Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Double Edged Sword of American Idol

I think that most Idols that you talk to would tell you they wish they'd never done American Idol. In fact, I was just talking to an Idol Friday who said the same thing. I think that most of that feeling is naivety in what Idol can and will do for you. Perhaps some of that feeling comes from the stigma that is with the term "american Idol". I don't know. It's a double-edged sword.

I'm somewhere in between, I think.

I had labels interested and had won national vocal and songwriting contests before Idol. I think that getting signed was around the corner from fact I know it was. But Idol simply took things to another level for me. It's a double-edged sword.

It opened up doors with labels because 35 million saw me on tv. But on the other hand it was the same labels I'd worked with before Idol. I had 11 labels at one point interested. But in the "real world", beyond the labels, beyond everything else, there's a stigma at radio (CCM, pop, etc) with Idols; there's a stigma with concert venues (again, both churches and mainstream venues) and there's a stigma with the consumers. In other words, Idol opens up doors to have a chance. But because of what past Idols have done the chance becomes slimmer, if that makes sense.

For instance, for the genre I chose to go into, as a new artist selling 60,000 albums, it is remarkable. 3rd-best selling new artist since 2008. I mean, every new artist in my genre would kill to have that combined with a top 5 single. But because of being on Idol, the uninformed look at those sales as a failure. Whereas when faced with the actual facts, I have to be excited about my career! But I have people tell me all the time that it must suck to be as much of a failure as I am.'s a double-edged sword.

Would I have sold 60k on my debut without Idol? Hmmm...maybe...but let's be honest probably not. From research I've done, for the average new CCM artist a top 5 single on a debut album (rare, very rare) is worth 20-30k. The 2nd single is where the new artist's debut record is made or broken. Usually the 2nd single is worth 2-3 times in sales what the first single was. Sometimes more. So, if a 2nd single goes top 5 following a top 5 1st single, a new artist should sell an additional 40-80k. I sold 60k off 1 top 5 single, a top 15 single and 2 singles that promotion was pulled for before they got off the ground (because of getting out of my deal with Brash) - you could easily call those 2 flops, though it is more complex than that. My point: Idol FOR SURE helped my sales. Brand recognition right off the bat.

But when I started touring, I was told by my booking agent that many promoters wouldn't work with me because they had been burned in working with other Idols before me. Lack of sales, lack of promotion, lack of success at radio, diva-esque attitudes all played a huge role in that. I had to go out and prove that the Christian market was truly where I was called to be; I had to prove that I could sell tickets; I had prove I didn't have an attitude; and I had to prove I wasn't the same as those before me. Since I began touring, I have averaged about 400 tickets a night when I headline (obviously sometimes much, much more, sometimes much, much less - I played a show last year on the acoustic tour to 9 people...who ALL came to see the opener - haha). And it continues to grow. Idol allowed people to come to shows right off the bat. But promoters wouldn't book a sure thing. Double-edged sword.

Even my top 5 single "Empty Me" was subject to the double-edged sword. There were many stations that wouldn't play the song at first because I was an Idol. To put it in perspective: Chris Tomlin's single off their new record was on all reporting stations within 6 weeks of coming out. "Empty Me" got it's last add 16 months after we went to radio. We were lucky to get a top 5. The fact it was up for song of the year at the Dove's was only because it had tested so well with the stations that played it over a year's time. The song worked because I'd come from Idol But it took so long to catch on because I came from Idol. LOL..the double-edged sword.

All that to say this: I am eternally grateful for what Idol has done for me. But I have made a tough decision to remove Idol from my life. In talking about promoting the new album with my new label I have made it clear that I want no mention of Idol in any of my promo materials. With venues we are beginning to make it clear that in promoting shows, Idol is to have little to do with promoting the shows. I am removing Idol's effect from my career. I've paid homage to what Idol has done for me. Now, it is time to move on as Chris Sligh the artist. Not Former American Idol Chris Sligh. Idol didn't give my talent to me. It didn't develop my talent. It didn't get me my new record deal - my last record's success and my artistry did. It gave me a chance that I was able to take advantage of...nothing more, nothing less.

Even in commenting on American Idol it's a double-edged sword. Most people see that my commenting is tongue-in-cheek and as a fan. Still, others view my comments as disrespectful to the thing that "made me". Most see that my comments about contestants comes as a fan who happens to have "been there, done that". Still others view what I do as jerk-ey and insensitive to the feelings of a bunch of kids who will never read my comments.'s a double-edged sword.

With all of this in mind, it seems a bit hypocritical to be tweeting about Idol and Idols as much as I do. So, as of today, I am making a conscious decision to delete Idol from my publishing life as well. I will not be commenting on Idol any longer. I think that this is the season to stop: it's so horrible that I can't imagine that I will have ANYTHING to say but negative...and I am simply trying to control how much negative I have a part in. Well, I may throw a comment in every now and then...but not en force like it has been in the past.

So, Idol is a double-edged sword...but it won't be with me any more. I'll end with this:

American Idol, thanks for the joy you've given me for the last 3 years, both in my career and seeing how other's succeed. But I've got to let you go now. Time to move on! Good luck to you in the are loved.