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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Are pop stars too greedy?
Pop svengali Pete Waterman has said that pop stars are risking their careers by getting too greedy.

In an interview with Radio Times, Mr Waterman said he believed that performers showed no loyalty to record companies and were more interested in the money.

Pete Waterman launched Kylie Minogue's UK career in the 1980s and was a judge on TV hit Pop Idol.

Recent reports have linked Robbie Williams with a £40m contract demand, while US singer Mariah Carey was given a multi-million dollar pay-off from EMI records after her album Glitter flopped.

Do you think that pop performers are more interested in money than music? Are they pricing themselves out of the entertainment business?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

They must make as much money as possible before being consigned to the bargain bins

As the demise of Hear'say and Steps testifies, the career of a pop star is mercifully short. Anyone with half a brain knows that they must make as much money as possible before being consigned to the Woolworth's bargain bins. So, cheerio Will and Gareth, make the most of the next few weeks.

What do you expect from them? I would be greedy too if I were a money making draw.
Guru S, USA

How can people say that they are only in it for the money? Look at Victoria Beckham. I've never seen anyone so desperate for credibility - and long may her search continue.
Liz, UK

I went to see Kylie last night at the NEC. She was wonderful, but her concert programmes were £20, T shirts £20-£40. There are lots of kids who love Kylie but at £25 a ticket, who can afford another £20 for a programme or T shirt?
Lesley Foley, Uk

The whole world is motivated by greed

Evan Down, UK
In case it's escaped anyone's attention the whole world is motivated by greed and this is encouraged by government. There's just a few incredibly greedy fat men at the top of the chain who like things the way they are because they're doing very nicely out of it. How else can you explain the fact that some people have billions in their bank accounts yet millions upon millions are suffering in the third world (and the first world for that matter) from poverty and poor nutrition. And while I'm on the subject, instead of these pop stars coming on various telethons and extorting yet more of our money that we don't have, why don't they all just contribute a million or so of their "hard earned" cash and save a whole lot of time and bother?
Evan Down, UK

If the "real music" (whatever that is) that all the bores on this page keep droning on about is so much better, why isn't it more popular?! It actually is a free market, especially nowadays with internet distribution, so if all these no-name musicians are so talented, how is it that the wicked record labels manage to keep them down?!
Alex Chiang, Australia

To Alex Chiang, I simply say: "Popularity is no measure of worth." The record companies push the most popular acts because the labels are in the business of making money. Music is just a product to them. In this culture, pop stars are justified in wanting their slice of the pie, especially as careers in pop these days are becoming very short. But it means that the music which is overlooked by the record companies is lost or confined to minimal exposure and that is bad for music in the long run. I'd much rather see a situation in which all acts could at least have a chance at public exposure. Let's see pop stars' pay reduced and see the record labels taking a few risks. Most artists would be happy to have a record released at all, no matter how little money they make out of it.
Mark, England

What's wrong with being greedy? Young pop stars know that their career will only last 1-2 years before they are replaced by their record company, so they need to make their money as quickly as possible. If Pete Waterman thinks artists should be more loyal to record labels, the labels should maybe start showing some loyalty first.
Jon Hawkins, Oxford, UK

When I see formerly respectable artists allowing their songs to become car commercial jingles, I am pretty sure the money means more than the art.

Paul Connor, Canada
Absolutely. When I see formerly respectable artists like Sting allowing their songs to become car commercial jingles, or to be remade by other artists, I am pretty sure the money means more than the art. That is when I stop listening -- if they don't care about their art why should I? Don't they get enough money doing what they do best, without maximising profit at all costs?
Paul Connor, Canada

If pop stars were really interested in music, they would study classical music and perform it if they had the skill. That having been said, there is no reason why they should not try to make as much money as they can. What do you think the record companies are trying to do?
Mark, USA

It's more than a bit disingenuous of Pete Waterman to warn today's crop of pop stars against greed. Anyone who knows anything about the music industry will know that record producers' definition of the word "talent" is a million miles away from the one we all know. The likes of Waterman, Cowell et al, will only work with singers who are going to sell CDs and hence make them piles of money.
DRP, Sheffield, England

