Tragic news. An old friend and colleague of mine has died.


James King worked with me at Hall Advertising in the 1980’s.

He was fabulous.

Very bright, very amusing, great fun.

He’d come to Scotland after a glittering career in London but never rubbed it in your face.

He was just, you know, James.

I was (nearly )doing some work for him a couple of years ago but it never came off and so I was shocked when I read today of his death after suffering a brain tumour.

His wife, Katie, is well known, and much loved, as the receptionist at The Union and she is one of the most delightful people you could ever hope to meet.  My sincerest condolences go out to her as she will be absolutely devastated.

I have copied his obituary from The Herald for those of you that knew him and who would like to see what they had to say about his latter career in the rail industry where he was extremely highly regarded.

Rail expert, business strategist and marketing consultant

Born May 25 1951: Died June 12 2011

James Archibald King, who has died aged 60, was best known as the Scottish voice of rail passengers. As the Scottish board member of the national body Passenger Focus, he frequently appeared on television, radio and in the press delivering authoritative comment and cogent analysis of all issues relating to Scotland’s railways, a subject close to his heart.

Despite being diagnosed with a brain tumour last year, he was reappointed to this post for a second term. This was a tribute to his success and effectiveness in continually pushing for better services and facilities for rail travellers and gave him immense satisfaction. (ScotRail bosses may miss his early morning calls from North Berwick station when Mr King arrived to find his regular service to Waverley was not running on schedule.) Part of his responsibilities included membership of the British Transport Police Authority.

He grew up in Lasswade, the son of John Howard King, of the family’s Edinburgh-based brewery Campbell, Hope & King and Margaret Whyte Bannatyne, the daughter of a Tighnabruaich boatbuilder. Educated at Lasswade Primary and Melville College, he obtained a BA in economics and marketing from Strathclyde University before heading to London in 1972 for the bright lights of the advertising industry.

After seven years working on accounts such as the British Army, British Caledonian and Volvo, he returned to Scotland as business development director at Hall Advertising, later opening an Edinburgh office for the global agency Ogilvy & Mather.

After another spell in the south handling marketing and business development projects with business consultancies Oasis and Sybase and travelling extensively, he founded Marketing Principals International in 1996, working with a wide range of growth companies supported by Scottish Enterprise. During that time he also developed a marketing and branding strategy for the Falkland Islands, travelling to the South Atlantic several times.

His consuming passion remained the railways, and steam engines in particular. His was a familiar face on weekend steam excursions, and his house groaned with railway memorabilia. He was a Scottish Railway Preservation Society stalwart.

Highly focused and organised, he always believed in total professionalism. Warm and humorous, he was sparkling company and a loyal friend to a remarkably wide circle of people. Though his health was never robust – he survived two brain tumours in his 20s – he enjoyed a wide range of sporting interests including car rallying, sailing, skiing and shooting. He was also a connoisseur of fine wines and, having started a wine business while in London, still claims the UK record for the number of wine cases to be squeezed into a VW Golf: 32.

His first marriage, to Mandy Ferrand, ended in divorce. For the past 28 years he was married to Katharine (Katie) McCall, whom he met at Hall Advertising and who was the love of his life. Before moving to East Lothian, the Kings lived in Helensburgh and Edinburgh. Though they never had children of their own, James King was an enthusiastic godparent several times over and their home was never without at least two much-indulged cats.

Always a committed Christian, his faith steadily became more central and he was an elder at St Andrew Blackadder Church of Scotland in North Berwick. Even when diagnosed with his final illness, he faced this trial with characteristic fortitude and good humour, cheerfully pinging messages to all and sundry from his beloved Blackberry.

A service of Thanksgiving will be held at St. Andrew Blackadder Church, High Street, North Berwick on Friday 1st July at 2.30 pm, to which all family, friends and colleagues are invited. Donations, if desired to The Edington Cottage Hospital and The Railway Children.

