Saturday, September 19, 2009

To the Idols: A Realistic look at your career prospects

ETA: A lot of people have asked me why I wrote this blog. Honestly, I didn't realize that it was going to get as much interest as it already has by outsiders. I figured my blog readers would read it and I'd try to pass it on to the other top 10 Idols from this year through some of the guys I'd met from this season. The reason I wrote it is because I genuinely want for the Idols to read it, heed it and do well. Not everyone is trying for a career in the fashion I'm pointing out here...if the Idols want to do Broadway or acting or anything other than being a pop (inclusive of rock, r&b, etc) performer, this article/blog entry isn't for them....but if they are, this article has information I know to be invaluable. Some of it is info that I personally have not had to follow: when I moved to Nashville 8 days after tour ended, I had major management (for my genre) and a record deal basically in place (in the final negotiation stages). I also had a publishing deal in place (the company that got my Flatts' cut) and a booking agent picked out (and each of these cogs in the machine brought money to the table). I used my tour time to put all of these pieces in place. So, I haven't lived every single piece of it...and each situation is going to be different. But the basic premise involved with this article is true: if you work hard, you can and should be successful.

Secondly, this post aims at the top 10 members who have not been signed to 19E. We all know that those who have won or come in 2nd have failed, but they did have all the opportunities in the world coming off of Idol. My post is to the unsigned, lower ranking Idols.

On to the article...

So, American Idol Season 8 is officially finished. Last tour date done. People are moving home and for the next several years will try to move on. I believe that this season of Idol was one of the most talented, but if History repeats itself the majority of these Idols will do nothing in music and will be washes within 3 or 4 years. Not trying to be mean, just being real.

From my season of Idol, Jordin Sparks has an actual career. Blake probably should've but doesn't - though he does have a chance to connect in the dance world with his new music. ETA: I've been told that Melinda's first album was quite critically acclaimed and she is currently writing for her next record - sounds good. Lakisha just had a baby, but not much going on on the music front. Chris Richardson is writing a lot, but hasn't released more than a single so far. Phil has a chance to connect in the Christian market, but nothing is guaranteed. Sanjaya is...well, Sanjaya. Haley is in Texas doing something - not exactly sure if it involves music. Gina is putting together some new music, finally, 2 years later. And then there's me.

ETA: Someone brought up Jared Cotter (went home top 16 night my season) who had a big hit with Jay Sean called "Down". Props to post was focusing on the top 10 of each season, but in reality, this success would put him to the top of our season - plus he has the hosting gig...Jared was one of those that was going to be successful no matter what - he got what Idol was and he got who he was.

If you look at Season 7, the odds are about the same. You've got Cook and Archuletta who are doing reasonably well. Then Castro who is signed to a major label. Michael Johns and Brooke have records out and have seen some chart success. Carly is now the frontwoman for Evanescence part 3.0. And the rest are trying to get something going.

So, how is it that the fat, not-so-great-looking guy who came in 10th place is the 2nd or 3rd most successful from his season and top 5 most successful over Season 6 & 7? The difference is pure drive and ambition and work ethic. I haven't had luck on my side. I haven't had a major label behind me yet (though that is about to happen). I haven't had 19E's help AT ALL. I have simply worked my tail off, been pro-active and worked on becoming better at my craft. Not that other people haven't worked...sure they've worked...but not on the right things in my estimation...and they've had an unrealistic view of what Idol can and will do for them.

Idol does not break new artists. It is a marketing machine for 19E to break their artists. They don't care about the ones who get away unless they make really really good (i.e., Jennifer Hudson and...well, that's it). It may sound cold, but the point of this is to rattle your brain and make you realize what is about to happen in your life.

So, my message to Season 8. You're not going to be successful. You're not going to be millionaires (with the exception of MAYBE Kris and Adam). You are going to struggle. No one will care about you. Those fans who've been asking for your autograph all tour long - 98% of them don't give a flying poo about you once next season of Idol starts. They're not going to buy your album when you put it out 2 years late. Chances are you'll never feel the rush of playing in front 10,000 people who care about you again. Your star is waning and remarkably quickly.

