Hard News by Russell Brown

Idol thoughts

I was mildly astonished when I saw BMG's Michael Bradshaw inform 17-year-old NZ Idol runner-up Michael Murphy that "you've got a contract with BMG too" and insist on shaking his hand for the camera on Holmes last night.

Turns out that perhaps I shouldn't have been. A recording contract with BMG is locked into the Idol format: it has been the prize for Idol winners in the UK, US (as RCA), South Africa, Australia and Canada. So that's what Ben Lummis has got. But in most territories, BMG has also scooped up the Idol runner-up - and in Australia three finalists, including the top two, signed to BMG. That's because BMG has the right to sign any of the other nine finalists it chooses.

It's not hard to anticipate the problem here: only one Idol veteran can be top priority - and it might not be the one who won. In Britain, BMG seemed far keener on UK Idol runner-up Gareth Gates than it did on winner Will Young - to the point where it cleared the way in its release schedules for Gates, but not for Young. Oddly enough, Gates was dropped by BMG this month while Young's career seems to be flourishing. BMG's UK head, Simon Cowell (not to be confused with series creator Simon Fuller) was a judge on the show in the UK and America.

Lummis also won a management contract with Idol judge Paul Ellis. I'm a little uneasy about people "winning" something that they should normally enter into with due diligence, but Paul's honest and has international experience in working with singers and songwriters.

He also has an option to manage the other nine finalists and has indicated he'll be working with Camillia. I think that's enough. If Michael is going to sign with BMG - and he might not have a choice - he ought to have independent advice. In New Zealand, where BMG has almost no track record with local artists in recent years, sharing a label with your fellow Idol finalist may not be the best idea.

The on-camera announcement also appears to conflict with the promise from another BMG spokesman before the final that all efforts would go into the winner before any other decisions were announced: "It's our intention to concentrate on the winner. This is what it's all about." I hope somebody keeps an eye on this.

Still, my impression is that we've enjoyed a rather more relaxed and down-home version of the Idol format here - certainly more so than in America. Salon had a story about the contractual niceties of American Idol and CNN profiled Simon Fuller.

Anyway, speaking of transformations … Mike Hosking! Good grief. No one remembers it, but but for a few months at the end of 1999, I was the Friday guest commentator on Breakfast. It was grim: I'd get up at 4.45am, write Hard News, drive into TVNZ, talk for two-to-five minutes, go to bFM to deliver Hard News - and then start work.

Still, we'd just bought our house, and it paid for the deck. And Hosking was a nice bloke, if also apparently the straightest man in the world. I recall being merrily hailed by him in Ponsonby one day - he was dressed in a pastel yellow polo shirt and slacks (I'm thinking plaid, but I might be imagining that).

And now look at him in this week's Woman's Weekly: goatee, shaggy hair and a hoody! (Mike! Not the hoody with the blazer!) He seems to be travelling backwards in time. You're not missing much if you don't pick up the mag though - the (mildly) interesting bits have already been in the Sunday papers.

PS: I jumped the gun in saying the Flying Nun pub quiz was tonight. It's next Wednesday...