"The critics will be surprised,” promises Evan “Kidd” Bogart, co-creator and executive producer of Going Platinum, Bravo’s songwriter-centric reality competition, which is slated to premiere in Spring 2011.
He’s talking about the show’s head judge, Kara DioGuardi, whom he watched intently during her two seasons on American Idol. A self-confessed reality show fanatic (as long as the program involves a contest element and some skill), Bogart was well aware of how harsh TV audiences can be, especially when it comes to judging the judges. But he’s convinced that in pairing DioGuardi with accomplished singer Jewel, who’ll host Going Platinum, he’s hit on the magic formula.
“It’s the perfect format for Kara and Jewel,” says Bogart. “With Jewel, as someone who’s struggled to make it, then had a big hit record and felt the pressure of a follow-up, there’s a sense of real connection with the contestants. And Kara is such an incredible songwriter and executive who has so much to impart and give back. I couldn’t have picked a more perfect host and head judge.”
Bogart is no slouch himself. The son of legendary music executive Neil Bogart, who signed Kiss in 1973 and created the infamous Casablanca Records label, he’s a former Interscope Records intern who’s credited on the first Eminem album. Why? Because Bogart was the kid who first listened to the rapper’s demos (while working in the mail room, ‘natch) and passed them along to the powers that be.
But like many who get swept up in the sex, drug and rock-n-roll-ness of the music industry – or at least the drugs part – Bogart spiraled deep into addiction and his flourishing career fizzled almost as dramatically. He calls it his “quarter-life crisis.” Redemption came by way of rehab -- then Rihanna -- as Bogart discovered that songwriting was something he naturally excelled at. Her “S.O.S.” was among Bogart’s first co-writing hits, followed in quick succession by Beyonce’s Grammy Award-winning “Halo,” Leona Lewis’ “Happy” and a slew of album cuts for the likes of Ashley Tisdale and Sean Kingston.
His passion for writing was the impetus for Going Platinum, which will give 12 finalists weekly tasks that end with an original song. A different guest judge will take part in each episode until there’s one person standing. The winner will be signed to The Writing Camp, the songwriting collective Bogart started in 2007 with partners Erika Nuri, and David "DQ" Quiñones, pocket $100,000, and score a publishing deal with Sony/ATV.
When it comes to recording the songs composed on the show, RCA Records serves as label partner for “produced versions” of the tracks which, much like the Idol model, will be available on iTunes, Bogart also foresees some of the songs getting cut by other acts in the Sony Music stable and beyond. Says Bogart: “These are strong artists that are writing from the heart and for their lives.”
While creating hits is the end goal, there’s a lot to be said about getting there and Bogart hopes that Going Platinum will shed light on the process of songwriting much like Top Chef inspires people to learn how to cook. “When you watch Top Chef, you can’t taste the scallops,” he says. "Music is a different stimulating experience but everybody has an opinion on a song when they hear it. Hopefully, it will open the eyes of the world to the craft of songwriting sand empower people to write on their own.”