>On one of the Yahoo groups I’m a member of, there’s been some recent discussion about the TV show, American Idol–sparked by an article by Bob Baker.
I don’t think the show leads us to think there are hundreds of people out there like Randy, Paula and Simon searching for raw talent. I certainly never got that impression. If there were, AI would not be so wildly popular. It would be commonplace, just one among many such shows.
Between that assumption and his belief that AI creates an illusion suggesting “aspiring musicians lack talent and are delusional, struggling and starving” I believe Mr. Baker insults the intellect of the American public. Just because most of what AI entertains us with during the tryouts is the worst of what answers their call doesn’t mean we don’t realize there are better contestants. They’re trying to capture our attention, gain ratings. Shows like yesterday’s The Gong Show have proven we’re somewhat fascinated by the people who are delusional. Let’s face it, tryouts are one time during the show we agree with Simon and wholeheartedly applaud his brutal appraisals.
Another point on which Mr. Baker and I disagree is that AI creates a myth that “you need the approval of industry gatekeepers to “make it” in music”. Again, I’ve never gotten that impression. A prime example is Taylor Hicks, (incidentally in the top two this season) who has been performing with his band for years. He already has a following and has obviously been developing a style for years. He hasn’t been sitting around waiting for someone to discover him. He already IS a success as a musician and singer. But just as the minor league baseball player enjoys playing the game, he still aspires to join the major leagues. Taylor is simply reaching for a higher level of success. If he becomes the next American Idol, no doubt his career will flourish. If he doesn’t I’m equally sure he’ll continue performing, more popular than he was before the competition.
Katherine McPhee is another example. Although she’s young and her singing career may not be as developed as Taylor’s, it’s obvious she hasn’t been sitting around waiting for someone to discover her. She’s been developing her awesome talent, stretching her voice and getting used to performing before audiences. When AI came along, she took advantage of that opportunity too.
One thing Mr. Baker and I do agree on is that there’s less risk for the record labels if they sign someone with a proven record. By letting the American audience vote for the contestants, they find out exactly who appeals to millions and who doesn’t. Not just their particular voice and talent, but their personality, confidence, willingness to learn and grow as an artist, as well as the abilities to sell themselves and bounce back in the face of adversity. With those hurdles already proven, the AI winner’s record label is assured a fairly wide appeal for that artists music.
As an author, I get what Mr. Baker is saying about pursuing dreams, promoting ourselves and making our own opportunities for a lucky break. Many of us do that daily. He’s doing exactly that with his blog – promoting his own books about self-promotion and marketing in the music business. I don’t doubt he’s even seeing some success. But if the opportunity were to come along, would he turn down a publishing contract with a major publishing house and all their distribution and promotion resources? Or would he consider that the next level of success and embrace it as a lucky break?
As we’re all well aware, not everyone is destined to be a star. But the way I see it, AI gives us all the hope that if we work hard, believe in ourselves and utilize the resources available, the next level of success is within our grasp.