If you haven’t been able to get the exasperatingly catchy song “Friday” by Rebecca Black out of your head, just wait. There are more little pop princesses waiting for their YouTube moments, and a vanity record label known as the ARK Music Factory plans to bring them all to an unfortunate computer near you!
Patrice Wilson, a former church singer/medical school student/2000 Olympics track and field trainee, founded the ARK Music Factory in 2010. The name ARK “was based on the idea of Noah’s ark,” Wilson told the L.A. Times. “In other words, a place to gather people together, where they could be safe.”
After a slew of career prospects, Wilson chose music, and from there toured with Eastern European pop star Ibrahim Maiga as a backup singer. He then studied the business side of music at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA before moving to Hollywood, because, “if you’re going to try to make a dream in music happen, Los Angeles is where you need to be,” Wilson told the Times.
In a nutshell, this is how the ARK Music Factory works: starry-eyed superstar hopefuls audition for ARK, often with help from parents. For a fee of between $2,000 and $4,000, clients are given a song to record, promotion, a music video, a photo shoot, and even image consulting. Wilson works with producer-engineer Clarence Jay, who also serves as his business partner in ARK. Wilson writes songs for the tween celebrity hopefuls, so if there’s anyone to blame for “Friday” and its brain-staining sound, it’s him.
Wilson says that he writes age-appropriate lyrics for his clients, which is probably why they are so damn annoying to any listener who is not between ages seven and 16. But although Black’s song “Friday” (which Wilson wrote and takes full responsibility for) has been ripped apart and mocked by many, it still managed to peak at No. 19 on the iTunes’ charts and has logged more than 64-million views on YouTube.
Pop song lyrics are meant to be catchy, simple, and sweet, according to Wilson, who works with clients and their parents on the perfect tune to suit their almost-always bubbly personalities. He defends himself against accusations of exploiting little rich girls for personal gain, saying that he’s not in this to make millions, but instead to give aspiring performers a chance to work in a studio and in front of a camera.
“I’m getting a lot of criticism saying I’m exploiting rich kids and their parents, but find me another company that would do all this at a cost this low, ” Wilson told the Times. “I don’t promise anyone fame. In fact, if someone approaches me with their only goal to ‘get famous,’ I tell them they’re not in this for the right reasons.”
However, it may not seem that way when looking at Wilson’s clientele. Very few little girls (as well as adults) delve into Hollywood with the intention of bettering themselves as artists. It’s about celebrity status, and the songs and videos – which tend to scream, “Hey I can relate to you, and we’re totally cute” – of artists in the ARK community are absolute proof that fame is the game.
An ARK favorite who may be the next Rebecca Black is CJ Fam, a pre-teen with big golden locks of hair, a wardrobe that looks like tween store Limited Too exploded on her, and a voice to match the mental image of a Limited Too explosion (Does that store even exist still?). Her debut song, “I Wanna Be an Ordinary Pop Star,” talks about how she is so down to earth that fame would never make her unordinary. The video shows differently.
In CJ Fam’s debut video, the tiny diva participates in photo shoots, tries on clothes and funky sunglasses, rides in limos, and walks out of buildings only to be cheered on by adoring fans (child actors). The best part of the video is seeing Patrice Wilson and Clarence Jay watching sassy little CJ on a monitor, happily nodding and seeming incredibly impressed, thinking, “Man, we’ve got ourselves the real deal on this one.”
It seems that only Patrice Wilson and Clarence Jay know the true motives of the ARK Music Factory label, which depicts itself as indie on its Myspace page, a description that doesn’t really seem to fit when considering the ultra-glam image it tries to convey to little girls. Time can only tell, but in the mean time, check out the ARK Music Factory’s website for more information (and a good chuckle perhaps), as well as “Sergio Cilli’s White Hot Top 5: ARK Music Factory Artists,” at current.com/shows/infomania (for a side-splitting fit of hysterical laughter).