Saturday, March 17, 2007

It Pays to Be a Finalist

Yes it pays to be a finalist ... literally. According to a story in USA Today, contestants who make the cut to the Top 12 went from mere amateurs, the equivalent of game show contestants, to professional TV performers. They became union members covered under contracts negotiated by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

An agreement with Idol's producers, FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment, when Idol began in 2002 recognized that "the nature of what they're doing in the show changes from the final 12 on," says AFTRA spokesman John Hinrichs. "Prior to that time, they're just singing in a singing format," he says. "After that, they're doing more interactions and set bits," such as the video ads for Ford.

It's an important change in status for most of the singers. In the personal release that Idol requires when they audition, they must declare that they don't belong to AFTRA or another performing arts guild or, if they do, agree that their Idol performances are not professional appearances covered by a labor agreement. That completely changes when they become one of the final 12: Then they must join AFTRA, which requires a one-time initiation fee of $1,300. Dues are based on annual AFTRA earnings: If they make less than $2,000, they pay a minimum of $63.90.

Starting this past week, AFTRA's industrywide contracts required the producers to start paying the performers at least the minimum $921 each time they appear on a one-hour show. In addition, they receive residual payments when a show they're in as a finalist is aired again or is sold via DVDs or other media. The producers must contribute to union-sponsored health care and retirement accounts.

It's tough for shows to avoid paying the singers. "If they're not getting paid, they usually tell us, and we would be in contact with the show," Hinrichs says. "We have representatives who visit the show set on a weekly basis and talk to the members and make sure things are going OK."

Idol is mum about the subject. "We comply with the terms of our agreement with AFTRA," says FremantleMedia North America spokesman Manfred Westphal. "It is our policy to not discuss the financial or contractual arrangements we have with our performers."


Brandon Rogers said it was most likely his choice of the latter that led to him being booted off of Idol last Wednesday. Huh? Well, those weren't his words exactly, but it was the analogy that Rogers and Ryan Seacrest came up with when the Idol host interviewed him on his KIIS radio show post-elimination.

On why he thought he lost, Rogers said, "It had more to do with my song selection throughout the competition. I never really picked songs that got to showcase my voice and really show me off the way that I think the judges and some of the people wanted me to."

"It's all about being the audience, I guess, when you're picking the songs," Rogers continued "I honestly picked songs that I liked, that I loved even, but not necessarily songs that showcased my voice."

"Well is it kind of like being a chef at a restaurant?" Ryan asked. "If I only prepare the food that I like to eat, odd are the entire list of customers may not agree with me. So I've got to cook meals that they'll actually buy."

"Exactly. Everyone like burgers," Brandon said.

"Right, so you've gotta go with burgers?" asked Seacrest.

"You've gotta go with burgers, even if you only like doing, you know ..." Rogers hesitated.

"Clam Chowder," Seacrest said.

Rogers also said he felt that Simon Cowell supported him, and that even though his criticism was harsh, Brandon agreed with it. Rogers also charmingly evaded Seacrest's questions on whether he felt Sanjaya Malakar should have been eliminated instead of him and who Sundance Head was referring to when he said one contestant felt he had the competition in the bag. You can hear the entire interview here.


Ace Young will be the spokesman for the next two months for the Dreyers Ice Cream American Idol campaign. He’ll be doing radio spots, TV ads and personal appearances promoting Dreyer’s American Idol Ice Cream Flavors.

Cast your vote for your favorite flavor and then register to win one of 1000's of prizes - including backstage passes to the American Idol Finale!! If your ZIP code is affiliated with one of the 10 promotional cities, you will also get invited to enter the regional contest. A lucky winner from each city will be picked for a visit from Ace and his guitarist. They will come to your house, hang out and sing three songs for you and 20 of your friends and neighbors.

Here is the list of cities Ace has and will be dropping in on:
3/6 Phoenix
3/13 San Diego
3/20 Sacramento
3/27 Tampa
4/3 Baltimore
4/5 Richmond
4/10 Atlanta
4/12 Birmingham
4/17 Chicago
4/19 Cincinnati

Check out this video of Ace performing the first private gig at the home of the lucky winner in Phoenix.

Young and his brothers donate time and money to The Children's Hospital in Denver.
Their involvement is the result of an accident Ace's brother Ryan suffered in 1996. After his recovery, Ace, Ryan and their brother Marc began visiting and performing at Children's Hospital on a regular basis. Ace was amazed by the courage he saw in the young patients and immediately found that he had a natural ability to connect with them. They loved his music and hugs and he loved being with them. Thus began an 8 year love affair between Ace and The Children's Hospital. He and his brothers still spend Christmas Day at the hospital, where they sing carols and visit each room.

"The only cameras we allow are those of the families visiting. It's all for the kids," said Ace, who added that his time at Children's provides him with a "reality check." "If you want to know how Superman feels, just get a hug from one of these little kids."

... Elliott Yamin is on a roll. His debut CD drops on March 20. He debuted his single “Wait For You” on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show. Check out a clip from his upcoming video here. You can listen to “Wait For You” at Elliott’s My Space.

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© 2007

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