In other words, your days of being a star are over. But that's all right - so are mine. And I'm one of the most successful for my season of Idol. I'm not a star. Chances are I never again will be.

But here's what's awesome. I'm not a star. Few people know my name anymore. But I get to do music for a living. And I make a healthy living doing it. It's hard work. The late nights and early mornings sure do suck after a while. At 31 I wish I didn't have to travel in a van any more. But I did 137 shows last year. And that paid my bills and I even had some left over. And this year I'll do a few more shows than that. And that pays my bills with a little left over. And my writing career is helping me put money away. So...for those of us Idols who few care about any longer, there is hope.

Let me explain what needs to happen for you in the next few months.

First off: surround yourself with people who will be real with you. People who will tell you your music sucks, if it sucks. People who will tell you when you're being an idiot. People who will keep you grounded. But these same people also need to be the people whose shoulder you can cry on, who will encourage you when you do well and who will cheer for you. Your mom and dad are going to think everything you do is great, so they don't count. Get a manager who is someone who knows music and will challenge you when it's not quite good enough. Put together a team that loves you, cares for you...but will kick your butt when it needs to be kicked.

Secondly: Leave home and live WAY below your means. Move to a music city. L.A., New York or Nashville. Move there immediately. Don't wait for a record deal, because chances are you'll never have a record deal. Oh and when you move, get a crappy apartment that is cheap, cheap, cheap. You're not a rock star. You're a wanna be who happens to be more famous than most wanna bes are. Get a part time job with flexible hours that will help pay your bills...your tour savings will fly out of your bank account faster than you realize. $200k or whatever looks like a lot of money until you have to spend it. You need to finance your lifestyle and though a few gigs will pay big bucks most won't. So live WAY below your means. $200k now doesn't mean you will make remotely close to that next year.

Thirdly: Start booking yourself. CAA isn't going to book you. They don't care about you. Your deal with them is only because they have a deal with Idol. They care about the $100k gigs that Adam and Kris are getting right now. You're not going to get those. So, don't keep waiting for CAA to book you. They won't. Period. So, this is what you do: within the next 3 months pick 15 towns or cities within 5 hours of where you are and search the internet for their bar/music venues. Once you've found a couple in each town, pick up the phone and call them. Tell them who you are, tell them you're calling for yourself and that you want to play a show there in the next couple of months. Once you've put together a show in each of those 15 cities, you have yourself a tour. You won't make much money, so do it cheap...if you play an instrument go out solo. If you don't play, take out 1 player who can do what you want to do, and get him to work for cheap. Just so you have an idea, most of the time you should be able to get good players that will start with you for $100-150/show. You need merch to sell. You won't have music product yet - at least not new - so you need to have an array of GREAT t-shirts and gear. Cool designs that incorporate who you are as an artist. Don't get your mom to do the designs. Don't get your friends to make the t-shirts for cheap. Spend tour money on this will pay back in spades. Cool gear = sales = people wearing your name on their chest = building a fan base. Once you've got shows booked and gear, get in a rental car and rock.

Fourthly: learn the freaking music business. Buy a book. Buy several books. Get Donald Passman's book All You Need to Know About the Music Business. Read it 3 times. Some of the info is dated, but it will genuinely help you understand why record labels are hurting and why you probably don't need a record label. Part of learning the music business is figuring out where you fit. I had mainstream major label deals offered, but studied and thought hard and figured out that the place I fit best in Christian music. For you it might be pop (though it should be understood that few artists - even major label artists - start off by jumping into the pop world...they usually start in smaller genre and work their way over to pop) or r&b...but study and figure out where your place is. If you're a white r&b dude, make sure there's a catch...there's already Robin Thicke... how is what you do different? We don't need another Robin Thicke or Justin Timberlake. If you try to be like them you'll always be considered simply a cheap American Idol rip off of said artists. And honestly that is the worst thing you can be - a cheap Idol take on something else.

