American Idol: How Does the Contract / Record Deal Works

There’s a lot of confusion about the recording contract with 19M and SONY. Even to the extent some people said Adam Lambert should not win. What this people did not think about is that 19M has first choice to sign Adam Lambert whether he wins or loses. In more detail:

There is 19M = 19 Management

They have first right of refusal for all of the Top 36. If 19M doesn’t opt to sign them, they have to wait until the contract runs out – which is usually the middle of August – before they can sign any other management deal. On rare occassions they release people early (like Michael Johns and Elliot Yamin). The reason they do this is to prevent non-winners from directly competing with their winners.

The majority of winners and runners up have been signed by 19M immediately post show.

Exceptions being:

Taylor Hicks
Katharine McPhee
David Archuleta
possibly Bo Bice

Several Winners/Runners up started with 19E and moved on to other management either after their contract ran out, they were dropped or they sued to get out of their contract

Kelly Clarkson
Clay Aiken
Diana DeGarmo
Justin Guarini
Jordin Sparks
Blake Lewis
Fantasia Barrino

In rare occassions 19M will sign other contestants. In Season 5 19M signed 4th place Chris Daughtry and 6th place Kellie Pickler.

RECORD LABEL

There is also 19R = 19 Recordings
There is SONY/BMG Music group – A corporate umbrella that houses a large number of record labels.

The above also gets first right of refusal for the same time period. The record deals are usually a combination of 19R and one of the SONY/BMG record labels. I’m not exactly sure how that relationship works but my feeling is that 19R is more of a financial arrangement (meaning they take a cut of record sales) and whatever SONY/BMG record label the contestant signs with is in charge of the actual record production, creative direction, marketing and distribution of the album.

A list of all the Sony/BMG music labels can be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Sony_BMG_labels

Again, it is a total misnomer that not winning sets a contestant free of 19M/19R’s clutches. If 19 wants Adam and/or Kris, neither will have a choice but to sign with them.

So with that reality, it’s really better to WIN, because then 19M/19R will make the winner their first priority – in most cases. Unless you’re name is Taylor Hicks. That year, they treated Daughtry as the winner. Taylor and Katharine McPhee signed with different management.

Also, post Idol CAA (Creative Artists Agency) acts as the Top 10’s booking agent for at least 1 year post Idol.

Credit to Hollygo72 and edited by Dreamsound

Comments

  1. Unfortunately those under 19M end up giving up about half their income to the management company. Also, if you don’t play their game you get no promo. You have to fit into the box they want you in. For example, Kelly C. wanted to write her own music and argued for that right. Finally they allowed her to write My December. But they put no promo behind it, did not support the singles to radio from it and even openly dissed the CD–all because they wanted her to stay in the pop princess box. There were a few nasty words between her and the label, but Kelly sold out and went back to pop for he next album. Another was Clay Aiken, they tried to pin him into the pop box and he wanted to go AC. He held to his own standards and did not bow to their pressure. Thus they pushed him around, made him do a covers CD for his all important sophomore CD (after waiting 3 years) then did not support any of his songs to radio and gave minimum promo. All this means is that Adam will get promo for his first CD as either winner or runner-up, but after that he will have to play the game like Daughtry and Carrie U. if he wants to stay in it.

    • Am getting addicted to this subject. I noticed Chris’s first CD was good but each song sounded alike. This bothered me because he can sing hard rock, soft rock, ballads. Was he given much choice in his songs? I noticed also that they played his cover song between commericals next season which did help him in sales. Who paid for that? Who owns AI Simon? Gee… I think I answered my own question.

  2. American Idol went to the distinct trouble to try to harm Clay Aiken in any way they could – using the 19 contract matter to do so. While they were at it, they told every idol contestant, including Adam, their most valuable asset in years, that it is possible to get out of the contract. Simple, contact Clay Aiken.

    The fact that Clay was welcomed on the AI air four times after the contract matter (two performing on AI3 and discussions with the contestants both times, hosting the fan conglomerate for Fantasia
    in ’03, and an in-audience interview and photo set in ’04) goes to show that isn’t the full or the only reason for their wanting to ruin Clay Aiken. When he showed up on the stage with Michael Sandecki on the ’05 Finale, he was expected to be embarassed by the comparison – but Clay fooled them and stole the spotlight and the buzz from the Finale.

    Watch yourselves contestants, when Simon loses a buck he gets real testy, and he and Clive Davis work in tandem. Anyone ever wonder why Clay got almost zero radio play – or how come nobody ever knew when a new album was appearing – or why there were no or very low numbers of albums pressed and available. None of this is imagination – statistics prove facts.

    We love you Adam. Welcome.

    • Clay had succeeded beyong his wildest dreams. So, it is possible for Adam to do the same without 19M.

  3. You almost got it right. If AI chooses to sign a contestant to a record deal they sign with 19Recordings, which is the AI record label, and are licensed for distribution to one of the sub labels under the Sony umbrella.

    Jive, Arista, J, and RCA are a few of the ones they have licensed the contestants to for distribution.

    19R, as the primary label has control over the recording budget, song selection, studio musicians, touring band, producers, songwriters, promotional budget, choice of singles, tracklist, cover art, photo shoots, wardrobe, appearance, talking points, release dates, radio support, permission to perform with other artists, who they tour with, etc.

    19Management controls their merchandise, promotional appearances, TV appearances, overseas opportunities and everything else that is not directly related to their recording contract.

  4. OMG. So 19M and Sony (thought it was RCA) basically control the futures of Adam, Kris, Allison and more so, Adam and Kris. What a crock. Kris will probably agree to sing the songs written fo him as pop is well suited for him However Adam unless they loosen the leash will be stuck doing whatever they give him. Just like Bo. Boy was he cheated. POP music was not his genre. His first CD sold okay at first but 19M was putting most of their money in Carrie which paid off. They allowed her to do mostly Country Music. So unfair. I don’t like Simon Fuller at all. He views these wonderful young people as money machines not people. I guess it’s the nature of the business. My understanding is 1st place – 5 yrs. contract, 2nd place is only 2 years. Is that correct?

  5. If you all will just read and understand all of the comments here, you will notice it all looks like a gigantic Ponzi scheme.

    The newest winners etal get the attention, the money/promo, the plugs, everything – as they are the ones that will grab the most sales – best return for the investment.

    It could just be that the Cook/Archuleta funds still coming in is supporting the promo etc. for the Adam/Kris campaigns – but just until the AI9 kids come out of the chute.

    Anyway, “they” will simply chip away from the bottom, and if some of them break out and are judged worthy of continued attention, they will get some. But they had better pay off or they will be scraped off the bottom of someone’s foot, with a Thank you sucker.

    But if you are good enough, make friends and influence people, as they say. Keep on keepin’ on.

    I think Clive came up with the most lucrative scheme when he agreed with Idol to award a $1,000,000 record contract to the first American Idol. And the television program “American Idol” is the most profitable in history. But, the more one knows about it, the harder it is to enjoy it.

  6. The music business makes the film business look like a tea party. And film can be very very tough! But the bottom line is that they are businesses. No one forces anyone onto AI.

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