Friday, April 11, 2014


So, we know that within singing competitions, there's a certain "type" preferred by the voting audience. We've seen enough, that qualitatively, we say in our heads: White. Southern. Wields guitar. Male. Rock, country, coffeehouse. These all fit the major voting ingredients.

But, we also have data. Through wiki, we know what percentage of the voting audience is within the elusive 18-49 age bracket that advertisers want to sell their goods to. For comparison purposes, we will cause these the non-frau, making the key assumption that people below 18 do not count. As you will see below, I've compiled this data through the three major singing competitions, 2011 and beyond (excluding the first season of the Voice since for some reason, wiki does not provide the 18-49 numbers). And you will see that Idol...really lags behind this 18-49 demographic, for the most part, compared to the other two competitions. So that "type" might amplified on Idol precisely because, well, the 50+ types who were ages 15-30 in the '70s and '80s really want to harken to that type of music...and that's good ol' Americana--country, rock, coffeehouse, what have you. Without further ado:

We can ignore the above graph, since it's basically littered with the data points of all these singing competitions. But do note that, as a wholesale comparison, that the Voice S6 and AI13 are in the bottom of these data points. Yep, the core audience has rapidly lost interest. Where once, we were seeing perhaps a 35-40% 18-49 split with  60-65% age 50+ types, it's now become uhhh....a 25-75% split, more or less. That's huge, since we are talking about millions of viewers.

Comparison of the 3 singing competitions.
The above image might be a bit small, but now we have parsed the data to measure the competition's ability to get 18-49 viewers, as side-by-side comparisons to each other. You don't need to look at the explicit data points, but just note the general trends. Note how the Voice and XF have higher 18-49 shares than Idol, with the percentages listed on the graphs. Here are scale-ups of the same images:

Yep. That is correct. The Voice during its very buzzy season 2 and season 3, had ratings north of 35% in the 18-49 share. This large share has helped the Voice have the 18-49 bracket comprise nearly a a third of the total viewers overall. X Factor also has a fairly good share: a 23.2% rate, nearly a quarter of the viewers being in the 18-49 bracket. During Season 2, the teen season with the boyband, the girl group, and all the teenagers helped XF to over a third of the 18-49 share, increasing it from Season 1. Idol is just sad here: with the exception of a few early episodes in Season 10 and one very early episode in Season 11, it's all downhill. Only 4.2% of the data points had a share north of 35% of the 18-49 bracket, a far cry from the XF and the Voice overall, since 2011. Idol is and just was not a core audience catering show; it's a show for older folks.

Now, take a look at the data points above, which compares ratings between singing competitions in the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 (from left to right). We'll zoom in at the next several graphs, but for now, look at the general trendlines. 2012 was the high water mark for 18-49 composition watching, especially for the Voice and for X Factor. 2011 saw reasonable numbers for both X Factor and American Idol, but the constant through 2011-14 is that Idol has always been lagging behind in the 18-49 percentage compared to the other competitions, especially in 2012. It's starting to make back ground between 2013 and 2014, but that's because the Voice and the now-canceled X Factor really fell from their lofty perches in 2012 rather than Idol actually improving. Idol's the first competition since 2011 to actually consistently see percentages south of 25% in the 18-49 demographic, especially starting this season (2014). Yes, older folks are primarily the types that are watching your favorite Alex Prestons, Dexter Roberts, Caleb Johnsons, Jena Irenes and Jessica Meuses. Which really makes sense, if you think about it.

But without further ado with the zoomed in graphs...

The captions tell all the information there is to know here.

If we were to rank all the seasons as of now, in terms of 18-49 hipness (or less frau intrusion), then we would have
1) Voice Season 2--37.4% (winner: Jermaine Paul)
2) Voice Season 3--35.1% (winner: Cassadee Pope)
3) X Factor Season 2--34.9% (winner: Tate Stevens)
4) X Factor Season 1--33.1% (winner: Melanie Amaro)
5) American Idol Season 10--32.2% (winner: Scotty McCreery)
6) Voice Season 4--31.8% (winner: Danielle Bradbery)
7) Voice Season 5--30.1% (winner: Tessanne Chin)
8) American Idol Season 11--29.7% (winner: Phillip Phillips)
9) X Factor Season 3--29.2% (winner: Alex & Sierra)
10) American Idol Season 12--28.3% (winner: Candice Glover)
11) Voice Season 6--27.2% (TBD)
12) American Idol season 13--26.0% (TBD)

Yep. We've become reduced from 35 to 25, as mentioned, which means, it's only harder to get the right winner for mainstream music when you're likely catering to age brackets that are predominantly 50+ and above, when ideally, getting them into CHR loving 18-34 is where it is really at, or HAC loving 25-35. But the likely age brackets, through that 25-75 extrapolation now, are likely in the high 40s to even 50s, which makes it very tough sledding. And one wonders why the outside-the-show success rates of these contestants are even less than baseball at-bat percentages. No wonder why Interscope has ran away from Idol, in particular. Even though XF made a Faustian bargain that really reduced its total viewers and ultimately got it canceled, at least it maintained a pretty good 18-49 percentage, since Simon really catered his show towards marketing teens. The reality is, with the viewing environment, it's tough to get a winner that fits within the radio environment when you've radio wants one thing, and the viewing audience wants another. Can't find that happy medium.

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