Fifthly: once you've moved to a music town, find people to jam and write with. You may not be a writer now, but you have a voice and you need to be able to speak with your voice. What does that mean? find people who are better writers than you, write with them, even if it's a matter of you simply finding a melody that fits your voice...oh, and if they write the majority of the song, offer to give them more credit than just the normal 50%. People who know you'll take care of them will work hard to help you be better. At this point that is what you need more than anything else: people who will work hard to make you better.

Sixthly: Work, work, work, work, work. Period. You have to work. Nothing and I do mean nothing is going to be given to you. 19E is not going to come back around. They're done with you. The music business, for the most part, will treat you like an outsider. And they should. You are just a game show contestant who still needs to prove why you should be here. They don't know you've worked for years in clubs or worked as a songwriter or developed your piano skills amazingly - all they know is that you're a game show contestant who is more famous than them for doing nothing other than making it on a tv show. So, go out and prove to them why you belong by working harder than they do to be better.

Seventhly: Get into a studio and get music down asap. Even if it's just an EP. However, walk the wire of finding the balance between getting music out and shooting yourself in the foot. If you don't have the songs, don't record music just to have it. You will kill your career. But, on the other hand, you need to get music out asap. So...write good songs or find good songs quickly.

Eighthly: Be proactive. I've said it before, but it's important to get: nothing is going to be given to you. If you get a record deal now, you deserve it. Why? Because you will have had to work for it. You will have gotten it because you worked not because Idol worked. this is about you, now. You have the power to be successful. You are talented. You have a skill set that should be shared with the world. But you have to seize the reins of your career and do something with your skills.

ETA: I saw this somewhere else and knew my post was missing something -

Ninthly (and finally): Freaking love what you do. When you don't love this anymore, when the pain of travel and the hurt from non-success hurts more than the joy you feel when you rock people live, quit. Go get a "real job". Love what you do. Do what you love. Period.


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Anonymous said...

This is the problem with your post: you start with the petty, negative, quasi-bitter, and oddly self-promoting (e.g., I'm one of the most successful), and then follow with the actual constructive advice. By the time I got to the substance, I wasn't really interested in what you had to say because I thought you had an agenda. And, quite frankly, it's rude to call out by name other Idol contestants as unsuccessful. That was not necessary to make your points. And your subsequent backpedaling didn't really help. Not a post to be proud of.

Anonymous said...

Good advice Chris. Those hoping to have a successful career should read it many times over -
Please can you answer this question? I just heard this on our morning radio while on my way to the grocery. The Dj asked after playing "Crush": "Do you think squeaky-clean artists like Archie will ever make it to the top?"
Can I have your input on this?

ChrisSligh said...

Anon 2 posts back,

You begin by assuming that there is a problem with my article, which, according to the overall response to the article, is a faulty conclusion. It may be your opinion because you felt like your favorite Idol was in some way slighted, but if you judge by intent and/overall acceptance of the article, there wasn't a problem at all.

Secondly (and I've said this before) I don't have to explain my is objectively true. My point was not to promote myself. How does me telling someone who's not a fan about my success promote myself? I personally have never bought someone's album b/c someone told me the artist sold better or was more successful than someone else. I buy music b/c the music sounds cool to me or b/c I've read a reviewer I trust. And I'd venture that most consumers are the same. And most marketing people would feel the same. So why would I use a faulty means of self promotion? It doesn't make sense. That wasn't the purpose at all, and a little logic might have allowed you to think that through a little better.

As far as me being "quasi-bitter"'re saying I'm faking that I'm bitter? Or you're saying you thought I sounded bitter? Your use of language is confusing here. I'll assume you meant I seemed bitter. Again (I've said this before if you'd read my comments above) what is it that I'm supposedly bitter about? What place I came in on idol? How I've done since then? I can't figure out what I'm supposedly bitter about and no one has yet told me what I'm bitter about. I don't get how I can be bitter about beating the system.

