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Why 'Friday' just might be the future of pop - SFGate



In an exclusive interview with Ark Music Factory cofounder Clarence Jey, Jeff Yang explores why the viral sensation "Friday" could portend a radical shift in the music business Yet in this short span, the video for "Friday," roundly dubbed the "worst pop song in history," has scored more than 110 million views, while sending the Internet spiraling through all five classic Stages of Grief: Denial (OMG is this a joke?); anger (UGH this song sux and it's everywhere! SOMEONE TURN OFF THE INTERNET); bargaining (Oh God, I promise I'll stop mocking Justin Bieber if this Rebecca Black person just goes away); depression (popular music as we know it is dead); and finally, acceptance OK to be honest it's kinda catchy. [...] Black, meanwhile, has rocketed from obscurity to infamy to, well, a certain kind of superstardom -- she's been interviewed on ABC News and "The Tonight Show" and served as a special correspondent at the Nick "Kids Choice" Awards; announced a world tour that kicks off in Australia; and yes, signed a "real" record deal with Interscope. [...] stripped of its classically bad lyrics and unintentionally hilarious video, or when consumed in the standard mode of its target audience -- as half-heard background music while IM'ing -- it's no more horrible than the standard tweenpop fare one is subjected to on Radio Disney. Which not only explains why the tune has transcended Internet meme mockery to become a top-20 download on iTunes and top-40 single on the antiquated Billboard pop charts -- yes, people are paying to listen to "Friday" -- it also points to the brilliance of the Ark business model. For a single low price, Ark provides a one-stop, professionally produced song-and-music video package, and access to an online social network, built on the turnkey service Ning, to distribute and market the results. In the traditional music industry model, every artist is an investment requiring years of development and sunk costs. [...] with the music industry in dire straits, labels have largely cut back on A&R, trying instead to prop up aging talent, or seeking out me-too stars whose success rests on market research and crossed fingers. Ultimately, Jey came to the conclusion that perfect pop music isn't about depth, poetry or content; it's "whatever makes you feel good," he says. The concept was simple: A pay-to-play service to outfit young idol wannabes with the basic trappings of pop stardom -- while also building a roster of artists with a similar look, feel and target demo. Within months of its mid-2010 unveiling, Ark was being besieged by parents seeking to give their hopeful offspring any possible trampoline to pop stardom, no matter how questionable. Given a minimum of ability, a modicum of desire, and the basic trappings of musical stardom, anyone can make their idol fantasies a reality. Though Jey acknowledges the inspiration of Asia's idol farms, Ark's open nature sets it apart from the hit factories of Japan, Korea and Hong Kong, which have stringent audition processes and require their charges to undergo grueling, long-term apprenticeships before getting their shot at the moon. Which is why, despite a cordial relationship that lasted up through the song's transformation into a cultural artifact, Black's mother has since hired lawyers in an attempt to try to pry some of those rights away -- a situation that Jey quite rationally refuses to comment on until it's fully resolved. Ark's success is currently dependent on Jey's prolific ability to, in his words, "crank out" pop songs; he's written the music (and Wilson, the lyrics) for all of the company's releases to date. Offer prospects the opportunity to purchase from a sliding scale of Insta-Idol packages, from which you take a cut, with the rest going to the various creatives who provide the actual services. Let clients pick their songs and collaborators from pull-down menus of options based on the level of package they've purchased; keep your focus on filling the pipeline with prospects while building and aggregating an audience that actively participates in the hitmaking process -- offering advice and support to "their" preferred stars, upranking and evangelizing favorite songs, and extending the overall brand. [...] just in case one of your artists goes Black, keep a few points of the upside. [...] if pop culture survived Men Without Hats, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Stacy Q and Hanson, it'll take more than a little fun, fun, fun, fun to kill it today.
There is an interesting and in depth article in the SF Gate today about Ark records and their business model. Do you think he is right about the future of the industry?

Why 'Friday' just might be the future of pop