Posts Tagged ‘Indie

This post draws content from Week 9 lectures and readings. The question to be discussed is as follows: A) Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269).

While it cannot be denied that celebrities can exist mostly outside mainstream mass media (read: the indie industry), I agree with Burgess and Green’s argument (Burgess & Green, 2009), mainly because it comes to a point whereby the mass media eventually encompasses all.

Burgess and Green further elaborated saying that media power will always lie with big media producers because these media conglomerates are the ones fueling the notion of ‘amateur stars’; “rags-to-riches stories” (Burgess & Green, 2009, p. 22). There have been numerous stories of ordinary people gaining recognition online through Youtube, MySpace and so on. When mainstream media picks up on them, they are propelled to greater fame.

While it can be argued that many celebrities like Radiohead and R.E.M who are known to the public, do not conform, or ‘sell out‘ (Urban Dictionary, 2011); they have been highly involved in non-commercial distribution of their work which goes against the basic principles of mainstream music industries, by virtue of the fact that they have become household names prove the over-reaching influence of mass media.

My point is, while celebrities who have gotten famous out of their own creativity appear to be independent of mass media, to get famous and remain famous, mass media is a vital element of the equation.

Whether it is going along with the tastes of the public who utilise mass media, or purposely resorting to shock tactics which appear contrary to what the masses want or have been inundated with via mass media (i.e. Leave Britney Alone: Chris Crocker with his clashing views at the time, standing up for Britney Spears when the mass media was mocking her), ultimately, ‘self-made’ celebrities remain within the control of mass media.

In other words, the mass media remains a barometer by which these celebrities measure themselves against, and decide on a presentation that would gain them the most fame.

Taking the case of Youtube again, one Youtube celebrity whose work has spawned a slew of similar video tutorials, is Michelle Phan.

Michelle Phan is a Youtube ‘star’/makeup artist who has over a million followers on her Youtube channel, and has garnered nearly 70 million views since 2006. While it can be argued that because she makes use of her personal skills to teach makeup to her viewers and thus is not controlled by the mass media, her content is fundamentally influenced by the mass media, thus she “remain[s] within the system of celebrity”.

Take for example her makeup tutorial on Lady Gaga’s Poker Face makeup.

Phan’s video tutorial was posted in May 2009, at the height of Lady Gaga’s fame for her debut album featuring the song Poker Face. Therefore, it is quite easily inferred that Phan, a self-made celebrity is within the control of mass media which compelled her to produce content which she knows will be popular with her viewers due to the hype surrounding Lady Gaga.

Hence, I believe that Burgess and Green’s argument holds.


Burgess, J. & Green, J. 2009, ‘Youtube and The Mainstream Media’, Youtube: Online and participatory Culture, Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 15 – 37.

Phan, M. 2008, ‘Lady GaGa Poker Face Tutorial’,, viewed 24 May 2011.

Urban Dictionary. 2011, ‘Urban Dictionary: Sell-out’, viewed 24 May 2011.


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