Glastonbury 2011


So, after much debate our own provisional lineup has been agreed between Ria and I.  It is, in order, as follows…

Friday

Metronomy

Two Door Cinema Club

Jenny and Jonny

War Paint

Big Audio Dynamite

Fleet Foxes

Mumford and Sons

U2

Saturday

Stornoway

Danny and the Champions of the World

Graham Coxon

Anna Calvi

Paolo Nuttini

Elbow

Janelle Monae

Chemical Brothers

Lee Scratch Perry

Sunday

The Peirces

Bombay Bicycle Club

The Vaccines

Pendulum

Beyonce

The Guard. Directed by (john Michael McDonagh)


Surely a BAFTA beckons.

Michael McDonagh (the John seems to be a movie affectation) is one of the funniest writers in the world just now.  He is a foul mouthed upstart with a unique ability to investigate Irishness with tremendous energy and vividness.

I was lucky enough to attend the European premiere in Edinburgh this week and enjoyed what is another great addition to the McDonagh canon of work.

Inevitably  it has to be compared to the superior In Bruges but this is no lightweight cast off.  Particularly when it one again focuses on a heavyweight performance by Irish heavyweight, Brendan Gleeson.  In “In Bruges” Gleeson had to battle for compliments against Colin Farrell who has never performed better and had most of the best lines.  Not here.  This is all Gleeson, ably abetted by Don Cheadle as the Black FBI agent drafted in on the back of a glittering career to track down a bunch of slightly bungling drug runners in sleepy old Conemarra – Gleeson’s patch.

Gleeson and Cheadle spar well and develop a likeable relationship, despite this it’s not the heart of the movie; that belongs, again, to Gleeson in a tour de force performance.

Cheadle’s good and is a great foil.  The baddies are less well developed characters and, for my taste, were slightly too caricaturised.

It’s not a life changing film but it has to be seen for Gleeson’s complete mastery of McDonagh’s marvelous script.

CATS Awards


My tickets came in this envelope. How damning is that - VIP? So nearly a contender, but that little question mark took it all away. Ah well.

It was the ninth CATS Awards held at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh yesterday and the event had a real sense of achievement about it.  Presented by Joyce McMillan and Clare Grogan we were treated to excellent potted reviews of each of the four shortlisted candidates in 10 categories of Scottish theatre by the great and the good of the Scottish Critics.

I got a real sense of us being in a “golden age” of theatre.  So many great shows, my only regret was that I had not seen them all.  In particular I wish I had seen White by Catherine Wheels (which won three times), The Three Musketeers and The Princess of Spain (at the Traverse) which sounded simply hilarious and the overall winner (which I tried to see); Roadkill again at The Traverse.

When you stand back and look at the real influence at work here the Traverse really does stand tall in it all, notwithstanding the fact that my own declared interest (The Lyceum ) has had a season to die for and another on the way and the incredible success of Dundee Rep’s Sweeney, many of the nominees were touched by the Trav, performed there or their writers had made their way through its hallowed doorway.

I know too that not everyone always loves the National Theatre of Scotland but with three different productions shortlisted here (not to mention Knives in Hens which is currently playing at, yes, The Trav and Dunsinane (the Lyceum) which was not eligible, its influence is there to be seen.

Highlight of the day?  Mary Brennan’s (slightly long but wholly hilarious) “performance” as she extolled the virtue of Scotland’s performance in the Children and Young People category which was won by White.

It’s a very great pity that although Roadkill is back for the Fringe again that hardly anyone can see it; indeed it’s already sold out.

The party afterwards, both in the Festival Theatre, but especially in Brass Monkey (A great wee boozer in Drummond Street) was fantastic.

It was so luvvieish that the lack of  Dickie Attenburgh’s presence was about the only thing short of perfection.

Inspiration?


I went to the British Art Show at GoMA last week.  Not that brilliant to be totally honest.  Mostly pretty pretentious guff.

I saw this painting by Milena Dragicevic.

Two days later I picked up a copy of Shortlist with an ad for Philips.

Look familiar?

 

Respect is due to the Guy Robertson Partnership


My good friend Guy Robertson saw his business go bust after 25 years in the saddle last week.

This happens a lot but usually the vanquished face a barrage of abuse and leaves with bad feelings all round for suppliers and staff.

Typically the business owner is full of vitriol and blame.

Not Guy.

This is how he said his final hurrah and I think it deserves a wider audience so that people can see the dignity, decency and wit with which Guy made his final bow (for now)

Good luck in the future mate.  You deserve it….

