Sunday, February 01, 2004

Truth Of The Music Industry: Another look at Simon Fuller

Posted by AmishThrasher at 12:29 pm
Today's post is going to take a second look at the man guilty of creating and marketing some of the world's most commercial, mass produced pop. Yeah, I'm talking about Simon Fuller, with this article from BBC World. Simon is the puppetmaster behind such acts as The Spice Girls, S-Club-7, 21st Century Girls, Will Young, Gareth Gates, Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard, and the various Idol shows around the world.

If you've been noticing more Victoria and David Beckham on your TV screens in recent months, Fuller is also the man responcible.

Performers managed by pop svengali Simon Fuller have claimed the top three spots in the United States charts. BBC News Online looks at his career.

When music fans look back on the charts of the last 10 years, they will see the unmistakable handprint of one man - Simon Fuller.

Described by some as the man with the Midas touch and by others as an evil genius, the pop impresario has swept the globe with his creations from the Spice Girls to Pop Idol.

Unfortunately, those creations took precious air time from more talented acts. Look, there's no doubt that Simon Fuller is good at what he does, but his glorified kareoke acts (and - let's face it - that's what they are) have, in the past decade, come at a price for western culture.

Estimated to be worth £90m ($150m) and rising, there is no disputing that he has his finger on the pulse of youth culture, and knows how to exploit it.

He began his career at record company Chrysalis, climbing through the ranks to become an A&R scout, finding new talent.


When he discovered Paul Hardcastle in the mid-1980s, he set out on his own and propelled Hardcastle to number one with his Vietnam war song, 19.

Fuller named his company 19 to mark the success.

His next discovery was singer-songwriter Cathy Dennis, who was guided to a string of global hits in the early 1990s.

He still manages Dennis, who has moved behind the scenes to write songs like Can't Get You Out Of My Head for Kylie Minogue.

Spice success

Fuller also took former Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox onto his books, helping her revive her career to become the UK's favourite solo female.

He still manages her too, and her latest album, Bare, has gone into the top five in the US and UK without any single releases.

But he first hit the headlines himself with the Spice Girls, whose carefully constructed brand of bubblegum pop swept through the global charts like a whirlwind in the late-1990s.

He did not bring them together, but took over their reins at the start of 1996, months before they hit the big time.

"On the first day I sat down with the girls, before we had a deal, and it was agreed that we would go for it on a worldwide basis," he said.

Fuller embarked on a strategic campaign to create excitement among record companies and the media, enticing them with their slick pop and energetic, appealing personas.

Shallow, one dimensional personas created by his marketing department. 'I like sport', 'I'm wealthy' - even the personas were plastic and boring.

By July 1996, their debut single, Wannabe, had gone to number one in the UK and went on to do the same in 36 other countries.

Fuller's plan was so successful that there were few places in the world where the Spice Girls name was not known.

But they grew unhappy with his style and sacked him less than 18 months after finding success.

The act fell to pieces without its puppet-master guiding the strings, and the various members didn't have the talent to carry on alone without the puppet master. As is, unfortunately, the case with most of the pop acts he manufactures.

Fuller stumbled with his first attempt at a comeback, launching another group, 21st Century Girls - "a female Slade for the millennium" - who soon sank.

S Club hits

But success was not far away, launching S Club 7, a young men and women who went on to have 11 UK top five hit singles.

Their success spanned music, TV and movies, with the success of each strand propelling the others.

When S Club (they dropped the 7 after one member left) split earlier this year, Fuller already had a ready-made replacement to pick up the mantle, the younger S Club Juniors.

"My business is creating fame and celebrity, and I'm one of the best in the world. I know it to the finest detail," he said recently.

It is his TV venture Pop Idol that has doubled his fortune in the last 12 months.

The programme - sold to the US as American Idol - has helped redefine the TV talent show, making viewers a vital part of the process by asking them to vote, and bringing the glamour of the pop world to screens.

The top artists, such as Will Young and Gareth Gates in the UK, and Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard in the US, were then taken under Fuller's wing.

Singles that were rushed out to capitalise on the hype broke sales records.

Future projects

Pay attention to what this guy does; undoubtedly it'll be shoved down your throat next.

For those wary of Fuller's hold over popular culture, there is much more on its way.

Second Chance Idol is expected to give former stars the Pop Idol treatment, while American Juniors - a TV show to create a US version of S Club Juniors - has just launched.

There have been rumours of a UK prime time quiz show where one million viewers could compete on the phone at the same time, and a new version of The Monkees is in the pipeline.

He has talked about reinventing the beauty pageant with a show called All American Girl, and even rolling Pop Idol out to China.

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