The pop industry is like a sausage machine, constantly churning out derivative products which are popular for a short time, but that are past their sell-by date soon

Dan, UK
The pop industry is like a sausage machine, constantly churning out derivative products which are popular for a short time, but that are past their sell-by date soon after and replaced by a newer version. Slick marketing and an impressionable audience virtually guarantee their success, and with the millions come the inflated egos and greed that are so common among these manufactured stars. What I find most sad of all though is the number of obscenely talented groups who struggle to make ends meet playing grotty pubs and clubs all over the country. It is really galling to know that as they struggle, the talentless products of the record industry sausage machines are becoming instant millionaires.
Dan, UK

So PW is not in it for the money. How much has he made from these "greedy" pop stars?
Phil , UK

What does 'real talent' mean anyway? Will Young can certainly sing extremely well, he has real talent. As goes for a number of the 10 finalists. Manufactured? Yes. Talentless? No. I agree that they should do some new songs though, but they certainly are not talentless. Its the same old story. I'm 49 now, and as long as I can remember, people have been moaning about pop music, and how they are just in it for the money etc etc. Don't forget, that most punk rockers were just as voracious in trying to get as much dough as possible, as today's pop stars are.(with the possible exception of the Clash). And the supergroups of the seventies certainly made themselves a nice pile. Anyway, what's 'real music'? Four lads hammering away in their garage? Yes - but so is Zoe Birkett singing live with a live band.
Mike Warren, UK

Music is a part of everyone's life, that is why people are willing to spend millions every year. However that is not to say Pop stars are too greedy, rather the music industry are ripping us off for CD's and the like. Long Live Napster!
Rachel Okrafo-smart, England

It's become a silly game

Michael, USA
The bottom line is that the record industry is imploding, just folding in on itself. Technology has completely undermined the distribution chain. Few labels know how to sign, sell and make legitimate music successful these days. Few artists want to realise how much money it takes to release and promote a record and what an incredibly high risk the companies run. No banker worth his salt would even consider financing such a business unless the returns were huge at the end of the day. It's become a silly game and the whole thing needs to be pulled apart and redesigned. Give us real music at affordable prices and you might see a huge and positive change all round.
Michael, USA

The sooner Will and co retire to Henley and their big mansions, the better. UK music currently has no hope. It's either the manufactured muppets from the pop star era with souless cover versions or dreadful 60s throwback guitar bands peddling tired 'rock'. Only The Doves provide a brief glimmer of hope. The current electroclash movement may provide some decent music but we really need an album like the Human League's Dare to banish the banality and rewrite British pop.
Orac, UK

I work in the industry, have done for the best part of ten years and I'm here to tell you all that labels no longer search for anything other than money making, quick fixes that they fully intend to throw out with yesterday's Melody Maker. It is all about the bottom line - they've got to pay very expensive lawyers and MBA's huge salaries at the same time as decorate their corner office.

There is still good music for those who bother to look for it

Andrew, NZ
The mainstream scene is not art. It is a market with goods mostly aimed at the young and foolish. True music is still around but it's not in the Top 40. Go look for it, you will never regret it. Being bombarded by tasteless talentless "market-music" with no artistic vision whatsoever is annoying and insulting, but there is still good music for those who bother to look for it.
Andrew, NZ

Being a musician I tend to watch the industry quite a bit and yes, I hate the manufactured dross that oozes through the airwaves these days. The answer is in our hands though, since we're the paymasters, not the record companies.
Richard, Bath, UK

Coming from Pete Waterman, this is hilarious. He, along with Stock and Aiken, premiered the sort of brain-dead nursery-rhyme pop that now passes for music. The music industry has been the author of its own demise and deserves to be treated with contempt as do the performers who subscribe to its current way of making money.
Marcus, England