I'm sorry you felt it was rude to call people out by name. You may be right though I think it was vital to show the exactness of how Idol doesn't do much for even the most talented. That's the only point of your post that I cam concede as being possibly right...ultimately it was a judgement call and I stand by that choice... I feel it takes it from generalities to reality. Thus person should have been successful but they weren't. And I don't feel I've backpedaled at all. Saying you can see soneone's point is a different thing than saying they are right. Backpedaling is backing off a point b/c it's controversial...i've stood by what I said.

And despite an anonymous Internet person telling me the opposite, I'm actually quite proud of this article. It's something I hope every idol from now to the end of Idol reads.


Jason said...

Chris I appreciate you having the desire to give good advice to those who are where you were a few years ago...i think alot of the negitive comments are coming from the fact that many people who are not familiar with Christian music think that it is imposible to be succesful in that genre and automatically think you are being bitter because in there misconception they thing you settled and went to C. Music because it was all you could get...however those of us that have been keeping up with you know that you had the opportunity to go mainstream or christian and you chose christian...

for those who think Christian artists settle because its all they can get...go to your local theme park(kings dominion for me) on a christian music day and see the fan base...

risalea said...

Agree or disagree with your advice (which I think the vast majority think was right on the money!), it certainly generated interest. Dang, Blogger carried these comments over to the second page!

Loving the new folks, but just to let you know, the Blogger Girls are considering changing their names to Anon1, Anon2, etc. just to see if we can get a response. LOL

What would you do if we weren't around to give you a hard time? : )

Anonymous said...

I’ve read your blog over the past 2 years. You have taken some lumps and have kept your head, lumps and all. You have a unique way of pointing out other people and their short comings. This is why everyone that seems to be disagreeing with you in comments sounds so offended. They don’t get it. You have a critical eye and an untamed tongue. Not that it is all bad, but an editor may help you see where your “professional” criticism could come across as arrogant and uncaring.
You said yourself that you’re not a “star”, yet you continue to have the wanna-be rock star thingy on your profile. Why? No, not why do you have it on there, why do you desire that status? Think about it.
If you want to be a star, celebrity, or KNOWN, that’s great. If that is the case, then be true to whom you’ve proven to be. After all you said, “love what you do, and do what you love…”, so do it. Be a blog writer who points out everyone else’s faults and shortcomings. You are great at it. Heck, for that matter YOU ARE in the top 5, maybe top 2. This post is great. The writing was great, the thought process was great, and the timing was great. Yet, people who have never been to this site come over in rage and the “rose colored glasses” get all fogged up. And in your new set you sing a song about salvation that is going over great with the audience.
The words say,
“I wanna love because you loved
I wanna give because you gave
I wanna reach my hand out to the lost
'Cause I know your hand will save
Yeah, only you can save...”

Man, love exudes in the blog. Ok, I am not reading in context, the keeping it real part is there I know, but you know why you keep replying and even posted another blog spot. No, you weren’t apologizing, why should you, you told the truth. And you did it quite well. I am glad we all now know how hard you’ve worked and how much success you’ve had. Was that the agenda or was the point to “help” others be as successful as you. Either way it still points to YOU. Oh, I am wrong it was to help them navigate the rough waters of “corporate” label stuff. You signed yet?
STOP. Look at yourself in a mirror and think before you send a response to this. Having money to pay your bills and a little left over is GREAT. Writing and saving more for the future is GREAT.
If being a STAR is what you desire, then be a blogger who gets to spew opinion and watch the response. You absolutely will be a STAR, you’re great at it.
Maybe God is looking for “something more” from you. Maybe that “creepy looking” guy or his followers are there for you to show love.
You opened the box/dialogue what are you going to do with.
Oh, that’s right you make music and love doing it and get paid to boot. Read your own words, who are you writing for God, or the money it gets you? You’re no different than the “corporate” guys you tend to haggle with. No different that is, if it’s about the money.
And to Carmen, he doesn’t need advice on how to not invite people to the party he figured that out on his own long ago.
Just keep this in mind, though the readers may not comment they are still reading. Your words have power. But you knew that before I wrote it, didn’t you.
The only reason this is going to be anonymous is I want you to think who might have an agenda in writing this. When you figure it out call me…Although, you don’t owe me that. After all, you’re Chris Sligh. Here’s to your success and self assessed fortune!

gdahimself said...

