"Sampling Creates Audience."
It's a phrase we used to use a lot around my office when I worked in radio, and it's true no matter what business you're in. While radio has worked hard to weed out the unfamiliar, television relies -- and thrives -- on it. Musicians make great television -- dreams create drama.
And, most importantly, shows like Rock Star, Making the Band, and American Idol allow audiences to sample music again and again and again from performers with whom they develop a strong bond. The folks that crave familiar music on the radio watch new music become familiar over thirteen weeks.
So, you end up with Danity Kane at #17 on the Billboard charts with little to no airplay. They forged a relationship with viewers that circumvents the traditional role of radio.
You can do it, too, on a smaller scale. Build blogging and e-mail newsletters into your strategy. Don't be afraid to let folks into your warts-and-all experience, since that relationship you develop with them is what will carry you through to your success. And when you control the database and you maintain direct connections with your audience, you can build something that lasts much longer than the short-term bounce of a reality show halo.