Warm felicitations from the West End of Glesga,

A sense of self-respect, vanishing pride or perhaps plain bloody ego moved me to drop a note to a few of the many friends I have made in the Scottish Ad Industry and some of the more recent acquaintances I’ve made throughout the UK via the IPA.

Sadly it’s to report the demise of GRP, the advertising and design business I started back in 1986 (remember those hedonistic and heady email-free days of full commission, meaty mark-ups and boozy lunches?)and which my Partners and I ran pretty successfully for more than 23 out of the next 25 years. The past year or so has been a very stressful time, both emotionally and financially, so in some ways it’s a relief now I’ve brought it to a head by making the decision to wind down the Partnership. I guess the cracks started at the beginning of the global recession in December 2008 when we lost the Toyota Dealer Advertising business, an account that contributed more than 60% of our income at that point. We made the mistake, easily identified in hindsight if not at the time, of not cutting costs deeply or quickly enough and allowed our hearts to rule our heads when it came to reducing staff numbers.

As everyone knows the general business climate continued to decline and despite GRP’s successful transition to Digital, which included winning accounts such as Highland Spring, we couldn’t achieve the profit levels needed to exceed our overheads, tied as we are to the building we bought back in 2005 and which is now too big and too expensive. With the Bank seeking to down-value the building to the point at which our £450k equity had all but disappeared we took the decision to enter a Trust Deed before we reached the point at which a third party may have sought to sequestrate us. As a Partnership my 2 Partners and I have unlimited liability (probably our other significant error!) so it has been important to manage the wind-up in a professional, honest and transparent manner and to minimise the effect on staff, suppliers and clients.

This process is happening as I write and I remain hopeful that the majority of the debt can be repaid without recourse to what’s left of my personal assets!! The building will have to be sold and given the commercial property market right now I’m not betting on a surplus after RBS get their claws into it!

Meantime I have formed a new company in the name of Guy Robertson Advertising Ltd and happily I’m starting with the support of many of my clients at GRP.

So thanks for reading my rambles and apologies if it comes across as somewhat self-indulgent, I guess that’s because it is!

 

Why Bohemian Rhapsody is the greatest popular composition of all time.


Bohemian Rhapsody is peerless.  I should state that I am not a Queen fan but this song has a preternatural effect on me.  And see doing it on a Karaoke night.  Oh my god.  It’s electrifying

Not one single note is out of place in its 6 minutes or so.

It’s not just a song.  It’s a five act opera with hugely moving moments, total rock and roll and lyrics that both bamboozle and inspire you.

It is complete and utter magic and the voters on Desert Island Discs obviously agree with me because of the top eight compositions chosen for Britain’s Desert Island six were classical and the only two “pop” records to make the top eight were Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd and this (the higher of the two).

So that’s it.

Now enjoy it.  The first ever “Pop Video”.

Did you know why it was made?

Apparently because the song was too difficult to perform live on Top of The Pops owing to the extreme number of overlays and dubs that are in it.

Desert Island Discs. The public vote


Tears streamed down my face as I heard the story of Judith’s song.

A man, 40 years ago wrote a piano piece for a girl in his university year.  Apparently there was no relationship between them but at a graduation party he played it for her.

She was heading home to get married but so moved was she by the piece that she cancelled the wedding and moved in with the compopser.

It was never played again until they retired, 40 years later, to their dream home in France that they had lovingly created and converted from an old barn.

The finishing touch was to instal his piano and as she walked through the door with her daughter he once again played Judith’s Song.

He also played it for us on the programme.

Magical.

Knives in Hens at The Traverse (National Theatre of Scotland)


OK.

This is a hard one to review for a number of reasons.
First, it stars my cousin (Susan Vidler) so I have to declare an interest.

Second.  It stars the son of my most inspiring school teacher (Owen Whitelaw) Son of Walter Whitelaw, the man that made me gain a biology degree. So I have to declare an interest.

Third.  I didn’t really understand a fucking jot of it.

Now. to the business end and taking account all of the above.

It’s absorbing.  It’s intriguing. It’s empathetic.  It’s in some ways remarkable. Because it feels like an important piece of theatre that (actually) maybe I did “get”.

