RATM versus X Factor – social media to the rescue

Despite Twitter and the blogosphere being full of comment and antagonism, many of the arguments have been shallow concerning the Rage Against The Machine versus X Factor race for No.1. This is not surprising in the UK where the news media, from the BBC to The Times, spend more time promoting ‘entertainment’ than any in-depth coverage of issues. And I used the word ‘promoting’ deliberately.

Rage Against The Machine

Rage Against The Machine aka #RATM

High proportions of the morning breakfast news programmes on BBC and ITV are concerned with thinly-disguised plugs for their reality and entertainment shows. Here’s a quick summary of qualities missing from both the UK news media in general and the RATM versus X Factor race in particular.

Medium versus Message
Much of the antagonism towards #RATM and #ratm4xmas enthusiasts has been wrongly directed. Many of the challenges made are shallow or irrelevant. Just to refute a few, the #ratm4xmas enthusiasts were:

  • not anti-competition
  • not led by techies
  • not anti-X Factor in total

In short, the medium (Facebook, Twitter) was the message – instant and global comment allowed instant action. That action sent the messages loud and clear:

  • we want a Christmas No.1 with some musical integrity
  • we want an alternative to a weak X Factor winner
  • we are willing to put our micro-time and micro-money on the line
  • we are motivated as much by charity as by protest

Corporate versus Indie
This may be where many commentators have missed the point. The #RATM and #ratm4xmas enthusiasts have a very different way of approaching music and there is a stepping stone analogy from the past to the present:

  • Social Mediapirate radio stations
  • rave events
  • indie labels
  • MySpace self-promotion
  • YouTube playlists
  • Pandora and Last.FM music streaming
  • peer-to-peer streaming
  • podcasts and Twitter promotion

All of these changes over the past few decades have allowed music-lovers to listen to musicians and bands outside of the corporate marketing straight-jacket. Of most importance may be the way all these methods allow peer-to-peer discussion in an on-going way.

Integrity and Objectivity
Simon Cowell says X Factor contestants like Joe are “superb” singers. This is clearly rubbish as not one of the boys on X Factor 2009 was able to sing the melody of any song correctly. Their notes were off – flat, high, screeching, shouting – on every song they tried.

Leona Lewis

Leona Lewis

There are many singers with power, passion and craft in their vocals, from many genres and varying styles:

  • Bob Dylan
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Prince
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • Metallica
  • Eminem
  • Leona Lewis

and thousands more. But Simon Cowell has zero integrity left if he claims the X Factor pretty boys are anything more than that – pretty, modern metrosexuals with little more appeal than the pretty (and plastic) malls their music would suit perfectly.

Which, by the way, is fine – the X Factor boys appear to fill a need in the marketplace. But social media allows instant redefinition of the marketplace.

The new features of social media mean the marketplace is now open to independents in ways never dreamed of by Simon Cowell and the old-fashioned corporate marketing departments. Power to the peeps.