Anonymous 8:16 AM

Ah, another critique from another who advances masked. It sounds like Brutus’ eulogy for Julius Caesar with a liberal dash of bitterness. Apparent you’re no friend as you would have sent this directly to Chris and not made it a blog comment. You appear to want to show him up in front of the public, or at least his public, maybe someone needs to question your “Christ like” action in doing this. Your one man Devil’s Advocate routine doesn’t come off as authentically well intended as you think. I think you need to have your own interview, interrogation, or confession with the guy in your mirror.

ChrisSligh said...

I'm pretty sure I know who anon 8:16 is...I just wonder if it's the sane anon I answered above.

You have my number apparently...since you know who you are why don't you call me...that way I don't have to call someone who I think it is and be wrong.


DJ in AL said...

GDA I agree with your assessment. (shocking huh?) This Anon is not a random poster, or idle reader. He is also not an Anon to Chris. This Anon has a personal agenda and a very definite ax to grind with Chris.

This kind of rambling speaks of a personal grudge, not entirely cohesive in making his point except to the extent that it's obvious that in the poster's mind Chris has wronged him in some way. It's too personal for it to be a fantard of a rival Idol contestant or random hater.

How convenient and fortunate for the poster to have the opportunity to call him out in a such a public manner. The poster definitely lacks courage for not "maning-up" and contacting Chris directly to hash it out. On the other hand Chris could have prevented this post from seeing the light of day but didn't which leads to the conclusion that this poster is likely not even on his radar.

I think the intent of this post was likely to be thought provoking but I don't think it quited delivered the punch.

P.S. I also have a clue who it might be.

just monicat said...

Excellent advice that is applicable to almost anyone, anywhere, especially those still finding their way and deciding what to do after college/when they grow up, and the like...

Simply put... anything truly satisfying will require lots of effort and sacrifice. Figure out what your passion is, and pursue it with tireless effort, prepared for a struggle.

However, what people might not tell you (and will be almost impossible to believe at the time) is that those early days while you are fighting for your dreams, barely scraping along, and frequently questioning your choices (or sanity) will probably be among the best times of your life. Not only will it make any kind of success achieved later on much, much sweeter, but give you a sense of appreciation, perspective and numerous good habits that will serve you well in later years.

damm said...

Wow did God have anything at all to do with your success?

ChrisSligh said...


of course, in my belief system and world view I would say that God blessed hard work. I don't think that God blesses without hard work. I don't have to exclude those of opposing world views and belief systems in encouraging hard work and perseverance.


makangel1 said...

i wanted to let you know i bought your cd. I love it! Empty is my favorite song on it!
Also love Here Comes Goodbye. what a great song you wrote for Rascal Flatts!!! Keep up the hard work and can't wait to hear more music from you.

Anonymous said...

Success has probably as many definitions as there are people. No matter what one's career, I'd say being able to pay the bills and save for a rainy day is a biggie. Personal growth is a by-product of hard work and dedication, as so aptly stated by just monicat. Relationships that are forged along the way are the precious treasure that makes it all worthwhile. One of Chris's goals early on was to connect with his fans, and as a result, his fans have been able to connect with each other. Friendships for a lifetime...does it get any better than that?

Success is not a destination, it's more of a journey. Thanks for taking us along on yours, Chris.

Signed, Anon1 : )

Anonymous said...

The original objective has been lost. The object was impart knowledge to those in pursuit of a career in the same line of work by one who has already succeeded in reaching a degree of success they have not yet obtained. They, in this case, are other ex-Idols who are a couple steps behind Chris, he is reporting back like he was the vangard sent out on reconnaissance and is reporting back on how to best navigate the unfamiliar territory that lies ahead.