But it’s obtuse.  It’s difficult.  It’s ANNOYING.

The performances rock.  Every single one of them and let me not leave out Vicki Manderson or Duncan Anderson because this is actually a four header ensemble piece.

So, what is it about?

My take, and it’s only mine is that it’s a kind of human condition observation (Susan told me that directed in a different way it would obviously be about the Industrial revolution and I can see why because it’s a tale of old meets new (Plough v Mill).

It’s highly sexual and very existential.  God features heavily and Manderson’s Character in particular pulls that together as she plays a part human, part mare, part.

What is she?  Mare or madam?

I say mare.

It’s this year’s theatrical cryptic crossword and I say go and figure it out for yourself because I failed on 1 across.

Senna. The Cloverfield of Formula One movies


One would have thought that the best movie ever made about F1 (this one) would be full, wall to wall, of filmic pyrotechnics shot in the same way that FIFA commission world cup movies with super saturated, super slo-mo, super hi-def film set to a  super hi-fi sound track.

But it isn’t.

And there are two potential reasons for this. The first; artistic in that director, Asif Kapadia and Editor Chris King want it to eschew the flotsam of F1 and capture the essence of the man on a more personal level; the second for storytelling reasons.

I think it’s a bit of both because what makes this documentary so successful is it sets out to essentially tell us a right ripping yarn that’s not distracted by special effects.

I’m not an F1 buff.  I’m about average in terms of my on-off interest in the sport.  At the moment Bernie Ecclestone has successfully moved my button firmly to the off position.

So I don’t write this through rose tinted spectacles.  I comment only as a film lover.

This documentary is set in a golden era where the baddy was not Ecclestone (he barely appears) but the then F1 director. Jean Marie-Balestre, who’s almost xenophobic and certainly nepotistic support of fellow Frenchman Alain Prost is a key plot device.

Much of the film follows the central battle for supremacy between “the Professor” Prost and Senna and it’s fascinating.

Not once, but twice, were world championships decided on extremely dogy collisions between the two men.

This is discussed in an interview between Jackie Stewart and Senna in which Stewart (possibly the most arrogant Scotsman ever to have set foot on planet earth) challenges the fact that Senna has had more accidents than all of the previous World Champions put together.  Perhaps deliberately Senna responds modestly and calls him Stewart (in what looks like a put down that would have stuck in old big heads craw).

But the reason for the question is fundamental to the nature of Senna himself.  His sense of invincibility comes from his deep set belief in God, and this core motif is an important insight into the man and his motivation.

God should probably have been credited as a supporting actor role in the film.

What’s interesting is that virtually nothing of his private life is discussed in the movie.  Not even his brief relationship with, and engagement to, a 15 year old girl.  Because this is a film single-mindedly about man, machine and God.

The third reel which deals largely with his death and his legacy is heart rending.  The footage leading up to the ill fated moment at Imola in 1994 when God deserts him is so nerve-shredding that you cannot bear to see what is coming.  But when you do it is so brief and so brutal that it’s gone before you know it.  There are no reruns, no slo-mo, no gratuity.

He just dies.  And we move on. (Fighting back tears).

Ironically to the sight of Prost as pall bearer as a nation grieves and then, in the credits, we see that Prost is a Trustee of the Senna Foundation.

Ironic or poetic?  It’s hard to say.

No big budget pomp and circumstance, no overblown hero worshiping, just a right good story, well told and gripping from first frame to last.

So, fork out your hard earned cash and visit one of the limited number of cinemas where you can catch this wonderful film in what will almost certainly be a very brief run.

Oh, and not once do you hear either Damon Hill or Nigel Mansell utter a single word.

Another good reason to go.

I’m a fully paid up professional blogger. Yipee.


It would be unseemly of me to reveal who for but I have just been asked to write a B2B blog for a business.  It will be a three day a month job and I’m totally delighted.  Some people have questoned why on earth I put so much time and effort into my blog.  And although this was not the objective it is now starting to pay off in professional terms as I have now also written (and been paid for) at least four websites as well.

It’s funny how life changes.

What’s even more amazing is that I used this blog (yes, this shouty, sweary, ranty, maniacal blog) as a reference for the client.

