Analysts are already calling Taylor Hicks' post-Idol career an uphill battle. Will the folks that phoned in to see him win actually plunk $17.98 for a Taylor Hicks record?
Two things going on here:
1. Record company expectations are too high. In our "first or worst" record business, if Taylor doesn't make a double-platinum record out of the gate, they'll consider him a failure. I'd peg his first album at about 600K units, which I'm sure any of our regular readers would kill for. But that expectation gap is what's killing lots of signed artists right now. The ones that aren't fortunate enough to buy their way out of their record deals are languishing in limbo.
2. Is Taylor Hicks' "perfect" audience the same as American Idol's? Given a choice between two finalists, "America" picked Taylor. But given a choice between Taylor and 200 other -- more familiar -- artists on the Billboard charts, that audience fragments like crazy. Only Clay Aiken has successfully managed to convert Idol's audience into his own -- a better victory than if he had actually won his season.
What can you draw from all this Monday Morning Quarterbacking?
Your audience is always the key. Taylor Hicks may have some name recognition, but he's now got to build an audience just like you do -- one person at a time.
Turns out the analysts were right, but only in the short term—Arista dropped Hicks in 2008. However, after cutting loose from his major label deal, Hicks self-released two albums and picked up a Las Vegas residency. 100 nights a year, he's playing to a room of about 200, and he earned more than $2.5 million. At number 7 on the list of American Idol's top earners, he certainly made it up that hill.