Record Exec: ‘American Idol’ Deals Not Cheap, Not Always Worth the Expense

Vince Bucci/FOX/PictureGroup

Remember last season winner Lee DeWyze? You're not alone. The new issue of The Hollywood Reporter examines why winners on tv’s number one show often fail to launch.

After nearly a decade, American Idol is coming under more scrutiny in the run-up to its upcoming season without Simon Cowell and with a new slate of judges. One factoid under fire: the inconsistent album sales of Idol alums.

Sony Music recently parted ways with the show whose recording rights have now gone to Universal Music Group. “We’ve moved on,” Tom Corson, executive vp and GM of Sony-based RCA Music Group, tells the current issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

“We’re very proud of our association with Idol.  They made their decision, and we wish them all the success they deserve.”

That success has found its limits when it comes to pushing records. Season 9 winner Lee DeWyze's first album, which debuted on November 16, was predicted to sell about 40,000 albums in its first week, the poorest showing ever of a Idol winner. In fact, more than half of contestants who had signed with Sony-owned labels like RCA, J and Jive are no longer on the roster.

Even Season 7's David Archuleta, whose debut garnered 783,000 units sold, only cracked 43,000 on his second endeavor.

There are exceptions to the rule which have helped Sony and Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment sell 55 million units- most notably Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood. But many more have fallen by the wayside like Taylor Hicks, Katharine McPhee and Blake Lewis.

“You have to weigh the realities and decide what the artist’s potential is,” Corson says of the decision to part with an Idol. “These are not cheap deals, and they sometimes don’t justify the expense.”

As Season 10 ramps up, all eyes and hopes rest on Universal's Jimmy Iovine who will be a permanent advisor on the show.

To read this entire article, pick up a copy of THR on newsstands now. Subscribers can read the story here.