“The Voice” has been an unqualified success right from its April 2011 premiere, besting “Dancing With the Stars” and “Glee.” In 2011-12, it even came close to tying “American Idol” for the most popular non-sports show on TV.
As a launching pad to stardom for its contestants, though, it hasn’t fared as well.
Ironically, even with “Idol” plummeting in the ratings and drawing punch lines with its revolving-door judges’ panel and increasingly suspicious “controversies,” the show is still managing to perform its ostensible goal: discovering new talent.
As recently as last season — when the show was labored under the burden of the Steven Tyler-Jennifer Lopez sideshow — “Idol” yielded a breakout hit in the form of season winner Phillip Phillips.
Phillips’s debut album, “The World From the Side of the Moon,” debuted at No. 4 in November, with 169,000 sales in its first week. (Granted, Phillips got a considerable boost when his single “Home” was featured during NBC’s coverage of the 2012 Olympics. (Maybe the network would have been better off picking an offering from one of the contestants on “The Voice.”)
“The Voice” continues to give “Idol” a run for its money in ratings. The Monday night episodes of the show in its most recent season averaged a 5.2 rating in the all-important 18-49 demographic during its most recent season in the fall. That’s well within striking distance of “Idol,” which as of last week was averaging a 5.4 rating with its Wednesday editions this season.
Ultimately, NBC and “The Voice” probably aren’t losing sleep over their contestants’ lackluster chart showings. While finding the next Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood would be a nice bonus, the network’s primary goal with “The Voice” is to generate ratings, and thus revenue. And that it has definitely done.
Still, that hasn’t translated to success for the musical-industry hopefuls vying for the top spot on the show. How many people can even name the winners of “The Voice”?
Compare the first three seasons of “The Voice” with those of “Idol” — which, by the same stage, had spawned the careers of Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken and Jennifer Hudson.
A similar list for “The Voice” would leave anyone pretty speechless, but not in a good way.
Yes, one could argue — correctly, even — that “The Voice” is a young show. (“The Voice” doubled down on cycles last year, so the run-up to Cycle 4 has been accelerated.) And only a handful of contestants have had an opportunity to release albums since appearing on the show.
But of those who have, the track record hasn’t been impressive. Season 1 winner Javier Colon released his album “Come Through for You” in November 2011 after winning the competition — and watched as it stalled out at No. 134 on the Billboard 200 chart. (As of December 2012, the album had sold 45,000 copies.)