Music fans will be treated like the football fan

Leah Harlow, United Kingdom
It's more a case that they're cheap to handle and cheap to set up tours as they only mime to a tape recorder. Just think no musical equipment no musician musicians. The record companies have nothing to do with music any more. To me, they are just celebrity companies for karaoke stars who think they have talent. It's a con on the music fan and music fans will be treated like the football fan: no say in the matter, just listen and buy the CD, your views aren't wanted. I am in a band myself and would love to give 'em a black eye or two¿yes I'm angry because it's my art they have hijacked.
Leah Harlow, United Kingdom

It's unfair to say that pop stars are only interested in money; they're interested in being famous as well. Pete Waterman can hardly complain since he is one of the people responsible for the current attitude of profit over quality in the record industry.
Joe, UK

Why shouldn't they be greedy? What else are they in the business for, artistic integrity?
Tim Coombe, UK

Of course pop stars and record companies earn too much, but the reason is more subtle than just greed; what is needed is a complete rethink and redesign of intellectual property rights.
Robert, Zürich

Hmm, well if they're not in it for the money, that sugests that they are in it because they really believe in the music they are making, which is a truly terrifying thought.
Craig West, Canada

We need a new generation of badly behaved (preferably unwashed) angry young men

John, England
So what's new? The whole punk thing started 26 years ago as a reaction to greedy superstars, rip-off record labels and over-processed rubbish contaminating the charts. We need a new generation of badly behaved (preferably unwashed) angry young men and women playing loud music, to sweep away the tide of banality that currently grips the UK music business. I'm 44, and I demand the right to be outraged by the antics of modern musicians! Problem is, it's a bit hard to get overly parental when the most radical it gets is some manufactured split-up in some manufactured boy/girl band!
John, England

They're not "too greedy" at all. They are out to make a living, just like everyone else, and charge what the market will bear. It's called free enterprise. Many musicians make their music available for free, or at nominal cost. They usually play in subway stations, coffee houses, and on street corners...
F. Kastenholz, USA

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a whingeing millionaire!! Pete only launched Kylie to make money didn't he? Or was it just for art?
Mike, UK

By the very essence of the title 'pop' the intention is to perform popular music that, if nothing else, earns money for the star or starlet that can debase themself enough to perform it. Otherwise it wouldn't be popular, would it?
Christopher Laird, Japan

When people say corporations and their CEOs make too much money, you hear the cries "That's capitalism." Well, pop stars making money whilst they still have their popularity, that's capitalism!!
Michael Roberts, UK

I'm sorry, was I supposed to feel sympathetic? For every Kylie Minogue or Robbie Williams, there are dozens of smaller acts reliant on the record labels, who get paid some insultingly small proportion of the profits from sales of their material, and then get dropped unceremoniously when they've served their purpose. And how much did Pete earn for doing Pop Idol, anyway? How many small artists' annual payments do we have to add up before we get to the same number? I'm oozing with sympathy, Pete. No, really, I am. Really.
Chris, UK

Whatever happened to real bands with real music?

Rich James, UK
Pop Stars? More like Pap Stars. The UK charts are a complete joke. Boy band, girl band, another boy band, etc. Whatever happened to real bands with real music? I hope these super-ego'd, whingeing pap artists do price themselves out of the market. At least then real musicians might get a look in.
Rich James, UK

Given that record companies skim off the vast majority of the money handed over for a CD, then yes Robbie Williams is entitled to his fair share. If CD prices were much lower, then the deal could be seen as excessive.
Dr J Barnard, UK

UK acts struggle to get into the American charts because of the way the charts there are constructed. Are you really saying every country in the world bar America is currently producing poor music? Come off it! It's true some pop stars are greedy, but they are the ones who put an instrumental and a lame remix on their CD single, or whose album is 35 minutes long, or they release duff remixes of their current albums, or charge £50 plus for concert tickets then charge over the odds for merchandise. Unfortunately, I think this covers most groups, but as this is what they do for a living, and very few of us would turn down the chance of extra money in what is a fairly short-lived and precarious career, I fear it's hardly going to change! Remember Frank Sinatra never wrote his own songs, The Three Degrees were "manufactured'' and The Rolling Stones were sponsored at one point. There is nothing new here!
Paul S, Scotland

Music has stopped being a thing of passion and love and art, and is simply a tool for making filthy lucre

