trick pony’ – and we think this is Delta’s downfall. Especially since this show is as much about the competition between the judges than it is about the competition between the artists. In fact, judging the judges is what makes The Voice stand apart from other reality singing shows.

Admit it, Seal getting Chris Sebastian and Yshrael Pascual to sing Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ was at first a strange choice indeed, (and it clearly made both vocalists squirm) – but it did allow them to be tested on another battlefront altogether, that of breaking through comfort barriers and of performance experience. It was a strategic decision to allow the cream to come to the top. Ditto when Keith Urban got Jimmy Cupples and Glenn Whitehall to step outside their comfort zone singing a Birds of Tokyo number…and how good was Laura Bunting vs Mali-Koa Hood on the 4 Non Blondes? Hello, Joel Madden. Hello!

And, herein lies the point.  Who’s the real winner?  Why, it’s the masterful mentors who choose the tracks and push them in new directions.  The best performance is intrinsically linked to the best mentor – the judges that step outside of their own comfort zone and usual genre and get their artists to do the same seem to get the best personal growth, the biggest surprises and the most love from us – but we haven’t seen this yet from Delta. Only a barrage of big-up, Diva style, Mariah-Carey-type tunes…so we ask…does Delta really have what it takes to be a true Creative Director, or is she just a great vocalist with really lovely long hair?

The GaGa model - Lessons from Mother Monster

If you live in Sydney, then you probably know Lady GaGa recently graced us with her presence. 

She has been on just about every news website, newspaper, TV network and even got the keys to the city - basically GaGa is BIG news

Fan or not - what's interesting about Lady GaGa is how she uses the media. Of course Lady GaGa has enough gravitas that traditional media comes for free, but it's how she utilises the digital media that's really interesting.

The latest advertisement from Chrome tells the story quite nicely:

Basically, the GaGa model about building an online fan-base and embracing them by:
  • Interacting with them regularly through the social media ecosystem (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google + etc)
  • Allowing them use your music and other IP for free
  • Encoring them to use your music and other IP for free
  • Giving them a name, i.e. little monsters
I'm sure there are many other aspects to the GaGa model I'm not aware of - if you have any thoughts, please let us know!

One final thing... check out this burning quote from an interview she did with Bernard Zuel

"People that blame things on piracy and blame things on music being stolen...it's just an excuse for not being creative enough"

Falling stars: Is celebrity culture over?

The death of celebrity culture has been predicted many times before but if recent reports are indicative of an overarching trend, it seems that our our pathological obsession with "the stars" may finally, truly, be on the wane.

The most heartening evidence of our declining interest in all things Hollywood is seen in the paparazzi's declining fortunes. Earlier this month, The Daily Beast reported that the market for unauthorised photos of the stars has plummeted with the result that now, "a typical celebrity shot sells for 31 per cent less than it did in 2007". In some cases, far less than that. Two years ago exclusive rights to a photo of a drunken dishevelled Lindsay Lohan sold for $US150,000, but these days Lilo shots typically fetch between $US500 and $US1000. Meanwhile, in the same period, celebrity obsessed American newsmagazine US Weekly's overall photo budget has fallen from $US8 million to less than $US5 million.

It's the economy, stupid! I hear you argue, and that is undoubtedly a contributing factor. But as early as July last year, well-regarded consumer analysis group Datamonitor warned of celebrity fatigue amongst consumers. In its report, The Cult of Celebrity: Exploring the Implications for Effective Consumer Packaged Goods Branding, Datamonitor counselled against celebrity-based marketing strategies saying the market was saturated with over-exposed stars and low-recognition "non-ebrities" of limited appeal to an ageing population. Apparently, we've moved on from Hollywood and are now enamoured of innovative, interactive products that sell themselves on their own merits, ie. iPhones.

Mirroring Datamonitor's dismissive assessment of celebrity sway power is this month's survey of career ambitions amongst teens and young adults conducted by UK charity icould.com. The online mentoring program's poll found that "celebrity" was a profession to which only 14 per cent of its 1000 respondents aspired. To the surprise of icould.com's spokesperson David Arnold, the vast majority of survey participants nominated their parents, Barack Obama and British entrepreneur Alan Sugar as their preferred professional role models. In Arnold's words: "This is counter-intuitive to what we are led to believe - that youngsters these days only dream of being reality TV stars."

Most telling though is the sudden collapse of the celebrity-fashion nexus. The Wall Street Journal reports that "US sales of celebrity-licensed products fell to $US2.9 billion last year after peaking in 2006 at $US3.5 billion". Amongst the fallen fashion stars are Jennifer Lopez's Sweetface label and Paris Hilton's sister, Nicky Hilton's lines, Nicholai and Chick by Nicky Hilton. WSJ quotes US Vogue editor Anna Wintour's prediction that "Every D-level celebrity who thought they could make a quick buck by designing a handbag or whatever is going to disappear." In her view, "that's a good thing."

