While, at the outset, “American Idol” looked like the perfect combination for success — getting paid to find talent, and getting Americans to pay to express their preferences — it’s looking a little more complicated than that: Insta-success may be just an ‘Idol’ dream — pdf
[T]elevision viewers, many of whom simply enjoy “Idol” as a silly midweek diversion, are not always music consumers. Even if they were, the song is king in pop music. Millions of people may have voted for both Guarini and Daughtry, but only the latter had songs that connected with a mass audience. Even prior success is no key to continued popular em brace or record-label sponsorship. Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson’s recent third record underperformed commercially, thanks to a dearth of radio catnip like “Since U Been Gone.” Studdard saw a pattern of diminishing returns in urban soul and gospel music.
The true power of “Idol” isn’t in creating pop stars - always a complicated equation - but rather in molding reality-TV personalities who are, briefly, offered a window to capture people’s attention.