Blog: Handling an Idols Winner

One, the Idols formula works, the show doesn’t run for 21 years internationally and 18 seasons locally on mainstream television if the concept does not work. Each year dreams are made true and careers are given a kickstart like no other, at an extremely high level. On the downside however, often those who are on this high as contestants throughout a season of Idols seem to be quickly left to dry out as soon as those final lights are dimmed at the end of the season.

Questions then go, why the consistent pattern of downfall? There are three parties involved, who is to blame? Can the show be held accountable for contestant careers beyond the final episode of a season? Can the downfall of a former contestant be attributed to the formula of the show?

Being a massive Idols fan myself, it hurts and at times even pains me to see the demise, and every so often stillness, of some of my show faves and their careers. I have always felt there should be alternative approaches taken by all parties – namely the show or production, the winner as well as the record label to which the winner is subsequently signed to as a result of winning the show.

I think the trajectory of an Idols winner’s career can be better handled or initiated if the production did not consider the final episode airing as the end of the Idols season. The reality is that an upcoming Idols season is being promoted before the winner of a current season is crowned. Part of the Idols journey should be setting up the winner for success beyond just offering them amazing prices and handing them over to a record label. Have guidance programs in place for the winner post winning and pre signing the record deal, bring on the judges who’ve seen them closely throughout the journey to come talk to them and advise them, have a wide range of industry heads – yes industry not just musicians – to come talk with them. Help them maintain their Idols audience and hype, be the promoter or even organizer of their first paid events and shows post winning, give them that same level of production you exposed them to during the duration of the show. And most importantly, have multiple – not one – recording labels on the table, ready for them. It is a fact that different types of artists are suited for different types of recording labels, afford Idols’ winners an opportunity to get into their right lanes from the get go by putting them in the right hands and giving them first refusal.

As a recording label to which an Idols winner is signed to, come on, you literally have a star on your hands! This is a golden marketing tool that probably won’t cost you much but is extremely beneficial to both you and the winner. Ride the wave as long as you can, the most recent Idols South Africa finale rallied up 22 Million audience votes, that is a commodity that is now in your hands. Allocate the budget, get the music out as soon as you possibly can, get the shows running, maintain the audience. Do not look at the artist as a new project, this is an artist that is bringing in a pull of audience that probably eclipses that of some of your seasoned acts. It is really important that you get the right producer(s) to work with the artist, if possible include the artist in the process of choosing the producer(s). Finally, give the artist as much creative freedom as you can, do not try to shape or mold the Idols winner as a recording label – they have been through the journey, you have in your hands a finished product, an artist, treat them as such.

Lastly, an Idols winner should firstly speak to the judges on the shows, they have literally been at the forefront with you throughout the journey, they have seen it all – get as much as you can out of them. Secondly, ride your wave as much as you can, it is key to acknowledge that the level of attention that comes post winning Idols is massive and can mostly be clout, ride that wave and generate as much a solid audience and fan base out of it as you can – it does not come often. As blunt as it may sound, don’t be a push over, do not agree to things you do not understand, do not sing or record songs you do not like, consult and stay true to yourself.

The idols formula works, but maybe we can tweak it a bit.