Simon Cowell has been a prominent figure in the music business for a number of years and has achieved success within the extremely cutthroat and competitive fields of music and television.
In a rare and personal conversation Cowell opens up to the iconic journalist Dan Rather.
Simon Cowell has enjoyed a huge number of successes, and even speaks about the time that he was close to bankruptcy with only £5 left to his name, and had to rebuild everything again from nothing.
Although Cowell came from a successful family, he still worked his way up from a being a mail boy in the EMI Music Publishing Company to becoming one of the most powerful people within popular culture today.
Even as a young executive he knew how to take risks and he had an instinct for what would make a popular offering. He helped to launch the career of a young artist called Sinita and her single ‘So Macho’ in 1986. He had just launched his label ‘Fanfare Records’ a couple of years earlier and after a few singles that failed to chart, ‘So Macho’ became a success for the label and spent 28 weeks in the UK singles chart, and subsequently turned an initial £5,000 investment from Cowell’s business partner Iain Burton into a profit of over £1million with over 585,000 singles sold.
The ensuing releases did not enjoy that level of success as Sinita’s hit, and the label closed in 1992 after a period of financial difficulty.
In the mid 1990s Simon Cowell worked with the Bertelmann Music Group (BMG) as an A&R consultant and took some risks that paid off nicely for him. He created novelty records for the puppets Zig and Zag, Power Rangers, WWE federation, and his biggest success to that point were the actors from an English television series called ‘Soldier Soldier’ Robson Green and Jerome Flynn who were simply known and ‘Robson and Jerome.’ They launched a cover version of ‘Unchained Melody’ and the single stayed at number 1 for 7 weeks in the UK chart, and sold almost 2 million copies, and became the biggest single of 1995. Cowell, was off and running at a pace!
He then enjoyed success with bigger artists like Five, and huge success with a group of 5 boys from Ireland called Westlife who have sold over 50 million records across the globe.
Cowell then moved into television where he would play the role of a judge to spot future talent on a show called Pop Idol, and this type of format was created by another media mogul, Simon Fuller.
The show was a success and launched the careers of Gareth Gates and Will Young, while Cowell enjoyed playing the brutally honest and abrasive judge that would dispense ‘tough love’ for the contestants. This format would spread across the globe and create an enormous amount of wealth for the originators of the concept.
Cowell then created his company Syco to help to manage and promote the talent that he would find. He would then launch a number of other shows including: The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, The You Generation, and many more.
The platforms that he built proved incredibly successful in creating career for artists such as: Leona Lewis, One Direction, and many others, and also brought celebrity judges in the limelight, and this format has influenced an entire generation of copycat shows. Although Cowell did not invent the talent content genre, he certainly managed to package it in a way that no one before him had been able to do. Maybe this is a result of the Internet, mobile, social media and the like, and yet others do not share the same amount of success as Cowell does with the same technology at their disposal.
The formats have come under fire for not giving ‘real artists’ a platform. There may be some truth to those claims, however as long as these talent shows pull in millions of viewers then they will be made. When the ratings drop then the formats will change.
Time magazine has named Cowell in their list of the top 100 most influential people in the world, and something tells me that he still has some more things left in him.
Simon Cowell speaks to Dan Rather
Entrepreneur: Simon Cowell
Interviewer: Dan Rather