TV Pop Talent Killing Music Biz

A top exec at MTV says the beleaguered music industry has suffered even more thanks to a rash of manufactured stars pumped out by Pop Idol-type TV talent shows.

Brent Hansen, president and chief executive of MTV Networks Europe, told Reuters Wednesday that while the programs make for good TV, they have no real value from a musical standpoint.

“I totally believe they have devalued us, taken us back to light entertainment and voyeurism,” Hansen said. “I think people will turn away from it. They are looking for more substance.”

Hansen added that he is not a fan of the UK’s Pop Idol and its American counterpart, American Idol, both of which have transformed total unknowns to instant stars.

Hansen said if the music industry is to recover from its current slump, it must resist the lure of “instant pop” and take time to nurture talent instead.

“Disposable and ephemeral will, I hope, become less of an attraction both to people who are signing the artists and to the audience,” he said. “I think it will come right as long as there is confidence from the labels right through from the indies (independents) to the majors in signing new talent.”

Reuters reports music sales dropped almost 11 percent in the first six months of 2003, adding more pressure on record labels to strike deals to survive. And with labels spending millions of dollars to launch a new artist, most record companies end up in the red. According to Reuters, nine out of 10 albums in the United States lose money.

“There is always a risk that you are going to put everything behind one or two acts because they are going to bring in the numbers you need,” said Hansen.

He said it was vital that the industry be an art and not a science: “It is not just about quick burns and quick returns.”