There is a huge difference between manufactured music and manufactured bands. All music is manufactured to some extent. It is recorded, mixed, re-mixed and mastered several times by sound engineers and producers before it reaches the ear of the listener. The three minutes of song that is played on the radio requires hours of tinkering. However, a manufactured band is assembled by a producer for the sake of marketability. Numerous factors contribute to the construction of the band not just how musically able the members are; their physical appearance, sex appeal and personality. Producers tap into the tastes of the mainstream consumer band to create a “product” that everyone will enjoy. However, because people’s tastes are always changing, manufactured bands often seem to struggle to achieve everlasting fame.
In terms of how bands are endorsed, marketing can be split into two general strategies. The first being when the “product” is made to its own specifications and where and how they will be sold into the overall marketed is then considered. The second strategy involves the designers studying the market and working out how to sell a product to the consumer. The second strategy is employed when a band is manufactured. Hirschman’s ‘three market segment’ can be used to explain which type of band falls into each category. Bands which make music for ‘Self-Orientated Creativity’ focus upon themselves as the primary audience and music is made for their own self expression. Those who fall into the ‘Peer-Orientated Creativity’ category create music to receive recognition and acclaim within the industry and those who fall into the ‘Commercialised Creativity’ have the primary objective of making money and profit through music. Those in the first category may not approach a record label. Their focus is on the product, made their way, with no commercial influences. The majority of bands seem to fall into the “Peer-Orientated” category. They are driven by the ambition to publish work but they do not tailor their product to increase marketing potential. This category tends to produce bands with a distinctive style for example, Led Zeppelin. Formed in 1968 they produced a heavy, guitar driven sound. Their influences were rooted in blues music, especially in their early albums which was a stark contrast to the Seventies pop culture of the time with acts such as the Jackson 5 and Pink Floyd, who produced a more psychedelic sound. Nevertheless, Led Zeppelin became a phenomenal success. The third category is one hundred per cent commercially based and accounts for the majority of manufactured bands today. On the modern day talent show bands are put together and marketed at a pre-specified area of the audience. The production of a band is tailored to the preference of the mass audience and in some cases, areas of art is compromised. In many cases, this compromise is why manufactured bands cannot achieve longevity.
In the 1990s, ‘Upside Down’ showcased in a late night BBC television documentary on the making of the band. The four piece boy band were put together by two managers from a group of boys who responded to an advertisement which read:
“Are you between 17 & 21 and good looking? (We’re only looking for the best!) Do you want to be in a teenage all-boy band sensation? Do you want to follow performers like Take That, East 17, Bad Boys Inc. and Boyzone onto the covers of Just 17 and Smash Hits? Do you want to be part of a band selling millions of records?”
Out of the seven thousand applicants a list of 250 was drawn up from the impression given off by their photograph alone. The entire shortlist was auditioned in one day with each audition lasting as long as it took for the managers to decide whether the contestant looked the part for the band. At their debut appearance on the ‘Smash Hits Tour’ their audience consisted solely of 10-15 year old girls.