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Discussion of differences and similarities

Stars and Auteurs
in Pop industry and how both are related
to branding and marketing

Osvaldo Glieca


Popular music can be interpreted to have two different
meanings: It can simply refer to appeal to people in small
communities associated with local musical artists, and it can
be related to large scale productions, directed not only for
ordinary people or the working class locally identified with
their own cultures and costumes - as the term popular may
suggest - but for the global market attracting a possible
greater number of people with no considerations of their
cultural, local, and social circumstances.
Obviously, the latter moves toward high regards of the
sales figures often reducing musical productions to the mere
status of a well packaged object to be sold and bought in the
marketplace. Shortly before the Second World War, the
philosopher Theodor Adorno a scrupulous, but attentive
observer of these changes, coined the term of cultural
industries. Adorno argued that the capitalistic system
provides people with products that are the opposite of the
true art forms, essentially keeping them passively satisfied
and politically uninterested. That is, the culture industries
create superfluous needs, needs which can be both created
and satisfied by the capitalist system, and which replace the
people's true needs such as freedom, full expression of
human potentiality, and genuine creative happiness.
Adornos theories were, at the time, judged as inconclusive,
but if we look back at the music from the past of twenty five
years or so, I feel that his ideas were quite prophetic, and
whereas they were once regarded with skepticism, now
warrant serious reconsideration.
Another aspect of particular interest in the study of
popular music, is as a cultural form of entertainment with
implications of the social nature of the consumption. In other
words, the understanding of who buys these specific
products. This brings us to the matter of Pop Stars, and the
charismatic individuals known as Auteurs who create the
music. They both work for the entertainment industries, and
the popular cultural industries. Since music has been
conceived to be a product for the market, the record
companies fragment it into different styles thus reflecting
peoples individual desires, thus appealing to the audiences
representing the different social textures. The Stars or
Auteurs were targeting those identified and specific
audiences through the musical styles and the musical textual
Stars and Auteurs are a complex phenomenon that
relate closely to the formation of social identities in which
large groups of people have strong interest and admiration.
This opens the concept of making a clear division to
distinguish the audiences to better recognize a Star or an
Auteur. Consumers and listeners are mainly located into two
different sections that approache the music markets
differently. Firstly, the music for the consumers where the
content of the music is minimal, and subliminal messages
from the mass-media direct the attention to lifestyles and
fashion trends, manipulating the potential audience to
consume the music as a domestic product. Conversely,
there are serious listeners of music better known as fans,
generally adults, that identify themselves in the music genre,
or in the Auteur which is seen as a unique representation of
his own music manifested as an artistic form, with eventual
political, sociological, or philosophical messages in which the
listener can share intimately with the artist as the personal
experiences that mirrors his own life as well.
Again, to understand in which category a Star or
Auteur belongs, not only is it essential to classify the
audience, but also the authenticity intended as the quality of
the music and lyrics that make a clear distinction between
forms of music seen as honest, creative or real, and those
seen as a commercially standardized to achieve profit.
However, since they work in an industry, in some ways it is
problematic to establish whether these categories fit into the
arts, or the leisure market.

