Sunday, November 05, 2006

Dangers of the "Idol" Mind

The following appeared in the Dallas Morning News, Neighbors suppliment for McKinney, Texas on October 27, 2006.

Neighbors McKinney Columnists

Aspiring musicians should just tune out the world's Simon Cowells

Friday, October 27, 2006


I’m afraid that people are giving up on their dreams of becoming performers. If everyone embraces the mindset of “American Idol” we are going to end up with a very boring world, musically.

The ‘American Idol' mindset pushes everyone to a view that everything in the music world has to fit a certain mold. And while the winners themselves have shown great range and variety, it’s Simon Cowell whom everyone seems to listen to.

Can you imagine if Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, or even someone more contemporary such as Counting Crows had to audition for Mr. Cowell? I can almost hear him saying, in that condescending voice of his, they will never have any place in music because of the way they look or the way they sound, and that they should just give up.

While there are many performers on “Idol” who aren’t ready yet, I don’t believe there is enough attention given to helping people grow and position their talent. Yes, the record companies look for a sure thing, but some of the greatest successes have been more risky and less formulaic.

The independent music or “Indie” market is also a factor. Last year a band called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah sold nearly 40,000 copies of their self-released CD, which could have easily netted $200,000 because they didn’t have to split the profits with a record company.

Having seen the success of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, I think it’s safe to say at least a million people out there will buy just about anything interesting, you just have to break the code and figure out how to get to them. The band did not impress me very much, but in this case a major music blogger became a fan and suddenly they were showing up on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and selling a lot of CDs; so many CDs, in fact, that a band promoted and produced by a record company would have to sell millions of units to make the same amount of money.

I would also counsel people to redefine their notion of success. A big record deal is fraught with all kinds of opportunities to get ripped off, and you may never see a dime. A good, self-promoting act that concentrates on a smaller region can do extremely well, and probably deal with less craziness in the long run. Wouldn’t it be nice to be a star in Texas, but be able to leave the state and be anonymous again?

If you have doubt about what you’re doing, just keep trying to get better and never stop working on building your audience. Resolve to be relentless in your pursuit of your goals for at least 10 years. Often, it’s just outlasting everyone else that gets you where you want to be. Time will tell you a lot more about whether you’re going to “make it”— whatever that means —than Simon making a snap decision that you’re all wrong.

Ryan Michael Galloway is co-founder of Collin County Songwriters Association and founder of The Gigster Clinic. For more information about CCSA visit For more information about The Gigster Clinic visit or call Galloway 972-841-0226.