Good on them.

It’s hard to tell if this is genuine or not. It claims to be from an Anonymous Sony insider. Judge for yourselves.


For reasons which will become obvious, I can’t reveal my full identity.  But let me just say that, I am an executive with Sony Music UK with many years experience in music mangement.   My work involves close liasion with Simon Cowell’s SYCO company (specifically SYCO Music and SYCO TV) and, as a result, I have seen what goes on from the inside and this has left  me increasingly uncomfortable about the integrity of Britain’s Got Talent and particularly the workings of SYCO.

It’s long been known that there is a quite a degree of “fixing” in BGT.  ( Daily Mail http://bit.ly/fxkWne )  But press reports on “fixing” are only the tip pf the iceberg when it comes to  SYCO’s manipulation of, not only the show and the contestants, but also the viewing public and hopefully, in this email, I can shine some light on the smoke and mirrors trickery of SYCO.

Take BGT 2011 for example.  Scouts working for SYCO first saw Ronan Parke (the 12 year old singer) some two years ago when he was just 10 and was singing at a birthday party for  former Norwich City goal-keeper, Bryan Gunn.  Following that, Ronan was privately auditioned by SYCO scouts on two more occasions and, as is usual practice on BGT, he was “invited”  to audition for the show as a “preferred” contestant.  At the same time, Ronan and his parents were “required” to enter into a contract with SYCO.  Like all SYCO contracts, it is heavily  weighted in favour of the label and are notoriously bad, even in the cut-throat world of the music industry.  Simon effectively signed Ronan for life and he’s got little or no chance of ever  getting out of it…unless Simon decides to terminate.  Recording contracts are legally extremely complex and usually require input and advice from very expensive, specialist contract  lawyers.  SYCO knows that such legal advice goes well beyond the means of most contestants.  As one senior SYCO executive said to me recently. “These people are mugs.  They’ll  sign away their own mother just to get on tv. It’s a fucking turkey-shoot and then we own their arses!”

As is common for “invited” contestants that SYCO likes and have already signed, Ronan and his parents were provided with a car to drive them to the audition in London.  These “invited”  contestants don’t have to queue up with everyone else, they don’t go through the preliminary auditions with producers, but perform straight to Simon and the judging panel at a pre- arranged time-slot.  And so it was for Ronan back in 2009 when he was just 10.

It was at this initial audition that I first met Ronan and he looked very different back then.  He was a skinny, 10 year old lad who, even at that time, was a bit effeminate.  His voice needed  a bit of working on, but that wouldn’t be a problem.  Unfortunately, nerves got the better of Ronan and he was unable to perform.  Simon however, had already seen the audition tapes  from the scouts and took Ronan into an unused dressing room and got him to sing in there with his mum for support.  Clearly Ronan was not going to be part of BGT in 2009 and nothing  from this was ever televised.

Ordinarily, you would think that would be the end of things, but with Ronan already signed to SYCO, far from it.  This was just the start of a two year grooming and manipulation process to  prepare Ronan for stardom.

It’s no big secret that Simon has been looking for an artist who could crack the very lucrative pre-teen market for some time, particularly in the US.  If you like, he wanted his own rival to  Bieber and, taking a leaf out of how professional football academies develop youngersters to feed their main team, Simon wanted his own singing academy and Ronan was just one of a  number of identified youngsters, with whom SYCO intensively works with.

A development package, which included professional singing, dancing and stage-craft tuition was arranged for Ronan and the SYCO machine kicked into gear with the view of Ronan  entering BGT 2010.  Lots of work had been done with Ronan and his voice was much improved, unfortunately nerves were still a major issue for him and it was decided by SYCO not to  enter him into the 2010 series.

At a following senior exec meeting at SYCO it was suggested that Ronan be dropped, but with Simon confident that he could be the kid he had been looking for, it was agreed that Ronan  would receive “intensive support and input” to ready him for the 2011 series.  Although Ronan’s voice was now stunning, there were other major problems to be dealt with in order to sell  him to the public.  With respect to Ronan, he was nothing more than a cooky-looking, skinny runt of a kid and this was identified as a major handicap to sales.