Russell Jones, UK
The enormous artistic failings of the acts in the current charts are a result of the entire music industry being too interested in money. Music has stopped being a thing of passion and love and art, and is simply a tool for making filthy lucre. The problem with this policy, though, is that people still love the passion. No wonder music sales and audiences for live shows plummet year after year - why should the general public continue to love music when the artists themselves so clearly don't?
Russell Jones, UK

Of course they become greedy, but isn't it also our fault for creating this sad phenomenon? Would Robbie dare demand £40m, if no one was crazy about his music? Pop stars do become greedy, but on the other hand, who is not greedy these days? Aren't the politicians greedy? Mr Waterman should have known better!
S. Farrows, England

Greedy pop stars? You have to look at why these people got into the business. You can't blame pop stars for switching labels. Labels have their own reputation for dropping "stars". Perhaps, if labels would spend more time on talent rather than clones, labels wouldn't be in the financial downfall they currently find themselves.
Annette, USA

Shouldn't that read "Are record companies too greedy?"
Andy, IOM

I am not going to complain about these entertainers asking for a fortune because I wouldn't complain if I could make that kind of money. If you would say yes to these millions then you should not have a right to complain about it. I mean who would turn that money down? However these people should have no right to call themselves musicians because they have no talent and there is no heart or soul in their disposable garbage. They entertain; that is the bottom line.
franc, UK

Not only is the artists' future at risk on such deals, but the record companies' as well. The main difference is that while the artist relies solely on himself, the companies have their risk diluted on their cast of performers.
Luis Waldmann, Brazil

Of course they are; mostly the blame should fall on promoters and the people who put together these stupid boy/girl bands that pretend to be singers. Most pop stars can't even sing and have zero musical talent - look at the Spice Girls.
Mike, Canada

The real greed generally originates from the record companies

Jason Jones, London, England
Of course pop stars are greedy. I doubt very much if most would be in the business purely for the exhibitionism of themselves alone? However, the real greed generally originates from the record companies. Pete Waterman may well say that pop stars are not loyal to their record labels, but the companies are less loyal to most of their stars as soon as the latest record fails to hit the top five. Sour grapes, Pete! With regards to Robbie Williams, please don't forget that he gave the total two million he earned through the soft drink commercial to charity.
Jason Jones, London, England

The entire pop industry is greedy, especially when it comes to selling CD's at over-the-top prices.
Dominic, UK

Today's music has no soul. People such as Pete Waterman are responsible for that. Kids today are brought up on a diet of lightweight commercial tedium. Groups such as The Hives, The Strokes and White Stripes are our only hope...but they are marginalised. Does anyone remember when music actually MEANT something?
Adam, UK

Unfortunately this is what you get from the talent-show culture. Nobody cares what the songs mean anymore, pop acts are just products designed to sell CDs. Record companies should stop paying these so-called artists and give the money to the real musicians, who work gruelling hours night-on-night trying to make a living. We don't hear them complaining.
Peter Bailey, UK

Although I thought I never would I agree with Pete here, pop stars ARE too greedy. However in light of the massive rise in MP3 trading via the internet we can observe that record companies and their signings will become less relevant over time and people will tend to listen to the music they want to listen to rather than the product that is being pushed at them via the media. There are a lot of better bands playing in bars than we hear in the charts. I recommend to pop-stars that they DO cash in as quickly as possible because record companies are set to become considerably less relevant.
Gregor Rankin, Ireland

Many youngsters now see a career in music or acting as a fast route to big money. Never mind talent, as long as they've got "the look". It annoys me when individuals break away from bands and go solo and claim that it's to "explore their creativity"- they know very well that appearance money has to be shared between members of a group, whereas if they go solo they can pocket the lot for themselves. I have no sympathy for Pete Waterman - he signed Kylie purely to make his company money - not out of the goodness of his own heart and it backfired on him.
Andy, England, UK

Pop stars getting large fees is open and honest. Like very highly paid football players, it could cripple parts of the industry. However, the music industry has itself inadvertently damaged local live music - but if the public want glitz and "manufactured" music that's what they'll get. When MP3s and copying cause the current version of the music industry to collapse perhaps live performance and even better, local live performance might come back into fashion.
Brendan, UK/Australia