Since the 1930s when gramophones were introduced
to play back recorded music, record companies started to
consider how music would be consumed and began working
towards the conception of an industrial market. It was a time
of sudden change and great progress, not only in music, but
in all aspects of society, reflecting a panoramic view of the
social texture. The perception of music was seen not just as
a pure art form, but as a type of amusement and enjoyment
typically associated with dance. Throughout the history of
the recording and mechanical reproduction, there have been
genres of music that produced more Stars than Auteurs, and
vice versa, but the theory of approaching the music market is
grossly the same for both. However, by the beginning of the
1950s with the advent of Rock n Roll, an important and
influential factor starting to emerge was in the matter of the
visual aesthetics, and how Stars were promoted, not only
making it more attractive to rebellious youth culture, but
opening the market to other sectors such as the cinema,
fashion, and clothing. These industries would otherwise not
have been accessible to the Auters who were working with
what were essentially, outdated styles such as Swing and
Cow-boy melodies. As a result, Stars were required to
emulate Black cultural influences, especially Boogie-Woogie,
making it acceptable to a predominantly white, American and
British audience, and creating what has been labelled Rock
n Roll. Later, in the 1960s with the Motown Sound and girl-
groups, particularly The Supremes, entertainment music was
still marketed to the white, young American audiences in a
blend of R&B mixed with Gospel. This music was written and
produced by expert arrangers, principally Holland Dozier
Holland, and Smokey Robinson, then performed by Stars to
make the product more visibly accessible.
These developments laid the foundations that began
to differentiate a Star and an Auteur. Stars, independently
from the style of music they perform, needed to have
particular talents, appealing to people because of their
fascinating personality or their appearance, and representing
for the people a form of escapism from everyday life; Disco
music from the mid 1970s symbolizes this quite clearly. This
genre of music was a simplified version of the Funk genre,
but without the syncopations, and had a strong pulsation
based on a straight eighth-notes feel. The style was a pure
dance form with a related dress code incorporating stiletto
heels, miniskirts, and backless dresses for woman, and tight
trousers, unbuttoned shirts, revealing the macho attitudes of
the men. Other extra musical elements, such as narcissistic
extravaganza and glittery opulence, all added to the
hedonistic intoxication of the Disco mania.
At the disco, the participants of the dance ritual
became the real Stars, where everyone took part in
dressing-up and it was this that made you feel important.
The beginning of the 1980s saw the emergence of female
emancipation; Pop Stars such as Madonna above all the
others, who at the beginning of her career was one of the
most popular and iconoclastic teenage fashion idols, mixed
self-assertion and coquetry along with the then current Disco
style, winning a following of millions, especially young
women, and subsequently causing much debate among their
feminist elders and their conservative mores.
The examples of Disco music and Madonna, as in
other forms of popular culture, indicate that the Star system
it is much about illusion, appealing to the desires and
fantasies of the audience that being about talent and
creativity. Stars work in the music industry with the special
role of identifying themselves through the audience in order
to have a number of loyal followers. Pop Stars, then, are
probably not much interested in art, but craft certain already
existent musical forms to provide popular tunes, clichs, and
lyrics characterized by bland sentimentalism which express
commonplace feelings such love, loss, and jealousy. The
pop singers ability to appeal us lies in the personality they
can inject into a song such that the listener can make it their
song .
Conversely, Auteurs distinguish themselves by
relating the lyrics to notions of sensibility, personal
enrichment, political and social statements. In this view,
Auteurs are producers of art, extending cultural forms and
thus, challenging the listener. The capacity of the Auteurs is
to express fully their personal unique musical universe.
Some popular music can be considered an art when it
makes an aesthetic distinction from the mass culture, where
the intention of an individual as a creative source is focused
towards innovation and originality in the style. The difference
also lies in creating a lyrical statement that induce the
listeners into making their own chain of thoughts that aim to
raise the moral sense through the unique vision of the artist.
This tendency can be traced back to at least 1965 and the
nascent career of Bob Dylan, which subsequently had a
huge influence on song writing and encouraged a serious
attitude to Rock music. No less important was the impact of
the so called British Invasion that marked the dominance of
British music in the American market of that period. From
here on, the distinction between Pop music and Rock started
to be much more accentuated; highly creative British bands
of that time crafted musical statements and performances
which were viewed as works of art. Throughout this period,
Rock music and their Auteurs took music more seriously
than pure entertainment, partly because of the improvisation
and musicianship involved, and the virtuosity required,
especially in guitar playing. Nonetheless, the Vietnam war,
the fight for Black civil rights in USA, and the Students
cultural revolution in Western Europe, brought about a self
consciousness which was reflected in the Rock music in
which they identified, and was seen as a diversification from
the conservative world that they sought to change.
