Monday, May 23, 2011
In fact I am so lazy, that in my open letter to those who think I should go on Idol, I am not even going to attempt structure or organization, let alone rational thought and ethics. Simply stated, American Idol is a retread of Star Search, a highly stylized "search" for a Pop singer. In fact, I think it could be argued that American Idol is more about that "search" than it is about the actual Idols. Quick, name as many American Idols as you can. Ruben Stoddard? Sanjaya? Kelly Clarkeson? The guy with the gray hair? Clay Aiken (hilariously I saw a mid 80's Dodge Caravan with a license plate "CLYAIKN" last June)?????? I could have named a couple of them, the only reason I got so many right there was because of my impeccable memory and the fact that I read the wikipedia entry today. The point is that you can't name very many. Even if you could name them (which you can't), I would be flabbergasted if you owned any of their music or had been to a concert. Of course, we all probably have an Adam Lambert album which belongs to a friend but.....Actually I believe that Adam Lambert is actually the biggest star out of the bunch, so my apologies.
Anyway, back to the topic, the show is not even a good way to get famous, even if you are a pop performer with soft feathery hair, and a voice that sounds like George Michael. The simple fact is that you probably will not make the show. The purpose of Idol is to watch an underdog succeed, shed tears, and think about how you too could probably be on the show...they repeat this formula every season. They are not actually in the business of even "discovering talent" as they say, they just want you to think it could really happen. Someday, Alfred the singing garbage man will be shining in rhinestones and collaborating with Souljaboy. The truth is that it will probably never happen. Here are just some of the reasons why.
To begin with the contract that is offered to the winners is made for the benefit of the creators of the show. It has been criticized by people that actually care about TV, if you are interested look it up. Of course the artists do gain fans from the exposure. Usually the majority of these fans are people who enjoy cheesy, scripted "talent search" shows and possibly The Bachelor. They may be loyal, but they are not the type of fans who will push you anywhere outside of the main stream. But the truth is the 98% (a statistic I pulled out of my ass) of music is not found in the main stream. Have you heard of Fred Eaglesmith? Tim Seely? Alan Dick? These are profesional musicians and they never went on Idol. Musicians can make tons of money writing songs and doing advertising work, playing weddings, blackmailing people in broken elevators by playing shrill harmonica music, etc. That is the reality of the life of an artist anyway, it's a hustle. The dumb ass "talent search" takes that away. It is like the difference of winning $6,000,000 in the lottery, or creating a business that makes a $6,000,000 profit. Not that the contestants don't work hard and posses a ton of talent, it's just that they are looking for a specific thing. Someone like Bob Dylan would probably not go far in the Idol competition. He would probably be pissed about having to do all the hurry up and wait that surely goes hand in glove with a show like that. One artist I could see doing well on Idol would be Weird Al. Because he is bitchin'! In fact, I would watch Idol if it was about nerds who write parody versions of hit songs. I would even watch the shit out of it if the contestants had to sing Weird Al versions of all the songs they do! How great would it be to watch Kelly Clarkeson sing "My Bologna!"? Hmm, now I am really going to rethink the whole American Idol is a dried up relic of a show concept spiel...
So for all of you who think that the best suggestion you can think of for your musician friend is going on Idol, think again. Here are several better ways your musician friend could make money playing music. 1) Make good music. Make it often, and continue to work on your writing and playing everyday (I stopped playing guitar all winter). 2) Meet friends and make connections in your local music scene and in online communities. 3) Find radio stations that would play the kind of music you play and weasel your way in. This is key. Get to know the DJ's and be sure to tell them your name so they remember you. If they do it is more likely that you can get them to listen to your album. Trust me, radio stations get tons of albums. Most go unlistened to. 4) Develope a recognizable style. This can be in things as mundane as Twitter. Some people are good at sending out one liners and being funny, some people may be more thoughtful (these people usually sound like assholes). Some people might be good at finding videos and posting links. Getting a following of like minded people is the most important thing. When people are on board with an artist as they progress (waiting for them to get big so they can shun them), they are more loyal if they can say they discovered them. With Idol they get no such credibility. How cool can a musician be if he was "discovered" by Simon Cowell? Not very cool. OK, I have to go because the Microsoft employees in the office where I am working are taking computers apart and are talking about the Mythbusters episode with the Coke cans and rat urine myth. Wahoo. Actually, now the conversation is over, but the spell is broken. Call me an American Idle. Sincerely, Buzzsaw