Pop stars are responsible for bringing money to major record labels. Major record labels have ALWAYS made the most out of their artists. In some cases they shelve recordings, leaving artists stranded and contractually unable to release their music. Record labels behave like they run the industry and have ruined more careers than artists themselves. Little do they know that they are employed BY the artists. Artists have every right to demand money. The internet is the dawn of a time where the record labels' actual role needs to be redefined. Actually they are no longer needed. The most important role they can play today is that of a distributor. Power to the artist and "tough luck" labels. Labels need to act by redefining what they do... and then do it. Those days are long gone where labels have the say. (That's a good thing).
Phil McCammon, Switzerland

Only interested in money? They must be, as none of them seem to be at all interested in music.
Stuart, UK

The cash paid to pop stars is very much like the situation with footballers. Yes, they earn a lot but they can really only hope to be successful for a very short time. There aren't that many bands or performers who make it past the five-year mark, and it is a bit tight of record companies to try and give them less when they know they can just move on to their next starlet and keep raking in the cash - no doubt at the expense of their own former favourites.
Gaz Haman, UK

This is the straightforward economics of supply and demand

Phil, UK
Where do you draw the line between greed and market forces? Robbie Williams can demand a £40,000,000 deal because he is worth that to his record company. If they refuse to pay him this rumoured figure, then he can take his talents and earning power elsewhere. This is the straightforward economics of supply and demand. It is hard for the tabloid-reading idiots to understand, but pop stars are worth every penny to their record companies, just as footballers are worth every penny to their club.
Phil, UK

To the person who says this is a simple effect of supply and demand economics I ask: Who is of most value to society, a pop star or a nurse? Is life really that rational or dare I say it, scientific?
Phil Johnson, UK

What a load of rubbish. It's the record companies that have no loyalty, manufacturing 10-a-penny acts and dropping artists like hot potatoes after one or two less successful releases rather than ploughing resources into letting them develop. This policy of "throw it all against the wall and see what sticks" is the biggest problem facing today's record industry. Who can blame the stars for grabbing every penny they can when their careers might be over tomorrow?
Martin, Germany

Pop stars are simply the personification of the greed which successive governments have been promoting as 'the only way' for decades now. This isn't to say that all musicians are only after the money. The stars we see on TV and hear on the radio are simply those who are determined to get rich, not those who are interested in playing music. For the latter, we have to go away from the charts and glossy magazines, underground.
Matthew, UK

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! No-one has harmed the music industry more than people like Pete Waterman, in bringing it to the sad state that it is in. Constantly manufacturing packaged garbage that is here today gone tomorrow. He should talk!
Ferris, London, UK

If they weren't, they might have to go out and get a proper job

Johno, UK
Are pop stars greedy? Yes, because if they weren't, they might have to go out and get a proper job. You don't have to be greedy if you have talent, you can stay in the music business for years if you can write songs, if you can perform them and above all, play them. More rights for live bands!
Johno, UK

Pop stars fall victim to the whole sycophantic package deals. They appear to make loads of cash but watch the record companies claim it all back as "advances". Eventually they're all left playing Butlins for £200 a week or appearances on poor TV game shows!
Iain Frame, UK

The pop industry has been more about money, than music for the past 15 years or so. We the consumers are partly to blame for buying the rubbish.
Tom, UK

The record companies should start to sign talented people instead of manufactured boy bands and screeching female singers who are only employed for their looks. Until they do I have no sympathy and a lack of interest in the 'let's make a fast buck' ethic of the music industry.
Paul, UK

The type of 'artists' that Mr Waterman promotes clearly aren't in it for the music. So I don't understand why he is so surprised that they're so obsessed with money.
Richard, UK

I always thought Stock, Aitken and Waterman pioneered the prefab quick-buck pop stars. I think he's just bitter because they're getting more than he is now.
Jon, UK

It's amazing how much money we remain content to throw at footballers and pop stars

