And Finally

You’re all too posh, youse lots

By | Published on Monday 31 January 2011

Pete Waterman

Pete Waterman has criticised the modern music industry for being too dominated by posh graduates, a fact which, he says, means the pop stars they sign are getting posher too.

Speaking to Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, Waterman said: “It’s never been worse. You know, the major companies dominate and what they do is, they see a CV and if you haven’t got 96 O Levels, you aint getting a job. It’s as simple as that. What this is is job protection. In the old days you got a job in the music industry because you knew something about music, or were passionate about it and people gave you a chance. Now when your CV goes through, they don’t take you unless you’ve been to university full stop”.

Of course, technically speaking you’d have to be at least 40 to have any O Levels at all, but that’s possibly the sort of pedantry that’s typical of my university education. To be fair to Waterman, his claims aren’t entirely baseless.

The music industry – especially at the more corporate end – isn’t particularly diverse in terms of social class or ethnicity, and at the upper end of the hierarchy it is often rather male dominated. Though in terms of social class, I’m not sure that’s so much to do with snobbery in recruitment, as it is to do with the fact that any industry that often requires entry-level staff to work for free for two years is going to have a middle class bias.

Whether any lack of diversity in the record companies actually affects artist signings I’m not sure – pop and rock has always had its share of middle class boys and girls. But Waterman thinks so, adding: “I think that when all the A&R people wear Jack Wills clothes, it tells you where they are going. It’s become snobbish. It’s become a snobbish culture. If you go back even 20 years, if you weren’t greatly educated you became a boxer, a footballer or a popstar. Now if you’re not educated you won’t become a popstar – because you’re never going to get the interview”.

When did popstars start having to do job interviews? The Today feature mentioned a number of modern pop artists who were privately educated, including Lily Allen, Flo Welch and Chris Martin, though it was the mother of another posh pop star actually not referenced who felt the urge to respond to the report.

Mrs Blount (yes, Jamie chose to perform under the surname Blunt) said in an email: “I was most interested to hear Pete Waterman’s thoughts on public school rock stars. His attitude is reflected by most of the critics in the UK. My son James Blunt, who is hugely appreciated worldwide, receives harsh criticism here and we have, rather sadly, been aware that it is because of his background. We are relieved that on the whole James’s fanbase take no notice of the critics”.

I’m not sure Blunt’s education is totally to blame for his whiney voice, though.