Theory: Syco’s Smear Campaign Against One Direction Is an Attempt at a Product Hop
So, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and am finally sitting down to write up my thoughts (while stuck in an airport). One of the primary questions everyone has had is why would Simon, Syco, and 1DHQ want to smear One Direction as a brand and the members specifically? The most common answer is that they’re upset that they’ve lost their biggest cash cow, so they’re trying to break their favorite toy before anyone else gets to play with it. I think that’s part of it (I really do think Simon can be a petulant child), but I think it’s more than that. I actually think that they are trying to execute what in the pharmaceutical industry would be called a “product hop.” Here’s my explanation of this, but be forewarned that you may learn more about the pharmaceutical industry than you ever wanted to know.
For this to make sense, unfortunately you need a quick primer in how the pharmaceutical industry in the U.S. works (at least the relevant aspects). A brand name drug company invests a lot of money to research new drugs and get approval from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to sell those drugs. In return, to compensate them for this investment, they can obtain patents on new drugs and get the right to sell those drugs exclusively for up to 20 years. If you’re the only company in the world that can make that drug and sell it in the U.S. (and there are similar parallel systems in most other countries), you can make bank.
Of course, other people want a cut of the market. That’s where generic drug manufacturers come in. They could wait until the patent expires, but of course they don’t want to do that. In 20 years that specific drug probably won’t be worth all that much. Plus, while patents are there to reward the drug companies (really, the point is to provide incentives for undertaking the research and drug development), competition is better for consumers. So, there is a process in place (referred to as “Hatch-Waxman” for the legislators who passed the laws) for generics to challenge the patents of the brand name companies and get generics on the market faster. Many of these challenges are successful, but the process takes a few years, so while the challenges are happening one of the things the brand companies will do is try to shift the market to a different drug they make that isn’t subject (yet) to a generic challenge. These are prescription drugs, which means their customers are essentially the doctors prescribing the drugs. They want those prescribing physicians to “hop” to a new (likely closely related) drug.
For example, Big Brand Company sells drug X that docs have been prescribing to treat something. Drug X is covered by Patent A. Big Generic Company files the requisite paperwork with the FDA to say that they don’t think that Patent A is any good and they intend to sell a generic version of drug X. Litigation ensues on Patent A and whether it really is a good patent. Meanwhile, Big Brand Company works to develop drug X 2.0, which is slightly different – maybe it is an extended release version or it has different dosages or it has something that changes the side effects. They get a new patent, Patent B, which is not subject to Big Generic Company’s case against Patent A. The next step is to get all the doctors who were prescribing drug X to switch to prescribing drug X 2.0. That way, if the generic wins, it doesn’t matter because no one is prescribing the drug that they have a generic for. To get the docs to switch their prescribing habits, though, Big Drug Company has to give them a good reason to hop to the new product. To do this, they not only play up all the great new features of the new drug (which are largely bullshit, let’s be clear), but they SMEAR THEIR OWN OLD PRODUCT. They don’t want the docs to keep prescribing drug X because they know they won’t be able to make any money off of it anymore. (When a generic enters the market, the price drops by up to 95% and there are laws requiring that a generic be substituted for the brand whenever possible). They have to go out of their way to convince doctors that the old product is shit and that they should shift all of their prescriptions to the new product. That way they keep their stranglehold on the market and make a ton of money.
I think that this is what Syco is trying to do with 1D. They aren’t going to be able to make any money off of 1D in the future, so they need the fans of 1D to hop to a new product, like Little Mix or 5th Harmony or Olly Murs or whomever. They’ll market those other artists, but it’s even better if they can recapture some of the lost revenue from 1D fans. If they smear 1D to the point where we are all utterly fed up with the lies and lack of information, etc., then we will stop spending money on them in the future. We still have that money to spend, however, and there’s a good chance we’ll spend it on other artists. It’s not just about denying 1D’s future label more revenue, they need to recapture some of that lost revenue and keep it in the Syco family.
