Has showbiz ever been fair?

The old joke about questions in headlines is that the answer is almost always “no”. The BBC News website is a wonderful thing, but it does have a knack for churning out aimless and inconclusive feature pieces like this one (“Do Brit School graduates have an unfair advantage?”)

The music industry doesn’t run on fairness, and it never has. The process of getting signed is utterly dependent on who you know and whether you come along at the right time. Major labels throw budgets at their hot young signings and ensure them more exposure than independent artists. No mainstream publication or broadcaster, the BBC included, can claim to be unsullied by the influence of PR bombardments that win artists coveted “next big thing” status from the media.

When the hype storm clears and it’s time for the second album, then comes the real test. Adele and Amy Winehouse aced it where plenty of others have fallen. But no-one should be fooled (by, for example, the modern narrative of the plucked-from-obscurity X Factor winner; nor by “MySpace phenomena” such as EMI-signed Lily Allen) into thinking the playing field has been levelled. The game’s as rigged as ever.

Next week: does commercial pop have an unfair advantage over jazz?

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