by: Joelle Charbonneau
American Idol is now going into its 11th season. While I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually watched an entire episode of the show, I admit that I’ve been paying attention to the impact it has had on the performing community. I’m a performer. I sing. I act. To not admit that American Idol has an impact on the music and theater industry is to bury ones head in the sand.
When American Idol launched the country went wild over the contestants. Every member of the top 10 received offers for recording contracts, Broadway gigs, movies and guest star appearances on popular TV shows. And heck, you didn’t need to be in the top 10 to get noticed. Just having AMERICAN IDOL Top 30 contestant after your name was enough to get high-powered managers and studio heads to pick up the phone. SCORE! That trend continued with season 2 and the American Idol craze kept fans glued to their television screens. More Broadway and touring contracts. More TV sitcom appearances. Season 3 and 4 the trend continued. If you had American Idol contestant after your name, you were guaranteed attention – attention theater performers and musicians that had been struggling for years couldn’t get.
So it isn’t surprising that professional musicians and music theater performers started attending Idol auditions in droves. They weren’t interested in winning the whole shebang – although they wouldn’t have turned down the adulation. They wanted the American Idol Finalist title to help get them noticed. Hell – all sorts of Idol contestants were headlining Broadway shows not because they were the most talented choice, but because they were a name that the public understood. American Idol had become the greatest platform for music and theater of all time.
There were 30 contestants on air that first season. 36 that are listed on the website from season 2. All in all there are now over 300 performers that can claim the tagline of American Idol final contestant. And most of them can no longer get anyone to answer their phone calls.
Why? Because the novelty has worn off. The platform has become commonplace and doesn’t sell tickets at the Broadway box office the way it once did. American Idol still racks in the ratings, but beyond that, the American Idol tag doesn’t open up doors the way it once did.
So why am I talking about this? More than once on this blog we’ve talked about self-publishing. We’ve talked price point, quality, the fact that it is right for some and not for others. Hey – self-publishing and more specific E-self-publishing has become a way of life for a lot of authors. Some authors have made careers in the past couple of years out of telling other authors that traditional publishing is for the weak and the stupid and that the only way to be in charge of your own career is to self-publish. They say it is the only way to really make money. Those E-self-publishing giants are the Season 1-3 American Idol contestants. They are the ones that have garnered huge notice. They are the ones beating the drums. They have blogs and speaking engagements that help other authors follow in their path. They have been yelling about revolution. They are the ones that – (drum roll please) - have in recent weeks and months bailed from self-publishing.
In the last two plus weeks, Amazon has announced they are opening their own TRADITIONAL publishing house complete with acquisition editors. They plan on offering both electronic and print versions of their books. They are paying advances and royalties. And many of the American Idol E-publishing giants of the early seasons are getting on this new ride.
Why? Well, I guess only they can answer that. But I have only to look at American Idol to see that their platform – electronic-E-self-publishing author – is one that they now share with thousands and thousands of other authors. So now they have created a new platform – traditionally published Amazon authors. Yes – self-published and traditionally published alike will still be published by Amazon, but who do you think will get more notice? Which authors do you think Amazon will be touting? Who will have doors opened to them and which authors will be stuck thinking they have broken through the barriers only to find that no one cares?
As far as I can tell – Amazon has just created a new reality show. (Kind of like the new show THE VOICE) While the old show might not lose popularity, the contestants are just a means to an end. They’ll make money off of that horse until it can’t run any more. And why not? They don’t have to lift a finger to make that money. But I’m betting they lift more than a finger for this new adventure and for the stars that made their self-publishing venture the hit of the nation.
What does that mean for publishing as a whole or for those out there who are self-publishing via Amazon now? Hell if I know. But I do know that those who have rode that now very crowded platform to great heights are getting off and climbing onto another ride. It’ll be interesting to see where it takes them.