The safe profits in bland boy bands

Is boy band One Direction like something from 1970s Sunday night TV?

On the face of it, the five members of British boy band One Direction have it all. Young, rich and surrounded by legions of female fans wherever they go, the group is one of the few recent British bands to crack America'. As Matt Rudd and Francesca Angelini put it in The Sunday Times, "in terms of record sales, Twitter and all-round hormonal hype, One Direction are now the biggest band in the world". If, like me, you were blissfully unaware of the rise of this group, they were formed via TV talent show The X-Factor.

Whatever their musical prowess, their money-making abilities US magazine Business Insider estimates the group will have sold $1bn worth of music, sponsorship and merchandise by the end of the year are undeniably impressive.

Every last detail of their lives is organised. "The group is run like a Formula One team," says Rudd, "and its members treated like sportsmen", with a dietician, personal trainer and vitamin supplements. Healthy living means their management, led by Simon Cowell, can squeeze the most out of this money-making machine.

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The boys spend their time on tour or promoting sponsors' products. In the last month they've released a film, launched a new advertising campaign and performed scores of concerts. It's rumoured Cowell dictates their hairstyles, alcohol consumption and even their love lives.

Their wholesome image is vital to the band's success, says The Sunday Times music journalist Lisa Verrico. "If you look at bands like JLS, they're sexy. They reveal flesh and they do back-flips and they dance." One Direction "wear fluffy jumpers and sit on stools. It's like something from 1970s Sunday night TV. It's safe."

Profitable it may be, but it can't be much fun. Band member Harry Styles told film makers that the band would be as big as The Beatles (although their management cut that comment from the film). Who knows? In terms of sales and money earned they may well top The Beatles. But this sort of lifestyle seems a boring way for the group to spend their time at the top compared to the hedonistic parties enjoyed by the Fab Four.

Let them eat stale bread

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been criticised for bemoaning the eating habits of poorer Brits. "The poorest families in this country choose the most expensive way to hydrate and feed their families: the ready meals," he told the Radio Times. Being a well-fed chef who carved a £150m empire from fancy restaurants makes Oliver an easy target. Soon he was receiving broadsides from left and right.

One Telegraph blog accused him of "deep-fried hypocrisy" while The Independent portrayed him as a modern-day Marie Antoinette "let them eat stale bread". Cynics noted that Oliver's comments coincide with his new TV show. Nonetheless, his point is valid and not just restricted to food. Whether it's through pay-as-you-go mobile-phone deals, topping up costly gas and electricity meters, or getting credit from loan sharks the poor often pay more than the rich for basic goods.

Tabloid money: Britain's army of unpaid carers

So far this government has blown £1.4bn on redundancy payments for NHS senior managers, says the Daily Mirror. That could have paid for 50,000 nurses. Even more galling is that many of those given huge payoffs were "immediately re-hired in new posts or as consultants on whacking salaries". This isn't just about wasting taxpayer money it "diverts precious NHS resources from caring for the sick". Despite David Cameron's pre-election promises, fat-cat managers "have prospered under the coalition. The patients have suffered."

The fracking debate shows why unions are failing their members, says The Sun. "RMT's campaign against fracking works directly against its own members' interests." Fracking for oil and gas in the UK offers a great opportunity to cut energy bills. In America it has cut gas prices by two-thirds. You would have thought that as representatives of the workers the unions would support something that could bring down one of the biggest living costs for normal Britons. Not a chance. RMT leader Bob Crow wants RMT members to boycott anything to do with fracking and is plotting to get other unions to do the same. "What a great idea unions campaigning to keep energy costs high for their members."

It's time Britain started caring for its army of unpaid carers, says Andrew Marr in The Mail on Sunday. Around 6.5 million people act as carers and many struggle. Looking after sick loved ones "turns their lives upside down" and makes it difficult to juggle work. About 20% have given up their jobs. But these unsung heroes play an important role in the economy. It's reckoned it would cost the state £119bn to replace their work. With Britain's population getting older, this problem is only going to get worse, so we need a solution. In Germany, employees can cut their workload to 15 hours a week if they have caring responsibilities. Maybe it's time Britain tried something similar.

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