Although American Idol is in it’s final season, it has changed the music industry forever. I believe for the worse for artists. Let’s look at why, and why you need to know this.
First the why. It has changed the music industry forever because pre this show, the way an artist got signed was by having a talent and pursuing a record label that was willing to develop this talent. The label would put their money into your development and take an artist pre-groomed, if you will. They would take a raw talent and turn it into something that their marketing dollars would sky rocket to the top. They usually made their money back plus much more if they pegged the artist right (via A&R work). This environment made it much more likely that an exceptionally talented artist who had no money and no private financial backing could make it big. Fast forward to after the success of the American Idol show…the record execs realized that they had enough talent to last every year just by contestants that were on the show each season. It didn’t even matter so much if they won, it was the fact that these contestants had automatic national exposure and millions of fans! So, why would they now put their own dollars into developing a no one into a huge star? The show was doing it for them. All they had to do was go offer deals to the most likable in the bunch based on fan reaction, and/or winners. Sounds great for artists right? Wrong. What do you think the odds are of an artist landing a spot on the show? Cattle calls of thousands in every state and the picking of talent, in the very beginning is done not by vocal ability, but by TV producers who are using a specific prototype..certain, look, gender,etc. This weeds out thousands and thousands of talented contestants and artists simply based on silly TV criteria for that season. They may be looking for all ‘plain jane’ looking females one season..so even if you are drop dead super model gorgeous with an amazing voice, you will not be picked by the first ‘judges’ at the original non televised audition because you look too spectacular! Sounds crazy right? But it’s true. The vocal ability doesn’t even come into play if you don’t make it past the criteria of the producers physically, or what they are looking for that season. Sound unfair? It is. It’s a TV show, it goes for ratings. Just so happens the major record labels profit from it.
Now for the ‘Why you need to know this’. You need to know that labels are no longer actively seeking talent that needs development. They want that work done for them by the time they pick the artist up. What does that mean for the artist? You need MONEY to make it. There are some exceptions, like if you have some amazing copyrighted songs that will be huge radio hits and an A&R comes across the song and thinks the song alone is worth the development. BUT if that’s not the case, then you need money…money to hire song writers to help you make those songs if you can’t do it yourself. You need to make a presence on the internet and have a built up fan base. They want to know that you can sell concert tickets, even if it’s small venues. If you don’t have a big online fan base then you will have to pay for lots of youtube views and Facebook likes. Oh but as an added risk, if you buy your way to lots of internet fans and don’t have fans that are likely to show up for a show or buy your songs on iTunes this could be an epic fail and cause you to be shelved if a label does pick you up. But, the likes of Justin Beiber and Ke$ha, did in fact buy their original youtube and myspace plays to get the attention of record labels. It’s just something that must be done. This can cause hundreds to thousands a month to purchase. No one on their own can receive that many youtube views, no matter how good they are. It has to start somewhere. I know this, because I’ve worked with people and seen what it takes. Once you get to a certain point in your views, you can then get to some bigger areas online that will hook the young people. But now, you’re talking marketing skills. Some have it, some don’t and most music artists are more concerned with writing their music and playing it or singing it, than they are spending hours in front of a computer trying to get likes on Facebook. Hence, you have to hire someone to do this for you. Many young artists end up having to use their parents money to get this whole thing going as they do not make enough to cover the start up costs. Trying to find a private investor in the music business is as difficult as trying to get signed by a label with no presence or fan base or performing experience. Now this takes money. You need a band when you go out and do shows. Try to find really good musicians willing to go do shows for nothing for the experience. This might work if you are starting as a group, but not as a solo artist needing a band.
I’m not telling you all of this to instill a sense of doom. You CAN make it in the music business, but the playing field has changed and if you are not motivated enough (or lucky enough to not have to work a job) to put huge hours and money into your own development, you will go nowhere. I am telling you this to save you the energy of even thinking about becoming a Pop star unless you are so driven to do it that nothing will stop you. If you are the type of artist that wants it, but wants it handed to them, this is not the industry climate for you. You will work your butt off for it. You will spend hours making friends on social media, on making small talk with people you don’t even know just to get a push. You will have to spend every single night trying to book yourself out somewhere, even if it’s a local coffee shop or open mic night. You will NOT get paid for any of this, and you will might even have to pay for the opportunity. You will have to be committed to practicing and writing every free minute. You will either have to pay studio fees or you will have to spend hour upon hour teaching yourself how to make your own recordings that sound not passable but great! There are programs out there. You will have to pay to solicit your songs on certain sites..more on that in another issue. What I am trying to say is, this is it! It’s on you. Want notice? Don’t count on shows like American Idol. Work, work, work and more work. If you are lucky enough to make a legitimate connection give them everything they ask for and MORE. Prove your dedication. American Idol has made the industry a place where only the extremely driven survive. Be driven.