It was agreed at a high-level, secret SYCO meeting, that if they were to do anything with Ronan, he needed totally restyling from the toes up.  And so with time running out to develop  Ronan into the star Simon wanted, SYCO went into overdrive.  Ronan was even given speech and elocution training to rid him of his rural Norfolk accent, again in preparation for the  potential US market.  As for his effeminate and girlishness, this posed a bigger problem and resulted in many highly confidential meetings.  At one of these meetings, the unthinkable was  raised as a way forward….

Until now Ronan had been encouraged to “boy-up” and it was planned to present Ronan as an everyday skater-boy.  But with his girliness still showing through, the image just wasn’t  believable.  So a decision was taken to encourage and allow Ronan to “release” and enhance his campness .  Disgustingly, SYCO planned to sexualise him.  They were well aware of  course, that if they sexualised a young girl to look sexually older than she is, all hell would let loose.  But with Ronan, as one executive put it, “no one has ever seen a ‘gay’ kid before,  it’ll be a novelty.”  As for the pre-teen market, it was accepted they wouldn’t care if Ronan appeared gay or not…most probably don’t know what gay is anyway.  And so, with a total gay- sexualisation of Ronan secretly planned, SYCO got to work.  I should stress, Ronan’s parents were not aware of any of this and were never consulted about Ronan’s development or  management.  When I first met Ronan he was a bit effeminate in his ways, but nothing like the camp, girlie-giggling kid you see now on BGT and this is a direct result of SYCO’s styling.  Even his clothing worn at the audition and live semi-final were chosen for him by SYCO to match his new image.

SYCO took over everything to do with Ronan.  His hairstyle, his clothes, his poise, giving tv interviews, you name it, Ronan was styled within an inch of his life and all on the promise of  stardom, just as long as he worked hard and listened to his mentors.  As for Ronan’s parents they were constantly reassured that Simon was personally looking after Ronan and “it’s all  good”.

And so to BGT 2011.  With Ronan ready to be unveiled, SYCO bosses, under instructions from Simon did something not done in previous series of BGT; the winner of BGT 2011 was  decided long before the first auditions took place and that winner HAD to be Ronan Parke.  With Ronan now 12, he looked and sounded just as SYCO had planned, but time was running  out.  Soon Ronan would be going into puberty and his voice would eventually break, so BGT 2011 had to be the vehicle to launch Ronan’s career; another year and as a singer he would  probably be beyond any meaningful career and the opportunity will have been missed.  With all this investment in Ronan, the production managers at SYCO TV are ready to deliver  Ronan as ordered.  Again, I need to stress, Ronan and his parents know nothing of this and have no idea Ronan will win BGT this weekend.

So far in the history of BGT and X-Factor, for that matter, no one has ever won who has not been an “invited or preferred” contestant, and it does sadden me that, all those thousands of  people, lining up outside, often in the rain and cold, are basically wasting their time.  The producers of BGT are not looking for the talented people, they aready have those.  The reality is  that the producers are hunting out oddities, freaks and, I’m ashamed to say, mentally ill people, to act as amusing fillers in the audition shows.  They are nothing more than unpaid extras  and they don’t even qualify for traveling expenses!  It’s quite disgusting and shameful really, how the production team on BGT operate.  People come from all over the country, often at  great personal expense, because they think BGT is a talent competition and they stand a chance of realising their dreams.  I can tell you from the inside that BGT is no more a  “competition”, than I am an astronaut.  Nothing is left to chance on BGT, everything is micro-managed, choreographed, manipulated and planned down to the last detail including, the  telephone voting.

The ability to manipulate viewers opinion is vital if you are to control telephone voting and indeed get the required result.  SYCO see this as essential to the success of the show and are  very open about fact; planning and delivering live shows of quality is impossible if it was purely left to the public vote.  As Simon said in a meeting once. “The public NEED to be told  who to vote for.”  Everything on BGT is geared towards telling you who you should for, particularly on the production side.  It’s an art really, which Simon has honed to perfection and  SYCO are now world leaders at.

