Retraining For Pop Stars

For several years I spent my evenings trawling London's least glamorous venues to fill a regular new bands column for a couple of British newspapers. Being a firm believer that any venues that hold more than a few hundred people are too big to properly present live music (the bar, from where all music can best be enjoyed once you're past your teens, is too far from the stage in anywhere bigger), it was a fun beat. But there's only so many times you can see the latest indie rock sensation from Canada or Catalunya or Cardiff in some grubby rockhole without devising distraction techniques. Think about it. If a nascent British Sea Power are the headliners, just how much fun is the support act likely to be?

So on the nights when I'd forgotten to bring a book, I'd find myself wondering just what these young hopefuls did in the day jobs they were unlikely to give up anytime soon. You'd be surprised how many bands include bass-playing young men who look like disgruntled vegetarian chefs already resentful at spending their night off to hold up a bill in a Camden boozer. Some courgettes were due a quite vicious julienning come prep time tomorrow. (Of course, some bass players have gone right back to the chef game, at least one with notable success.)

From displaced tennis teachers to future corporate lawyers, I watched an endless parade of never-weres prove the old adage 'if you look like a star, then you've got more chance of becoming a star'. (Peculiarly, one night I found myself standing next to actual superstar Nicole Kidman in the Barfly--capacity 140--watching Nashville nu-gazers Venus Hum. MOJO readers may be pleased to learn she was dragged down to our dingy level.)

But with the music business shedding talent faster than the Tour de France when the drug testers turn up, a lot of stars are seriously going to have to consider retraining. For instance, Courtney Love as been around a bit lately, doing the usual interviews, even a spot of 'guest editing' for publications that seek to increase their workload. One might even think she has a new record to promote, but I haven't heard or seen it anywhere.

Clearly she possesses some talent, if it is not necessarily musical. A career change could be in order, and not only for Ms Love. I contacted my old pal, New York-based headhunter Ted Hunter (his real name; the job must have found, or hunted him, for I knew him long before he worked in the field) and sent him three snap resumes of prominent but unidentified performers to see what futures he might suggest for them.

Star 1 - Female, middle-aged. A talented communicator, but given to extremes of behaviour. May not necessarily follow projects to completion. Familiar with new media and interested in new forms of interaction with consumers.

"I'd say a marketing or PR gig, perhaps in fashion. Her new media savviness and social networking skills would lend themselves well to that, and fashion writers, like food writers, are drawn towards the ends of the spectrum and shy away from mediocrity in the centre," says Ted. A good answer, seeing as Courtney Love (for it is she) has been shying away from the centre and heading for the ends of the spectrum for years.

Star 2 - Male, middle-aged. Fanatically entrepreneurial, hard-working, a born salesman quite happy to exaggerate the qualities of his product. A talented self-publicist with an impressive commercial track record.

Ted found this artist a trickier challenge. "The obvious route is sales but a musician might want a job with a little more depth. Perhaps new product development for a software company, or creating new brands of booze for Diageo [Guinness, Smirnoff, José Cuervo, er... Rumple Minze]. Or how about a career in advertising?" he suggests, with astonishing prescience. Of course! Jay-Z has previous in pop, the pop you drink. Who could forget his role in transforming a once obscure fifty buck French fizz made by la famille Cattier into "Armand de Brignac", the most sought after of bling de blings, simply by waving its impressively gaudy bottle in his every video. Now that's how to add value, while revenging oneself on Roederer, the snobby makers of his former favourite slurp, Cristal. How long can it be before this man fronts, nay, owns a residential golf resort?

Star 3 - Female, in twenties. Extremely confident, versatile, imaginative. May lack staying power in any particular field, but perfectly happy to explore new possibilities that may arise. Interests beyond music, notably fashion.

By now our headhunter was clearly warming to his task, possibly mistaking the subject for Peaches Geldof. "She could go one of two ways," posited Ted, "Either running charity missions in Africa or ending up as a talented hooker, known for her special moves. Rather like a video game character." So when the music biz finally implodes and she has to get a real job it would seem that Lily Allen isn't going to be the new Julie Andrews after all. Sadly we had to end it there, but don't be afraid to suggest some more possibles and I'll pass on your ideas. Competent recruitment consultants aren't going to be losing their jobs anytime soon.

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