Friday, March 27, 2009

An Aging Audience

I was watching the results show of American Idol last night and thinking about Twitter. I see a lot of people twittering about the show. (We West coast folks have to be careful to leave Twitter at 5 p.m., or those yakky East Coasters will ruin the show for us with their give-away comments.) Then it occurred to me--people on Twitter aren't all that young. You'll see a lot of really old adults like us Baby Boomers. And these people are watching a show that originally was targeted toward a far younger audience. According to what I could find on the Web, AI's median viewing age is now 40.3 years. When the show first started that median age was in the thirties.

How many American Idol viewers do you suppose even listen to Top Forty radio stations, where the records of the show's winners are played? I sure don't. I never miss an American Idol show (thank you, Tivo), but even when my favorite singer wins, a year later my 19-year-old daughter has to tell me, "So-and-So's CD released." (Said daughter stopped watching American Idol four years ago at age 15.) Then I'll buy the CD. Otherwise I'd miss the product created by the show.

I wonder--is the show now more popular than its end products? A TV show sustains itself on advertising income, which is based on viewership. But if those end product CDs aren't selling as well as hoped, the record company isn't going to be so excited about signing the AI winners. Those record deals were the original point of the show. Is AI now sustaining itself because the process of watching the competition and voting is more powerful and popular than the resulting CDs? (Think Taylor Hicks.)

From a marketing point of view--pretty fascinating stuff. I can think of a similar phenomenon in the book industry. The Harry Potter books were supposed to be young adult--but were read by all ages. Now the Twilight series is seeing the same thing. But even in these examples, the target audience has remained. It's just that readership has expanded beyond it. If American Idol originally targeted the 18-34 demographics, it's technically failing, in that this segment of the population is watching AI less. Yet the show has more viewers than ever.


Elaina M. Avalos said...

Other than Carrie Underwood, my favorite AI singers haven't been winners. Daughtry being the perfect example.

From last year, I'm looking forward to a few CD's to be released from some of the top ten (Brooke, Jason, Michael, etc.). I think the show is kind of hit and miss in terms of what sells later. Yet, in the years where the winner doesn't sell, the runner up does. I think that's enough to keep the labels wanting more.

But just because not everyone sells like Carrie Underwood or Daughtry, it also doesn't mean they're not getting somewhere in the business. I'm not a fan of Hicks but he's been on Broadway and for many, that's a better fit anyway.

I love music. And I love watching a person's dreams come true. That's why I watch. And if I like the artists that are developed, I buy their music. I don't listen to Top 40 for the most part. Honestly, I listen to more classic rock and country than anything. But it doesn't stop me from buying those I like.

Karen Eve said...

My guess is that the 'winners' have an exposure much greater than a newbee trying to break into the industry and just like books, they would rather try to market someone who has an existing base than start from scratch. I would imagine that out of the millions of people watching AI (and that doesn't include me), that even if only 3-5% of them listen to the sales channels for that artist, it's still a pretty big initial market that knows the artist and is a candidate to purchase the product. It beats starting from zero. I doubt that they have to put many $ into AI, it seems to have plenty of advertising $ and is self sustaining. The real winners seem to be the runners up who aren't tied into contracts and can negotiate their own course.
Just my $.02 of course.
Hope you're feeling better.

Pam Halter said...

I'm thinking that even though we age physically ... mentally, our brains tell us we're still in our 20s. At least, mine does! HA! I enjoy books for kids and teens as well as adult novels, although I have to admit, I like the kid's stuff better. I don't have to worry about profanity or sex, most of the time. I can simply enjoy a good story.

Maybe that's why an older audience enjoys American Idol.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you watched last night you know that David Cook's first CD went Platinum. And I think Idol's singers are better every year. This is only the third season I've watched, and I can see a huge difference, from top to bottom.

What I find interesting is the judges mantra to "pick the right songs." What they're really saying is, choose a brand, and stay with it.

I'm bothered, though, that the judges are the ones doing the branding. They tell Lil she dresses too wild or too old. They've got her second-guessing her every decision, trying to please them, because when she was herself, they didn't like it or get it or thought she'd picked the wrong song.

And isn't it interesting that the judges, who surely influence the voting, are not in the age bracket you'd think the CD's are targeting. So you have "insiders" influencing the artists and the audience, saying what's a good brand, who is singing within their brand and who has dared to step outside.

It's fascinating.