Terence Blacker: How to market your child star

Share
Related Topics

As the squeeze tightens, families all over Britain will be looking around for a little financial miracle to help them out. Some will be taking advantage of our newly liberated gambling laws. A few might dream of coming up with a clever invention which will triumph on Dragons' Den. Some might be looking wistfully to the older generation – surely there must be a few pennies there.

Increasingly, though, the answer to the prayers of mums and dads will be closer to home. In 2011, there is serious cash to be made from children.

The sweet-faced kid with the voice of an angel has become a staple of TV talent shows, reducing hardened celebrities to tears. A child sings, we all cry: it is the new rule. It seems that, in a world awash with sadness and self-pity, the sound of a piping voice (so pure, so innocent, so pathetically hopeful) is there to remind us of what is truly important in life – loving, caring, blubbing.

If you have a child who is moderately good looking, a bit musical and loves to show off, there are financial opportunities – but you will have to move fast. The career trajectory of the child pop sensation is starting and ending earlier than ever.

Justin Bieber, who will be 17 next month, is at the glorious peak of his career. By 21, he will be a pop has-been, eking out a living on talent and reality shows, living his romantic life on the front page of the tabloids.

The real hot properties of the moment are about six years younger than Justin. Ten-year-old Willow Smith has a hit called "Whip My Hair". Her contemporary Heather Russell, who has had a YouTube hit and been promoted by the man behind Lady Gaga, has been signed up by Simon Cowell.

Parents keen to promote their own little darlings should take a look at the videos which have set Heather on the path to stardom. "Simon will put his stamp on her," a record executive has said, rather chillingly, "but there is something rare about this child."

In fact, the Cowell stamp is already there, and the only thing that is rare is the brutal volume of Heather's 10-year-old voice. Her songs are harmless, childish parodies of pop clichés, her delivery a grim imitation of the vocal trick of the moment – warbling, bellowing and yodelling around a single note in the manner of a bad piano bar singer.

Ambitious mums and dads should try to ensure that their children are not too childish, not too real. What the record industry is looking for are mini-adults. The themes of their songs should not be about schools and home, but be set in the world of grown-up love and heartbreak. Any real originality, or attempt to sing in their own unforced voice – rather than the exhibitionist sub-blues manner of Mariah Carey, Leona Lewis and a thousand others – will cost them dear.

Whether any parent should want their daughter to play this dangerous game is another matter. There is something disturbing about the fashion for getting increasingly young children to sing in the manner of adults. It is a musical version of pole-dancing dolls or padded bras for nine year-olds.

Maybe there has always been a showbiz yearning for the girl/woman, from Shirley Temple to Britney Spears, but the new popularity of gyrating, warbling child stars, promoted by beady record producers, reflects a creepy cultural mindset. A celebrity version of childhood – sexy yet innocent, knowing yet pure – is being promoted. It is entirely unsurprising that a move, mid-teens, from cute kid to sex-bomb has become part of the process.

The parents of Heather Russell look thrilled as they pose with their little star, with the avuncular arm of Simon Cowell around mum and daughter. Her next six years or so are no doubt being planned and marketed already. There are millions to be made. An eager public is out there, ready to follow a new star through her teen years. What could possibly go wrong?

terblacker@aol.com; twitter.com/TerenceBlacker

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Sales Executive - Hair & Beauty - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company supplies the ultim...

Recruitment Genius: Design, Marketing and Media Manager

£27000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: HR Assistant

£17447 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is a leading centre fo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A woman runs down the street  

Should wolf-whistling be reported to the Police? If you're Poppy Smart, then yes

Jane Merrick
 

Voices in Danger: How can we prevent journalists from being sexually assaulted in conflict zones?

Heather Blake
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence