Friday, July 14, 2006

The Art of a Deal

American Idol is primarily a television show, but it is also a legitimate way to find talent. Early on, the show got a bad rap for producing singers that did "not pay their dues". What does that mean? Should all musicians start out in their garage, progressing to smoky bars, and then knocking on doors begging to be heard. Many artists do start out that way, but I don't think it makes their art any more legitimate than someone who starts on a talent show. If the Mickey Mouse Club can produce Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake as legitimate artists, I think American Idol can produce a legitimate Superstar or two on its own. It already has produced several platinum-recording artists in Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, and Carrie Underwood. Kelly Clarkson is a radio darling, Grammy winner, and international Superstar selling ten million albums worldwide. Carrie Underwood has sold over 3 million and been embraced by the country music industry winning numerous country music awards. Fantasia and Ruben Studdard are successful in the urban market. Clay Aiken has sold over four million albums and grossed 28 million dollars in concert sales He is getting ready to release his second mainstream album 'quite soon', and there is no telling how far his rocket to the stars will go.

This year's winner Taylor Hicks looks to have a strong fanbase and good crowd reception at the AI5 Tour. He should be the next platinum recording artist out of the American Idol franchise. Getting your start on American Idol not longer carries quite the stigma that it did in earlier seasons. It's amazing how the current mega-ratings of American Idol can change perceptions. Taylor will have an easier road paved not only by the acceptance of American Idol as part of pop culture, but by the success of Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, and Carrie Underwood. Bo Bice also deserves some recognition for being the first contestant who showed the media and critics that musicians can and do use American Idol to gain a foothold in the industry when other methods have failed.

There will always be a jealousy factor associated with contestants coming out of American Idol. There are many talented musicians that will never see a modicum of success. Making it in the music business is a series of events that have to happen simutaneously: talent, knowing the right people, connection to your audience, a record company's willingness to promote you. It's a fact that the Idols go from obscurity to fame within a few months. How far the contestant makes it is not entirely in their own hands even if they have good performances. A lot depends on who the producers of the show want to showcase for the season. Also, the judges play a big part in swaying the audience, so if the judges like you it is a big plus. For the show to get the desired result, as any Clay Aiken fan knows, manipulation is not unheard of.

American Idol is a musical mini-bootcamp where if the Idol makes it through with a bit of fate on their side, they are poised for success. It gives them an advantage in the music business, but what happens after that is up to the individual. The Idols need to make intelligent decisions that to play to their strengths, and to make-sure they can build upon their AI audience for a long-term career.

Even Idols not coming first or second can have success. Kim Caldwell has a TV Guide hosting gig. Several contestants have gone on to acting. Tamyra Gray has done television and Broadway. Vanessa Oliverz and Diana DeGarmo both have done Broadway. Jennifer Hudson has a supporting role in Dream Girls and is on many short-lists predicting an Oscar nomination. Others have had success in the music industry. Josh Gracin is a successful country artist. Kimberley Locke has had radio success and a lucrative modeling assignment with Lane Bryant.

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I tried to come up with the contestants from each season that landed a record deal, either from a major label or an independent label. The contestants have had varying degrees of success.

Contestants who have landed record deals:

Kelly Clarkson(RCA)
Justin Guirini(Dropped by RCA, Bmg Special Prod)
Tamyra Gray (dropped by J Records, Released an album with 19 Records)
RJ Helton (Gospocentric-- Christian)
Jim Verraros (Koch)
Nikki McKibbin (Chena)
Christina Christian (19 Records--prob. no longer at label)

Clay Aiken (RCA)
Ruben Studdard (J Records)
Kimberley Locke (Curb)
Josh Gracin (Lyric Street)
Carmen Rasmussen (R3 Rcecords)
Corey Clark (Bungalo Records)
Vanessa Oliverez (released a CD In Canada)

Fantasia (J Records)
Diana DiGarmo (dropped by RCA)
John Stevens (dropped by Maverick)
LaToya London (Peak Records)
George Huff (Word Entertainment)
Jasmine Trias (Mountain Apple)
Camile Velasco (dropped by MoTown)
William Hung *(Koch)

Jon Peter Lewis ( Cockaroo Entertainment )

* Did not compete, but landed a record deal on the novelty factor.

Carrie Underwood (Arista)
Bo Bice (RCA)
Mario Vazquez* (J Records)

Constantine Mouroulis (recording, but no info of a label is found)

* Did not complete the AI Season

Taylor Hicks (Arista)
Katherine McPhee (RCA)
Chris Daughtry (RCA)
Kellie Pickler (Sony/BMG Nashville)

Note: More signings from AI5 contestants possible after AI5 Tour

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Here is site with information about the American Idols success on the radio charts: American Idols on the Charts - A Complete Record

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Spotlight Blogs:

For a look at some of musics most beautiful voices visit
The ConCLAYve: Haunting Voices: Or Continually Recurring To The Mind

For a weekly recap of Rockstar: SuperNova visit
Diamond's Blog

For insight into the radio busniess visit
Lyrichord's Music Musings: Radioplay Speculation & Analysis

Current radio chart rankings for Idols visit

Something That Really Happened: American Idol on the Radio - Week Ending 7/7/06

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At 7:03 PM, Blogger Diamond said...

Hey - thanks for linking my RS blog :) I totally agree with what you said about Idol being a legitimate way to find a star, and also that it's easier now than it was the first few seasons for the Idols to gain respect in the industry. Hopefully the music biz will wake up and realize that with low CD sales and file sharing, the large amounts of $$$$ spent by Idol fans is just as good as the money spent by fans of "real" artists who have "paid their dues."

At 6:59 AM, Blogger couchie said...

Over the years there has been a progression of acceptance and I think it's been a combination of things. I'm just happy that the automatic stigma is lessening.

I think it started with the almighty dollar as evidenced by Kelly and Clay. I do think Fantasia brought something to the table. She was absolutely embraced by African American artists - both her contemporaries and legends. kelly's amazing success probably came next followed by Carrie being successful in the country genre. the country crowd seems to have an open heart for her and I think it's great. I also think AI has also stopped downplaying the fact that many of these singers didn't roll out of bed and decided they want to sing but have been working at it for years. I wish them all luck.

At 7:48 AM, Blogger Pink Armchair said...

This was a very thought-provoking essay -- I've never understood why there is such a stigma attached to AI but not to the freakin' Mickey Mouse Club! And apparently not to Star Search, either. Makes no sense to me. Probably a lot of the sour grapes are from people who came along before AI, or know they couldn't hack it on there.

Just FYI -- I'm almost positive that it's spelled Nikki McKibbin.

Great blog!

At 4:44 PM, Blogger lyrichord said...

I think a few seasons of Idol have proven that it is definitely a legitimate way to find a star. It was probably easy for people to say that you just put anyone on TV and they can become a star, but obviously record sales beg to differ.


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