Bill, UK
Probably, but I'll never accept any whingeing from Pete Waterman on that score. The bloke's been making money out of the same length of old rope for years and I'm sure his kids aren't starving. However, I have to say that in a society that is becoming increasingly obsessed with the idea of "rip-off Britain" it's amazing how much money we remain content to throw at footballers and pop stars. Sadly, we rip ourselves off far more effectively than anyone else does.
Bill, UK

Pricing themselves out? £15 for a CD is too much - especially when you consider that a blank costs about 70p. The record industry has always been about money - never quality.
Tom Morris, UK

If you're young and offered obscene amounts of money to promote anything and everything (Gareth Gates + Pepsi) even before you have released a single let alone album, you know your worth, and the record companies will have to just earn a little less from trying to exploit them.
Matt Cecil, GBR

Pop stars these days don't even have to write their own songs and play their own instruments. They get everything done for them, they don't sing with a passion and after a while they get greedy and sack their managers and drop their labels. It's high time that in order to succeed artists had to actually work.
Craig, UK

The fact that no UK artist is in the US top 50 chart shows how far the UK pop industry has degenerated

Adam S, UK
Record companies, not their artists, are more interested in money than music. The fact that no UK artist is in the US Top 50 chart shows how far the UK pop industry has degenerated.
Adam S, UK

I wouldn't worry about UK bands not appearing in US charts, Adam S. The billboard chart is significantly influenced by radio air time and stations play a small selection of songs to catch people as they surf through stations so that they can get advertising revenue. I've been living over here for the last five years and am sick of pop/rock radio stations playing the same five or six hits of the month all day. The UK music industry is alive and well, and will live through these apparent hard times. The UK has countless bands that tour significantly. People here are subjected to extortion through ticket agencies to see half a dozen manufactured bands play "live" music.
Mike, USA

What's to stop record companies from refusing to go along with excessive greed of their stars? If pop stars are pricing themselves out of work, then it is the record companies who are helping them to do this by giving in to demands for high fees.
David Hazel, UK

Hopefully if poor ol' Pete is running out of money and patience, he and his kind will stop inflicting their processed rubbish on us and allow some real bands to get somewhere.
Paul De St Paer, UK

Good luck to them!

Brian, UK
Pete's whingeing sounds like sour grapes to me. I've got family and friends in the record business, on both sides, and it's obvious that one or two certainly do push the limits beyond what I personally would consider acceptable, but the majority are simply trying their best and earning a meagre living from what they enjoy doing most. Good luck to them! If you don't like what Kylie and others earn, don't buy their stuff and then see what happens to them.
Brian, UK

Pete Waterman developed the soulless, cynical money-machine of modern pop - it's very hypocritical of him to criticise it.
Ben, UK

Pay no attention to the headline figures that are bandied about. In truth, most pop stars never make half of what is quoted. I think it is about time that they started demanding their fair share. In the long run, a pop star's career is short and they should make all the hay they can whilst the sun shines.
Ian, UK

Lack of talent? Pop stars too greedy? What the stars earn is peanuts compared to what the record companies make. Maybe if companies stopped putting out lots of rubbish and concentrated on quality then they could justify whinging. Until then, no sympathy from me, Pete.
Andrew, UK

I agree with Andrew's comment; the artist's wages are probably nothing compared to what the companies make. Today who actually does the performing/singing is insignificant; they're just put in place by a marketing machine.
Dave, CH

I am a singer/songwriter who has tried to break into the music business using musicianship, rather than TV shows. I agree with Andrew's criticism of the record companies. If they chose artists who really cared about the music, we might have a better standard and wider range of published music, and less greedy pop stars. Consider it guys - plenty of us would do it for nothing to get our music heard.
Thom, UK

Andrew, UK: I couldn't agree more. What makes things worse is hype shows like Pop Stars that create stars out of enthusiastic pub karaoke singers. Allow those with real talent in and get rid of the manufactured bands.
Nigel, UK

Are pop stars too greedy?



1493 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

28 Dec 01 | Newsmakers
Pete Waterman: Lucky, lucky, lucky
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