After three months of TV we finally know that Matt Cardle is the winner of X-Factor. Last night a record-breaking number of people (20m) tuned in to see the ex-painter and decorator from Colchester win the £1m prize. Simon Cowell only managed to secure 3rd position with his group, One Direction – though, of course, he wins every prize that is going. His TV company earned millions over the past few months and, naturally enough, his record company will take a slice of the earnings of many of this year’s finalists. They were all there on stage last night to “congratulate” Matt – though each one of them was probably thinking “it should have been me”…!
Indeed, the schmaltzy videos last night where the singers were taken back to their home towns all had the same theme – hundreds of people hanging around outside the finalist’s home shouting “we love you”. Then, thousands more people in the town centre waiting for their (free) gig, all screaming their idol’s name (no doubt egged on by the TV production company). Then a cut-away to the journey in the car with the finalist saying to their mentor “this is what it is all about; this is everything I have dreamed for”. Not quite a Hollywood tearjerker script, but almost.
But, actually it is not a dream – it is a nightmare. To be prevented from going about your daily life because you are mobbed by crowds is not nice. I used to work in the music business and stars hated it. What they liked was music, performing and earning good money from something they enjoyed. They hated what went with it – the inability to nip out to the shops, the lack of any control over their day-to-day life and the emotional drain of constant pressure from so-called “fans”. BP’s Tony Hayward told reporters “I want my life back” after just a few months of relentless pressure over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He should try being a pop-star; he’d seen nothing compared with what they often have to endure.
When people go on to the X-Factor the serious ones, like Matt Cardle, want recognition for their talent and someone to pay them for their singing. Matt Cardle has been trying to become a professional singer for the past 17 years, so the X-Factor final was no overnight success for him – as indeed it hasn’t been for most of the other winners. Even the youngsters who have won recently have had years of stage school work, even TV work, before being able to break through to the “big time”.
But the problem with the “dream” perpetuated by the X-Factor is that the harsh glare of reality soon pokes people between the eyes. All that fame means lack of control, the removal of any kind of private life and endlessly being “on show”. It is not all great being in the spotlight all of the time.
And, strange as it may seem, this is the problem face by many web businesses. They seek the fame (and fortune) of being in the spotlight of, for instance, Google or those 500m users on Facebook. Wherever you look, the advice online is about being seen, being noticed and being attractive to visitors. It is all focusing on that online business “dream” of being “Number One on Google” or having the most “likes” on Facebook.
Yet, much like the life of an X-Factor winner, therein lies the nightmare. If you are Number One, you want to stay there. If you are the most liked, you need to retain that notoriety. Besides which, if you do get all the attention and adulation you then have to deal with it. Being popular on Facebook, for instance, means you have discussions to take part in, wall postings to monitor and modulate, as well as thousands of emails to deal with. In other words, the dream of online stardom for your business brings with it the same kind of issues as dreaming to be a pop-star. What happens is you get a whole bunch of new problems to deal with – problems that you don’t really want.
So is there a way out of this conundrum? Sure there is. Don’t try to be Number One. There are people in the music business who are very rich, who are very successful, but you wouldn’t know them if you bashed your trolley into them in Tesco. They are musicians, backing singers or minor “stars” who work in a niche musical sector. They are happy with their lot. True, being a major star would give them substantially more money, but – importantly – considerably less freedom and independence.
Online, striving for that dream of fame and fortune can often lead you to suffer. You end up with more emails to deal with, more time needed to handle social media, more demands on your time leading to less control over your daily online activity. Coming lower down the online pecking order will allow you to be rich, rather than mega-rich. But unlike the online mega-rich, the chances are you will be much happier.
Being Number One is not all it is cracked up to be.