This week, I received a video message from the singer Matt Cardle, the former winner of The X Factor.
Matt wanted to drop me a line to thank me for helping encouraging a friend of mine to finish their book.
The friend had done so, and gone on to get a book deal, which Matt thought was pretty cool and he couldn’t wait to read it when it came out.
I appreciate this might be hard to believe, but being a columnist for this esteemed newspaper does not actually propel you into the higher reaches of celebrity (or even, sadly, its lowest reaches).
Rather than having reality TV show winners on speed dial, the message from Matt came about through one of the stranger phenomenons of the last twelve months: the rise and rise of the celebrity video-messaging service.
Through websites such as Cameo and Memmo, it is now possible to pay for a celebrity of your choice to record a personal message – be it to wish you or someone you know Happy Birthday, to propose on your behalf or even end a relationship for you (apparently, this is a thing).
Depending which celebrity you choose for the message, prices range from around a tenner to just under a couple of thousand if you want Caitlyn Jenner to wish you many happy returns.
The set up is big business. Last month Cameo, which takes a 25% cut of the fees, was valued at $1 billion.
And for the individual stars, it can be a lucrative earner while lockdown has been locking down the day job.
One of the biggest earners in the UK is purported to be the actor James Buckley, who played the character Jay Cartwright in the TV comedy The Inbetweeners. Buckley’s character in the show was known for his expletive-ridden put downs.
It turns out there is a market for people receiving a personalised thirty seconds of abuse.
Buckley made an average of 37 such videos a day last year, racking up an estimated £300,000 in the process.
A skim through the websites offers a strange slice of the modern celebrity world and the relative worth of different individuals.
For one message from Stormy Daniels (£187.50), you could get almost half a dozen from Paul Chuckle (£36.75). Nigel Farage (£75), meanwhile, is 75p more expensive than rapper Doug E Fresh (£74.25) but £1 cheaper than Made in Chelsea’s Sophie Hermann (£80).
Which is beginning to sound like the start of one of those maths questions I struggled to help my daughter with during lockdown.
A five-month wonder? The next phase in celebrity? To quote the title of Matt Cardle’s 2018 album, Time To Be Alive.
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Original posted at www.salisburyjournal.co.uk