The micro-management of Ronan’s audition performance was incredible.  I was really quite shocked at his new image.  From a starting point of wanting Ronan to look cute for the pre-teen  market, SYCO had totally gayed him up in the process.  Ronan’s not a 16 year old expressing his sexualty for the first time, he’s a 12 year old boy.  It was horrible and I was very  uncomfortable as to where this was going to end.  Ronan, still suffering from nerves, performed his song and received a standing ovation from all three judges…why?  Because it was in  the script to give Ronan a standing ovation.  As for Louis comment. “Ronan Parke.  Remember that name.  This kid’s gonna be a star!!” – that was actually fed to him from the production  gallery and I know the guy who wrote the line.  And when it comes to Ronan’s tears…well, check it out on YouTube or something.  You see Ronan crying and wiping away tears.  Only  you don’t see any actual tears, not even on close-up and on an HD tv.  Yep you guessed it, even that was choreographed, right down to the lip-biting!

It was also interesting to see that even before the final credits rolled on Ronan’s audition show, SYCO TV had uploaded the offical video of Ronan onto YouTube.  Today, that particular  video has been viewed over 2.5 million times and growing.  SYCO don’t do that for other contestants, so why Ronan?  The gaying-up Ronan plan slightly backfired on SYCO when lots of  negative comments were being posted on YouTube and Twitter about Ronan’s image and the supposed sexuality that represents.  Things got so bad on YouTube that the posting of  comments had to be suspended.  But SYCO learned from this and dressed Ronan more appropriately for his semi-final show; preferring a much more Bieber inspired look to the ‘gay- kid’ image presented in the audition.

In another unusal move for BGT contestants, SYCO created Ronan’s Official Facebook Fan Page and Twitter account.  Both these services are managed from within SYCO and they post  messages and pictures, not Ronan.  This is because they don’t want Ronan posting anything controversial and is standard practice for currrent artists signed to SYCO.

And so this weekend will see Ronan crowned as winner of BGT 2011.  Oh and let’s not forget the £100k prize money.  It’s unlikely Ronan will see much or any of that.  He’s been signed  to SYCO for two years now and under the terms of his contract, while SYCO stump-up for costs in advance, this is paid back from future earnings.  So he will need to pay for all those  lessons, coaches, cars, clothes, styling and management… I wouldn’t be surprised even after winning BGT, if he is not still in debt to SYCO.

As a recording artist Ronan has a relatively short shelf-life.   Simon knows he is going to have to hit the ground running to maximise Ronan’s earning potential, particularly if they go ahead  with a planned break into the States and the pace is going to be frantic for Ronan.  If you think the music industry is bad in the UK, you haven’t seen anything until you experience it  Stateside.  With an “anything goes” attitude all morals have long since gone out of the window.  There will be no allowance for Ronan’s age and he will be expected to perform on late- night shows and dinners etc.  And if he get exhausted, there’s always some sleaze-bag on hand ready to put a line of coke under his nose. I’ve seen it a million times.

I know for a fact, that the songs have already been chosen for Ronan’s debut single and album, and that the backing and drum tracks have already been laid down.

Of course, once Ronan’s voice breaks, it’s game-over and he will be commercially redundant for a few years.  By the time he gets through that, the world will have moved on and his  fan-base will have grown-up a bit.  Will he make a comeback?  In my experience I’d say probably not.

I’ve met Ronan a few times over the past couple of years.  He’s a really nice kid with a generous, warm personality and the most wonderfully cute, girlie-giggle.  There’s nothing to not  like about Ronan.  He’s a really sensitive soul and this comes across as him being a bit effeminate.  But in a world of thuggish chavs, Ronan’s a real breath of fresh air really and a real  delight to chat to.  Do I think Ronan’s gay?  No, is the short answer to that.  SYCO have got a lot to answer for in their initial styling and image for Ronan.  Like many 12 year old boys,  Ronan may have issues in coming to terms with his sexuality in a couple of years.  But right now, he’s just a great kid…a bit different, I admit…but a great kid just the same.

I hope Ronan is not damaged by this experience, unforunately, history warns otherwise…but whatever, the genie is already out of the bottle and come this weekend, Ronan’s life will change  forever.  Whether it’s a good or bad experience being a 12 year old star in today’s music industry, only time will tell.  But as an industry insider I have serious reservations about what is  about to happen to Ronan Parke and I doubt he or his family are ready for what’s coming.