Finally it’s time to re-visit the American Idol discussion. (Read my other arguments here) First off, I want to say I have no ill will toward any of the AI artists. In fact, I’m happy for them. Breaking into the music industry is impossible. If you make it by winning a game show…then all the power to you. My issue is with the show itself and how it has hurt the music industry.
One comment a couple days back claimed that without American Idol, the music industry would be really hurting. I think the feeling from this comment is that when you see a few artists at the top doing very well…it’s the illusion that American Idol is actually a positive influence. But it’s only that…just an illusion. Since Idol premiered in 2002, there have been 84 finalists. Of the finalists, 41 have released an album, accounting for 68 total album releases. There have been 11 million-selling albums by 7 of the contestants. There have been 9 albums to sell over 500K by 8 other artists. (Technically, there have been 13 platinum albums…but platinum status is awarded for albums shipped and not sales. And this discussion is about sales.)
That means only 20% of the contestants with albums will go platinum, while 37% will at least go gold. That seems great. A modest rate of success. But the truth is…with the amount of exposure these artists are getting…this is more a failure than anything. 30 million people watch the show. For the contestants that are 3rd runner-ups, who end up with 500K in sales, that means less than 2% of the viewing audience is going out and buying your album. These aren’t just artists who are getting one song. One shot. The 3rd runner-up is getting to perform for weeks, even months on end to an audience of millions. They should be doing better. Part of the problem is the 8-month wait for a proper album to come out…but there’s also something bigger going on…maybe the contestant just isn’t that good to deserve that much exposure. Or maybe it’s the fact that people don’t take these contestants seriously as artists since this is really just a GAME SHOW!!!
So of the 41 contestants to release albums, 15 at the top have at least gone gold. What about the 15 at the bottom? Well, if you combine all 18 releases by the bottom 15 contestants, it would only add up to 300K units sold. That’s an average of 20K per release. That’s not good. Especially when you get to showcase your talents to 30 million people! And to boot, there are over 44 contestants, who have never released an album at all.
One of the biggest problems with the show is something that is addressed in Chris Anderson’s book, The Long Tail. It’s something called niche marketing. Anderson attributed up to 25% of sales from places like Netflix and Amazon are products that apply to niche markets that are not found in the main stream. Albums, movies, and books that are not ever listed in sales charts account for one quarter of overall sales. When American Idol promotes 1-2, maybe 3 contestants, they are ignoring a giant chunk of sales potential. At least 75%…maybe even more.
So…with a couple more points to make in wrap-up…I’ll push this one more day.
These are the best Eminem solo songs…before you start screaming about all the Dr. Dre songs…duets will be tomorrow…so chill out. (Yes, Business is in there…but Dre piping in for a couple of “Hell Yeahs” does not constitute a duet)