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Michael Jackson and the Prince of Music-a-land

27th June, 2009

Michael Jackson.

He’s the face on (almost) every TV news channel. Jackson’s songs are blaring on radio channels all day. Status updates on Facebook are overloaded with messages like “RIP MJ”. He’s the trending topic on twitter.

Michael Jackson, the true global phenomenon.

He was a much celebrated celebrity. His success has not been beaten till date (Thriller is the No 1 in global all-time album sales, with a whopping figure of 60m albums sold!). Whether it was him, or his great PR machine, he did get a lot of attention and sponsorship for the “Heal The World Foundation“, a charity organization for ‘less fortunate’ children. Amazing idea, outstanding implementation!

Now I don’t want to write about what all went wrong, there are numerous sites that do a really good job at that! It’s the why I would like to know.

Why did Michael Jackson go ‘wrong’?

Lets look at us worker bees of the corporate world first. We spend our college days ‘preparing’ for a job, and we usually get a 9-to-5 job (or its variants). Our designation is another layer in the great hierarchical pyramid of a company. Similar companies have similar pyramids, and climbing up the corporate ladder involves climbing up this hierarchy, whether in the same company or not. Falling is pretty difficult. Finally, you retire at a certain age, a point where you would have reached the topmost of your ladder.

But musicians (and performing artists in general) have a very different system. Their job preperation starts off much earlier in life (many start in their kindergarden years). Towards high school, they’re at the top of their game and enter the performing arts industry. Talent hunts are no simple job interviews. Upcoming artists have to put in inhuman hours of work and preperation, only to face a very subjective screening to bag the ‘top’ job.

There is no pyramid in this industry, only a citadel. The haves, and the have-nots. The celebrities, and the struggling nobodies.

The Pitfall of the Performing Arts industry (literally!)

Even if you do make it (through whatever means necessary), it lasts only one year. Anything beyond that is the work of a huge PR machinery to keep you in public view. But even then, with all those school years that you lost in preperation, with all those dreams, you no longer play the game when you cross the age barrier of thirty.

So Michael Jackson isn’t all to blame on why he went ‘wrong’. The industry produces such people – who face the pinnacle of their success in their twenties, only to fade into nonexistence for the next 40 or 50 years. Till they die. And people remember they existed.

Unlike us worker bees, who know our ladder doesn’t necessarily face down, the Jacksons of the world don’t have such clarity. And the industry can never provide one. Upcoming artists are left on their own – to bet on the next big genre of music, or the next big TV serial (who knew the TV show “Friends” would go on to do so well?).

Just Imagine

… what Michael Jackson would have felt. He sold the maximum number of music albums, globally. Not beaten till now. Winner of the perpetual Olypmic gold. And nobody wants him anymore.

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