Taylor Hicks Is Laughing All The Way to the Bank
By Jo Piazza Posted May 23rd 2010 01:00PM
Well 'Idol' success comes in lots of shapes and sizes. You have the Carrie and Kelly set. They've each sold over 10 million albums and reached superstar status.
There's the Chris Daughtry business model, which involves consistently churning out good albums that sell well to a certain group of fans. It's more modest than Kelly and Carrie's model, but it has still made Daughtry a household name and a millionaire many times over. Then there's the Taylor Hicks business model.
Hicks is often unfairly derided for the path he has taken after 'Idol.' Last year, the New York Times kicked off a story about 'Idol' success using Hicks as a cautionary tale. "It is doubtful that any of the remaining 24 contestants on 'American Idol' hope that they will be playing the Teen Angel in a touring production of 'Grease' in Milwaukee three years from now. But that's what Taylor Hicks, the 2006 'American Idol' winner, is doing. And it shows that winning the most popular talent competition in the country is no guarantee of superstardom," the Times wrote.
And it's true that winning 'Idol' is no guarantee of superstardom, but I think any of the 'Idol' constestants would be pleased as punch to be pulling in, according to insiders, the $3.5 million that Hicks has brought in during the past 18 months for his tour, album and merchandise sales and appearance fees.
Hicks' business model is different from those of other 'Idol' contenders. He has been on the road since he won 'Idol' in 2006. His things are still packed away in boxes in his parent's basement.
Hitting the road means building a fan base, and from those 18 months of touring, Hicks has made personal contact with nearly 1.1 million fans in 48 cities across the country. That number becomes 2 million if you factor in personal appearances.
After each performance of 'Grease,' Hicks performs a song off his album, 'The Distance,' for the audience. They can buy his music and his merchandise in the lobby. And since that album is under his own label, he sees more than 50% returns on each sale, at least 30% higher than an artist signed with a label. Since the start of the tour, more than 100,000 copies of 'The Distance' and a second album off Hicks' label, 'Early Works,' have moved -- half of those hand delivered from Taylor.
You can't buy better publicity than that. And he still gets paid in the five figure range for appearances. Not too shabby.
"Four years after winning 'Idol,' I still have fans who are interested in my endeavors," Hicks told me the other day as he was preparing to do his final show on the 'Grease' tour. "I don't think that success should be measured by how many records you sell, but by how many lives you can touch."
And the lives Hicks has touched will translate into a lucrative fan base for his next project. Hicks is now mulling television and movie projects that he plans to pursue once he gets off the road, gets a place of his own and settles into a nearly normal life.
"The success that Broadway has given me has allowed me to be able to parlay that into music, some television and film, but I think you have to pick the right role and it has to be the kind of role that will bring along my fans, the 'Idol' fans and the 'Grease' fans," Hicks said.
One of the most valuable assets for any celebrity is the intangible strength of their brand. It is paramount to make sure that this brand is properly managed along the way to maximize value and brand equity. For an artist who wins 'Idol,' the value of their brand is determined by the customer. The brand value creation process begins at the moment that the celebrity makes contact with the consumer.
"I think winning 'Idol' allows you the opportunity to become a household name and after that you have to have a hard work ethic. The branding process begins when you start the show, and a win gives you an opportunity to take that in any direction you want. There are ups and downs and peaks and valleys obviously, but if you work hard it will pay off," Hicks said.
So sometimes an 'Idol' win isn't a golden ticket, but it's a good place to start. The hard work comes in translating the win into marketplace dollars. Hicks' strategy of fan building may look like a slow burn now, but he's laughing all the way to the bank.
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