Whither a Deal for Jax?

jax-idol-inlineEven though I loved My Girl Jax as much as any Idol contestant not named Adam Lambert, history tells me to be guarded in terms of predicting any post-Idol career success. As wonderful as we think our favorites on any of the reality shows are, we have to bear in mind that we’re seeing a limited and unreal perspective.

Now that the show is over, Jax is no longer in a lineup that includes Daniel Seavy, My Boy Quentin or even Rayvon. How good would any of them look if they had to sing each week against Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Jason Derulo, Ellie Goulding, et cetera? That’s the world our Idolists are in now.

I wrote about post-Idol sales back in 2011. The conclusions (updated through May 2015) that are still relevant from that (wonderful and insightful) piece are:

People buy who they vote for. Of the nearly 65 million albums sold by Idol alumni, winners have sold 41 million and runner-ups have sold 10 million. So, almost 80% of the albums sold by Idolists were sold by people who made the last show! You want a chance for a hit record? Get to the Idol Finale.

People don’t buy who they don’t vote for. This is a painful corollary of the above. Only one out of every five albums by Idolists was sold by those finishing 3rd or worse. And almost half of those belong to Daughtry (7 million). Basically, not finishing first or second makes life in the business – and by the business, I mean the industry – very, very difficult. Don’t make the Finale – don’t expect to sell much is the reality of Idol history.

Of course, everybody knows by now that winning doesn’t guarantee a hit record and some Idol “losers” have done spectacularly well.[1]

So what does this mean specifically for people who finish third? Glad you asked.

First, let’s bear in mind that the past two runners-up – Jena Irene and Kree Harrison – did not even get record deals[2]. Second, only seven of the previous thirteen 3rd place finishers got record deals[3] and only three of those on major labels[4] – Danny Gokey (S8), Casey James (S9) and Haley Reinhart (S10). Danny and Casey likely benefitted from being associated with the male country music boom.

In terms of sales, the history is rather bleak for third placers. They’ve only sold 1.3m albums and 700k of those were by Elliott Yamin (S5). Even with major label support, Casey and Haley only managed to sell 80k and 60K albums, respectively.

If I – and now you – know all of this – then you know that Scott Borchetta and every record label’s A&R department knows all of this, too. Which is why I say that history is not on the side of My Girl Jax. Her mission is not impossible. Obviously, Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson have managed nice little careers after being ousted before The Finale. Mandisa (S5, 9th place) has carved out a successful niche in Christian music and Danny Gokey is now trying to do the same.

I’m rooting for her to shake up Idol’s history the way she shook up the viewers each week. She was one of the show’s most compelling contestants ever. Let’s hope somebody with a recording contract thought so, too.[5]


[1] I’m not even going to mention Adam Lambert like you expect me to. Oh, I just did.

[2] Which may not bode well for Clark.

[3] Even the talented and striking Angie Miller (3rd place, S12) hasn’t scored a record deal.

[4] Kimberley Locke (S2), Jasmine Trias (S3), Elliott Yamin (S5), and Melinda Doolittle (S6) had releases on independent labels.

[5] This blog was inspired by Musings-follower Scott Thomas who recently put his Jax-love out on Facebook.

Explore posts in the same categories: Mindless Rant or Intelligent Commentary


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