The analogy to pharmaceuticals isn’t exact, because of course Syco doesn’t have a monopoly on the music market, but what’s interesting is that a lot of the smear campaign has been focused on the UK. Even though babygate is occurring in the U.S., most of the articles are in UK tabloids. Some of the stuff about Harry is being published here, of course, but there’s still more in the UK. All the Liam toy boy bullshit is in the UK. Syco is a significantly bigger player in the UK – none of their other artists have really broken the U.S. market. (Little Mix has a bit, but not that much. 5th Harmony is a U.S. act, though.) Part of why the smear campaign is focused in the UK is obviously because that’s how far Syco’s reach extends to manipulate the media coverage, but I think it’s also because that’s the market in which they can recapture some of their lost revenue. If it were just about bad-mouthing 1D to their new label, there would be more stuff in the States, where the new label will presumably be located. Instead, they’re focused on the UK, where there are fans whom they can try to win over to hop to a different product. The UK fans are like the top doctors that the pharma companies are trying to convince to switch to drug X 2.0.
Obvious argument against this theory: why would Sony let them do this if they will still be 1D’s label going forward. I don’t know for sure, but there are several counterarguments. First, maybe a Sony imprint won’t be their label going forward. Maybe the Harry-Columbia stuff is bullshit. Or, maybe they think they’ll make more from their cut of Syco’s product hop than the potential loss to future 1D income from this smear campaign. Maybe they think that 1D will be profitable no matter what Syco does at the moment, so let them do their thing if it recaptures some of Syco’s lost revenue, and the other lost revenue will still be in Sony’s pocket at the end of the day anyway. Maybe some of the fans who go along with the product hop will also return to 1D eventually anyway, and so Sony gets a double cut of their money because they’ve been convinced to spend more than they originally would.
Sorry this is so long, but I think you need the pharma example to understand what I’m trying to say. I do think there is a element of Simon and Syco being cruel and petulant, but I think there is also a strategic marketing aspect to the whole smear campaign.
Tl;dr: The Syco smear campaign isn’t just sour grapes, it’s a strategic attempt to recapture lost 1D revenue by shifting fans to a new “product,” i.e. other Syco artists.
neutral end: Whether consciously or not, Stranger gradually resigns herself to never seeing Shianne or Hope again. With nothing to strive for or make her existence bearable, she sinks into hopelessness, but finds no possible escape from her deathless duties. Instead, she disappears into the duties themselves, fighting less and less against the inhumanity of her task every day. Eventually, she is nothing but another hellhound, with no memory of the mortal she once was or the family she once loved.
bad end: Upon realizing that the deal she struck with Boss Scratch was never truly intended to set her free, Stranger starts scheming for a way out. She’s never been smart, but she can be cunning, and she worms her way into the weaknesses in the ranks of Hell, finding resentment and infighting and making them into her weapons. She topples Boss Scratch’s regime from the inside out, kills him with her own hands, crowns herself the new King of Hell, and wages war on Heaven itself to get past its borders and rejoin her wife and child. But an anti-revolutionary in the ranks tips Heaven off about the intended invasion, and Heaven prepares for war. Their forces meet on the plains of Armageddon. Bing, boom, seas of blood, sound of trumpets, the world fuckin’ ends. Stranger’s love and loss are no longer relevant.
good end: ??? ?? ?
good end: hm. i… i’m not sure how to get her to a good ending, honestly. but i love her, so let me bend the rules of the world i made for her (it’s mine, after all). let me say she finds a way to refuse to fulfill her contract. it destroys her, of course. the one they called stranger smith is wiped away from this world and the world beneath it, and all her sins and her unpaid debts with her. but there’s only so many stars in the skies, and only so many souls to put beneath them. infinity isn’t all that; sooner or later we all come back around again. sooner or later, two lovers will meet. they won’t remember each other, but they’ll recognize each other. their hands will still fit together; they’ll still make each other laugh. they’ll make each other cry, too. they’ll dance and they’ll stumble and they’ll have each other, and sooner or later that will be all that matters. sooner or later, the story starts again. maybe it’ll turn out differently this time.