This generosity of spirit seems to be lost on many of the commenters, especially Anonymous 8:16 AM , who questions if Chris is doing of God’s work.


Anonymous said...

Very well said!!!

lilpopgurl said...

Chris Please get my email on myspace.
Please, God. Prays
I cant wait.
I nearly fell on the floor and freaked when you mentioned the book by Donald Passman ( i have version 6)

I would appreciate any of your help.

Anonymous said...


Nique's Nana said...

Really good advice Chris, and how very generous of you to take the time to write it.

Anonymous said...

this was some tough love.. and Chris you told it like it is.. YOUR SPOT ON.. YOUR GIVING THEM GREAT REAL TALK ADVICE.. I have always said that Idol set these kids up with a very false since of reality.. instant fame.. and FAME is something that is very very temporary, and you got to have REAL BLOCKBUSTER TALENT TO KEEP THAT FIRE BURNING..

Baxter said...

I'm not reading all the comments, and i dont think Chris will read this, but: as a music-reality show fan, as a indie music fan, as a classic rock and pop fan, as a musician-wannabe...
THANK YOU for writing this.
I think this message has to be shared by all these kids who are dreaming for gettin in Idol or any musical reality show around the world. Nowadays, the things are very different than 10 years ago. Even for good and experienced musicians.
Greetings from Mexico.

karim said...

Good one and it helps a lot.Thank you for your great post.

Karim - Positive thinking

Kel6270 said...

I am surprised at how much press this blog is getting. I was reading and interview yesterday on Popeater with Allison and your blog was mentioned. I think the blog was awesome, well thought out and I hope they listen to what you have to say. Hope you come to Indy soon would love to see you again.

Joana said...


It's amazing how much press this has received. I heard about it today on a live chat with Matt Giraud. Let me tell you... he wasn't too happy about it. If I were you, I'd send him a tweet/direct message/whatever. Not that you owe him anything, but if you do admire him and his talent, you may want to clarify things with him.

Anyway, I think what you said was spot on and people need to know this from someone who has been on the show.

However. Adam Lambert IS the exception. He's here to stay and I wish him all the sucess he deserves.

Best wishes and sucess to you too Chris. Always liked you.

Love all the way from Portugal.


Luisa said...

THANK YOU FOR DEMYSTIFYING THIS PROCESS! I've always been curious as to what happened to the Idols who weren't signed.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line for any musician is what are they doing it for? If one is doing it to be famous and to be "loved" it's a losing battle from the start, even if one does become a "star." No one can be popular 100% of the time even the biggest celebrities still have detractors. There are musicians who are not household names but who do make a respectable living, and there are many, if not most who still have to keep a day job while doing the music on the side, but that doesn't mean they are failures. You need to stop worrying about whether anyone will "care" about you...YOU have to care about you and your music and that's what truly matters.

Felipe Edoardo said...

Man, I've never auditioned to Idol (although I do keep it as an option for the next 2 years), but I do happen to be trying to make it in the music business, and there are NO WORDS to thank you for such good advice.

Your realism is so contagious, feels refreshing to run into someone who cuts right through the bullshit and the bells and whistles and the promises.

Thank you man. Even though you already seem to be pretty much on your way, I still wish you the best in your career.

Anonymous said...

Great entry, agree on everything, even though i havent lived it myself.

But I disagree with some posts. Adam's career is over by now: no sales at all, his singles charted REALLY bad actually. And so did Kris's, and Allison's

In my opinion, the only one that's working her butt off is Megan. She has released (well, done and posted) two songs written by her and she hasn't been signed. That, for me, is what this blog is all abut.

Nothing else and hope to see her album soon, I'll surely buy it to help a harworker

Resume Writing Service said...

This was a really quality post. In theory I'd like to write like this too - taking time and real effort to make a good article... but what can I say... I procrastinate alot and never seem to get something done.

Carolann said...

Should be required reading for ANYONE who wants a career in Entertainment - period! But the principles definately apply accross the board to any career!
Very Well stated!

Charles Flaum said...

Wonderful blog post! Picture Light

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