Be that as it may, New York Magazine writer Kurt Anderson notes that celebrity fascination is a cyclical phenomenon that's always been with us to a greater or lesser degree. Nonetheless, he's certain that this time it's different. The web is the game changer that fractured celebrity's mass-media platform. Anderson posits that our increasingly diversified media landscape will, in enabling the exponential increase of celebrities, inevitably debase their cultural currency.

Sounds like a reasonable argument but exclamations of Hallelujah! may be premature. Urban theorist and famed author of The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida, refutes Anderson's position saying that rumours of the death of celebrity due to digital media's saturation Hollywood coverage are much exaggerated. While the proliferation of celebrity sites may have redefined our conception of celebrity, Florida reminds us that "with every new technology - from the rise of film, recorded music, talking pictures, transistor radios, FM radio, cable TV, and now the digital revolution - experts have predicted the death of celebrity. But each advance has generated celebrities bigger than the past. New technologies, as the work of German economist Peter Tschmuck has shown, open up new distribution channels and new markets that give birth to ever bigger stars." Far from burying celebrity, Florida predicts the rise of the super-celebrity: an interent-enabled mega-star of unprecedented global reach.

If pop music is an accurate barometer of popular culture, Florida is right. The Buggles foresaw the coming of the MTV juggernaut with their 1979 hit Video Killed The Radio Star. Thirty years later Robbie Williams is bemoaning how Reality Killed The Video Star, the title of his just released album. So what will kill the reality star? Second Life? Or our second thoughts about the centrality of celebrities in our cultural life?


Here is an interesting (and amusing) article that asks designers, curators and authors to comment on the styles and items that have defined the past ten years, example: celebrities, the Prius, 'it' bags and the iPod

Below are my favorites comments:

, Artistic director, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
The Prius. iPods. Style jams
The Prius is the car of the decade. It’s unlovely in lots of ways, but it has become an icon of aspiration. And then the iPod and social networking. Something that spools from these is that we don’t really have style subcultures anymore. Instead we have a playlist culture, where you’re allowed to mash up everything around you in a sort of pick’n’mix. Someone like the slightly gothy, rocky designer Rick Owens will have his moment of mainstream high-street influence at the same time as high-concept design from Viktor & Rolf, the slightly nerdy chic of Kanye West, and, say, day-glo. You have this simultaneous jam.

LOUISE WILSON, Professor of fashion, Central Saint Martins
Tracks and Ts. It-bags
If you looked down from Mars what you’d see would be hordes and hordes of people, all wearing a version of combat trousers and a T-shirt. As if they were off to war, or a sports track.

Because of the incredible rise of the high street, style became utterly democratised: individuality seeped away and people of every class all wore a version of the same thing, whether it was from Gap or a big label. Hence the importance of the It-bag: when everybody is equally dressed down, a bag is the only way to proclaim a high-fashion badge. Everything else was about repetition and looking backwards, from the Sienna Miller Sixties boho moment to the current Eighties revival. Happier times…

art, culture and brands?

"I am excited to share this idea with the folks at Pepsi as either an art piece to compliment their vast collection within the Pepsico headquarters or as a limited edition run of cans leading up to Michael Jackson's funeral. Not as a money making idea but as a way of expressing the power of icons and the art of a big idea."

Source: http://www.thedieline.com/blog/2009/06/king-of-pop.html


Inspired by a shared interest in the striking codes of various social groups, Rotterdam based photographer Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek have systematically documented numerous identities over the past 14 years. 

They call their series Exactitudes: a contraction of exact and attitude. By registering their subjects in identical framework they have created an almost scientific, anthropological record of people's attempts to distinguish themselves from others by assuming a group identity. The apparent contraction between individuality and uniformity reflects an interesting human paradox (been waiting to use that one - thanks Em!)


For many years now, the media industry has loudly trumpeted the so-called fragmentation of the media landscape. You can't get the same audiences you used to get... the eight pm timeslot is dead they said.

Well, I would like to draw people's attention to the phenomenal success that Underbelly is currently enjoying. The ratings have been:

Week One: 2.5 million
Week Two: 2.4 million
Week Three: 2.3 million

Underbelly has set records for television audiences in the last twenty years.

In the face of this, I believe it can reasonably be argued that the eight pm timeslot is in fact alive and kicking, it's just waiting to be filled with good top quality content.

People have simply grown weary of the endless streams of crap they are being served on a regular basis - magazines suffer from a similar fate. Blaming all their woes on the rise of the Internet and the provision of free (not to mention high quality) journalism.

However some magazines are rising to the challenge, Monocle is a great example of a new entry that is quickly gaining market share through a reputation for excellence in all fields. Describing itself as a 'global briefing covering international affairs, business, culture and design' Monocle delivers to people's growing desire for high-quality content.

A great example of renegade intelligent media is Smashing Telly which describes itself as;

'Smashing Telly is a hand edited collection of the best free, instantly available TV on the web. Not 30 second clips of a dog on a skateboard, or the millionth person to mine the Numa song, but classic clips and full length programs, with a focus on documentaries and non fiction. Smashing Television, not Gimmick Television."

here's hoping this rise in intelligent, considered media is something we will see much more of!