Over the past few months, I’ve been watching old 1990s episodes of Top of The Pops (ToTP). For anyone who isn’t UK based, or doesn’t remember ToTP, it was a weekly show which featured music artists and bands from the charts. Being on ToTP was seen as a huge indication of success, and at the time it was one of the few places to see chart music on TV. For anyone that liked pop music, it was required viewing.
One of the things that looks really odd, in retrospect, is how the crowd reacts to the music. Generally speaking, they pretty much clap along in a weirdly coordinated, almost robotic, way. It’s really odd seeing people clap and sway along to early 90s indie music in a way that, well, nobody ever would at a gig. If you go and watch an episode from 91 or 92 on YouTube, you’ll see what I mean.
Having watched a documentary about the making of Top of The Pops, I gather that in the early 90s the crowd were pretty much told how to behave. Not only this, some bands and artists that weren’t seen as ‘visual’ enough would be provided with backing dancers who would dance along with them. Watch these in retrospect and you can see how much the different styles of dancing jars with the music. It must have been a thoroughly bizarre experience to be in the audience, and in retrospect it’s quite a bizarre thing to watch!
Building For “Them” Not For “Us”
The decision to encourage people to clap and to employ generic dancers could be described as ‘design decisions’. Ultimately, an executive producer (or someone) is presumably responsible for designing the programming and ensuring the output meets its stakeholder needs. Those stakeholders would include the viewers, the live audience and many others (including the needs of the person commissioning the show).