Daily Archives: June 16, 2010

Image Control and Speculating on Management

As we await the next phase in David Archuleta’s career (new single! new album! new appearances!) while reading through the 200+ pages of his inspiring memoir, Chords of Strength (hope most of you have a copy by now), I’ve been struck by a conversation that we had here a few posts back.

Previously, I bemoaned the closing of Rabid’s fan art website and publicly wondered if this was due to an “Archudrought” in new photos, while others questioned whether or not new management had to do with controlling David’s public image. The latter sounded most reasonable.

Until someone in the know posted that this had more to do with the costs of running a public website and less to do with management control, which has been pretty lax about David’s image apparently.

I’m hopeful that Rabid makes a comeback but I’m also a bit perturbed that management had nothing to do with it.  Let me explain in more detail.

If you’re paying attention to the latest hoopla in celebrity news, you may be aware that Perez Hilton is in the middle of a controversy over publishing some photos of Miley Cyrus, which may or may not have shown her in rather pornographic terms.  While Perez has since defended himself (in the only way he knows how – through a whole lot of snark), I can only conclude that this has even become a news item (indeed, CNN has a link to the whole drama-o-rama) because Miley’s peeps have a firm control over her public image, and they are sending a perfectly loud message that her image is not to be messed with (the whole “underage minor” argument is a case in point since, if her image department really cared about her “underage” status, she WOULD NOT be making videos and songs like “Can’t Be Tamed,” nor would she be doing pole dances during her live performances).

Whether this is much ado about nothing, I do commend her peeps for taking the reins on who has access to Miley’s public image and who does not.

I don’t need to let you know that David’s image has been up for grabs, and IMO much of the fan art and borrowed images that furnish the fanbase fall under the laws of “fair use” (as long as the original copyright image has been duly transformed from its original meaning and certain snippets are used, it’s “Fair Use”), but it is disconcerting to learn that some of the fan art has been stolen for commercial purposes.  Perhaps David’s peeps may not need to step in since the issue concerns the artist more than the artist who inspired them, but this too is part of management and “image control.”

But then, I don’t know who bears the most responsibility for this issue: David himself or his management.  What is clear is that David’s humility prevents him, at times, from having a big ego.  We love him dearly for it, but if one is to become a public persona, this can be a huge problem.  One needs an ego, a sense of self-preservation, self-love, and self-protection.  I believe David is still growing and finding himself, but he needs to be surrounded by people who know how to best PROJECT his self-image in ways that recognize his market value and commodity interests.

What Chords of Strength reveal and what this delay in releasing his album might suggest is that David is becoming more comfortable in himself and defining what that public persona will be.  While we applaud him for this growth, he now needs to develop more SELF interest and more control of his public image so that he can DICTATE what images he wants of himself.  A good publicist, trainer, public and entertainment expert should help him with this.

We need only look at the likes of the late Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Lady Gaga to know that every concept – from stage persona to music video to album cover – is based on their own projected image of self.

We, as Archies, have a sense of who David is, but does he himself have a concept of what that public self should be, and is he willing to cultivate a “public self”?  David will need to overcome his natural humility to begin developing this (which is why it would help if someone on his management team can best guide him towards this).

Once a pop artist understands that his “public self” doesn’t have to be his genuine self – or at least can be a fabricated extension of that self – that’s when things really start to happen and explode in interesting ways.  That also means taking full control of one’s image, and that would mean for David:

  1. Fielding interview questions and determining what questions are off limits (no more “dad” questions and the like).
  2. Shaping the public narrative about yourself (no more “AI runner-up” stuff, no more “teen hearthrob” stuff – David clearly thinks he’s above that).
  3. Letting your management team do all the dirty work of maintaining image control (so that he can still maintain his “good sweet guy” persona).

It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds.  The book tour is a good start (indicating that David is still popular and, with highly skilled management, can easily launch through the stratosphere).