My father, who was a very prominent journalist, taught me at an early age that any artist who seeks publicity at an early stage invites investigative journalism into their life and career. Publicity is a promotional tool that artists are often keen to use to further their career, but when public interest pries itself into facts that they’d rather not have people know, they are often ignorant of their side of the bargain. Its a tension that’s been seen again and again through the course of music history.
By now we’ve witnessed this narrative so many times that its almost taken as common knowledge – Britney Spears’ public rise and public fall perhaps the most symptomatic and ruthless. But the issue was (re-)drawn to my attention recently when speaking to a friend of mine who works as a TV presenter on one of Britain’s biggest channels. She told me of how a recent interview with an artist – who will remain unnamed here but has recently released a heavily-promoted single featuring one of the biggest names in pop music- got held up by questions about his past. In the end, a compromise was found with the risk of losing the entire interview looming in the air.
I’ve heard of this happening before from this friend, including a case where an entire segment in an interview with one of the biggest actors in the country had to be pulled because he took offence at questions about allegations that had surfaced concerning members of his family. Never mind that the airing of these allegations could’ve turned public opinion as to force the family member in question to get help, and in turn save innocent victims from abuse. The actor threatened to never work with the channel again, and so the decision was made by management to cut the segment rather than face being ostracised by the actor, even though the proof of the claims are compelling.
Questions can be asked about the journalistic integrity and intentions being promoted by the media these days, but such are worries of libel and even worse, a damage to popularity amongst celebrities, that trends suggest they are being made to succumb to the pressure of celebrities for risk of being left behind by their competition. Yet I feel offended by this. Celebrity can be deluding, and celebrities think their fame makes them invincible. Putting them to task when allegations surface is a crucial role played by the media. Celebrities are all too happy to use the attention when it suits them and ditch it when it does not. They live privileged lives that most people can only dream of experiencing. This reeks of arrogance and exploitation. To profit off public attention in such a way comes at a price that must be accepted; and that price is a sort of nationalisation of your life. You must be prepared to acknowledge that you are not a private being any more but a public commodity, and that your sins will be aired. It is not a trade off that can be made lightly, and fame is not something everyone can handle. But it is a debt that is only fair, proved through history, and to claim you weren’t aware that this was the price is just false.