John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan: X-Factor success comes at a price

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Talented X Factor contestant Eden understood to be wary of having to sign a deal with a major record label.

Massey vice-chancellor Steve Maharey in the Hulme Supercar that featured in an advertisement for the university. Photo / Supplied
Massey vice-chancellor Steve Maharey in the Hulme Supercar that featured in an advertisement for the university. Photo / Supplied

Singer-songwriter Eden surely has the talent to be in the final 12 for TV3's X Factor after the weekend. But that will depend on her signing on the dotted line.

I understand that the teen singer-songwriter has been wary about signing a deal for Sony that will become effective if she is one of the finalists.

The TV3 show is flying high in the ratings and media are latching onto its success. It is tempting to get caught up in the myth of idealistic young musicians being chosen and nurtured for glory.

But X Factor is a business. In my opinion there are special issues for genuinely talented musicians like Eden who might get a career out of the X Factor and Idol musical sausage factories.

Many people would walk over coals to be picked up by Sony.

X Factor is an astonishing chance to get noticed and be catapulted into the music biz. Contestants get massive exposure and access to financial backing and resources. But there is a price.

Music industry folk I spoke to said they might have to trade away control of their careers. Eden's style of alternative singer-songwriting fare probably is slightly out of kilter with normal franchise talent show winners.

Based on the judges' upbeat reaction to Eden's performance in the past, it would be surprising if she has not earned a place in the top 12. Sony New Zealand did not respond to calls.

NZ On Air gave TV3 $1.6 million for the X Factor and has indicated it intends to fund TV networks to make more of these New Zealand productions of talent show franchises.

LAWYER UP
Chris Hocquard is an entertainment lawyer at the Auckland firm Dominion Law.

Despite widespread gossip in the entertainment industry, he is not aware of any issues over contracts with X Factor. Karen Soich, an entertainment lawyer who has been selected by contestants to look after their interests, also said she was not aware of any problems.

Hocquard said there was nothing wrong with the clearances that allow Sony to take all rights for the winner, and first-look deals for runners-up.

"The terms might seem harsh and some people would decide they would not want to hand them over," he said.

"But there was nothing wrong with them; contestants knew what they were getting themselves into."

TV3 MediaWorks legal counsel Clare Bradley said: "At every stage where they have had to agree to terms they get the same encouragement and opportunity to take independent advice."

EARLIER QUESTIONS
There were questions about the option for Sony to pick up the rights for Matt Corby, who got second place in the 2007 Australian Idol and took part on the expectation that if he did not win he would not have any ties to the big multinational.

Corby fought to extract himself from a deal with Sony, before eventually breaking away and retreating to the traditional route to the top.

As financially ailing record companies cut back on the talent search, these corporatised music events like X Factor are starting to play a big role in identifying commercial product.

RACER X
Massey University public relations man James Gardiner believes vice chancellor Steve Maharey "has the X factor" in his latest TV commercial for the university.

Maharey - a former Minister of Social Development and Broadcasting - is shown driving a Hulme Supercar, a vehicle developed by Massey's Professor Tony Parker. The ad was filmed at the Albany campus. Last year, Maharey also appeared in an advert featuring the Wellington campus.

Gardiner says when Maharey took over at Massey in 2008, he made it clear he would be happy to use what remained of his public recognition to sell the university courses.

WAHINE AWAY
Fairfax Media's photo archive is being shipped overseas next week. But the Ministry for Culture and Heritage has no concerns that it should bring urgency to discussions as to whether the export of prints - some of significant historic events and Maori themes - breaches the Protected Objects Act.

Fairfax stands by the sale of its archives to a US firm, Rogers Photo Archive, despite the fact it will involve some original prints being sold on the auction site eBay - the American template for Trade Me.

Fairfax says the sale is not a money-making project, but designed to finance the digitisation of its photo archive, a job that would be too big and costly in New Zealand.

The photo archive is for the Auckland Star, Evening Post, Dominion, Nelson Mail, Sunday Star Times, Sunday News and Nelson Mail. The Fairfax deal is also cross-Tasman and encompasses photographs from several Australian newspapers.

Fairfax NZ Group executive editor Paul Thompson says that only 10 per cent of the prints that are being sent to the the US will be available for sale.

They will be selected by Rogers Photo Archive, he said.

Asked if the original prints for historical events - such as the sinking of the Wahine or early photos of Phar Lap - would be sold to collectors, he doubted that Rogers' US people selecting the photos would see the significance of the Wahine disaster.

Thompson said Fairfax had approached the National Library about taking on the archive, but if that option had been selected then photos from the collection would have been culled.

"We decided it would be better to keep them together," he said.

He stressed that Fairfax would retain the copyright, and would be able to have the remaining 90 per cent of the prints returned in 10 years, if it wanted.

No other local operator had the scale to complete the digitisation project, he said.

SIGN OF THE TIMES
Fairfax's plans make business sense in allowing the company the digitise its archive at a low cost, when it would otherwise cost more than $10 million.

As Thompson says: "Given the changes in the media landscape, there is growing uncertainty around the ability to provide continued efforts to preserve and maintain the archives to the current standards." Digitised images would be safe, he said.

Placing importance on original print photos is quite a romantic concept, after all, but I find the idea of historic New Zealand prints being put on eBay for collectors rather sad, even if the image is digitally preserved.

But I found it difficult to find more than a handful of people outside newspapers who gave a toss about the potential loss of original prints for historical pictures.

CHANGE PARTNERS
Auckland Mayor Len Brown's former right-hand man Conor Roberts take a senior role in Telecom's media team in July.

He says he will still contribute to the upcoming re-election campaign for Brown, but not in the role as a full-scale consultant, as he was at the last election.

Roberts was one of three former left-oriented spin doctors who made the move to the corporate world last year, leaving Brown's office for a role working at Todd Property Group.

Former Labour adviser John Pagani has gone to New Zealand Oil & Gas, while Gordon Jon Thompson, another former Labour adviser, took over as spinner at SkyCity, via a spell in market research.

Spin doctors with left-wing contacts are going corporate.

Could this be a sign that business is trying to revive its links with the Left in case Labour wins the next election?

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan is the media writer for the New Zealand Herald. A business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s. He is focused on the business side of the digital revolution in media.

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