Many musicians tend to have little respect for musical contest shows like American Idol, viewing it as a shortcut to success. The success may be somewhat exaggerated however, with new data showing that artists featured on these shows don't always go on to produce hits.
Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0
Most artists and musicians that I know hold the shows American Idol and The Voice in some level of contempt. It’s made-for-TV music and doesn’t reflect much about the true business of music or paying your dues (although there’s less of that these days anyway). It gets the public excited for the duration of the show, then the excitement dissipates as soon as the show ends. The Wall Street Journal posted an excellent overview of just how successful American Idol winners are (seen on the graphic on the right), and it’s really no surprise if you pay attention to the industry.
As you can see, after the first 4 years when Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood were the victors, not much has happened for the winners. The chart looks at album sales, but also takes into account downloads and streaming, so it’s not skewed one way or the other.
Underwood tops the list with the equivalent of 21.7 million albums sold and Clarkson comes in at 18.9 million. What’s interesting is that even as viewership for the show has risen, the eventual success of the winners has fallen. This is surprising given American Idol’s huge publicity machine.
The show is currently a shell of its former self with only 8.4 million viewers, which was down 6% from its premier season 15 show and way below its peak of 30 million viewers per episode back in season 5. Competitor The Voice drew 11,7 million viewers.
The Voice is even less effective than Idol in minting hits however, as all the winners combined have only managed to sell the equivalent of 7 million albums, which is about a third of Idol winners. That said, the results aren’t that surprising considering that currently the charts are dominated by hip-hop while the shows concentrate on pop.
There have been some near winners on Idol that went on to some success though. Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken has sold 5.2 million albums, season 5 finalist Chris Daughtry is at 9.4 million, and season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert is at 2.3 million.
Still, it’s not all that surprising that winners and contestants from the shows haven’t made a bigger dent in the music business. Our industry thrives on creativity, and most huge artists have voices that don’t conform to what Idol and Voice judges and execs deem as acceptable. The public doesn’t care though, since it’s still all about the song, not the voice.