Popular music nowadays has become a huge area
that is continually evolving and embraces many different
creative aspects of musical production; the work of the Stars
within the music industry, is driven by the production team
who consequently appear as they strategically promote the
artist. The music industry not only embraces the aspects of
the mechanical reproduction of music and the collection of
royalties, but many associated markets of prime musical
importance, such as the music press, TV, merchandise,
musical instruments and sound reproduction as well.
The Auteurs, on the other hand, tend to be in charge
of the music, self-promote themselves and often, they are
the leaders in charge of the entire production. Auteurs
typically have a comprehensive understanding of the
structural elements of their medium. They have a solid grasp
of songwriting, musicology, and studio mixing techniques,
beyond just merely being able to sing or play an instrument.
Subsequently, they are the people responsible for the
creation of distinctive and recognizable styles. Many people
may work together to form this vision, like session musicians
or mixing engineers, but one person, the producer, serves as
the driving force in behind all the activities. This is may be
evidenced by a consistent selection of various stylistic
elements all crafted to present the message as the Auteur
wants it to be expressed. Some serious music producers in
the business are considered real artists too, and their
influence to the Auteurs in following specific directions, can
be useful for determining the achievement of brilliant results,
not only for revenues. In this respect, producers such as Phil
Spector, George Martin, Giorgio Moroder, and Rick Rubin
(just to mention a very few famous ones), became important
and active participants of the music along with the actual
At this stage it is necessary to state a common point
between Auteurs and Stars, in that they are both working
within an industrial system. They are both responsible for
their final recorded product, and since all musical texts are
social products, Auteurs and Stars working in popular genres
are under constant pressure to provide their audiences with
more of the music which attracted that same audience in the
first place. This raises the question of whether an artist is
responsible for a market in which many other individuals
gain profit as well. Obviously, this is a long debate; the
concept of art versus business (as well as marketing and
culture) takes place in all music sold - since it is a result of
the same process. At this point it becomes complicated to
decide who is the real artist. Generally, this theory applies to
both Auteurs and Stars in all the musical styles and genres.
For example, David Bowie was responsible for both the
auteurship and his own stardom, reinventing himself
throughout his entire career and placing himself between the
worlds of art and fashion. He was the first musician to
appreciate the importance of the artists as brand, and he
understood that brand identity and brand loyalty did not
necessarily equate to musical consistency. This explains
why changes in musical direction can loose established
audiences, even though it may have been the intention to
create a new one.
Nevertheless, as I mentioned above, nowadays there
is a big difference between Stars and Auteurs and how they
promote themselves. The Stars commercial success lies
beyond the music, in the direction of visual aesthetics,
fashion and branding as well. This influence is obvious when
we consider the pop phenomena of the Spice Girls, who
combined an old fashioned form of amusement, the girl
group, with the most sophisticated and controlled approach
to the marketing. On the other hand, an auteur like Tom
Waits instead, has released several albums only after a live
tour in small venues for loyal fans. In my opinion, nowadays
music is all the same; Rock has lost its spirit and rebellious
approach, while pop music is more lucrative and poor quality
more than ever.
The role of investors in the music industry has led to
tensions between the creative and the production sides of
the business, with the former accusing the latter of excessive
concern with commercial success. We are now facing a
globalized standard of identical products.
As those products become increasingly similar, record
companies are turning to branding as a way to create a
preference for their offerings. Branding in music has been an
essential factor in the success of well-known artists such as
Metallica, Run DMC, Rolling Stones, REM and U2. Record
companies becomes aware that branding goes far beyond
building names for a set of offerings, branding is about
promising that the music offered will create and deliver a
certain level of performance. The promise behind the brand
becomes the motivating force for all the activities of the band
or artist and its production-partners. Thus, if Madonna
promises that the latest album is expected to embrace a hip-
hop feel, while remaining a Pop/Dance record, then
everyone at the production side is driven to create and
deliver this level of performance. Branding determine the
way that an Auteur or Star must engage to define what it
wants to be excellent at, and how his product differ from
other music competitors.
A brand gives personality, and can evoke emotions, it
is built considering characteristics such the creation of a
logo, targeting the public and its preferences, the interests
and ways by which they might be attracted, the geographical
places, its particularities, culture, and population. Obviously
the digital era brought all the expenses consistently at lower
prices, and the Internet revolution has inexorably brought
changes with legal complications in terms of new laws, new
contractual issues, and new business model. To a broad
sense Rock and Pop Stars, independent musicians, and
even amateurs, are at the same level to promote music
across the planet, and new musician seem to appear

Osvaldo Glieca
Apr 20, 2014