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How did a plain and dowdy 40 year old virgin become an overnight sensation? Many would say talent that launched Boyle and it is true that she has an extraordinary vocal chords. But talent, as anyone in the music industry knows, only goes so far.

No, Susan Boyle is a hit because she is every man or woman who ever sang in the shower or in front of a mirror momentarily dreaming that they were on stage receiving the adulation of thousands as they belted out a heartfelt ballad. For just a few moments our collective extra pounds and bad hair didn’t matter. The crowd reacted; and we felt it in our bones.

Susan Boyle is a hit because of her story – or the more precisely her amazing lack of one. “Out of nowhere” is a briefer, more touching and far more broadly meaningful story than “out of Compton”, “from Nigeria by way of Paris” or “formerly of” will ever be. And the producers of the show alongside a cadre of amateur video editors eager for their own 15 minutes of fame knew just how to package this short and effective story for YouTube and the viral web.

What can the music industry learn from Susan Boyle? Even in the internet age, people still deeply need to connect emotionally and music can sometimes fill that void. Susan Boyle is a hit because she is authentic. The music industry can’t manufacture authenticity and should stop trying. But as great executives did when they signed Joplin, Hendrix and Dylan, the industry can learn to recognize, support and celebrate it. – Bruce Houghton


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10 Comments

  1. Where the f*** is my strawberry tart! on

    Bruce, you’re off the mark…the industry shouldn’t pay attention to this or try and ‘learn’ from it. This is reality TV where this one individual because of her background, look etc was never not going to start a media storm. Why? Because she can sing just like thousands of others in thousands of church choirs around the world. It could have been any of them. She’s a hit because of all the things that a band or artist can never be if they want to succeed (even in this DIY age!!!) – ugly, sexless, uncool…the list is endless.
    Also, this had nothing to do with a viral strategy…it’s just people from around the UK who stuck it up there and the fortune of Demi Moore and her other half watching it which started the press interest in the US. Voila

  2. I’m thrilled for Susan Boyle, and hope she makes the most of this, whatever it may be – but there is nothing for the music industry to follow in regard to this. Whatever your opinion of her voice, what has made this a sensation is the context of the event – the Ugly Duckling “showing” the judges and the audiences who mocked her. People are happy for her for that, and they can relate. I’ll be stunned if she actually has a long term recording career.

  3. My mother would by this. My mom buys about 4 CDs a year. So who knows, maybe S Boyle will do well with the Sarah Brightman and Andre Bochelli fan base.
    But I don’t expect her to sell any records without an expensive polished production and lots of marketing dollar$$. So from that point of view she ain’t gonna be any different from any manufactured artist, especially since her target market is gonna be way smaller than the Leona Lewisis of this world. But she might be able to crack the live/opera/theatre world, if only for 15min of fame.
    Labels are gonna have a tough time finding younger bands that exhibit honesty because most of these kids are brainwashed by our TV / video game culture and also influenced by music that is in turn also manufactured junk. How can bands that are fans of crap music ever create anything real and honest, without lots of money to re-direct and coach them through the A&R process? And then what, the honesty becomes a product of the A&R dept, and how would that turn out?
    – Carl
    http://www.BigBlueX.com – check out Escapism Generation Waste

  4. “most of these kids are brainwashed by our TV / video game culture and also influenced by music that is in turn also manufactured junk. How can bands that are fans of crap music ever create anything real and honest”
    What nonsense! Sure they can create real and honest music. They aren’t made of plastic…

  5. Bruce says “Even in the internet age, people still deeply need to connect emotionally ”
    I don’t understand why you would use the word ‘even’. In my opinion, the internet is in many ways exactly that, a way to connect emotionally to a lot of people you otherwise would have never met.

  6. Check the videos on MCM and see how many of them do not even bother trying to connection emotionally. It’s quite unusual if you think about it. It’s one of the fundamentals, and it’s being completely forgotten. So there is a lesson to be learnt.

  7. Why she is a hit?
    Launched on biggest rated entertainment show in UK..along with carefully crafted build up and PR campaign.
    What can the music industry learn from this.
    Err, it was the music industry that launched her. She is signed to Mr Cowell’s Sony BMG.
    Case closed.

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