American Idol is taking over America

Yesterday, all of the morning network television shows covered AI. The judges' supposedly increased 'meanness' was a story on Headline News all day. Olbermann and Scarbarough both covered it, milking the teasers till the end of the show. Larry King dedicated the full hour to it. (And William Hung revealed on the show that he's a millionaire as a result of his failed audition.) Local radio stations talked about it nonstop. Former reject Jennifer Hudson recently won a Golden Globe and is nominated for an Oscar for her role in Dreamgirls. Paula Abdul is always good for a headline or two. Ratings have never been higher, up to nearly 40 million per episode. It's unescapable.

In the past, pop stars were 'made' through various mechanisms: wannabees sending tapes to labels, playing in a small clubs hoping to get noticed, managers putting together groups, etc. AI is usurping a large portion of this pop music market by bypassing these traditional routes of talent discovery. The talent is filtered from an initial pool of tens of thousands from every corner of the country. Now, discovery takes place in front of a live audience of millions, the potential buying public voting their favorites every week. Instead of taking a chance on an unknown, labels have a lot more information on how the market will react. The marketing is no longer a cost, but rather, is highly profitable. By the end of the competition, the singers have already proven their marketability in advance. It's genius.

I believe this comes under the label of "entrepreneurship".

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