And yet, there are talented people in the business. Miss Music finalist and GaVaNa front-woman Anya Nikolaychuk thinks people in Ukraine are sick and tired of seeing so many evanescent glamour-girl acts on TV. "When the casting session for GaVaNa took place, the producers' main criterion wasn't only how we looked, but also to find creative people who wanted to contribute to the girl group's general image," she says. "Each of us plays a role in the group. One writes lyrics, another thinks about the music and our general style, and so oa" Ukrainian pop singer Marta agrees that there can be more to good-looking pop acts than meets the eye, and that the goal is to combine beauty and talent in one performer. 'As arrogant as it sounds," she says, "I think that ?? both attractive and a good singer at the same time. But if I had to choose, I'd get more satisfaction out of being called a talented singer than just a pretty woman"
Rich Men's Wives
However if there are signs of change in the industry, it still remains to some measure dominated by borderline singers who, in a distinctly post-Soviet twist, turn out to be the wives and daughters of tycoons. Such young and not-so-young women essentially use their husbands' and fathers' money to buy their way onto the scene. "There are a lot of stars like that on TV taking up airtime, so that promising young performers can't fight their way in," Nikolaychuk says. "Their goal is to prove that they're capable of becoming singers, actors, models, etc But since if s really not their thing, they become bored quite quickly" There are also situations when singers who can't even sing hire professional vocalists to record their parts for them. That sort of deception has become so common that nobody even comments about it anymore. Marta verifies that such phony "singers" do indeed exist "There are such situations in our show business scene, but I'm not totally against it," she says. "It's just one of the ways people can earn money." Many players in the industry say that the term "show business" forgives any number of deceptions and any amount of triviality: it's all about making money and it shouldn't bother anyone that there's a direct line connecting the act you see on music television with commercial considerations. Nor do many producers or publicists deny having dealt with rich girls and women trying to buy their way into a singing career, which is very fashionable nowadays. Promo Center's director Iren Osenniaya has turned down a lot of such wannabe "stars," whom she says turn up "half naked" and don't seem to have much sense that she's a person with standards. 'Taced with such situations I get even more inspired to work on quality projects, with talented people at the heart of them," she says. "In the end, who needs a girl who constantly needs money invested in her?" Optimists say that the money people in the industry will soon grow tired of such projects, not least because they'll never become self-supporting Then the music scene will develop in the right direction
No Money, No Format
In Ukraine, as elsewhere, making money is all about sticking to the tried-and-true money-making musical format. Says Marta, a music "format is measured by a certain sum of money As soon as the money runs out" and a particular format - say, girl-pop - becomes less lucrative, everything changes and new styles can emerge. There's nothing wrong in principle with stick ing to a winning style. MTV Ukraine director "Vfevgen Stupka says every variety of media has its own format, and that that's true all over the world, not just in Ukraine. 'All media have different audiences that differ according to age and the social group they belong to," he says. Iren Osenniaya, who's now working witii the promising countertenor Alex Luna, knows from experience what working with acts who don't fit the format is all about. Most radio stations refuse to put Luna in rotation, because they don't know how to categorise him. "There have been people who have assured me that some of my projects or singers are impossible to sell," she says. But, she says, "if a person is talented, sooner or later he'll make the money back" Iren has also worked with Ruslana, the massive star who also wasn't overwhelmingly accepted by Ukrainians until she won the 2 004 Eurovision Song Contest and showed her native country how popular she was in the rest of the world. Her ethnic sound, which had been considered outside the ideal format, subsequently became popular at every radio station in Ukraine.
Ten years from now, observers agree, the music scene will be different. In what way it will be different is the question that intrigues them
The Western music business remains one step ahead of ours, which is understandable given how new ours is. Our singers often look westward, trying to learn from Western professionalism and to copy the West's musical trends and preferences. "The Ukrainian market is neither good nor bad," Marta says. "It's just different from the Western one, and you have to adjust things for local tastes. Since I live here, my creative work is aimed directly at our customers." Still, singers don't hide the fact that they want to make it overseas, which isn't always easy to do. "Of course we can promote our artists [in the West], and whatever boundaries there are,are all in our heads," Stupka says. "The main difficulty that might arise for one of our singers is to be understood and accepted by a foreign audience." Many professionals note that Ukraine's music market is behind in its development because it lacks structure: it's chaotic, with different formats and musical styles still trying to find their places. GaVaNa's Nikolaychuk, meanwhile, thinks the main issue in this country is that Ukrainians don't take to heavy, serious music "Ukrainians like simple rhythms and light songs, which makes us feel closer to pop culture. And when a talented or unusual project comes out with its own 'creative glamour7, people might not understand it," she says. GaVaNa is no exception from the rale, and would also like to play abroad But Nikolaychuk is realistic if you want to make it in Europe or elsewhere, she says, you have to be "different from all the others." This would seem to be true, given that the Ukrainian acts that have made it in other countries are ones that really do stand out Rus-lana and Verka Serdyuchka were successful at Eurovision, Tina Karol made a splash at Novaya Volna, and Lama was honoured at the MTV Europe Music Awards. These are all performers who can sing and who are each unique, though in different ways. Iren Osenniaya says "the failure of our market is in its primitiveness and its unwillingness to learn from the West. Also, many of our artists don't want to develop their professional skills at all." Ukrainians have never been a people that like to stand out from the crowd, and thaf s resulted in a music scene in which many projects resemble one another. But, industry insiders say, as soon as we realise that change is needed, progress will come by itself.
These days, relations between producers and singers are more than close the two sides are joined at the hip. This can be work out well if the artist finds a producer who understands his music and lives for the artist and for a com-??? prosperous future. But mostly, such relationships are all about commerce, which honest producers aren't inclined even to dispute "I think people's love can always be measured in money. And yes, all producers think of artists as commercial projects," Stupka says. Not that all singers are bothered by that "It would suit me to a T if I became a kind of hen who lays golden eggs for her producer," Marta says, adding that that would be true only if making money wasn't the producer's only goal. There is also a trend in Ukraine in which producers essentially become the music market's designers, setting the fashion for this or that music style The more projects of a particular type appear, the more you can be sure that someone is orchestrating the trend "The results of my work are always visible," Stupka says. 'And the impact it has on the public is impossible to over-estimate" He says a producer or project manager's goal should be to find the balance between public tastes and artistic values. "That's the most difficult thing," he says.
Informal sources indicate that about 60 percent of Ukrainian singers lip-synch, and most are chosen on sexuality alone
Ten years from now, observers agree, the music scene will be different. In what way it will be different is the question that intrigues them. "The issue is that TV channels mostly broadcast paid-for videos, and that prevents a viewer from seeing a complete picture of Ukrainian show business today," "Vevgen Stupka says. "It looks like an endless circle. But I think that when people get bored of it, a revolution in our music market will be inevitable." He's sure better times are coming, and that soon the market will attract only people for whom music is a calling Even the teen star Vika Antonova, whose parents have invested a lot of money in their daughter's passion for music, is sure that what she calls "unfair projects" are as temporary as they are artificial. "It's unfair to record others' voices as your own. No one wants to be deceived," she says. Projects the main goal of which is to get on TV are certain to die and the Ukrainian music industry will blossom. At least, that's what a lot of insiders say